Monday, April 7, 2008

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Sunday, March 16, 2008

Social Networking for Your Brand

That was the name of a panel I was eager to attend, as it seemed right up our corporate alley. Unfortunately, the Your Brand part was more applicable to the individual starting their own blog/web experience than to a global company with a gazillion employees.


There were some good points made, though, that are easily applicable to both the individual and the corporation.

1. A brand is the promise of an experience.
Think of Starbucks or McDonald's: you know exactly what you are going to get when you cross their thresholds. They deliver the promise of a consistent experience, whether you are in California, Russia, or Beijing.

What does our brand promise the individual? As a company we've talked about this many, many times. We promise to provide both classics and trends, so that the individual can express their personal style through our clothing.

Given how differently we market our brand throughout the various channels (online, in different store regions, internationally), do we follow through on this promise?

2. Let other people talk about your work--and listen to what they have to say.
You are only as good as your the experience your customers have when they use your product or engage with your brand online. Be open to honest criticism the same way you'd be open to praise, because the definition of building a community around your brand is not only letting them communicate with you, but letting them communicate with others about you.

Additional talking points were about Twitter (once again) being the ultimate social networking tool; podcasting as a broadcasting tool that helps to create repoire with your audience; and other social networking tools such as Pownce, Doppler, and Upcoming.

All in all, an interesting panel that was kinda hard to see from my seat:

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

For Nelson

I'm in a panel where everyone is doing the Souljah Boy dance.

Wish you were here.

I'm Going to Bring Up Twitter Again


Most Awesomest Panel Award Goes To...

The creators of I Can Has Cheezburger!


You've never heard of I Can Has Cheezburger???

It's that site that has pictures of cats with funny sayings on them.

No,'s really funny.

Sigh. Alright then, I'm just going to have to prove it to you.

Funny, right? Right??? OK fine, here's another one.

You're still not laughing? What is wrong with you?

If you're still not laughing, I kind of don't know if we can be friends anymore.

ICHC founder Eric Nakmura started the blog in 2007 as an inside joke.
The site basically broke his blog host's server in a month or so.
Wordpress offered to host the site.
Site was bought by a small group of entrepreneurs.
Nakamura quit his job and now posts cat pix all day long.
ICHC gets 1.5 million page views a day. A DAY.
ICHC gets 8,000 pictures sent to them a day. They post 6 a day.
The site generates enough income to pay 6 full-time employees.
Company motto: it's just about funny pictures.
They gave out cheeseburgers and veggie burgers after the panel. Yes, seriously.
Maggie looooooooooooves these guys.


Monday, March 10, 2008

Content Boundaries: A 12-Step Program

That was the name of the second panel I attended, featuring Heather Armstrong (of Dooce fame*) and Maggie Mason (Mighty Girl). These two women are well-known for writing highly personal blogs and their panel was about the lessons they've learned along the way.

I am a regular reader (not at work, of course!) of Dooce so it was fun for me to see Heather, the writer, in person. Here are some key points I took away from the presentation, which I wholeheartedly believe are things that Gap should continue to think about as we figure out what it means to build a community online. Additionally, there were some great points about overall editorial process that were really interesting.

1. You are powerless over your users.

Essentially, as hard as you try to control people from saying bad things about you, you really can't. It takes a huge leap of faith for a company to be able to open up a campaign/blog/application/product for public commentary because there is always a risk (and for us, probably a pretty big risk) of the community being critical of you.

2. Set the tone for the conversation from the beginning.
Though you ultimately can't control your users in social media, you can control the tone of your communication. If you communicate to people in an honest, straightforward way, you will most likely get the same kind of feedback. If you communicate in an aggressive way, you will more than likely get aggressive feedback. If we set the tone of our external communications in a positive way, it will help to mitigate the tone of the feedback.

3. Be clear on comments policy.
Will we delete comments? Will we respond to comments? What about direct emails? We need to state our case up front to avoid flap in the blogosphere.

4. Attract the users that you want.
Before we figure out what kind of users we want, we need to figure out who we as a brand are. (Thoughts?) Once we figure out who we are as a brand, we can discuss who we want to be--and therefore, who we want to attract--in the online space. Personally, I think the users we want are the fashion influencers. They are already out there--there are tons of fashion/shopping blogs online--and already interested in us. How do we start communicating to them in a direct/social way? Cuz we need to do this, like, pronto.

5. Protect your brand.
The panelists were talking on a much smaller scale (ie, brand as individual) but it goes without saying that the more focused we are in our communications and visuals (ie, the more we have a point of view) the more we'll be able to protect our online identity.

6. Keep small problems from ballooning.

Don't feed the tigers. If a flame war starts in the comments or in the blogosphere, don't fan it by responding to every little thing.

7. Know thyself.
If we were to create a social experience online, do we want to create a top down community (ie, New York Times) or a bottom up community (like Threadless?)

8. You get what you give.
If you don't put 100% into it, you won't get it back. You also can't take hiatuses or long, extended breaks if you want to cultivate strong community. Basically, we can't throw something online and then forget about it/never refresh the content. In fact, the more often we refresh the content the better.

9. Be transparent.
Corporate communications would not agree with this, but it's basically saying "we f-ed up" if we f up.

10. Be as human as possible.

See be transparent.

11. Find your sweet spot. What are our metrics for success?
What does a successful online community look like to us? How do we measure engagement? By number of users in the community? By ROI/CPM/other fancy marketing acronyms? Or do we measure it by the elusive "buzz" that our experience generates?

12. Hone your editorial process.
To the panelists this meant checking the accuracy of their posts and asking themselves if anything they posted would damage any of their relationships. To use, I think it means establishing a voice, a STYLE GUIDE, and an editorial content calendar--that we actually stick to.

13. Admit your mistakes.

This is something we are already pretty good at doing.

14. Don't try to please the whole world.
This is something we are not that great at doing.

15. Lack of authenticity = kiss of death.
If there was one phrase that pretty much epitomizes social communities, this is it. As a brand, you simply cannot implement a social experience on the Internet that is basically just advertising in disguise. Period.

Stay tuned for a report from our favorite panel of the first day: LOLCATS!!!

*Heather was one of the first people to get fired from her job for blogging about work from work. Now getting fired for blogging is known as getting "Dooced."

Facebook Faceoff Part 2

Further notes from the FB Keynote...

On a macro level, Mark Zuckerman believes that online communication, and FB specifically, can bring people closer together and foster empathy and understanding between individuals, which will hopefully lead to empathy and understanding between diverse communities, which will hopefully lead to a world full of unicorns, smiley faces, and puppies.


Let's talk about the apps.

With a flip of her hair, Sarah grilled him about the apps on FB and what his take was on all the crappy ones that are out there. Mark explained that the apps are products of an incentive structure--meaning, the more stuff you put out there, the more stuff you'll get back. The more requests you accept, the more you can send. Essentially, you get what you ask for. As long ashere is demand, or at least a perceived demand, for user (or corporate) created apps, then a bunch of time wasting movie/logo/song title quizzes will keep existing.

Mark and Sarah sharing another awkward moment, right before the audience revolt.*

Thing pretty much went downhill from here. There was a lot of talk about if he thinks the company is worth the valuation price and a lot of insistence that they don't really think about things like that (um...right). His goal as a CEO is to set the tone of the company and build the company's value by focusing on the core mission of FB: to build communities and build a platform that fundamentally changes the way we communicate.

All in all, a highly entertaining keynote that left me with the impression that Zuckerberg is a visionary with a lot of expectations riding on him and his leadership abilities. It will be really interesting to see where he takes FB over the next 5-10 years.

*Perhaps some of you are aware of how quickly information travels in the blogosphere, but if you aren't, this keynote was an excellent example. The events at the keynote and commentary were up on Twitter as it was happening, and it's still being talked about.