If you haven’t used or heard about Zappos, it’s all about the customer experience and their fabulous customer service. How Zappos achieves this is through hiring people who fit with their culture and by committing to a set of core values that are more than just a poster on a wall.
The 10 core values Hsieh discussed were:
Deliver WOW through Service
Embrace and Drive Change
Create Fun and a Little Weirdness
Be an Adventurous Creature and Open-Minded
Pursue Growth & Learning
Build Open and Honest Relationships with Communication
Build a Positive Team and Family Spirit
Do More with Less
Be Passionate and Determined
Hsieh is passionate about the linkage between culture and brand. He said, “Your culture is your brand.” You have to hire and fire people according to your core values.
Also, Hsieh believes that companies will be truly successful when their vision inspires, not just motivates, people. The Vision should have a higher purpose than just making money.
Social media is just another tool for fostering communications. Hsieh uses email, all-hands meetings and 5-week new hire training period to build the culture.
All in all, Hsieh made some excellent points about the importance of building a customer-oriented, service-oriented culture. To read more about the event and Hsieh’s take on company culture, customer service and brand building, you can view tweets posted under the hashtag #amabzap.
We had the opportunity to attend the TEDx Boston event on Tuesday — it gave us the chance to get out of the office and think about revolutionary ideas that can really make a difference on our lives. Although it’s highly unlikely that every idea presented will succeed, it was fantastic to see how other people are applying significant time, energy, passion and brain power to solve really tough problems.
All the talks were excellent but a few personal favorites were:
Alex Scordato – This “digital native” gave a refreshing talk of what it was like to “reverse mentor” a baby boomer-aged CEO and teach him the ropes of social media. Alexa spoofed stereotypes of both her generation (sometimes known as the “ME Generation) and the boomer generation and proposed that it should be all about “WE.”
George Whitesides – A fascinating approach to supplying medical diagnostics in a world where cost is everything. Turns out that paper is nearly ubiquitous, very low cost and makes a great tool for medical diagnosis.
TED Video – A video of Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor’ 2008 TED talk on what it’s like for a brain scientist to experience a stroke. An unbelievably moving and life-changing talk.
John Hoffman – HBO producer behind “The Alzheimer’s Project.” It was great to see the media giving back to society with an extraordinary documentary on the #2 feared disease in America.
If you ever have the opportunity to go to TED or to a local TEDx event, it’s well worth it.
Have you been using Twitter or Facebook more frequently the past few months?
If so, you are one of the 14 million plus people in the U.S. that logged in to Twitter.com (this figure doesn’t even include TweetDeck or Twhirl traffic) and 91 million plus people that signed on to Facebook in the last year. Mashable recently reported these figures, noting that the uplift in traffic could be attributed to the increasing number of mainstream media and entertainment outlets now using the social networks.
The Boston FOX affiliate is one local example of a news station that has been successfully using the platforms to connect with their audience. Every morning, the anchors ask viewers to post questions and comments to their Twitter account, then address some of the tweets on air — it’s pretty cool to engage in that instantaneous communication with the people that just a few years ago might have been referred to as “talking heads.”
With Twitter and Facebook growing more than 75% and 23% respectively last month alone, the media outlets that embrace these platforms and harness the power of digital media will surely prove to hold their ground in this tough economy. Every week, another traditional media outlet seems to fall prey to bankruptcy or threat of closure, yet what amazes me is that that the “surviving” outlets aren’t jumping out of their chairs to enroll in Digital & Social Media 101 to learn how to adapt to this trend!
Here is a tip for the Boston Globe: “Meet your audience where they want to be met.” If I can’t name one person on my hand that subscribes to the print edition of the newspaper, yet can name at least 50 people that visit Boston.com regularly, chances are you need to update your business model and embrace the digital wave (perhaps promote your Twitter account in a place where it doesn’t take me 2 minutes to find it on the homepage!)
With APRs on credit cards doubling out of the blue, investment options dwindling and banks tightening their loan policies, RaceTalk connected with Kim Muhota – CEO of Pertuity Direct – to discuss how online social lending could play a significant role in freeing up consumer credit and helping the U.S. pull out of the financial market meltdown.
A financial services industry veteran, Kim provides insight into the current credit crunch and how social lending (otherwise known as peer-to-peer) is quickly becoming a viable alternative to traditional banks.
Q: Celent predicts that by 2010, there will be $5.8 billion peer-to-peer loans made in the U.S. – an 800% growth from 2007. Why do you think peer-to-peer lending has taken off the way it has?
Peer-to-peer lending has grown quite fast over the last 2 or so years for a number of reasons. Most recently, there is the issue of the liquidity crisis which means that even the prime borrower or small business owner does not have access to credit as they did a year or two ago. Traditional providers are also raising prices pretty aggressively to drive more revenue growth and compensate for added risk – and this impacts the consumer adversely.
There is also the fact that P2P loans are installment loans and are therefore very transparent and user friendly – in other words, there is no penalty pricing, hidden fees or anything like that. The P2P marketplace offers good potential returns for lenders and allows individuals to participate in a vibrant community of borrowers and lenders. So there are multiple compelling reasons why P2P is becoming more of a main-stream alternative than it was just 2 short years ago.
Q: What are the benefits of taking out a loan on a social lending site, as opposed to a traditional financial institution?
Social lending sites offer loans that are well priced (typically between 6.9% – 17.9%) and have fixed rates. Alternatives like credit cards have been increasing their interest rates across the board and have gotten very aggressive with penalty pricing and unfair fees. Social lending sites offer a loan product that allows you to go through the application and approval process in minutes; any time of the day.
The no-hassles loan option is a much better alternative to having to go into the branch, dealing with paper work and high fees. Further, it’s a great social networking opportunity where borrowers can tell their story and lenders can get to see where their money is going. Most of the lenders and borrowers are like minded individuals looking for a better deal than what they are getting from their bank.
Q: JPMorgan Chase — the largest credit card issuer in the U.S. — recently began adding a $10 fee to borrowers’ monthly balances (which accrues interest) and raise minimum payments to 5% from 2%. Is social lending a viable alternative to credit cards help consumers mitigate debt?
Absolutely. The fact that the loans are fixed term and fixed rate loans means that the consumer knows exactly what their loan payment is going to be and they know exactly how long it will take them to pay off the loan. It’s a great mechanism to get proactive around managing debt.
Q: Do you believe that social lending can play a role in helping to reverse the current economic crisis?
Yes. The current economic crisis is driven in large part to a lack of liquidity in the credit markets. Any option that provides much needed credit liquidity will help solve the current crisis – and the social lending model allows for the liquidity in the credit market by the consumer themselves. So in many ways, it’s the consumer driving the solution directly by participating in the social lending marketplace.
Q: How do you see the social lending space evolving in the next 9 – 12 months, following the October 2008 decision by the SEC to crackdown on the industry?
The recent regulatory changes raise the barrier to entry and increases the price to play in the space for the various companies out there. Most importantly, it provides an added level of regulation which is built to protect the consumer – and that’s always a huge positive. I think we will see more people adapting to the social lending marketplace as it continues to gain awareness and traction broadly. As a result, there is a good chance that we will see one or two innovative banks and financial services companies looking to partner with some of the social lending players as a way to get a head start into what is positioned to become a great customer acquisition channel.
For more of Kim’s thoughts on the current credit and liquidity crisis, you can check out his posts to the Pertuity Direct blog here.
Disclosure: Pertuity Direct is a Racepoint Group client
Have you ever counseled a client about participating on Twitter? Then you should probably know that in the future, there is a good chance that micro-blogging will come with a price.
According to Marketing magazine and TechCrunch, brands using Twitter for commercial purposes could very well start getting charged fees – a decision that could affect the thousands of companies (Twibs currently reports 3,482) that engage in the community every day.
Twitter Co-Founder Biz Stone commented on the decision, saying:
“We are noticing more companies using Twitter and individuals following them. We can identify ways to make this experience even more valuable and charge for commercial accounts.”
This new business plan for Twitter could be very similar to the business plan that won Silicon Alley Insider’s Create Twitter’s Revenue Model Contest last week. The plan, submitted by a Publicis Group named Denuo, was aimed at charging corporate marketers for two things:
• Access to opted-in users willing to field the occasional question from brands
• For dashboard access to deep user analytics.
These could be two of the major add-ons that Biz Stone and Twitter look to provide for commercial accounts to increase value for the fees they aim to charge. This would be great for the brands such as Dell that have successfully leveraged Twitter to drive revenues, to the tune of $1 million.
While it’s clear that Twitter has quickly evolved into a next-generation marketing tool, it seems to me that this decision could potentially impact the consumer more so than the brands. Twitter is not only a vehicle for message delivery/selling – it’s also a platform for customer service/listening (see post on “micro-listening” here).
Let me tell you – when I was having difficulty connecting my universal remote, I sent Comcast a Tweet in desperation asking for help, and Frank Eliason helped fix the problem within minutes. (Mind you, this was after an hour searching for the answer online and reading through every print booklet.)
I hope these fees don’t discourage brands from participating on Twitter, as it’ll be the customer that bears the brunt.
In June, we had the opportunity to hear Ron Ploof speak at the Digital Impact Conference, and recently caught up with him to talk about new media strategies, corporate micro-blogging, PR social media best practices, and his new book about practical B2B uses for New Media.
As a New Media Evangelist, Ron has worked with a $1.2 billion Fortune 1000 company to adopt New Media technologies, launch eight blogs, produce audio programming, and integrate corporate video with traditional marketing and public relations vehicles.
Q: What are a few social media sites and resources you would recommend for someone looking to get their feet wet in the new media space?
By “getting their feet wet,” I’m going to assume that they’re new to the New/Social Media/Web 2.0 space. If that’s true, then by far the most important concept they need to wrap their heads around is RSS. I’m sure there are lots of people who read the RaceTalk blog who may consider RSS passé, but RSS is the building block of New Media. It’s what connects the new publishers with the new listeners. So, even if you understand and use a RSS regularly, consider revisiting it as a “back to the basics” activity.
RSS represents the ultimate form of “opt-in,” because a subscriber willingly opens up a line of communication with you — on their terms not yours. This is markedly different from traditional marketing techniques because in the old days, marketers controlled the distribution. With an email list, if I wanted to “opt-out” of your list, I was at your mercy. RSS reverses the polarity. If I want to “opt-out” of your RSS feed, I can do so swiftly and easily — and there’s nothing you can do about it. Therefore, with the control placed into the consumer’s hands as opposed to the marketer’s, a new form of content needs to be created. One that is so valuable that content consumers stay subscribed.
Q: Where do you feel most companies currently stand when it comes to successfully leveraging social media? How can they improve?
We haven’t even scratched the surface yet. When I speak before mainstream business people, I give them a little test. I’ll ask them to define “blog” or identify symbols such as RSS. My unofficial findings are a bit humbling. Most have heard of blogs, but very few know what they are. Two months ago I was presenting before a group of business executives. After staring blankly at the RSS Symbol (the orange box with the dot and two curvy lines) for a few moments, someone piped in, “Is that the WiFi symbol?” they asked. And as for discussing services like Twitter? That just blows their minds.
We’re still in the early-adopter phase described in Geoffrey Moore’s Crossing the Chasm. The innovators and early adopters are using these new tools in groundbreaking ways. But mainstream business still has a long way to go.
As for those who’ve started using the technology, the way to improve is to focus on three things: Content, Content, and Content. People love stories. People love to be entertained. Become a storyteller and use all of the technologies at your disposal to tell your stories, whether it be in text, audio, video, or a combination thereof.
Q: As an active member of the Twitter community, what are your thoughts on companies/brands micro-blogging?
I prefer following people as opposed to brands. With that being said, I like time-sensitive or event-specific communications applications of Twitter. Live updates from a company or brand-sponsored event can give non-attendees an “insider’s feel” to the event. At the same time, conference attendees can use it to communicate back to the event organizers, who in turn can make changes on the fly. Then, after the conference is finished, a company/brand has access to a time-stamped database of conference topics that can be used for future event-planning or even the creation of new content.
Lastly, people get so caught up in “micro-blogging” that they forget that Twitter is also a listening device. Companies/brands should be using Twitter for ‘Micro-listening.” They should be firing up tools such as search.twitter.com. twitscoop.com, or tweetscan.com to see what people are saying about them.
Twitter and Tweetscan offer RSS feeds of their searches. Therefore, create a micro-listening strategy. Create a set of feeds that search for your brand, your competition, your industry. Gather the data. Look for trends. See where the conversation is leading. And lastly, don’t be afraid to engage the people who talk about you and your brand. Most people are pleasantly surprised when they throw something out into the ether and someone from the company in question writes back.
Q: What are some best practices tips you would offer for a PR person engaging in social media conversations for their client?
“…engaging…for the client?” I’m not a big fan of having conversations for other people. Whenever I hear this, I conjure this mental image of Cyrano de Bergerac hiding in the bushes and talking to Roxane through the handsome guy. It’s got the trappings of comedy written all over it! Conversations are between people — not firms talking to people, or firms talking to firms. The “social” in Social Media means exactly that.
I believe that PR professionals can be great Social Media coaches, though, helping their clients choose timely conversation topics. By using listening technologies and performing analysis on what they find, PR can guide clients on where to best spend their conversational time. They can recommend which communities to engage with and provide valuable editing services, to help the client become a better communicator.
Q: We read that you are working on your second book, which will discuss practical B2B uses for new media. Do you have any insider tips/thoughts you can share?
When Gutenberg invented the printing press, he unknowingly set a business model into motion that has been the defacto standard for over 500 years. Since only those with vast financial resources could own a printing press, a small number of people had incredible influence over a large number of people.
Business communications were built around this “Economics of Influence.” We developed advertising, so that businesses could buy their way into that influence. We invented Public Relations so that business could sell (convince journalists to write about them for free) their way into the influence.
But a funny thing happened on the way to the office. With the invention of free blogging software combined with RSS, anyone could own a printing press — for free. With Apple’s iTunes and a nominal hosting charge, anyone could own a radio station (podcast). And with YouTube, anyone could own a television station for free. The old Economics of Influence has been turned upside down.
Today, companies, competitors, customers, and investors can become their own publishers. All can deliver timely content directly to their constituencies, without their messages being filtered through a third party. It’s a different game. The rules are still evolving. Opportunities abound for those who are willing to play and challenges lurk for those who won’t.
Nobody knows exactly how this new game is going to play out. But we do know that the decisions that we make today will have a lasting impact on the future of communications. It’s a challenge that I’m up for. How about you?
Thank you to Ron for taking the time to speak with us.
RaceTalk recently connected with Bertalan (Berci) Meskó, a “Medicine 2.0″ enthusiast, active Twitter member, and up-and-coming medical mind who takes a look at the intersection of medicine, genetics and Web 2.0 on his award-winning blog, ScienceRoll. Among his many achievements, Berci is also a last-year medical student with a goal of becoming aclinical geneticist that specializes in personalized genomics. Below, Berci has given us some insight into the work he is doing, resources and tips for PR professionals, and a few best practices for engaging in healthcare and medical social media conversations and communities.
Q: How would you define Medicine 2.0?
Web 2.0 is changing the way medicine is practiced and healthcare is delivered. When we focus on the changes in medical education and communication between patients and physicians, we refer to it as medicine 2.0. When the healthcare system and on-line support groups are in focus, we refer to it as health 2.0. Actually, there is a new term, evidence-based web 2.0 originated from the evidence-based concept that is the main approach in medicine. As Dean Giustini said, it means the integration of the best available evidence of social software use in promoting effective time and information management skills in the digital age.
Q: What are a few sites, communities or resources you would recommend for a medical or healthcare company looking to get involved in Web 2.0?
There is a huge collection of medicine 2.0 services and sites on my blog and in the Medical Education Evolution community, we’re also working on a database containing useful links and tools of medicine and health 2.0.
Q: Do you have any basic guidelines or tips for companies that want to participate in Web 2.0 healthcare communities?
It depends on what kind of communities they plan to participate in. The main approach here is not to create something similar to what others are already doing. There are more and more scientific community sites and plenty of them are based on the same concept which is not a good idea when you want to attract people to take part in constructing your community. I think these companies must come up with a unique idea; must be open to collaborate with and respect quality bloggers; should use the power of web 2.0 to promote their projects instead of sending impersonal PR letters everywhere. David Rothman, one of the best medical librarian bloggers, has recently written about this issue and had some tips for PR people.
Q: What is some advice you would offer for PR people engaging in conversation on behalf of their clients, who are working to raise awareness about medical products or services within a Web 2.0 healthcare community?
Even if many bloggers tend to think PR letters are useless, I think it is a good way to discover a new medical service. But to be honest, when I receive an e-mail from a PR person and it doesn’t start with a personal welcome message, I click on the delete button immediately. If they want me to promote a new service (which can be beneficial for me too as I can get interesting content) at least they should find out more about that particular blogger.
Of course, newspapers are the main channels to promote new services, but take a look at some blogs such as Medgadget.com or WSJ Health and how many visitors they regularly have. Quality health bloggers should be taken seriously.
Q: Where do you see the future of healthcare and medicine heading? Are there trends we should watch for?
I believe, the Medical Education Evolution community can change radically the way medical education is organized these days. Education should not be traditional while practicing medicine is changing rapidly. There are three trends we should follow.
I would say, Jay Parkinson and his on-line medical practice (hellohealth.com) are on one side of the river of medicine. He revolutionized the way medicine is practiced by having a laptop and a car and being without a staff or an office.
On the other side of the river, there are e-patients who would like to communite with their doctors on-line, who would like to find information about their medical conditions on-line and do a search for the name of their doctor in Google. A good example is Maarten Lens-Fitzgerald who blogs about his medical condition, shares messages on Twitter, images on Flickr and X-rays on Slideshare.
Between them, there should be a bridge which, I hope, Webicina will be. Webicina.com is the first medicine 2.0 service which aims to help physicians enter the web 2.0 era with personalized packages, on-line image building solutions and e-courses.
The reason why I’m saying medicine will change a lot in the next few years is not the power (or bubble) of web 2.0, but the needs and expectations of e-patients. They will change the way medicine is practiced and healthcare is delivered. And physicians of the 21st century should be open and qualified to meet these challenges.
Thank you, Berci for your time! To learn more, visit RaceTalk’s sister blog Diagnosis PR, where Berci has answered a few more questions for us about the future of medicine, virtual learning, and scientific and medical social media tools.
The Twitter Brand Index is constantly being updated and lists numerous organizations, media outlets, events, technology companies, politicians and government agencies, social networks, people, etc. that have created accounts and post updates to Twitter.com.
Here is a small sampling of some of the companies and people included on the list:
Twitter.com has once again raised the bar for news reporting, as breaking news is delivered with unsurpassed speed and efficiency. The most recent example was a quick one-word update from Twitter member Caroline (Vixy), who wrote “earthquake” to notify the Twitter community and local followers of the recent earthquake in Los Angeles.
Social networking sites such as Facebook and MySpace are plagued by users abusing the fact that all someone needs to sign up is a valid email address.
In the most recent incident, reported last night by MSNBC, Matthew Firsht from the U.K. won nearly $44,000 in a lawsuit against a former friend that created a libelous profile in Matthew’s name. Because apparently, when some “adults” join a social network originally used by only college and high school students, they feel compelled to behave like 14 year olds.
The former friend / culprit / juvenile delinquent, Grant Raphael, added intentionally incorrect information about Matthew in regards to his sexuality, political views and finances. When Grant claimed that someone else must have created the page on his computer when his party was crashed last year, the judge called the statement “far-fetched” and awarded Matthew nearly $30,000 for libel, $4,000 for breach of privacy and $10,000 for libel against his company.
The silver lining of this story is that Facebook did an excellent job managing the problem, promptly removing the phony profile and cooperating with the proceedings which helped Matthew win his case. This however, is clearly not the first fake account to be created and surely will not be the last.
Do you think Facebook and other social networks will begin requiring more verification when people create profiles? How can we protect our identities and prevent this from happening in the future?