Last weekend, FM’s executive team tried an experiment: The three of us were not allowed to send any emails to our FM colleagues from 6pm Friday until 6pm Sunday. I didn’t expect much other than a time-shifting of our email problems, a postponement of our inevitable email bankruptcy. I was wrong. It turns out the emails the three of us initiate spawn email threads that multiply like virus cells in a warm petri dish. If we shut up for two days a week, everybody else can dial back, too. And I found that my brain worked better this past week — rested, refreshed and more nimble than usual — after a weekend offline.
More from Battelle.
I wonder what happens if you let your brain have 216 offline hours?? I’m headed off for a wifi-free camping trip with the family. I’ll let you know in a week.
I hope the folks at Cococu are saying nice things!
Marketing Shift weighs in, too:
“…companies are looking for ways to aggregate communities even if it’s not directly tied to their core business. Chris Brogan points out that American Express is doing just that with its OPEN Forum, which aggregates blog and business information in one place and encourages conversation in a sponsored area with the hopes of subtly marketing to people who have an interest in business information (e.g. potential American Express users). When you think about it, the concept is a no-brainer. We trust people more when we don’t feel like they are selling us on something. It’s why we hate ads — and marketing.”
Steven Lewis at Inside the Box, while not exactly speaking a different language, adds his support from Australia.
And if financial jargon qualifies as a foreign language, we can count NetBanker:
“American Express’s OpenForum: As the name suggests, it’s a business forum and resource directory, not unlike Bank of America’s…. American Express has added posts from several prominent bloggers such as John Battelle’s Searchblog and Anita Campbell’s Small Biz Trends, to keep the site fresh. The site has 5,400 members and monthly traffic of about 11,000 unique visitors, up three-fold from a year ago.”
Goes to show you: If your marketing projects are great media with quality content and authentic conversation, not only will you engage your customers more deeply, you’ll benefit from social-media amplification as those customers spread the word across the web.
At a conference earlier this week, Intel’s David Veneski presented stats on Intel’s sponsorship of PopURLS Blue Edition for Enterprise IT. In May, visitors to the site, on average, were more than 100% likely to interact with content assets, clicking on headlines in order to read full stories. If the goal is to build something your customers want, the rate of active engagement is a great proxy for performance. In this case, Intel aced it.
I spoke at the Ascentium PDX onference, too. Here are some photos posted to Flickr.
John Seabrook’s latest New Yorker piece, Hello, Hal, takes a look at interactive-voice-response systems (IVRs), those automated customer-service robots we spend so much time talking to:
“Americans spent 43 billion minutes on the line with an I.V.R. in 2007, and only one caller in ten was satisfied.”
A ninety-percent rate of customer dissatisfaction?! That’s an abyssmal failure, especially if your business is one of those old-fashioned businesses that relies on happy customers. Seabrook reports that the cost to actually put a human on the other end of a customer phone call is $5, on average. What is wrong with a businesses when $5 is too expensive to talk to a customer?
Check out the recent experience of my colleague Pete Spande, who sent an email to Sprint’s new CEO, who offered up his direct email address in a TV commercial (see AdRants):
“In response to frequent complaints about its crappy plans and service areas, the CEO of Sprint appeared in a commercial and committed to do better. He offered viewers an email at which they could file critiques directly. Spande emailed to commend him on the campaign, and got — wait for it! — an automated message. A day or two later, he got an email from some random CSR, inviting him to check out the Sprint/WiMax website.”
Here’s more positive coverage of American Express’s OPEN Forum blog, a partnership between American Express and several FM business authors. My favorite line:
“To everyone behind the creation of the OPEN Forum, good job! To anyone who has not checked it out yet, please do!”
Tim Leberecht at one of CNET’s blogs offers a full survey of FM’s Conversational Marketing Summit last week in New York. The big theme: It’s time to start building brands online, rather than just harvesting clicks. Because that might require a new metrics toolkit, we’re building one.
Chris Brogan writes American Express is OPEN.
He’s referring not only to Amex’s small business brand (OPEN Forum is an American Express trademark); he’s congratulating the company on its open approach to content at the OPEN Forum blog, a site where American Express teams up with several FM-affiliate small-business authors to create credible, third-party business content (not advertising or advertorial) and to give American Express customers reason to come back to the site for something other than account status. As my colleague James Gross (the guy who put this program together) describes it:
“Our goal was to bring together leading experts in an engaging experience at the OPEN platform itself. Thus, any of the authors work that was picked up on other blogs, social media engines like Digg, StumbleUpon, etc., would all give credit back to OPEN as being the keeper/facilitator of the conversation. In the new world of media, these trackbacks and links provide a new form of Brand Equity for OPEN. This again drives home the point behind the OPEN brand that they are here for Small Businesses to make their life better and grow their business.”
Brogan, a business blogger himself, likes the idea:
“I think it’s definitely a way to build a content network [for a marketer] that would be more useful to end readers. It’s not that we don’t want more traffic to our blog, but that there are ways this content can be made more useful to end readers, by being curated by others in interesting ways. That’s why we use Creative Commons. That’s why we use RSS. It’s the plan.”
The perfect medium for that hard-to-reach smoker demo!
“The company’s Ashvertiser consists of a wall-mountable ashtray combined with a TV-sized colour screen above it for installation outside smoke-free venues. As smokers finish and extinguish their cigarettes, the screen displays world news, sports results and weather forecasts along with advertising spots. Mars, Nestle, Proximus/Vodafone and Sara Lee have been among the early adopters of the Ashvertiser, which is now being used by numerous Brussels restaurants, Ashvertising says.”
That’s a quote from Michael Nathanson, an analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein & Company, in today’s NY Times.
“On a conference call last month, Peter Chernin, president and chief operating officer for the News Corporation, toned down the grandiose expectations for social networking advertising and acknowledged that selling spots on personal profile and group pages is not easy.
“Social networking represents an ‘entirely new form of Internet activity,’ Mr. Chernin said.
“When MySpace’s parent, Fox Interactive Media, announced a three-year, $900 million advertising pact with Google in 2006, analysts started placing big bets that social networking would be a major new revenue stream. While the Web is becoming more social, it is hard to wring profits from it.
“Indeed, the balloon of unrealistic prospects is losing air. The attitude change was first detected at the end of January when, one year into its $900 million pact with MySpace, Google said that social networking inventory was not earning money as well as expected. (More recently, Google said the situation was improving.)”