Memories of #SXSWi 2013

For all the hoopla about #SXSW I can say the following:

  • I’ve never seen such a dysfunctional transportation system in my life. Cabs not being available for hours on end was really frustrating!
  • The weather was somewhat fickle. It didn’t know whether it wanted to be nearing summer or receding to dark, dreary winter.
  • On that note, the torrential downpour Saturday night, coupled with the lack of transportation did not, in the least, keep me amused.
  • Seeing Twitter and Facebook friends FINALLY IRL was amazing! The connection was the same regardless!
  • You consistently ran into familiar faces despite the multitude of parties, locations and meetings.
  • Wifi was everywhere but not necessarily accessible. Except for the convention centre, the hotels and even Starbucks didn’t allow for consistent connections.
  • Electrical sockets were few and far between. I felt like a homeless person squatting at the Hilton desperate to find any available electricity to juice my devices.
  • Food was abundant. See pics below. You could easily gain 10 pounds just by looking at the food.
  • Canadians were everywhere! It was great that we “represented”. I’m so proud of Rogers for consistently creating an environment for Canucks to hang out!
  • I finally got to meet some amazing people I look up to including Jure Klepic, Jeremiah Owyang and Michael Brito face to face, and have a bit of conversation! That made my day!
  • Talking with people who “speak the same language” was pretty awesome.
  • Innovation and ideas were everywhere. Disruptive technology was definitely present.

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Happiness is Amazing Customer Service: Thanks Apple!

This is how I felt this past Friday night! The reason I chose the pic? Apple and it’s amazing customer service team. Happy Apple.

It all started last Wednesday when I contacted by my Financial Advisor, for the second time in a few days, wondering why he hadn’t returned my emails. He indicated that he didn’t realize I emailed me. In fact, when he looked back in his email box, he noticed mine was flagged as potential SPAM. Considering I’ve emailed him before with no issues, he strongly urged me to change my password just in case my account was compromised. So I did just: I changed my gmail password and made accompanying changes on all my email clients as well as my iPhone.

I never realized this was a nightmare just beginning!

Once I made the changes, I received an error indicating the “gmail IMAP server was unresponsive”, and asked me to verify my settings. This was happening on my Mac Mail and my iPhone. Gmail itself was fine. For most people, not being able to receive or send email is a huge impediment especially to the day-to-day business grind. Various personal and company domains were redirecting to my gmail account. I had to get this fixed.

So for three days straight I referenced forums because Google itself has NO customer service I could call. Google’s help pages and forums clearly indicated IMAP server was a known issue but the solutions they offered did not help. I tried implementing various recommendations from the forums but nothing seemed to take. I was getting seriously frustrated.

Ironically, I read Danny Brown’s blog last Friday: On Fostering the Long Tail Effect of True Brand Loyalty where he spoke about Livefyre and their ability to help him despite the fact he was using a competing comments product:

The really impressive thing? I’m not even a paying customer – Livefyre Comments is free, although it does offer premium features for businesses and media properties.

It got me thinking: perhaps Apple could help me. I had recently purchased a MacBook so perhaps my support warranty would work. When I spoke to the Support Rep, Jason we spent about 20 minutes going through the same exercise I had implemented in the previous few days. He came back and indicated that the issue was clearly the Gmail IMAP server but said he could probably help. He reviewed my settings, and we made adjustments to the ports, stopped my two-way verification, and he made recommendations on some settings that may have been responsible for hindering the emails from transmitting.

And Hallelujah! It worked!

When I started seeing the emails coming on my MacMail, I smiled. I immediately asked him to help me with my iPhone and within a few minutes emails started coming into my iPhone mail client as well!

Funny thing: Jason (I wish I knew his name) could have washed his hands from my issue once he realized it had not originated from Apple’s products, but he didn’t. He joked that Google should actually hire him considering he’s run into this issue with many Apple clients.

For the first time in 3 days I finally felt like my problems had been washed away. Apple did that for me. I felt incredibly relieved that I didn’t have to spend another second dealing with this issue.

Google, I have this message for you: You need to invest in making sure people are happy with your products

Troubleshooting forums may be ok for people who are technically oriented. Unfortunately, the rest of us feel like we’re spinning our wheels. I resent the fact that I was not able to successfully reference your support forums, or help pages to get resolution. From the forums I’ve read, I’m not the only one who is frustrated by your “form” of support.

Google, you need to change your ways quickly. Apple takes the lead in providing the best customer service ever: from their Genius bar to their email and  telephone support. They provide immediate accessibility, effective follow-up and efficient resolution.

Take notes, Google!! You may be big but you are still vulnerable.

If you want to find out more about ArCompany. Danny Brown from our team will be on #HecklersHangout 20 with Brian Vickery and Margie Clayman this Thursday 7:00 p.m. EST.

Brian Vickery - Social Media Sport Analogies

ArCompany understands the connected customer and how to make a social businessOriginally, our plan this week was to talk to our friend Stacey Hood. Unfortunately, we found out this weekend that Stacey won’t be able to make it. Brian and I talked about who we could schedule on such short notice, and we remembered that something very exciting happened. Hessie Jones announced the launch of her new company, ArCompany. This company is not just a launch from Hessie Jones. Hessie has brought in an amazing team to make her dream become reality. That team includes Andrew Jenkins, Amy Tobin, and Danny Brown. Given the timing, we thought it would be cool if some of these ArCompany folks could come on and talk about their new venture, and in fact, that is just what is going to happen this week!

You can read more about the mission statement of ArCompany in this introductory post by Hessie herself

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My Next Journey: ArCompany


Almost four months ago, I came to a cross-roads in my career.

Having just left yet another start-up that had tons of promise but eventually began to show signs of waning, it was pretty evident that the frustration I had encountered in the last 7 years in the social media business was coming to a head.

I didn’t understand why companies didn’t get it. I didn’t understand why companies were treating social media as merely a campaign channel and nothing more. I didn’t understand why companies were ok with complacency and didn’t feel the urgency to change their ways.

Social media has proven that it’s a medium that’s not going away. Its prevalence has paved the way for pundits’ warning of the inevitable death of marketing.

Today, it’s not a do or die situation, but soon it will be. When I decided to blaze my own path, I sat down to figure out what I wanted to do. Below is a “letter to myself”.

I owe a lot to my trip to Dachis’ Social Business Summit in NY. My time there contributed greatly to this journey. It was also part soul-searching, part anger and sheer will that ArCompany came to be.

As I write this it’s becoming much clearer as to why I need to venture down this path.

Operationalizing social is going to be an inevitable reality. And the more I speak to people the more I realize that it may not necessarily be a hard sell after all.

The concept itself is harrowing but many companies may have already gone down the road of implementing it in one form or another.

What are the drivers of this eventuality of Social Business?

  • An unstable world economy that results in business flux and move towards developing efficiencies. This, in turn, affects the job market and the resource constraints that are put upon businesses.
  • Product saturation/abundance was bourne in an age of mass production and mass communication. These days, the opposite is true. Enter Mass customization that’s given rise to increased customer service.
  • Technology has also splintered communications which has changed from a one-way to two-way channel. Up until just over a decade ago, the voice of the consumer was but a whisper. Nowadays it’s being heard loud and clear.
  • In the past, the value between a company and its customers was based on transaction history. A true value has emerged that includes customer relationships and behaviours outside of the organization and provides him/her with a stronger voice that the company must heed.
  • One way static communication has changed to an interactive two-way dialogue.
  • This dialogue has drastically increased this well of data/information that has the ability to radically inform and provide more  power in decision-making

However, companies, for the most, part are not ready. They don’t have the ability nor forethought to recognize the value of the data.

Companies are not ready to shape their processes and structure around this information to properly receive, manage and analyze and action on it (in the appropriate timeframes)–all in an effort to mitigate reputational impacts, to capitalize on potential revenue streams, and to reduce customer churn.

Dave Gray of Dachis said it best:

Social Business means…. having to dismantle some of that precious infrastructure

It can be done

It seems like a daunting feat but what companies don’t realize is that we don’t have to reinvent the wheel. While some fundamental mindshifts need to happen, solutions to deal with this slew of information has not radically changed.The same principals and models still apply.

The difference is how to deal with the information in its abundance and the speed at which it is moving and in its unstructured form.

What the market needs…

I need to form a company that will help companies move to that eventual next level. There remains a huge education gap when it comes to social. Many have not totally bought into the promise of social. Their implementations are weak and non-committal.

In the meantime, information and intelligence technology (to make sense of this information) is moving at a faster pace. Those companies that can adapt and leverage this information to their benefit will be ahead of the curve.

In the short term, they will be the drivers of change. They will show the world what it means to really listen and understand their customer. They will show the world how to succeed by bridging these gaps, elevating the  relationship with their customers and focusing resources in driving to market needs and expectations.

Here’s what we will do:

  • We evolve businesses for the inevitable and use data to drive validation and make smart decisions;
  • We show business how to evolve at their own pace;
  • We educate and train on best practices and how to manage and foster relationships at each customer touch point;
  • We introduce technology within the framework of the customer relationship: collaboration, workflow, business intelligence, content and community mapping;
  • We analyze initiatives to validate implementations and strategies, and ensure they map to business objectives.

We’ve arrived

So here we are,  February 2013.  ArCompany has arrived. We named it so because “arc” shows steady momentum and progression. Taken together with “company” it sounds like “Our Company”. The next generation of business will have accountability to the customer– at all levels of the organization.

And I couldn’t ask for a better team to take this journey with me: They are all stellar in their own right:

  • Danny Brown, a truly amazing friend who has shown me on more than one occasion how to truly live with integrity;
  • Amy Tobin, a spunky and energetic pal who continues to challenge me and make me smile in the process;
  • Andrew Jenkins, someone I’ve come to respect for his perseverance and undeniable insight from the enterprise world.

We all live social… everyday. We understand and are passionate about the connected customer. We inherently know how this is going to impact business now and in the long-term.

We look forward to having the conversation. Join us!

 Reference for some of this material sourced from the Social Business Journal, September 2012

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