I’m just getting started….

The last 4 months have been a whirlwind and I’ve come to reflect on where I’ve been and where I am today.

I have been tapping into social media since my Yahoo! days and I’ve come to really love the medium. It goes against the grain of me as a traditional marketer, whose thinking has really been about creating excitement for products that people may not really care about initially, enticing a not-yet-established motivation to want the thing I was selling and provoke action.

I worked in credit card marketing for 6 years (sigh!) not fully believing that people really wanted credit cards, let alone debt. But as a marketer, I sold the notion of  access to ‘dreams’ if people had the vehicle necessary to get that access. As an advertising executive, I created amazing campaigns for products and services pushing messaging to audiences, at times, who clearly weren’t interested. The ones who were, were not deemed ‘ideal’ so I backed off from these seemingly low hanging fruits.

As I look back at these events, I realized the huge thing that was lacking: consumer validation… not sales, not response rates. In banking, a 2% response rate on a $4MM campaign was considered successful. That’s because that 2% audience could be upsold, cross-sold, and generate enough revenue over their lifetime to justify the initial acquisition cost.  But were the customers ever satisfied? Were they ever really happy? I never really knew because my access to the customer was nonexistent. I usually received a report from operations telling me how many people signed up for a credit card. Yay! But really?

As social media started emerging as a strong vehicle about 5 years ago, I paid close attention to its lure. Here, these networks existed without the interruption of annoying advertising. Ironic, cause I was typically the source of that annoying advertising. Slowly but surely, I also was lured to a space where people could speak as people, uninterrupted. I spoke to esteemed bloggers and social media strategists like Alejandro Reyes and Joselin Mane, who taught me the importance of active listening, transforming the marketing mindset, and leveraging relationships with the customer to truly succeed.  Even in MySpace days I talked with people who were just struggling to succeed. I knew a few band members who would develop new tracks every week so they could showcase it to their networks! And they received accolades and validation–albeit from a tiny universe who admired and appreciated their efforts.

That’s when I become a purist–not overnight but soon after. I became the anti-marketer, espousing authenticity, transparency, relationship-building.  I would talk to anyone who would listen, as if it was an epiphany moment! And it was! When I started blogging 4 years ago it was merely an outlet for me to verbalize where this all would lead: social, emerging technology and why it would change the way companies operate. Along the way, it also provided others, who stumbled upon my posts, an opportunity to learn. That was pretty cool… and that’s what kept me going.

I worked at start-ups, which help me delve deeper into social and the more I learned the more I became enamoured with the business possibilities for social.  I then moved to agency and ironically it was more difficult to sell the notion of social media (despite its increasing pervasiveness) to businesses beyond Facebook and Twitter. Businesses still wanted to control the message and chose to ignore the less-than-palatable public opinion. Embracing social means being able to take the good with the bad and it’s gonna take time before this happens especially in Canada.

So today I am at an amazing company that is in sync with where this world is going… where I believe it can leverage the social web’s strength. Jugnoo.com is doing some amazing things. I’m happy to be part of it. I’m working with some really amazing people. It’s a stacked team headed by a real visionary.

Stay tuned……we are just getting started!

Social Media Case Study: Even those with integrity can be banned

I’ve been holding off writing this post for some time partly because I because I didn’t want my emotion coming through in the post.  I was truly hurt when I realized I was banned from a Mom site (which will remain nameless to protect the truly innocent), which, by the way, is an amazing site that caters to moms — working from home, professionals, stay-at-home moms –> a truly engaged community that readily contributes and share experiences with each other. It’s only now that I feel comfortable writing this because I want to portray a very pragmatic view of the incident that happened and provide a viewpoint that we all could learn from. It taught me a valuable lesson about the internet and some of the dangers of the social web.

It’s not worth rehashing the incident in detail. Suffice it to say, I feel I conducted myself with the utmost integrity but the situations were misinterpreted, and misconstrued. And although I rationalized and effectively (or so I thought) defended my position, it was apparent that this site  was unwilling to listen to explanation. I even had a friend and manager –> someone of  authority and status, vouch for me and help clarify the situation. But to no avail.

It’s quite defeating when I make repeated attempts to access the site and the following text is  on my screen: “Hessie Jones, you have been banned from (xxx site)”.  To this day I don’t know what went wrong. Anyone that knows me knows that I am someone of integrity and would never do anything purposely to manipulate a situation. My husband says I suffer from “everyone-needs-to-like-me syndrome” and  I will try incessantly to justify why I should be liked.

But now that I have some clarity, and less bitterness towards the situation I have come to realize that if I were in their shoes, I probably have done the same thing.  I’ve also come to realize that a “keyboard” that unites individuals across the social space cannot and will not ever really be substituted for face-to-face contact. Relationships can begin over the net but ultimately every one is a faceless, nameless entity. Who you are is ultimately determined by what do and and what you type onto your keyboard. We do not have the benefit of looking someone in the eye, or conversing with them face-to-face. We are unwilling to totally submit and trust individuals whom we haven’t formally met. In my case, the site was unwilling to give me the benefit of the doubt.

That’s why what you do and what you say can ultimately be held against you if you’re not careful. I would love to be asked back to the fold and start connecting again. Maybe this time I’ll buy lunch:)

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