Ignoring loyal fans: A social media how-NOT-to

I love it when companies use social media to see what people are saying about their brand. I love it even more when they acknowledge those folks. What I don't love as a consumer is feeling ignored. Enter Sharpie.

The famous marker company, Sharpie, recently offered a perk through Klout. They gave so-called "Sharpie influencers" a bunch of free stuff to do all kinds of artsy things. I love crafts and was bummed I didn't get the perk; so I sent a tweet (I'm a smart aleck, what can I say):

Sukhraj Beasla responded to my tweet and said she was disappointed, too. We started kidding back and forth about how much we loved Sharpies and wanted Sharpie to love us, too. Soon after, Lindsay Fultz said she was laughing at our funny tweets and joined in. Hugh McBride was next. He changed his avatar to a pack of Sharpies and started sharing great photos of things created with Sharpies! Then, Shana Ray joined and tweeted a photo of her Sharpie table.

We started using the hashtag #sharpiechat on some of the tweets, and even more folks started tweeting about Sharpie. People shared how they used Sharpie and what they liked about the product. Sheetal Makhan from South Africa asked what Sharpies were and of course I told her about all the permanent marker goodness. What had started off as a joke had turned into a full-fledged chat on how great Sharpie products were!

For nearly two hours that night, we traded tweets, shared Sharpie art, revised song lyrics to include Sharpie, and kidded about who loved Sharpies the most. It was terribly fun and at it's peak, #sharpiechat had more than 20 participants. Twenty-plus people sharing their love of the product and giving Sharpie's twitter account lots of love. When I went to bed, I thought, "I bet the Sharpie folks will get a kick out of seeing all those tweets in the morning. And how much will they love that we started the first ever #sharpiechat!".

Well, imagine my surprise when the next day came and Sharpie said nothing. Nada. Zilch. I even looked at the Sharpie Twitter page to see if they had respond to anyone from the previous night. Negative. Sharpie hadn't even followed me back (nor have they in the subsequent two weeks)! Granted, I didn't host #sharpiechat for any self-serving purpose, but not to even get one tweet from Sharpie? I thought that bit the big one. (For the record, not everyone put "@sharpie" in their tweets, however there were enough who did that Sharpie undoubtedly saw the surge of mentions and could have tracked the #sharpiechat hashtag.)

So, here's the free advice for the day. If your customers say how great you are, thank them! Respond, engage, do something! The last thing you should be doing is ignoring them. And, since Sharpie didn't see fit to acknowledge anyone who participated in #sharpiechat, I'd like to do that now--because that's how social media works.

Thank you to the following individuals:


And special thanks to: 
@lindsayfultz for coming up with the hashtag
@hughcmcbride for scouring the net to find the most amazing Sharpie-inspired content to share
@sbeasla for responding to my initial tweet, which got the whole conversation going

Want your customers to love you? Remember to love them back! That's how brand loyalty is created. That's how you turn customers into full-fledged fans. That's how ordinary companies become extraordinary!

Are all creative people just D-list performers?

Credit: Mark Parisi
I recently attended a benefit concert for Stitch the dog (to help Stitch and his family, click HERE). I noshed on bread and fruit and soaked in all the original music by some fantastic local artists. Some were just amazing! Just as good, or better, than the folks you hear on reality TV shows or the radio. I thought to myself, "It must be frustrating to be so talented and never make it big. Poor people. Only a small group of folks will ever be able to enjoy what they have to offer." Then it hit me, "These singers are no different than me!" 

I write on this blog a few times a week and I, too, only reach a small audience (although a wonderfully smart and good looking audience, I might add!). I'd love to make it to the big leagues one day, but even if I don't, I'll continue to write--because that's what I do. I am extremely grateful for the community of readers who support me. I don't take any blog comment, tweet, like, or other nicety for granted!

Each blog post I write is pretty much on par with the gig of any indie artist who plays at a local beer hole. I do what I do and cross my fingers that someone shows up! Neither of us is reaching millions, nor are we household names, but we will continue to be creative in our own ways because that's how we express ourselves.

There are so many wonderfully talented people out there who will never receive the accolades they so rightfully deserve. Whether one's talent is sculpting, writing, picture taking, painting, writing music, drawing, singing, playing an instrument, glass blowing, or some other creative endeavor, only a few folks will be discovered. Even fewer will prosper. But, create they must. They go on, because they're called. Because it's their passion. Because it's who they are.

Am I any different? I can't say that I am. I'm a D-list performer, just like the singers I pitied. Funny, how that reality took awhile to set in. But, I love what I do. And if only a handful of people dig it too, well, that's enough for me.

So, in true beer hole fashion, I'll sign off. This post was dedicated to the readers in the front row. Thanks for coming out today, my friends. Be true to yourselves and express your creativity in whatever way you can. Remember to tip your waitresses and drive home safely.  I'll be here all week...

Buffy the Vampire Slayer made me a lazy blogger

Think, think, think. I'm tired of thinking. Career, family, social media commitments. My mind is always on. Therefore, I've turned to Buffy the Vampire Slayer to save me.

I'll be honest, I've had some personal and professional setbacks lately. It's gotten me down. I'm probably also suffering from a little bit of social media fatigue (lots of people have been blogging about it since the launch of Google+). But, fortunately, I've found a safe haven. Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The Complete Series DVD boxed set.

I've been delighting in turning off my brain in the evening and watching Buffy slay demons and dust vampires. It's helped me unwind and been wonderfully frivolous entertainment. What it hasn't helped is my blogging.

Scott Stratten of Unmarketing fame says don't blog unless you have something amazing to say. On the flip side, content creator extraordinaire Chris Brogan writes more in a week than most of us do in six months. He does this by skipping the time gobblers like television--and Buffy DVDs.

The great thing about our new uber-connected lives is that we're always in the know. The bad part is we never truly get away and unwind. There's no shortage of real life and online commitments nowadays. Heaven forbid you don't update your Facebook status for a week and people think you've died!

I've worked long and hard on this blog and it's not anything I ever intend to stop doing. However, laziness has been known to strike on occasion. Buffy just made it worse.

How do YOU keep yourself from getting lazy? Is it important to have mental breaks from our online responsibilities? Or did Buffy and her quest to fight the forces of darkness just bring out my inner slacker?

Free speech, public safety, and cell phones

Consider this scenario: You own a business. For some reason or another, people are angry at your business and decide to protest against it. The protesters tap into a service that your company provides to organize disruptive activities meant to hurt said company. Should the company be allowed to cut off that service?

Now, let's put some facts to this story. San Francisco's BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) system has been on the receiving end of some heavy duty public discord this summer. In July, crowds shut down three of BART's train stations as they protested the shooting of a knife-wielding transient by a BART police officer. Last week, organizers were planning another protest against the city's transit system. However, BART shut down its underground, cell phone network in select stations to prevent people from organizing activities that would negatively impact train activity.

Keep in mind, BART actually owns and controls the wireless network that services the subterranean train tunnels. It didn't have to work with a cell phone provider to jam signals or cut service. It owns the system and simply turned it off. As a result, the protest didn't happen. People were unable to organize activities in real-time, tweet the locations of BART police, or use mobile devices in any way in several train stations. That, in essence, put the kibosh on the protest before it ever started. The American Civil Liberties Union cried foul; BART defended it's actions saying protests on station platforms would put the public at risk.

Were transit authorities truly concerned about commuter safety or did they just wanted to avoid a protest? Only a few people really know the answer to that. But, if it fair to say any business must continue to offer a service that is being exploited by people who are trying to do that business harm? Of course, this issue gets stickier when we consider that BART is a service of the city of San Francisco--obviously funded by taxpayer dollars. (Note: As a result of the recent wireless shutdown, another protest has been organized for this Monday.)

What do YOU think? Is the BART action the same as the government ordering social media shutdowns in Egypt and other countries that have faced civil unrest? Should BART, or any other company, be legally obligated to maintain a service even if it goes against the business's best interests? Does it make a difference if the entity owns the service or mandates another company cut access? What if that business is affiliated with the government?

No jammed signals here! Sound off below and exercise your right to free speech!

The business of bums, breasts, and butt cleavage

Some things make me scratch my head. Others make me fear for the future of the human race. Maybe I'm old-fashioned, but these things get a big thumbs down from me. How about you?
1) QR codes on women's butts

As part of a new advertising campaign, the British women's beach volleyball team will now be sporting QR codes on their bums. Yep, as if men didn't stare at women's butts enough, now they're being encouraged to zoom in and take a photo! The codes will appear on women's derrieres starting today.

2) Little girls strapping on boobies

Spanish toy company Berjuan has introduced a new doll that breastfeeds. Little girls just need to strap on the halter with petal-covered nipples and they're ready to nestle their doll's face into their non-existent breasts.

Yes, I know some women will say that this toy will help breastfeeding in public become more acceptable or help kids better understand their bodies, but I say let little girls be little girls! Part of the joy of childhood is being blissfully unaware of the adult responsibilities of life (I'm also anti toy vaccuum, but that's another story).
Let's leave breastfeeding to the grown ups with real nipples, eh?

3) Event photographers with butt cleavage

This month I went to an event for journalists, sponsored by Facebook. Lots of professionals on the panel and in the audience. I was in the front row and, much to my dismay, was exposed to massive amounts of butt crack. Yep, you read right. Butt crack.

A guy was there taking photos for his company (a photo collective in Los Angeles) and every time he kneeled down to take a shot, he mooned the audience. Consider this free advice: if you're going to take photos at an event, wear pants and underwear that cover your rump (I can't believe things have gotten so casual in business that I even need to say something so ridiculous!).

So what say you? Is this all just too much? Are you fed up with droopy drawers, sexually-charged advertising, and inappropriate kids' toys? Or, do I need a chill pill?

Let's hear it!

Jan Brady would love social media

"Marcia, Marcia, Marcia!" No matter your age, everyone knows this notorious complaint from middle child Jan Brady of The Brady Bunch. Marcia was more popular, prettier, and everyone wanted to be like her. Jan? She was always in Marcia's shadow; trying to be noticed.

Jan Brady would love social media.

In many ways, social media is the great equalizer. Anyone can put information out of the web, grow an audience, and make a name for themselves. If Jan Brady were capable of popping out of the TV, I have no doubt that she'd embrace the world of new media. Through Twitter, Facebook, and blogging, Jan would have access to platforms that would allow her to be heard, show off her talents, and achieve success. Social media would allow her to compete with her sisters.

Ah, yes, the Brady girls and their hair of gold. When it comes to social media, we can all be lumped into a category that represents one of the "very lovely girls", can't we? In the real world, we're all a Marcia, Jan, or a Cindy.

The big names in the space are generally Marcias. People know who they are, listen to what they say, and want to be near them. Marcias have free products sent to them all the time and get access to exclusive events just because of who they are. Their Klout score is high because they've already made it to the big leagues, but Marcias disapprove of Klout and the idea of scores (perhaps it's easier to be indifferent when you're already successful). Marcias exemplify success and are the frequent objects of envy.

Then, there are Cindys. Cindys generally use social networking sites casually. They don't put a lot of effort into creating an online presence; they mostly use the tools for fun. Much like Marcias, they sometimes mock those who check their Klout scores. They're carefree with little to no interest in competing or being ranked. Despite popular belief, not all Cindys have a lisp (insert 70s-style canned laughter here).

As for Jans, they haven't made it to the big time, but they're trying. They want to make a name for themselves, they're trying to be recognized as subject matter experts, and they want to achieve success and all that comes with it. Jans know the stakes and want to stand out. They put a lot of effort into maintaining their social media presence, hoping it will help them reach that next level. Jans check their Klout score regularly and are excited when they get a perk (e.g. freebies offered through Klout). They want to be better than average and aren't afraid to work hard to get noticed.

Jans want to play with the big boys.
Jans want to make something of themselves.
Jans want to be Marcias.

If you're carefree like a Cindy or a powerhouse like Marcia, more power to you. But, remember, Jans are people, too. A Jan who wants to do more and be more is a good thing.

After all, who wants to live in someone else's shadow? Especially Marcia's.
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