The Importance of Being Understood

I’m a fairly average person. I work, I play…I am a mom. I am a wife. I am CEO of an online marketing agency in Atlanta. I advocate for victims of CSEC (the commercial sexual exploitation of children). I have a lot of lovely friends and do fun stuff with them whenever possible.

So I’m busy and I value my time. Just like everybody else, I would imagine. I’m not complaining…in fact I wouldn’t have it any other way. But today I got a phone call that really got under my skin. The gentleman was very difficult to understand but it basically went down like this:

Heavily Accented Guy: Hello. May I please to tell you that this is NOT a sales call. I would only like to know if Mr. Bex Mit…Mit…Mitch…Michelle, still the CEO of your company, Social Butterfly? I would like to extend an invitation to him to join our conference.

Me: (Thinking, “Ok, Archie Bunker…not all CEO’s are men. But nice try.) But I said, “Thank you for calling, but we’re not interested.”

HAG: You don’t understand! This is not a sales call!! Is Mr. Bex Michelle still CEO of your company or not?!

Me: **click**

Ten seconds later, my phone rings again. REALLY. He called back! Thanks Skype, for making it so easy for people to make cheap international calls.

HAG: DO NOT DISCONNECT THIS CALL AGAIN. It is not a sales call! (cue his haughty voice) You need to understand that I am only verifying that Mr. Bex Michelle is still the CEO of Social Butterfly so that we can extend him an invitation to our conference.

Me: (…pausing to allow my tongue and brain to catch up with each other so that I don’t go unnecessarily off the deep end with this tool.) YOU need to understand that Bex MITCHELL is not a man. She’s a woman. And you are speaking to her. And it is simply not possible, based on the quality of this call, that you are going to invite me to anything I would be willing to attend.

I hung up my iPhone, wishing that I had been on a land line instead so that I could have hung up more loudly than just silently pushing a button on my screen.  I was angry, for a few reasons.

Let’s take the gender thing out of it. Yes, I think that he assumed that because I’m a CEO I’m a man. And he was probably rude to me because he thought I was “just” an assistant and/or secretary who didn’t matter (wrong again…had he spoken to anyone on my team like that he would have gotten the same or worse reaction from me).

This guy sounded an awful lot like someone who lives in India. I have no problem with people from or in India. In fact, I have friends I adore from there. But if you are going to market to me, shouldn’t I be able to understand more than 60% of what you say??

My company offers online marketing to other firms. So I get the whole outsourcing thing. We offer SEO and social media solutions for companies big and small. We also create websites that our search engine optimized. We are, for many of our clients, an outsourcing option for them. But we match our resources carefully with our clients demographic. And the most primitive consideration there is language. So we do not “offshore” these jobs to India (or any other place). We homeshore them by working with people who have matched interests and background with our clients demographic. Also, I’m an American and I work for American companies. So…I like to hire other Americans to help us out.

I think that the call I had today is a great reminder of why it’s important to remember that the people who engage your fans and followers in social media, just like the people who make cold calls on behalf of you company, are the face of your company to all who encounters them. The first message your clients, fans and prospects receive shouldn’t be “we don’t really understand each other.”

Social Media is Critical for Universities

My husband is a (very) proud graduate of Virginia Tech so I consider myself to be a Hokie-in-law. We both watched in shock a few years ago when a nut job called Cho killed 32 students and faculty. Since then social media has really taken off and I’ve often wondered if the horrific events of that day could have been averted or at least lessened had social media been then what it is today.

This morning a gunman entered the University of Texas at Austin library and fired off shots. I’m happy to say that the report I just heard stated that nobody else appears to have been killed, other than the gunman who apparently shot himself. Thank goodness!! The report also stated that the university sounded their alarms and sent text messages to staff; I’m sure that they followed their established protocols for an emergency and that the tragedy at Virginia Tech helped shape them.

But there is something they didn’t do that I wish they had. They didn’t push the news through social media. Doing so would have pushed the urgent message that an armed gunman is in the library to all of the students (and other interested individuals). It would have communicated to their students in a way where they would have known in an instant.

Example of how social media was used for online crisis communications at the University of Texas

This is what their Facebook page looked like this morning after the fact:

I don’t mean to criticize the administration there because, after all, it ended as well as it probably could have, nobody else was hurt and, let’s face it, I’m certain that they tried their best to resolve this quickly and peacefully. But in this day and age I advise educational institutions to embrace social media, particularly as a vehicle to distribute critical information quickly. This is where your students already are, Folks. Embracing twitter and Facebook will help with marketing your facility and connecting with your target audience. And, when necessary, it will also help you sound the alarm to your fullest capability.

A tale of two Forks

How does “Forks” apply to social media you ask? Well, this summer our family made it’s annual pilgrimage to visit “grandpa” in the Pacific Northwest. Being that my daughters have become big fans of the Twilight series, I thought it would be cool to take them to where the story takes place, Forks Washington, which also happens to be the rainiest place in the US.

Because Forks was a 4-hour drive form where we were staying, I wanted to make sure that I did some research before heading up the Olympic Peninsula. Just like 93% percent of the population does before they make a big purchase, I turned to the Internet, pulled up Google and typed “Twilight.”  Now I got about 85,300,000 results in 0.16 seconds. So I narrowed my search by looking for unbiased info on the subject, which took me to the Web 2.0 section of the Internet, blogs, wikis, Facebook, Twitter, etc.

What did I find? Well for starters, none of the movies are actually filmed in or near Forks. Turns out that Forks, a small town in a rain forest, doesn’t have the room for a big Hollywood production, so while the books are based in and around Forks, the first movie is shot in and around Portland. This information led to what I think is an obvious decision, plan two tours for the girls:

–       Our “literary trip” was to Forks with multiple stops at sites discussed in the book as seen here at the Forks Welcome Center:

–       The other trip was Cinematic, visiting all of the “shoot” sites in and around Portland as seen here at the stunningly beautiful Stone Cliff Inn.

Thanks to social media I was able to get first hand accounts of where to go and what to see. The results?? Two very happy daughters with memories that will last a lifetime.

Keep it social!

Social Don

Twenty Two Point Seven

According to Nielsen, people cut down 28% of their emailing and about 15% of their text messaging online between June of 2009 and June of 2010. Interesting, eh? But let’s think about this…WHY did this happen? It’s not like it became harder to do or more expensive, right?

In that same span of time, social media usage went up 43%, which means that in June 2010, Americans spent 22.7% of their online time on social media.


This makes sense if you think about it. Emailing and texting are active ways to receive information. You have to actually get involved in the process of getting or receiving information. But social media allows the consumer to have information pushed to her. Let’s say you’re on Facebook, busy stalking your exboyfriend, racking up squirrels to throw at your neighbor on farmville, etc., and your favorite brand announces a sale. They sent you an email, but it will be a few hours before you get around to checking that out. In fact, it might not even happen for a day or two. And even then, your spam filter might have snagged it and you won’t see it until you finally get around to cleaning out your junk email drawer, which if you’re anything like me, might take a year or three.

But if your favorite brand also posts the information on its Facebook page, the sale information is pushed to you. While you’re already online. Where you can actually do something (like, oh, I don’t know…make a purchase or something).

No more email for Ben and Jerry, it is all about the social media.

Something like ice cream maybe; this trend is so compelling that super brand Ben and Jerry’s did away with email marketing altogether. That’s pretty amazing. They are focusing instead on social media and smart phone applications. That’s how their fan base (read: consumers) prefer to receive and respond to information about Chunky Monkey.

So, what does this mean for your brand? Hopefully you’re already utilizing social media. But showing up is only the first step. Social media is not the same as email. It’s not about talking. It’s about listening and then responding…you know, a conversation. A real one. We all know “those” people at a cocktail party. The only time they shut up is to either take a slug of wine or to fidget as they wait for you to stop talking so that they can continue on talking about their own agenda. Unfortunately brands do that, too. Nobody wants to be THAT guy. Bad breath. Stain on tie. Ginormous piece of pepper stuck between his teeth. Blabbing on and on about who-gives-a-crap.

So here are a few tips:

  1. Remember that it’s a conversation. A two-way street. Listen, then respond.
  2. Be authentic. No faking the funk, folks. If you (or your company) made a mistake, own it and move on.
  3. Be consistent. Surprisingly, this is the one many companies seem to have trouble with. Conversations don’t work very well when dragged out over several days. People move on quickly these days…you need to monitor your social media so that you can engage your consumers. Otherwise it’s kind of like having a customer walk into your retail space during business hours but nobody on your team is there to say “How may I help you?”.

What do you think about this trend? Any predictions what June of 2011 will look like??

Top 10 Sectors by Share of U.S. Internet Time
RANK Category Share of Time
June 2010
Share of Time
June 2009
% Change in
Share of Time
1 Social Networks 22.7% 15.8% 43%
2 Online Games 10.2% 9.3% 10%
3 E-mail 8.3% 11.5% -28%
4 Portals 4.4% 5.5% -19%
5 Instant Messaging 4.0% 4.7% -15%
6 Videos/Movies** 3.9% 3.5% 12%
7 Search 3.5% 3.4% 1%
8 Software Manufacturers 3.3% 3.3% 0%
9 Multi-category Entertainment 2.8% 3.0% -7%
10 Classifieds/Auctions 2.7% 2.7% -2%
Other* 34.3% 37.3% -8%
Source:Nielsen NetView – June 2009-June 2010
*Other refers to 74 remaining online categories visited from PC/laptops
**NetView’s Videos/Movies category refers to time spent on video-specific (e.g., YouTube, Bing Videos, Hulu) and movie-related websites (e.g., IMDB, MSN Movies and Netflix) only. It is not a measure of video streaming or inclusive of video streaming on non-video-specific or movie-specific websites (e.g., streamed video on sports or news sites).

I’m doing a little Cabbage Patch Dance….

Managing social media content for other companies is super duper fun. Sure, we have good days and bad days just like anybody…but to be compensated for playing all day long on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Linkedin, etc…well, it pretty much rocks.

And it’s especially rewarding when one of our clients scores something great. Take, for example, our client Cox Culinary Emporium. Their FABULOUS Lanita Ware product was just featured on the CBS Early Morning Show. When our social media clients win, we all win.

Here I am, enjoying a raspberry lemonade at the pool with my fabulous Lanita Ware Wine Goblet. (They also have martini and champagne glasses, too, all made of high quality BPA free plastic that can go in my dishwasher — top OR bottom rack!!)

Getting social with Lanita Ware at the Pool

But it was Matt Blashaw of the DIY Network who really made it shine on CBS…and I should also mention that I might have just a teensy-weensy little crush on him now. Sigh……………

Join my celebration and check out Cox Culinary Emporium’s Famous Lanita Ware on CBS here!