Monthly Archives: July 2012

What Not To Wear

I’ve never been known as a fashion plate. In fact, I’ll admit I’ve been challenged in the clothes area over my professional career. However, I am going to write about clothing today because I got on a rant about something with a buddy yesterday and I thought it was good food for thought here on the screed.

One of my pet peeves is the idiots who attend sporting events as if they were playing. You know the ones – you see them at most golf tournaments wearing golf shoes as they walk the course or walking around a tennis tournament in full whites and sneakers. I’m told there are folks showing up at the Olympic dressage events wearing riding boots.  What are these folks thinking?  Someone twists an ankle and you’re in as a competitor?  I’ve been to hundreds of sporting events and yet I don’t think I’ve ever seen this sort of behavior at a football game (sitting in the stands in full pads would probably get you thrown out) or a hockey game (hard to walk the steps in skates).

Putting aside that it’s kind of douchy (that’s really about the most appropriate term ), I suppose that what they’re doing is trying to make a statement that “hey, I’m a golfer/tennis player/rider too and I belong here.”  The reality is that it states exactly the opposite.

An office environment is different.  Most places have some sort of dress code, written or unwritten, and one is best served by adhering to it.  You want to dress like the players, so to speak.  Over the years I’ve gone from wearing three-piece suits every day to wearing a sport coat and tie to losing the tie and jacket.  Here at Ritter Media World Headquarters, we have an even more relaxed dress code but when I visit clients or attend business meetings I try to respect what I believe their dress code will be.  You can’t err by assuming it’s more formal than it turns out to be, and I’m always suprised when I meet third parties with those clients who show up very under-dressed.

Thanks for reading – I feel better now!

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Getting Authenticated

I spent a good part of the weekend watching the Olympics (can I use that word without IOC permission?). Authentication FailNBC is wall to wall with them across all of their networks and it’s great. It’s truly the smorgasbord of sports – a grand buffet with a little something for everyone. Just in case you’re still hungry, NBC is also streaming everything to anyone who can prove they have a cable TV subscription. Seems fair – why have to pay for the same content a second time?

As an aside, that availability of this streaming has me confused about why people are complaining via social media about NBC’s TV coverage – what they choose to air  on which networks, etc.  You can be your own producer, and if you’re tech savvy enough to complain in the Twittersphere about it you’re probably savvy enough to figure out how to hook a computer up to a TV screen to watch the streaming as if it was TV.

I tried to get myself authenticated to do exactly that and found out that the weak link in the chain is actually the cable operator.  Well, specifically MY cable operator.  Every time I went through the process, which involves going to the NBCOlympics.com site and entering your cable user ID and password via your own provider’s site, I got a weird server message.  Not an error message as if I had the wrong information – a message you see in the graphic that’s indecipherable.  I finally emailed Cablevision support.  To their credit, they emailed me back within the hour that I was now authorized.  I wasn’t – same message when I went to sign in.  I used an online chat link they sent me to try to resolve it.  The very nice person (named Keith, coincidentally) let me know after a few minutes that he was a TV support guy and I needed to chat with the Internet guy.  Start a new chat.  Kevin (the new rep) asked if I had Cablevision’s internet service, which I don’t.  I reminded him that as long as I had TV I was supposed to be able to watch the streams.  He checked (5 minutes) and discovered I was right.  The issue turned out to be Chrome on a Mac – I was authorized instantly on a PC using Firefox.  Once I installed Flash into Safari, it worked on my Mac as well.  Strangely, it now works on Chrome too.

I suspect we’ll see a lot more of this as the pipe we use to access content becomes less important than the content itself.  I’m hoping the bumps will vanish and that rather than a great product such as this surfacing once every four years, we can use it every day.  What about you?  Have you tried the streaming?  What do you think?  Any issues getting it to work?

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Off The Menu

It’s a classic scene from “When Harry Met Sally.” Harry orders “a number 3.” Sally asks for  something that’s not exactly off the menu but not exactly a number that’s on it:

GLENDALE, CA - JUNE 21:  A Domino's Pizza rest...

(Image credit: Getty Images via @daylife)

I’d like the Chef’s Salad, please, with oil and vinegar on the side, and the apple pie a la mode … but I’d like the pie heated, and I don’t want the ice cream on top, I want it on the side, and I’d like strawberry instead of vanilla if you have it. If not, then no ice cream, just whipped cream, but only if it’s real. If it’s out of a can, then nothing.

I’m not sure why that popped into my head as our Foodie Friday Fun this week even if it does seem to be one of the most true scenes I know (and to preserve familial bliss I’m going to leave that there).  However, it does raise a good business point:  customers that order dishes that aren’t on the menu.  Most restaurants will accommodate a reasonable request if they have the ingredients and it’s not the dinner rush.  Substituting chicken for veal or leaving the anchovies off a salad isn’t a big deal.  Even national chains have secret menu items that aren’t on the posted menu but regular customers order all the time.  My favorite comes from my favorite burger chain, Fat Burger.  It’s called The Hypocrite and is a veggie burger topped with bacon.

I bring this up because if any of us want to foster success we need to let people order things that aren’t on the menu and to honor their requests as best we can.  It seems obvious but pay attention to how many “one size fits all” products and services you encounter out there.  Too many in a time when there are very few mass markets any more.

I can hear some of you grumbling that Apple doesn’t behave that way but I think if you reflect on some of their product history (the iPhone antenna issue, for example), they do adjust to meet customers’ needs.  An organization’s ability to let customers put their own spin on things from time to time is a secret ingredient every pantry should stock.

What have you ordered that wasn’t on the menu?  How did the organization meet your needs?

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How NOT To Do Social Media

 

Sometimes you see something that reminds you to start a folder called “stupid corporate tricks.”

Chick-Fil-A

(Photo credit: Link576)

What I’m writing about today would be top of that heap.  In fact, it sets a new kind of standard for stupid behavior but let’s see what you think.

Gizmodo published a piece yesterday about Chick-Fil-A and their social efforts.  As you might know, that company is engaged in a controversy with the gay community over same-sex marriage.  Now since we don’t do politics here, let’s put aside the cause of the controversy and just acknowledge that there is one.  This issue caused another company – The Jim Henson Company – to announce that it would no longer allow Chick-Fil-A to distribute miniature muppets in its children’s meals.  Again, let’s not argue right,wrong, good, or bad – those are the facts.  As a preemptive move, Chick-Fil-A announced it was ceasing to distribute the toys because of a safety issue – kids were getting their fingers stuck in the puppets.  With me so far?

Now comes the business part.  On Chick-Fil-A’s Facebook page, there were quite a few comments.  One commenter accused the company of making up a lie about the cause and asked them to admit they were dumped because they were “bigots.”  I suppose we could have a long chat here about how to handle negative comments in social media and that would be a valuable discussion.  However, I bet we would all agree that one way we would never endorse is to have a PR staffer create a fake Facebook account in the personality of a teenaged girl and respond with corporate talking points through that mechanism.  Want to guess what Chick-Fil-A did?

The company denied having done it.  However, the account was created hours before it began posting and the profile picture is from a stock photo house – a fair amount of circumstantial evidence that this is not a real person.  Regardless, it’s a lesson on how NOT to handle a problem is social media.  Yes, we need to respond quickly but not by hiding or lying about who is talking.  Transparency is one imperative; knowing that if you’re using social you no longer control the conversation is another.

I don’t suppose we’ll know for sure if this was a corporate flack or not.  We do know for sure that in addition to the original controversy there now is another.  Thoughts?

 

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Facebook And Browsers

Anyone here still using Netscape Navigator to read the screed today?  Oh sure, you might be using one of its descendants but that browser is long gone.  What you just might be using is Internet Explorer, so let’s pause for a minute and think about some numbers.  Five years ago, in July of 2007, there was roughly an 80% chance that you would be accessing the web via that browser.  It had a dominant market share although a relative newcomer named Firefox was chipping away.  IE was buggy, full of security issues, and consumers hated it.  Of course 10 years prior, in July of 1997, one would have said the same about Netscape – it had 72% of the market then when IE declared war.  Today, IE has about 30% market share, about the same as Chrome.  Firefox is not far behind, and a few others make up the rest of the desktop web browser world.

I raise this today because of a few articles last week about Facebook.  Obviously it’s the dominant social network but it can’t seem to get any love.  Both pieces talked about customer dissatisfaction with the service.  Here is the first from MediaPost:

Facebook doesn’t seem to be particularly well-liked by its own users, according to the latest figures from the American Customer Satisfaction Index E-Business Report, which was produced in partnership with customer experience analytics firm ForeSee. Overall, Facebook scored a 61 out of 100 in terms of customer satisfaction — down 8 points from 69 last year. That’s a new record low for companies in the social media category.

Most interesting to me are the comments which demonstrate the dissatisfaction within the ad community as well.  Your users and your customers both unhappy isn’t the best situation.  The second piece from CNet adds another angle:

Now Google+, which has been dubbed by some as a ghost town, is gaining some traction with a higher customer satisfaction rating, according to the numbers released from the American Customer Satisfaction Index today. According to the new numbers, Facebook’s rating drops 8 percent to 61 on a 100-point scale, while Google+ makes its index debut with a 78, putting it in line with Wikipedia.

In other words, we’re only on Facebook because that’s where our friends and family are.  Sound like a browser you know?  Hard as it might be to imagine, Facebook is in a pretty precarious situation.  No, they’re not gong to implode, but history has a way of repeating itself.

What do you think?  How do you feel about Facebook lately?  Are you using other networks in lieu of it?

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Painting A More Complete Picture

Two pieces from eMarketer caught my eye last week.  Both have to do with marketers’ usage of social media.  From the first, you might be tempted to short Facebook stock and wonder why Google is spending so much time on G+.  From the second, you might just realize that once again we find that getting beyond a sexy headline and into some facts can help paint a very different picture.

The first piece was all gloom and doom:

Social Media Usage Plateaus Among Marketers

Oh no!  Is this whole sector of the digital economy heading right down the tubes??:

When the Association of National Advertisers (ANA) surveyed US marketers this year, 90% said they were using social networks for their efforts—about even with last year, at 89%. While this percentage has risen dramatically since 2007, when just 20% of marketers used social media, growth has plateaued—and shifted to other new digital media platforms instead.

It goes on to talk about mobile and location-based services.  Of course, it also mentions that the investment in social was $3.63 billion in the US and over $4 billion more in the rest of the world. And that’s just paid ad spending.  Which leads to the other piece, which asks the obvious question:

What Are Marketers Spending on Social Media?

It turns out that:

most marketers have less than 20% of their marketing budget set aside for outreach on social sites—including advertising and maintaining a social media presence…While these percentages may seem small, marketers reported that budgets were increasing. AdAge and Citigroup found that 72.9% of respondents said they expected their overall social media budget to increase over the next year. This is in line with data from Useful Social Media, which, in April 2012, found that 54% of US companies planned to increase their social media budgets by up to 25% in 2012.

If 90% of marketers are, in fact, already using social (and there’s an entire book to be written on how badly most of them are doing so), of course the growth rate is slow – there’s hardly any room to grow.  If nearly 3/4 of them are expanding their budgets, the dollars flowing to social are going to be the envy of many other media.  It’s on the social companies and the marketers’ agencies (and consultants!) to help develop metrics and other criteria to assure and measure success so the investment pays off.

Interesting when we get past the headlines and start asking questions, right?

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The DC-6 Of Digital

I had a long conversation with someone oer the weekend about the Internet and how an entire economy has grown up around it.

English: A Douglas DC-6B of Balair at Basle Ai...

English: A Douglas DC-6B of Balair at Basle Airport (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Think about all of the jobs and businesses that didn’t exist in 1995.  SEO manager (or firm)?  Social Media Expert (or software)?  Web designers – it’s a long list.  Many of the companies with the highest valuations owe much of that value either directly or indirectly to the Internet.  If this was a blog about politics I could go off here on a tangent about government investment (the digital economy owes a lot to the government both in terms of the space program and DARPA) but I’ll leave that for another time.  Instead, I want to take the rest of today’s screed to remind about the Wright Brothers.

In the early days of flight there were lots of crashes and air travel was not for everyone. It took roughly 25 years before the DC-3 made it a broad business and until after World War II and the introduction of several airplanes based on bombers that flying was for the masses.  That brought about changes in tourism and other businesses.  The world became a much smaller place. The early crashes were not forgotten but they were seen as key learning opportunities, not just failures.

The DC-6 was disruptive. It affected steamship and rail travel and both businesses took a hit from which they really haven’t recovered (do you know anyone who’s used a cruise ship to take a business trip?).  I’ve been asking myself what is the DC-6 of digital? We’ve gone from an environment of text to graphics to rich media to video to social. It’s become more mainstream for consumers and it’s getting there for businesses.  Devices are becoming smaller, more personal (even wearable).  I still think we’ve yet to see the thing that changes it all.

Businesses – and marketing of those businesses in particular – don’t like to take massive chances.  In hindsight, it seems hedging your bet when it comes to new technology is not really “playing it safe.”   When the digital DC-6 takes off, we all want to be on it.

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