Why I’m probably not a social media expert and neither are you

Over the past few years a plethora of Social Media Experts* have cropped up and their tweets, posts, podcasts etc serve up a cacophony of advice and pontification.

Here’s a few of my thoughts on the matter, from the perspective of someone who sees herself as an apprentice on a learning journey.

Anyone who claims to be an expert in social media is probably talking through their hat.

Social media has been with us for only a few years. Expertise is not developed overnight.

Deep knowledge is founded on a basis of research and experience. Lessons learned, especially from failure and pushing of known boundaries, are key to development of expertise.

But research has shown that expertise in a particular field is achieved over many years of research and practice. Since social media has been with us for such a short time it is unlikely that any of us have gleaned more than primitive insights as yet.

As Wikipedia notes:

Some characteristics of the development of an expert have been found to include

  • At a minimum usually 10 years of consistent practice, sometimes more for certain fields
  • A characterization of this practice as “deliberate practice”, which forces the practitioner to come up with new ways to encourage and enable themselves to reach new levels of performance
  • An early phase of learning which is characterized by enjoyment, excitement, and participation without outcome-related goals
  • The ability to rearrange or construct a higher dimension of creativity. Due to such familiarity or advanced knowledge experts can develop more abstract perspectives of their concepts and/or performances.

Some people may have expertise in other areas that gives them unique insights into the possibilities inherent in social media. They may be able to fast track the development of expertise in social media by building on their previous knowledge and experience.

Further, social media is just media and communications on a new platform. I’m not quite sure if that fact privileges social media in some special way?

Rather it seems that what we are undergoing is experimentation with the new media publishing platforms – from hard copy to soft copy, from television to online, etc.

This is no different from the platform change that ensued with the move from radio to television. I wonder if there were a bunch of Television Media Experts running around back in those days too? And I suspect that those experts of olden times would have known just as much as the average Social Media Expert today.

Perhaps rather than being social media experts we are social media learners? If indeed social media is a real thing we should even consider in and of itself (but that is a topic for another day)?

* Updated: OzDJ also reminded me of the various “social media ‘luminaries’, ‘mavens’, ‘gurus’ et al”

National Growth Summit 2010

I’m speaking at the National Growth Summit 2010 in Sydney this week about engagement marketing and running a workshop on Technology to drive Growth.

The line-up includes a number of international luminaries along with local experts, gurus and knowledgeable people such as: Mick Liubinskas, Stephen Collins, Mike Walsh & Stephen Belfer.

There’s also workshops available on day 2 of the conference – for a special discount on the Technology to Drive Growth workshop use this registration form (opens pdf)

2010 Blog theme – women in …

I’ve been thinking about having an overarching theme for my blog this year and have finally decided on women in …

that is women who are doing interesting things like

  • finance
  • technology
  • science
  • engineering
  • management
  • innovation
  • start-ups
  • marketing
  • media
  • and whatever other interesting careers pop up

Women have come such a long way in a relatively short time regarding careers and choices. It’s worth sharing stories of successful women and finding out some of their secrets.

First post on this will be a profile of a fascinating woman in finance.

If you think that there is an interesting woman others should know about please let me know.


Trust, customer service and customers you do not want any more

I’ve been thinking about my recent American Express experience – outlined in AMEX discovers new depths to customer service.

It is clear to me that companies have the right to choose which customers they deal with. But it seems that how they remove those customers from the books is the critical thing for brand and customer experience.

I’m not sure if American Express were really trying to get rid of me as a customer. But if that was the case, it is entirely within their rights.

However, it is not so much the “what” they did that rankles; instead it is “how” they did it.

In this case Amex abandoned a customer in a foreign town with none of the promised financial resources for which they had contracted. American Express provided little advance notice in case their customer was not at home. Thus, in this case, American Express left a woman who was traveling alone unable to rely on the card that exhorted us to “don’t leave home without it“.

So people like me – who believed in things like the claims made in all those American Express advertisements; the many years of services provided and payments made; who trusted in the credit limits offered – were left abandoned without notice in a foreign place without help or support from a brand that had made promises to us.

What does this experience of American Express customer service say to me? It says that I can’t trust any companies anymore. No matter how good their advertisements sound it does not matter. If a brand that I once respected, like American Express, can abandon me like that then I can’t trust any brands.

Any brand that does not want me as a customer has an absolute right to let me know that – I don’t want to be where I’m not wanted.

But I do expect that companies will treat me in a civil manner. That they will give appropriate notice of their intentions. And that they will enable me to make an orderly exit from their embrace.

I am angry and saddened that my trust has been damaged so badly by the way that American Express treated me. It is not what they did to me (in terms of change the terms of our agreement, e.g. reducing credit limits) that is the problem. But I do have significant concerns about how they went about it (e.g. giving me no advance notice of the changes & leaving me in a foreign city unable to rely upon their promises).

What is most disturbing is the way that my trust has been destroyed, not only in the institution of American Express, but in all other similar institutions.


American Express discovers new depths to customer service

I’ve been an American Express customer for a long time.  But recently they made it apparent that they do not want my custom so I’m in the process of closing my accounts. Unless their customer service tactics are treat ’em mean and keep ’em keen something very strange is happening at that company IMHO.

It went thus …

I’ve had and used both a gold charge card and a gold credit card for many years – which I got especially because Amex is supposed to be a good card to have while traveling. Both cards are paid up and in good order, with automatic payments set up so I don’t forget to pay on time.

Last week while traveling interstate I went to pay for a taxi using the gold credit card and it was declined. I did not think much of it and just used my ANZ Visa card to pay instead. Then later I tried to use the Amex card and it declined again. Mildly cross I put the card away. It seemed weird because based on my credit limit with Amex I had over $10,000 left of my credit limit available at that point in time.

However, unbeknown to me Amex had decided reduce my credit limit by over 50% and I now had no credit limit left on that card. IT IS A VERY GOOD THING THAT I WAS NOT TRAPPED, A WOMAN ALONE IN A STRANGE CITY, WITH ONLY THAT PARTICULAR AMERICAN EXPRESS CARD ISN’T IT?

Thank heavens for my ANZ Visa card – again an account in good standing – and one that was not ripped from under me in a very hostile way.

I arrived home several days later to find a letter from Amex advising me of the change in the credit limit. Sadly that letter at my home which reduced the credit limit without notice served no good purpose for someone who was 2,000 kilometres away at the time.

The letter also advised that my card could no longer withdraw cash from ATMs; further it stated:

As your current balance is close to the revised limit stated above, please ensure you make a payment prior to using your card next….

Yours faithfully,
Adrian Janssen
Head of Credit Services
American Express Credit Card

Oh thanks Mr Adrian Janssen (who signed the letter) that really helped when your letter arrived while I was traveling. Perhaps a short notice period might have been a bit of good customer service to cover such a case?

Of course, upon arrival at home late Friday I tried to phone Amex to discuss this matter. To no avail as the credit department do not work outside of ‘business’ hours.

Up until now my relationship with Amex was settled. Even though their cards are not widely accepted in many places that I shop and merchants often add an extra several percent onto transactions to cover the higher Amex merchant acceptance fees, I still kept their cards. But no longer.

The matter is easily resolved. I simply took out my cheque book, wrote a cheque and walked to the post box and dropped my payment in the post.

I’ll be calling at a more convenient time for Amex – during the ‘business’ hours they work – to close both my accounts. My life is busy enough without rubbish like this. Voting with my feet will make me feel a whole lot better.

Here is a sample of the Twitter conversations regarding this matter.

Source:the nice folks over at Sency

Startup Barcamp Sydney Nov 2009

Startup Barcamp Sydney was on yesterday and I managed to drop in. It was held at one of my favourite venues for unconferences – ATP Innovations– and it might possibly be the first barcamp to feature fresh coconut juice in the shell.

GE_WEEK.pngThis event was part of Global Entrepreneurship Week (which was hosted nationally by Matt Jones from Social Alchemy) and it provided a chance for the local startup community to get together & share ideas.

Due to other commitments I was only able to stay for the morning sessions – but saw some really good quality presentations from Brian Menzies (@BrianMenzies); Joseph Renzi (@josephrenzi) and Matt Jones (@socialalchemy).

Major kudos to the un-organisers – including @davidsoul & @ryancross – it was a good event. Reading through the Twitter stream made me wish I’d been able to stay for the afternoon sessions.

I also gave a little talk about Trade offs, balance, support and Startups. It came about through a realisation that most of my friends are startup junkies. Also I had come to notice the sheer number of broken relationships (across families, friendships and partnerships) in the startup community. Upon consideration, it seemed to me that startups are not so much about technology or the ideas – they are about people and relationships.

The slides are up on Slideshare. The key message was that startups don’t leave much room for work life balance & that people really need to weigh this up before they decide to undertake the startup journey.


Neuromarketing and mind over matter

A recent study in Scientific American about How the Brain Reveals Why We Buy discusses advances in neuroscience that are giving rise to a new field of neuromarketing.

The article cites the famous example of Coke v. Pepsi – where blind taste tests showed a preference for Pepsi, whereas visible labels gave rise to a preference for Coke.  Brain imaging shows that different parts of the brain are activated for each result.   This kind of technology enabled insight into our feelings will revolutionise focus groups.d6ba2-plastic_shopping_bag

It seems that as neuroscience advances it will inevitably inform our marketing practices. This means that marketing will begin its transition from black art – in the hands of the creative folks – to science – in the hands of the boffins.

We are moving into a time of Pavlovian marketing where stimulus + response = results based on scientific and quantifiable principles.  No more will people say “I know 50% of advertising works, I’m just not sure which 50%”.

It will be interesting to see how long this transition takes.

Customer service and student support – QUT gets it

As both an educator and tertiary student I’ve been able to see both sides of the fence. A recent experience with Queensland University of Technology stands out as exemplary in both student support and customer service.

A change in personal circumstances recently meant that I needed to make a decision and act very quickly regarding my studies. And I required speedy access to some information about my options as a student in the QUT Law School.

I tried phoning the Law School and was unable to get through to anyone. Immediately I sent an email outlining my issues to Kaylene Matheson, the Administrative Officer (Student Support) in the Law School.

Kaylene responded within minutes, phoning to give me a run down of the options available. She then emailed me contact details for Student Services, who could fill in the last bit of information so as to finalise my decision within the necessary timeframe.

The next morning I called Student Services and spoke to a really helpful chap, who patiently talked through my options explaining the consequences of each. We had a constructive discussion and I was able to decide on a course of action. He then explained exactly how to finalise my decision & noted what records I should keep for future reference.

Both Kaylene & my unknown helper at Student Services provided support and great customer service. They were patient and helpful, taking the time to help me to understand what I needed to do. They are a credit to QUT & are great brand ambassadors!

The funny thing is that this makes sense; as everyone that I’ve dealt with at QUT has been helpful and supportive. Clearly this is part of their organisational culture. What this all means is that when you put the good customer service together with good academics and good student support systems (like Blackboard and website) it makes a good place to study.

Following are some of my off the cuff responses on Twitter:

“the student services people at QUT.edu.au totally rock – they are super professional & really helpful!!! = EPIC WIN!!!”
10:02 AM Sep 17th

“some other unis should learn from QUT!”
10:03 AM Sep 17th

“if you are looking for a uni for distance education I cannot recommend QUT more highly – a very professional & positive experience”
10:03 AM Sep 17th

Online policy madness – Don’t link to us!

Here’s an excellent example of a legal or marketing department (or both) who don’t seem to get how the internet & search engines work.

Further, it shows a real disconnect between the kind of content on the site and the policies supporting the site.

Wonder why they bothered putting all that funky interactive content on their site if they don’t want anyone to link to it? Hey *Vegemite – perhaps it’s time to revisit your policy?


Vegemite’s Ass-Backward Web Philosophy: Don’t Link to Us

What Was It Thinking With This Privacy Policy?

Posted by Abbey Klaassen on September 11, 2009 @ 03:17 PM

Here’s one for the annals of marketer stupidity.

As BoingBoing points out today (after noticing it on Tetherd Cow Ahead), Kraft’s Vegemite site has perhaps one of the most backward privacy policies known to man and marketer. It forbids anyone from linking to it.

Yes, you read that right — you might actually like Vegemite, you might appreciate the recipes on its site, you might find useful the “Kids Corner” section where it offers up Vegemite-themed classroom activities for grade-school teachers — but don’t even think about giving any link love. With links being an integral piece of a search strategy, perhaps that’s why Vegemite’s own site wallows in the bottom half of a Google search, below videos and shopping links. (Sneaking on the first page of search results for the brand? The BoingBoing post that highlights the ridiculous linking policy, which shows just how beneficial a smart linking policy can be for SEO.)

via adage.com

* I am ready for the Vegemite jokes that suggest this is all part of a plan to save the world from this product 😉