Sunday, March 22, 2009

Stalk Marketing: How Far is Too Far?

Social Media gives brands and advertisers a new level of access to their customers. When used well it's a Win/Win. As usual, Jeremiah Oywang sums it up perfectly.

It seems easy when the situation is simple:

Customer: I really need a stainless steel waffle iron.

Waffle Iron Maker: Buy mine here.

Transaction Complete.

But, what happens when the brand wants to continue the conversation? At what point does it shift from marketing to stalkering? Yesterday Chris Schultz asked the Twittersphere their opinion on getting an unsolicited DM from a local establishment after making a purchase. The responses definitely trended toward creepy. On the other hand to quote a girlfriend "JCrew could call me at 3am and I would happily answer the phone."

So, consider this scenario...

You are browsing the interactive Anthropologie aisles, throwing embroidered cardigans in your cart willy nilly. After amassing Supermarket Sweep-style quantities of couture, you head to your cart for some editing. (Bedazzled boy shorts? Seemed practical. But, on second thought... Click. Delete.) So, you've narrowed it down to the necessities. But, alas, you must abandon your cart for whatever reason- indecisiveness, bankruptcy, kitchen fire. When you return 2 days later to seal the deal, the object of your affection is *gasp* SOLD OUT!

In this situation, would it be intrusive for the retailer to send you a head's up that there are only 3 size 2 dresses left? (Shhh, online anyone can be a size 2) What if they sent a coupon for 20% off those adorable flats languishing in e-commerce purgatory? Or a recommendation on a new blouse in stock that would look great with the slacks you bought last week? How far is too far?

And what makes some engagement tactics better than others? Is it the approach? The offer? The circumstance?

It's a whole new game, and the rule book is still being written. As a professional in social media, I occasionally find myself questioning how to use the Web 2.0 tools at my disposal to avoid overstepping the bounds. At the end of the day, I try to remain honest, offer value and ask myself how I would want to be approached. Game Plan Golden Rule.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Take my money. Please.

I recently switched bank accounts and forgot to update my car note automatic withdrawl. So, because I am extremely financially responsible (and not at all because I was crunching numbers to see if I could afford a new shiny object) I caught the mistake a few days later and called my car company. The conversation went something like this:

Me: I'd like to use a new account for my auto draft payment.

Extremely Helpful Customer Service Rep: I'm sorry, you can only change your account 9 days prior to your bill due date.

Me: OK, then let me give you my credit card number.

EHCSR: We don't accept phone payments.

Me: Huh?

EHCSR: You'll have to send a money gram.

Me: I don't have a money gram. (In fact I can't say I really know what a money gram is)

EHCSR: You can get one at Walmart.

Me: So, let me let this straight. I have to find a Walmart to get a money gram to pay for my car.

EHCSR: Yes, maam.

Me: But I can pay you right now with my credit card. I have money now. And you want my money now, right?

EHCSR: Yes, maam.

Me: But you won't take my money?

EHSCR: No, maam. We will only take a money gram.

Me: Thank you. You have been extremely helpful (Read: You have wasted 20 minutes of my life that I will never get back)

So, nevermind the fact that my car company apparently has some evil conspiracy plot to get me into Walmart, I am shocked at how difficult a very simple transaction can become. At the end of the day, if I have something you want and you have something I want, shouldn't we just trade? I win. You win. It's that simple.

This afternoon while listening to the webinar "Using Online News to Drive SEO" Lee Odden hit the nail on the head.

In the case of news content, make it easy for consumers and journalists alike to find your message on the channels and in the format they prefer.

Peter Shankman has done exactly that by connecting reporters with experts through his Help a Reporter Out (HARO) press queries. Journalists describe what they need, an e-mail goes out and experts respond if they have the answers. The same model can be used in advertising. Social media provides instant insight into what your audience wants. All you have to do is listen. What does your customer want? Then, if you have they are asking for, make it easy for them to buy it. Duh, right? Keep it simple and always add value.

Example: If I tweet out that I am jonesing for a cheeseburger and BK sends me a coupon, what are the odds that I am going to truck it over to BK? (Hint: I am saving up for shiny things and really big on instant gratification.) Now if they send me a coupon that is only redeemable on Tuesdays and Thursdays between 4-7am with a with a minimum $107 purchase while supplies last...yeah, not so much.

P.S. Anyone looking for a lovely, barely used solid-gold sedan can find me in line at Walmart.