engagement, fans / loyalty, Starbucks, strategy, youtube

@Starbucks – what if you defended your employee? #starbucksrant

A tweet from @JGoldsborough caught my eye:  a new video is hitting Youtube “The Starbucks Rant Song” by Starbucks employee, ex-employee, Chris Sizle.   

This isn’t the first rant that I’ve heard from a Starbucks employee [blog post ‘To all you silly, sad caffeine addicts”], which was posted on Starbucks’ Facebook page in 2009 and later removed likely by the employee as Facebook identifies first & last name.  

What if there is a real issue with the treatment of Starbucks employees.  It would have to go beyond ordering a fancy drink (that’s me) or having noisy kids (me again) but I was struck with how similar this rant was to the rant I noticed in June 2009.    Which left me thinking – is there possibly an issue with how Starbucks employees are treated at large?  Are they treated poorly?  (and as a person who has personally funded many a starbucks operation – I wondered in concern for my fellow barristas and if there is authenticity in the relationships I think I have).  


What is the best way to handle this video?  Firing the employee is the obvious and traditional response – maybe deserved since the rant is beyond ‘healthy dissatisfaction’.   But it also seems like shoving an issue under carpet.  What if Starbucks acknowledged the issue (if exist).  What if the response was to have an employee idea jam or appoint the disgrunted employee into fixing the situation.  What if this video was a conversation starter – that at 600K views and growing – it was beyond denying and worth discussing?

I also wondered how many brands could have an honest conversation with their customers about hardships to staff.   I say this suspecting many customers may not want to hear about it.. I don’t know.  I certainly would be open to hearing what employees think is the cause of purported rude customers.  Is it heavy repetition of drink orders?  Weak ties to local communities?  And has our greater social consciousness and willingness for authentic relationships readied the public for such a discussions with brands?

Beyond being a great singer.. I do wonder about Chris and if he is justified somehow in his rant.  I can say that I’m not yet sure what the appropriate response should be for today’s social brand.   I’ll watch this one for a bit.  Notable is that Chris’ rant is now available on itunes..

engagement, Facebook, social networks

Pro-site: why build a website in this day & age?

That’s the question that I get these days – from all around me – clients, agency side, my more mobile digital friends (though they don’t frame it as a question but a statement).  This question is so prominent that I encounter folks that assume a website should not even be on the table for consideration.  This assumption needs checking.

[an unpublished blog post i found from pre-xmas]

Certainly, the rise of social networking sites combined with the stellar growth of mobile apps are definitely putting the decision of website (and more so microsite) (and more so expensive, elaborate microsites) development in question.  But the website still has a place – and important one – and the size of its role depends on your marketing objectives and situation of your brand.

But alas, allow me a word in defense for the website.  Websites are owned media where a brand can control the online experience.  Social networking sites are earned spaces and often, like the case with Facebook, a brand’s efforts are frustrated by the agile development of a software service that does not cater to corporate pages.

Certainly – it’s much easier to drive traffic to a new website than it is to build a social network presence and keep consumers engaged.  As earned media – it can take time to build to momentum.  Social networking sites follow an exponential growth curve – slow start, quick finish – like a hockey stick.  This is a growth pattern that does not fit well within last minute campaign timelines.  I am not suggesting an either or approach, just that a combination of media types is needed to serve a brand and extend reach – and that a website is still an important part of the mix for many brands.

Interestingly, I’ve begun to examine sector share of time spent online from either Comscore or Nielsen.  It’s hard to find recent Canadian statistics but from the US – we see that social networking sites have risen 43% along with significant increases in online gaming (about 10%) and online video sites (about 10%, and 1% for search).   Almost every other sector from entertainment sites, to consumer electronics, etc has gone down.   The long tail – which is what I call everything other than portals, search and social networking sites, typically the wash of forums, blogs and corporate websites, is also down in time spent online.  But it is still the big pie slice – amounting to 34% (highly fragmented among millions of sites of course) (isn’t the long tail always a big pie slice) (excluding consumer electronics and travel).

Mobile is definitely something not to ignore – in 2010, smartphones have reached 30% penetration in Canada with blackberries at 75% market share and iphones at 25%.  Iphone users, however, access the web 8 times more than the blackberry user (my stats are from IDC and e-marketer).   The use of mobile to access the web is starting to trump out the old PC.   Depending on your target market – some segments are pretty heavy into the smartphone and so mobile is a fantastic direction.  And with the multiple platforms out there (android, iphone, blackberries multiple phones), building a mobile app needs careful planning.  In fact, some brands just need a mobile ready website not an app.  (it can still be an ‘application’ – its just delivered over the web vs. a downloadable app from an app store).

So there you have it.  A strong word for the website

engagement, Facebook, fans / loyalty, housing / home building, social networks

Ouch! A brand removed from its purchasers’ Facebook fan page community

I just witnessed an social media assassination this week as a real estate developer was forcibly removed from its purchaser formed Facebook fan page – a page formed by and for the buyers of a specific condominium.  [read on for the actual letter below].

To the defense of the developer, their removal was a very difficult decision by the admins.  Although they valued the contributions of the developer, they also recognized that their very presence hindered the community from free speech.  And so the developer got the boot.  And whereas this may  be a tough pill for a developer to swallow – it does not close the door of social media opportunities facing them.

For those who haven’t bought a new condo in Canada, the time from purchase to occupancy can be 2 – 3 years as the developer gains the percentage of sales required to proceed with the build.   Much of the developer communication during that 2-3 year period can be legal – leaving enthused purchasers starved for more information.  They can not wait for ‘meet the neighbour’ night to learn about how to navigate their purchase.    Indeed, having mapped the customer experience for home/condo buying from my recent past, the best areas for engagement go well beyond the actual purchase – which is, unfortunately, the stage where many developers stop spending money on their marketing communications.

Truthfully, lean developers are not easily involved in social technologies and customer engagement.  The process of buying of home – in the sky or on the ground – is woefully complicated and much of the marketing communications is well guarded to protect against unforeseen legalities.  Many companies (indeed some that I’ve consulted with in healthcare) are so afraid of client privacy and regulation that they avoid social networking.   And yet, there is always a route to market.  I’d rather see a well researched, thought out social networking strategy that says ‘do nothing’ then ignore the rising needs and behaviours of the market.

Social networking is wonderful option to bridge the gap but, as many brands have discovered, wading in these waters can be very difficult.   There is a right approach to social media and, as much as I love Facebook corporate fan pages, this isn’t the only place an organization can participate.   Online video, twitter, RSS feeds and the very underestimated corporate blog as plausible options for a developer – and I say this with experience.   Of course, establishing the facebook fan page before your purchasers do is an option that would have to happen well in advance of the first condo sale, I suppose.  But stopping purchasers from forming their own safe haven may be unpreventable.  What is clear – is that the community is alive, wired and engaged and so more marketing engagement would resonate well with this group.

On the side of the community – I do admire the admins below for what must have been a very difficult decision.  The role of the admin is to create a comfortable place for the community to grow.  Usually that means deleting a lot of wall page self promotion but in this case, the stakes were much higher.  And in rejecting the developer, I think the admins send a strong message to their community as well as lessons for the rest of us who manage facebook pages.  A reminder to hold true to the goals of the community and to always keep them in check.

So for those who want to learn more, the assassination went like this… [names removed, page protected]

We wanted to let you know that after much consideration (months) and many messages from group members, we have come to the conclusion that [John Doe] as Sales and Marketing Manager for [noname developer]  and their participation in the group increasingly conflicts with the purpose of the [noname condo development] and Facebook Group by creating a power dynamic, loyalty, and ethical dilemma that is only fixed by their removal.

Many members expressed that they feel the exchange of information is extremely lopsided and that the direct presence of our developer on the Facebook page discourages honest discourse among members for various reasons – including fear of reprisal. With this change we hope all members feel free to contribute to the discussion by posting on the wall and getting involved. In the past week alone, there has been a ton of new information posted on how to save tons on electric bbq’s vs buying from [noname], amenity spaces, group buying of window coverings and of course, discussion about occupancy dates. With pdi’s hopefully starting in x followed by Closing sometime next x, this forum will become even more essential and the ability to discuss issues that are at odds with the developer, in a private group setting, will become extremely important.

We want to stress that this was nothing personal against [noname] and has nothing to do with anything they posted. It is simply a matter of purchaser privacy and the ability to exchange information freely.

We have communicated our thanks and appreciation for all of the information and photos they have contributed to the group and told them would very much like to continue adding their contributions – in the form of photos, updates, upgrades or marketing materials and will gladly post any information they send us on the site.

Sincerely,  The Admins

consumer adoption, engagement, strategy

Creating exponential growth

I’ve been very intrigued by exponential growth and its typical the hockey stick pattern.

Exponential growth patterns have held true in many social networking sites or applications’ adoption and understanding this better might be key to architecting a desired consumer behaviour like the internal adoption of a community or collaboration tool or fostering social networking growth for an organization or event.

With the right integrated marketing support, right engagement strategies and adequate lead time, marketers can architect constant growth and, over time, experience exponential growth.   But the supports need to be present –

  • Integrated marketing support – god! if digital didn’t already suffer from a lack of integration with traditional media, now arrives social media which needs to be part of PR, operations, communications and much more.    It has to be clever integration too because the social media presence is not a broadcast of other medias.   Here is a post on my woes.


  • Engagement strategies – I’m not convinced there is enough thought given to how to create a strategy or environment where sharing is made easy, is built into a campaign and consumer contributions are encouraged and valued.  Mitch Joel, Twist Image, once tweeted or said somewhere that viral is a result – and I always liked that distinction because people try to sell ‘viral marketing’ but not everything ‘goes viral’.     That said, there are some elements that need to be planned in order to make viral easy and happen if the idea, content, widget is gonna go viral.


  • Adequate lead time – Importantly, if the wrong amount of time or support is given to marketing – then all we see is the first half of social media exponential growth – which isn’t impressive because the BOOM hockey stick hasn’t taken off.   Wouldn’t it be cool to measure the first half of the hockey stick and have alarm bells go off when an exponential growth pattern is established!  I’d like that.

I found a great discussion on exponential growth on Youtube.