Monday, September 19, 2011

Netflix: A Red Silk Purse or a Sows Ear?

Today Netflix's CEO Reed Hastings sent out a second long and disturbing letter to their customers. As a big Netflix fan, and as a long time community manager, I shuddered as I read it. I knew even before I finished reading it that there was a plethora of internet backlash building.

It's obvious they're shattering off the DVD brand. I think this is a huge mistake. They're diluting their brand and they've already alienated thousands of users. They'll hemorrhage even more with what appears to be the sale of their DVD brand along with us to another entity. Changing the name to Qwikster is absurd. Qwikflix was the natural progression. Just sayin'. 

 So, since I could really use a great community manager job, I re-wrote Reed Hastings letter. This is what would actually get Netflix customer's attention, rebuild their offerings and retain and attract new customers.  That is, of course, if they even care about their customer base. It's been very evident, even admitted in this latest letter that we're not taken into consideration at all.

  Please leave comments on my blog and Reed's Netflix blog which version of reality you'd prefer, his or mine.

Dear Netflix Customer,

   We’ve listened to you and we’ve got some exciting changes ahead.

 We’re upgrading our site to better showcase and differentiate between our two great services: Netflix DVD and Netflix Streaming.

    You’ll be able to access both sides via Netflix where you can select between DVD, streaming, or both and you’ll still get just one bill a month from Netflix.

  But now, when you select both of our two great services, you get a discount for being a ‘doubly loyal customer’.

   And whether you select DVDs, streaming, or both, you’re assured you’re still a part of the Netflix family with those fun red envelopes that you’ve put your trust and entertainment dollars into for the last 10 years.

But there’s more. Besides Blu-ray and adding Wii, PS3 and Xbox 360 games, we’re going to start rolling out a variety of perks for your activity with us here at Netflix. Everything from popcorn perks to movie screening invites will be up for grabs. Now your movie ratings will count as well as creating lists, sharing movies, adding your friends and tweeting them out.  And, if you’d love a streaming ‘Hangout’ style viewing with your friends and family across the internet, get ready, it’s all coming soon.

  Thank you for being a part of the Netflix family. We wouldn’t be here without our loyal customers.

Anni Bricca
The Future Netflix Community Manager

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Goldilocks and the 3 Blogs

      Like most of us, I do large amounts of reading across many platforms to stay on top of as much news and information as I can for my organization.

   It's a case of time as well as finding the pieces that are 'just right' to keep our attention. But so many of the pieces I pass on might have been 'just right' had they not committed the following errors.

     1. Too Cluttered: Huge complicated graphics that required the visual acuity of a brain surgeon to dissect.  Please don't give me a headache at 9 am.

     2. Too Vague: The information didn't clearly and immediately point out what the title promised. After much blathering about the deep need to acquire what the mystery title was promoting, I still had only a vague idea of what was being offered two thirds down the page. BAH! Be clear and be upfront.

     3.  Too Confusing: As much as I wanted to understand and support a plea from someone who seemed deserving, I just couldn't understand what they wanted me to do. There were all sorts of instructions about what you must do and must not do if you wanted to be a part of what was being touted as an easy way to... hmm.

     4. Too Obtuse: One blog turned me off because I know first hand they're not practicing what they preach in some of those '7 secrets to success' points they make; one of which is to connect with your clients. They just don't realize they are not connecting with their clients, themselves. I know because I actually tried connecting.

     5. Too Inappropriate: I passed on an article because the profanity laced title was massively  offensive. The shock value didn't impress me. I didn't visit the link. If I want swearing I'll wait til the cat barfs all over my shoes.

     6. Too Annoying: Blaring music that commences the second I landed on the page. I can't click off of that stuff fast enough. Why do people assume it's alright to blare something like that in anyone's office? I wouldn't walk into their office with a boombox blaring on my shoulder, don't do it in mine.

     7. Too Lost: Some can't stop promoting long enough to follow up on the business they generate for themselves. I unfollowed one after she tweeted 8576 times how I would improve whatever angle it was she was offering. Why? Because despite my direct contact with her across several platforms, she never once recognized me as a follower, a shareholder and worse, a client. In fact she even sent me an invitation to buy her stock at Empire Avenue and promised as a new user I'd earn 2000e. I'm an established user and was maxed out in her stock. How can she advise my business if she can't manage her own business?

     The biggest issue affecting all these communications is they've failed to take their client into consideration, which equates to a loss of direct engagement.

     Do you feel businesses fail to make the necessary connections to sell their books, products and services because they simply don't understand the innately human aspects of Social Media? Do you think this is what separates the unsuccessful from those professionals who get it 'just right'?

Saturday, July 23, 2011

The Metro Pied Piper

Recently my Klout score catapulted me into a stratosphere eligible for a perk. I have to say I was really surprised on all counts. It was not only redeemable, but something I'd actually want - Metromint water. I've definitely had this and liked it and thought - how awesome! I'll get a coupon for a sample bottle of their water.

 Well, not exactly. Saturday morning while juicing some green veggies and fruit (yes, I'm one of those people...) the doorbell rang. My daughter and I looked at each other. I wasn't expecting anything and I abhor drop in visitors. I told my daughter to wait in the kitchen while I attended to the wildly barking dog and completely annoyed cats at the front door.

 I stood there for a moment peering out at this:

Really? Seriously? A BOX of Metromint? Okay, I admit it; I was impressed. Not a coupon to go pick up one bottle myself, not a useless desktop wallpaper, but an entire sample box of Metromint water sent right to my door - for me!

 Now, the shipping box may not belie what was really inside, so check this out. A variety pack of six full sized bottles of their water, a coupon for more and a note from Klout:

 It was all really well done. My daughter exclaimed, "I like Klout!" Then with furrowed brow asked, "How did you get influential in water?"  "Oh heavens, I don't know," I told her, "but I would like to think that someone figured out that I work with surgery patients and help them change their lives through their diet."  I realize this had nothing at all to do with it; that's just what I'd like to think.

 She stared blankly at me as I handed her the glass of juiced kale, celery and apple I made her for breakfast.

 I then realized that Metromint would be a great addition to our Healing Diet at With our over 60,000 registered patients and twice as many unregistered visitors using the site, plus our new Weight Loss & C25K group, this will be a welcome recommendation for many who are trying to stop health destroying beverages like sodas and waters laden with caffeine, chemicals and artificial sweeteners.

  I admit I'm extremely picky about what our patients put into their bodies. No artificial sweeteners, no chemicals, no words you don't understand on a label.

Metromint fits our criteria perfectly: No sweeteners. Nothing artificial. No preservatives. No calories. In the case of the Orangemint flavor, I'm drinking right now, mint and natural orange essence are the only ingredients. It's excellent.

  After my daughter defiantly proclaimed she liked Klout, as if in defense of them because she's suddenly received a cool gift, she asked, "And why are you always speaking out against them, anyway?"

 I told her that I like the idea behind Klout and that's why I'm participating, but it doesn't mean I'm entirely sold, believing or following blindly. When you say you're the industry standard, you're leading people and that means something. It means you have all the pieces in place and are doing an exemplary job in getting things right. Equally important, it also means people trust you to get it right. I still believe the Emperor's New Clothes (or Klout...) are quite threadbare, despite the Pied Piping going on with their brand. So I will continue to observe their actions, participate in what they're doing, view and analyze what, how and why they're offering people perks for their loyalty, as well as continue to challenge them until they become the Industry Standard they claim to be and that I expect them to be. Being my father's daughter, I have pretty high standards.

    Should they achieve 'Industry Standard' I'll be one of their biggest supporters. Until then, along with the followers who embrace what they're doing, society also needs people who explore, question and even disagree with tenets being set forth that affect them. Particularly since Klout is being adopted by large companies such as Nike (and many others) who are using Klout scores in hiring processes and beyond. If you've not read my piece on the Emperor's New Klout, I'd recommend it.

Meanwhile, back to the Metromint people. I have had Metromint on quite a few occasions prior to today, but it wasn't until I received this nice visual display, and my daughter asked me if I was influential in water, that it hit me that this would be great for our patients, considering how actually and 'unmeasureably' influential I am in healthy diets for our patients. So hopefully it was worthwhile for the Metromint people to find me via my Klout score.

     I'll be making this a permanent addition to our Healing Diet as well as regularly recommending it to patients and our weight loss group because it has all the qualities we look for in healthy food and beverages, and because it's a beverage that might help replace bad choices.

 If you're a surgery patient who is facing surgery or struggling to heal, the services at our non-profit are free. Connect with me on Twitter, Facebook or Google+ or through the comments below. I'd be happy to help you or someone you care about get the help they need through recovery and beyond.

 If you or your company would like to help sponsor the services we have offered to tens of thousands of women for over a decade, we would love to have your support.

 Thanks to Metromint and Klout for facilitating this healthy discovery and for the very nice sample box you sent.

   Ah! PBS (post blog script): I just noticed they now have MetroElectro Micronutrient water.  Zinc?! I want!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

The Emperor's New Klout

    My father, a gritty south side of Chicago character, used to always say, "The only clout you have is in your back pocket". Well, that may have been very true of his day, but times have changed.

    The Social Revolution is upon us and Klout not only has a new spelling, but a new meaning, as well.

    For anyone who isn't familiar with Klout, their 'About Klout' page, which is now defunct, stated they are "The Standard of Influence". They believe that every person who creates content has influence and that you don't have to be an A-lister to be influential. Okay, great. That sounds fair, even heart warming in an 'all good eggs' sort of way, don't you think?

    But, a little farther down the page they say their co-founder 'helps decide who is influential and who isn't'. I don't know about you, but that sentence elicits a one-eye-brow furrow and mouth slant for me, all while sounding a little A-lister scary. Hmm.
    Whatever your reaction, you may find the following Klout information interesting.

  1. It appears if you're not on Twitter you won't have a Klout score. This also means any hard work you did on the internet for about the last 4 years means nothing in terms of Klout influence if you did not have a Twitter account. (raises hand)

  2.  Whether you're new or established on Twitter, and whether or not you've ever signed onto Klout: You most likely have a Klout score.

  3. Klout scores include influence terms which deem where you are influential. Remember: They decide who is influential and who isn't.

  4. Klout scores and their corresponding topic influence, while seemingly fun and intriguing to a new user, are being used on resumes and taken seriously in the recruiting and job markets. Are we eye-brow furrowing yet?

    So, having recently gotten onto Twitter, I've been intently watching this Klout phenomenon unfold before me. I'm someone who appreciates a solid standard of measure and I found their direct and austere site rather pleasing, if not reassuring.

    It seemed everyone around me was discussing and obsessing over their Klout score. Being someone who has always been driven to get the highest score in anything of measure, I thought it was a cool challenge. I embraced it, explored it and experimented with it.

    But soon, I had questions which turned into red flags with no answers to be found anywhere - not even, and especially not, at Klout. 

   Questions like:

   What happens when Klout scores are used in industry, but you don't have one?

   What happens if your influence terms are wrong when the company that's judging you is the standard of influence?

    If Klout is indeed the the standard of influence, how could they possibly be wrong? The Standard? I take those words seriously. If they are wrong, how can anyone's score or true influence be right? And how are people walking around touting as well as judging others by their Klout scores when they're possibly not real at all? Is this a real life case of the Emperor's New Clothes? Are people playing along with the pretense when, in fact, the Emperor is wearing nothing at all? Will the cry be taken up by others, as it was in the tale?

   This really concerns me. Inaccurate influence terms not only happen, but have been reported as losing someone a job. Whether the case I heard was true or not, I've seen quite a few inaccurate influence terms, and it's well known that inaccurate or worse, unflattering information about oneself on the Internet can affect you negatively in the job market.

   What happens when an Internet 'standard' is no longer reserved to the confines of the internet, but appears on resumes and is discussed in job interviews, affecting our real lives? Klout, the Standard of Influence is affecting our real lives.

   In the meantime, I experimented to see if I could affect my Klout score - and was actually quite successful. I had discovered Empire Avenue to be an amazing site to genuinely connect and network with others - something I have been actively seeking and needing. By diligently and genuinely engaging with others there and then spilling into Twitter, I raised my score 22 points, from 34 to 56 in one month.

    But what was really measured? My activity or my genuine engagement? As someone who has spent a decade on the net genuinely engaging with the members at my non-profit, I'm well versed in engagement. Our organizations endless and ongoing list of women's comments of how we affected their lives is a real measure of engagement and influence. Point is: I know how to engage, and I actively engaged with users at Empire Avenue and also with them on Twitter.

   The bottom line is I did actually forge genuine connections with people who have come to respect me and seek me out. This is a sign of true influence.

   As far as my Klout score, however, I still have tons of questions. Sitting at 56 this morning, I'm just 8 shy of 'The Most Connected Woman on LinkedIn (waving fondly!).  Due to my long term engagement history, I don't find this surprising, but since Klout has no way to measure my last decade of work, I have to wonder just how in one month my Klout score could be so close to someone whose influence has been so directly measured for so long, and with my terms of influence being incorrect to boot!

   Yes, despite my score strides, my terms of influence were incorrect. Additionally, my efforts in the last month to change them had no effect on them at all.

    For starters, Klout said I was influential in Thomas the Tank. I hear some of you laughing already because, yes, it's so ludicrous, but I found this more disturbing than having virtually no influence at all. I have never once uttered nor typed the phase, 'Thomas the Tank' until this moment and, no offense, could not distance myself further from Thomas the Tank if I tried. Of all the things I have done, how on Earth am I influential in Thomas the Tank?

     I ignored the term, but it ate at me. I started looking at my influencers profiles. I saw I tweeted with one person over a month ago who had been tweeting about Thomas the Tank. Except, not to me. Not once. Not ever.

     Now, I'm a fairly logical person. Does this mean that if I tweeted about Christmas ornaments to someone who otherwise tweeted about S&M, drugs or pornography, would these then become what I'm influential in? The permutations and ramifications of this are endless, astounding and massively disturbing.

    Finally, I decided to attend a Klout chat just a few days ago so I could get some answers to my questions. The chat was a nightmare with none of Klout's tweets appearing in the chat. All I saw were incessant retweets as if the minions of Despicable Me had invaded. There were no appreciable answers, though my "Thomas the Tank" influence thankfully went bye bye.

    They did roll out some new, yet disturbing features, however. Now users can remove their own influence terms. But there was no information about how removing any previously held influence would affect your Klout score. Seems to follow that if you removed the terms that generated your influence that your score would logically...oh never mind.

     But the biggest feature was the +K. It launched about the same time Google introduced the 1+. I'm so confused that I spent a whole day typing K1 until a friend very diplomatically pointed out how confusing both new terms were. Yes. Thank you. They are.

     So now users have the ability to, let me just cut to the chase, ask their friends and friends of friends and possibly even pay off perfect strangers to give them +K on a daily basis til the cows come home, or their Klout jumps over the moon - whichever comes first.

    Klout, the Standard of Influence, is no longer the Standard of Influence but anyone who can get someone to click a little button is.

     I don't understand how a company, who appeared to be on the verge of finally dispensing with some of their buggier issues and turning the corner in becoming a true industry standard, could just turn around and paste a 'pick me!' button on it and walk away.

    I look at their investor list and want to cry at what a sham this appears to be and how I've toiled away for over a decade, on a shoe string, completely unpaid, and with little outside funding to build something real and enduring. It may not beautiful but it has worked beautifully.

     My Klout isn't on a little red numbered shout out and it's not in my back pocket. It's real, and it's in my heart and in all the hearts of the people I have influenced all by myself.

    Ironically, you'll be interested to know that Klout now thinks I'm influential in - Klout.

Monday, May 30, 2011

EmpireAvenue: The Emerald City

    EmpireAvenue, or EAv, is an online stock market gaming site, or so it appears. To some of us who left Kansas a while ago, it's a veritable yellow-brick road to the Emerald City of online networking, replete with a Twittering Klout climb.

     There are those who do not understand how a stock market gaming platform is anything but just that. While you can stay at Professor Marvel's wagon and have your fortune told, I assure you if you press on a little farther you'll discover the man behind the curtain is clearly a genius.

     For those in Emerald City, this article is about legitimately engaging and promoting each other in a group. By using the power of the group to connect people along with better resonating tweets to your followers, each person strengthens their Twitter, Klout and EAv presence on the Net.

      Empire Avenue is partially driven by your Twitter follower numbers, but also by tweets and retweets. Tweets and retweets help comprise your Klout influence, but not just any tweets. If your Klout influence key words don't match your agenda, or you're not being retweeted because your tweets aren't resonating with your followers, you've got a kink in your keyword focus/retweet action. You may well be the Mayor of Munchkinland, but Klout is never going to say you're influential about giant pocket watches or yellow brick roads, and you'll simply never represent the Lollipop kids. This all affects you at Klout and Empire Avenue, and remember, it's not just a game.
     Empire Avenue is not just a game and Twitter is not just an announcement platform. They are engagement platforms, and it’s engagement that's rewarded. Before you start thinking of gaming or 'play stock' rewards, think again. If you're having your agenda heard, raising your Klout score, and engaging more followers who resonate with your agenda, you've just stepped into the Emerald City where your voice can be more easily heard.

    But, does anyone really care if your voice is heard by some other Empire Avenue gamer? You might, if you realize that CEOs and major companies are taking stock tickers out on Empire Avenue. This, combined with the ability to raise your net presence, utilize various groups, and meet practically anyone while encouraging each others growth in a fun yet competitive game atmosphere that trumpets your Klout, Social Media and even your LinkedIn numbers, takes social networking clear over the rainbow.

    To improve your voice and presence across all three platforms, the idea is to develop 5 key words/hashtags (5k/hash) that also align with the WeFollow community which represents your agenda. First, come up with your 5 key words and then search Twitter to review them with hashtags. Single words may be better than multiple words but you'll have to see how one works out vs the other, depending on what words you choose.

    Once you select your 5k, review those choices with your Wefollow account. Go back, tweak as needed. You'll understand the tweaking once there due to the different categories. Set your list and tweet it out. Save your 5 words on a notepad so you can keep them in front of you for the next part. 

    Everyday consistently tweet a rotating mix of several of your key words within an intelligent tweet and sometimes hashtag them. Chronic hashtag use is annoying, so use just a couple a day on one or two of your 5k. Also learn to tweet your own content if your content consists primarily of retweeting other's content.  Find ways to originate your own content.  Or, instead of retweeting someone who is tweeting another's content, go directly to the article and create a new tweet. Whenever possible write and create your own original material. This can involve using your own photos, creating a blog for your topic, showing the steps along the way of a project, etc.

     As a group (remember the Emerald City?), align with those whose 5k/hash resonate with your agenda/interests. Your 5k/hash may be golf, nightlife, celebrities, food, wine. But, you may also be interested in dogs, parks, rafting, travel, tennis. Great! Find other members to connect with by reviewing their 5k/hash. Then actively and genuinely follow each other.  You may only have two of your collective 5k/hash in common with each other. That's fine, there are others in the group. Keep connecting.

    Now when you see one of your group members 5k/hash come across your timeline that genuinely resonates for you or your followers, retweet it. They will also retweet yours.  Congratulations, you're genuinely and directly engaging in Social Media and promoting your agenda to people who are interested in what you have to say.

    Re-read that part about retweeting because that's the one crucial piece people are not getting. People say, "OH right!", but then rarely retweet (or share) for others, reverting to tweeting for themselves. The rules of Twittiquette state something along the lines that you should engage and retweet others first and mainly and tweet yourself less. I'm here to tell you, that's really not happening and therein lies the problem. Let's be clear: Help someone else first. You have to retweet each other because simply retweeting your own stuff doesn't build you any Klout. It's like saying you're a good kisser. Well, sorry, but you can't assign that to yourself. It's determined and bestowed upon you by others.

    Your job is to create engaging content and to retweet fellow engaging content creators. You'll know you're on the right track if you continue to not only engage via Twitter but also at Empire Avenue (trade stocks, learn to play better, have fun) because your Klout score should eventually take off like a flying monkey.

    The group could also be helpful for getting people to step up their content game. If you're having trouble retweeting someone's 5k/hash on a regular basis, and they're not getting the results they should either, it's probably because their content isn't resonating with you and possibly others. It could also be that their follower list needs to turn over to their improved focus. Talk to your fellow 5k'ers and see where improvements in content can be made. The followers will eventually, well, follow!

     Do remember, though, it's not necessary or desirable to retweet everything and everyone, and we are all certainly busy, so that's actually a relief. Slow and steady wins the race as a group. Overall, a more focused, engaged group could do a lot, not only to raise scores, but to form a more genuinely engaged community and followers.

     On an individual level, If your agenda is getting out there, it can only be good for you, but this is just the start. I haven't even covered replying to someone or - gasp - tweeting directly to (not at...) one or your followers to engage them directly. These actions all count. Being a human being and connecting directly with your followers in one way or another is imperative.

    Last, but not least, I found this article written by Mike Morucci to be extremely good in terms of followers, retweeting, and content: Tips for not getting unfollowed on Twitter.

    If you'd like to connect with me at Empire Avenue, my stock ticker is APB. As of this writing I'm currently trading at e29.39, up +2.35. My Klout score, which bolted 5 points yesterday after some busy trading and hasn't updated yet today, is resting at 49. No Ruby Slippers required.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Paths and Followings

Well, it only took me 10 years to peel my nose off the grindstone to realize I could have my own blog to talk about business and begin to network again with the real world. Hello! 

 I donated every single day of the last 10+ years helping patients all over the world, while building our online community right beneath them. The lessons I learned, and the knowledge base I amassed, exceeded my wildest dreams. Today I'm interested in using what I've gained to expand my horizons toward working with some truly engaging people and companies.

 Expect to find a mix of what is and what isn't working with online communication - and why. I also like to jump in and help, but it goes both ways. A lot of what I'm about is helping each other. I'm interested in what's going on with networking and I like to speak about online engagement across multiple platforms.

  You'll also find me engaging and connecting all manner of people and things. Consider me a sort of pollinator, if you will. There are cool ideas and things out there and I like nothing better than to match the right people up with them - or each other. Kinda like those flower socks in your drawer. So, you'll see a mix of business and pollination of LIFE here from me.

 I admit I have very strong feelings surrounding people connecting with each other in a real, genuine, direct and kind way on the Net whenever possible. This is the cornerstone of my non-profit. It is the only way to genuinely build a following, a company, a brand.

  Those who fail to connect directly are missing out on the bigger picture. The people and companies that are doing the best business today are the ones who can reach out and directly engage their followers as human beings. It is the one thing I see people respond favorably to time and time again. It's so needed by everyone, yet it's one of those forest for the trees sorts of things. We're all screaming to be noticed and not noticing those around us. Those people might notice us if at some point you stop flailing both hands above your head and reach your hand out to that person next to you.

  Automation is the death of human engagement. There are no short cuts to being real. Be genuine, be consistent and be diligent. The work is literally one person at a time. As daunting as that sounds, it's not only worth it, but there is an unexpectedly pleasant and almost magical ease that wafts in with it. It's then you'll know you're on the right path.