Forging Deeper Connections With Customers With Social Media

Question: What advice do you have for startups looking to establish their social networking presence?

Bonin Bough: Look, the rule book is open, and you can write the rules whatever you want.  So if you don't have the means to have a person on Twitter 24/7, then don't do it that way.  Why is it follow Friday only happens on Friday?  Why don't you just take...?  Here's the two hours where we're going to talk to our community because that's all the resources that we can have.  But we realize that building that community will lead to more sales, which ultimately will lead to three hours, and then four hours.

What's interesting is to see the community know that they're participating potentially – I'm just riffing – but to see the community see that they're actually potentially participating and bringing another hour of resources on board because they're actually purchasing or buying or engaging with your technology more.  I think it's “How do you become creative around the resources that you have but also making sure that you're using the technology to drive the means or to drive the means or to drive the end at which you need to.  

And I tell that to my team all the time, like – and when you see stuff that we do, like we have a Zeitgeist app, which tracks and provides data visualization of our conversation.  It's a measurement platform by which we use across a lot of other places in the organization.  But as an app, that app is only live when we're at physical events, and it's fine.  We let the world know that that's the only time they're gonna see it.  You can go there and see recent data, but the only time you're gonna see vibrancy there is when we're at these digital events.  Now it might change later on, but we don't have the means to just—or just show these data visualizations for...  So my point is, creativity, I think will go a long way to overcoming the means.  But I don't know. Does that work?  What do you think?

Question: How do you focus on building an audience on Facebook or Twitter and scaling it?

Bonin Bough: Community organizing is hard work.  I guess if you do it well you can become president.  But, I think community building is hard work, and I think there's a lot of lessons to be learned from some of the early pioneers like Guy Kawasaki building a community around  - I still... I was like... I used to go to Mac user groups, but him building a community around email, around an email newsletter... or what the video game guys have done with building a community around video games – communities that are so vibrant that they can drop a video game into it and turn it into a billion-dollar blockbuster because they know who the alpha dogs are there.  I think that that's the same kind of thing that you face when going into Facebook and Twitter.

On the fact of scale, I think that it's an interesting combination between using media dollars or techniques that are gonna get you reach in terms of eyeballs on your communities as well as finding what the right participation in that community or with that community is.  It doesn't have to be conversation.  I think that we as marketers right now are so nervous—or communicators—are so nervous about these channels that we haven't gone to experimentation, like … Some of the things that we've been talking about are just better giveaways on Twitter, or more promotion inside of our Facebook communities, a combination of digital...  There's so much experimentation that we can do, and I think we have done a good job at that on some of our platforms, and on scaling I think there's a lot of other folks that have done really good jobs at that.  I think the Starbucks folks, who are good friends of ours, have done a really great job at just wide-scale experimentation in the community – also tracking and measuring it.

So I think that's the other thing that we are dong well is that we look at “What's organic growth look like?  What does fall-off look like?  When we do X, Y, and Z how much of a burst does it have?”  I think it's a combo... it's care and feeding, but you also need to have people who are dedicated to it because those are the people who learn how the community ebbs and flows.  And who are the folks that are the major contributors.  That's the skill set that I think still organizations – this community management thing – still organizations are just at the beginning of learning.  Dell has, I think, done a really good on the forefront of doing that.  We announced 'Mission Control,' which is the Gatorade mission control room – a glass room in the center of the marketing floor that tracks real-time data visualizations of conversation.  But more importantly than that is that is there's a team of people in there that are dedicated to building these communities and learning how these communities operate and move.  I think that's how you bring it to scale.

And the other piece I think that we haven't gotten to yet is the integration into all the rest of our marketing platforms.  Why isn't our traditional ad saying “Hey, connect with us at Facebook.com or on Twitter?”  You've seen and you see that organizations now are doing some of that stuff, but also even more than just the tagging of the back of the spot – providing what the value is.  At our Facebook you will find an opportunity to connect with nutritionists - or whatever it is – and actually integrating it into what we're doing on all fronts.  And that's when we're gonna see the scale come out because at the end of the day, Facebook is a big platform, but if you think of a company like PepsiCo – we're so big, we sell so many products every day – no platform is scaled.  It's up to us to scale these things with the resources that we're using in all the places that we're using it if we truly believe there's a benefit behind community, which we do.

Question:
How do you deliver deep connections with the social networks you create?

Bonin Bough:  I think those deep connections are to continue to fulfill on the relationship that you've built, so it's one thing to get them there – it's another thing to keep them there.  In some respects, for example on our corporate Facebook page, we have built an expectation that you're gonna hear some corporate news, you're gonna hear some stuff about brands, but what you're also gonna hear is quality information from the live events that we participate in.  And that's... you can see our traffic spike or our usage pattern spike when we're delivering our recaps and on-the-spot information from those events.  

And so I think really those deeper connections come from – and, again those deeper connections don't have to be somebody who is going to connect with you every single day.  For us, it's telling people straight up and down, “Here's what you're gonna receive, and here's the times when we think you might want to be the most engaged because we're gonna be the most engaged with the community.”  And we've seen folks come back, and back, and back... I think, talk about and highlight to us or speak back to us telling us that they're excited – those moments when we're on there, engaged.  I think it's a clear promise of what you're gonna deliver – and then deliver on that.  It's like any relationship, right?  I guess, in a lot of respects.  Like here's one:  “Are you gonna be there for me?  Yes or no?”

Recorded June 18, 2010

Interviewed by Victoria Brown

 

Photo courtesy of scyther5/Shutterstock.com

"Community building is hard work," says Bough. It's one thing to get people to engage with your company, and wholly another thing to get them to continue that engagement.

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Politics & Current Affairs

Political division is nothing new. Throughout American history there have been numerous flare ups in which the political arena was more than just tense but incideniary. In a letter addressed to William Hamilton in 1800, Thomas Jefferson once lamented about how an emotional fervor had swept over the populace in regards to a certain political issue at the time. It disturbed him greatly to see how these political issues seemed to seep into every area of life and even affect people's interpersonal relationships. At one point in the letter he states:

"I never considered a difference of opinion in politics, in religion, in philosophy, as cause for withdrawing from a friend."

Today, we Americans find ourselves in a similar situation, with our political environment even more splintered due to a number of factors. The advent of mass digital media, siloed identity-driven political groups, and a societal lack of understanding of basic discursive fundamentals all contribute to the problem.

Civil discourse has fallen to an all time low.

The question that the American populace needs to ask itself now is: how do we fix it?


Discursive fundamentals need to be taught to preserve free expression

In a 2017 Free Speech and Tolerance Survey by Cato, it was found that 71% of Americans believe that political correctness had silenced important discussions necessary to our society. Many have pointed to draconian university policies regarding political correctness as a contributing factor to this phenomenon.

It's a great irony that, colleges, once true bastions of free-speech, counterculture and progressiveness, have now devolved into reactionary tribal politics.

Many years ago, one could count on the fact that universities would be the first places where you could espouse and debate any controversial idea without consequence. The decline of staple subjects that deal with the wisdom of the ancients, historical reference points, and civic discourse could be to blame for this exaggerated partisanship boiling on campuses.

Young people seeking an education are given a disservice when fed biased ideology, even if such ideology is presented with the best of intentions. Politics are but one small sliver for society and the human condition at large. Universities would do well to instead teach the principles of healthy discourse and engagement across the ideological spectrum.

The fundamentals of logic, debate and the rich artistic heritage of western civilization need to be the central focus of an education. They help to create a well-rounded citizen that can deal with controversial political issues.

It has been found that in the abstract, college students generally support and endorse the first amendment, but there's a catch when it comes to actually practicing it. This was explored in a Gallup survey titled: Free Expression on Campus: What college students think about First amendment issues.

In their findings the authors state:

"The vast majority say free speech is important to democracy and favor an open learning environment that promotes the airing of a wide variety of ideas. However, the actions of some students in recent years — from milder actions such as claiming to be threatened by messages written in chalk promoting Trump's candidacy to the most extreme acts of engaging in violence to stop attempted speeches — raise issues of just how committed college students are to
upholding First Amendment ideals.

Most college students do not condone more aggressive actions to squelch speech, like violence and shouting down speakers, although there are some who do. However, students do support many policies or actions that place limits on speech, including free speech zones, speech codes and campus prohibitions on hate speech, suggesting that their commitment to free speech has limits. As one example, barely a majority think handing out literature on controversial issues is "always acceptable."

With this in mind, the problems seen on college campuses are also being seen on a whole through other pockets of society and regular everyday civic discourse. Look no further than the dreaded and cliche prospect of political discussion at Thanksgiving dinner.

Talking politics at Thanksgiving dinner

As a result of this increased tribalization of views, it's becoming increasingly more difficult to engage in polite conversation with people possessing opposing viewpoints. The authors of a recent Hidden Tribes study broke down the political "tribes" in which many find themselves in:

  • Progressive Activists: younger, highly engaged, secular, cosmopolitan, angry.
  • Traditional Liberals: older, retired, open to compromise, rational, cautious.
  • Passive Liberals: unhappy, insecure, distrustful, disillusioned.
  • Politically Disengaged: young, low income, distrustful, detached, patriotic, conspiratorial
  • Moderates: engaged, civic-minded, middle-of-the-road, pessimistic, Protestant.
  • Traditional Conservatives: religious, middle class, patriotic, moralistic.
  • Devoted Conservatives: white, retired, highly engaged, uncompromising,
    Patriotic.

Understanding these different viewpoints and the hidden tribes we may belong to will be essential in having conversations with those we disagree with. This might just come to a head when it's Thanksgiving and you have a mix of many different personalities, ages, and viewpoints.

It's interesting to note the authors found that:

"Tribe membership shows strong reliability in predicting views across different political topics."

You'll find that depending on what group you identify with, that nearly 100 percent of the time you'll believe in the same way the rest of your group constituents do.

Here are some statistics on differing viewpoints according to political party:

  • 51% of staunch liberals say it's "morally acceptable" to punch Nazis.
  • 53% of Republicans favor stripping U.S. citizenship from people who burn the American flag.
  • 51% of Democrats support a law that requires Americans use transgender people's preferred gender pronouns.
  • 65% of Republicans say NFL players should be fired if they refuse to stand for the anthem.
  • 58% of Democrats say employers should punish employees for offensive Facebook posts.
  • 47% of Republicans favor bans on building new mosques.

Understanding the fact that tribal membership indicates what you believe, can help you return to the fundamentals for proper political engagement

Here are some guidelines for civic discourse that might come in handy:

  • Avoid logical fallacies. Essentially at the core, a logical fallacy is anything that detracts from the debate and seeks to attack the person rather than the idea and stray from the topic at hand.
  • Practice inclusion and listen to who you're speaking to.
  • Have the idea that there is nothing out of bounds for inquiry or conversation once you get down to an even stronger or new perspective of whatever you were discussing.
  • Keep in mind the maxim of : Do not listen with the intent to reply. But with the intent to understand.
  • We're not trying to proselytize nor shout others down with our rhetoric, but come to understand one another again.
  • If we're tied too closely to some in-group we no longer become an individual but a clone of someone else's ideology.

Civic discourse in the divisive age

Debate and civic discourse is inherently messy. Add into the mix an ignorance of history, rabid politicization and debased political discourse, you can see that it will be very difficult in mending this discursive staple of a functional civilization.

There is still hope that this great divide can be mended, because it has to be. The Hidden Tribes authors at one point state:

"In the era of social media and partisan news outlets, America's differences have become
dangerously tribal, fueled by a culture of outrage and taking offense. For the combatants,
the other side can no longer be tolerated, and no price is too high to defeat them.
These tensions are poisoning personal relationships, consuming our politics and
putting our democracy in peril.


Once a country has become tribalized, debates about contested issues from
immigration and trade to economic management, climate change and national security,
become shaped by larger tribal identities. Policy debate gives way to tribal conflicts.
Polarization and tribalism are self-reinforcing and will likely continue to accelerate.
The work of rebuilding our fragmented society needs to start now. It extends from
re-connecting people across the lines of division in local communities all the way to
building a renewed sense of national identity: a bigger story of us."

We need to start teaching people how to approach subjects from less of an emotional or baseless educational bias or identity, especially in the event that the subject matter could be construed to be controversial or uncomfortable.

This will be the beginning of a new era of understanding, inclusion and the defeat of regressive philosophies that threaten the core of our nation and civilization.