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90 Degrees

I’ve been thinking about integrity lately. About doing what you say you will do. About follow-through. About what that means not just for us as individuals but what it means for companies and how they interact with their customers. When you add integrity to the oft-bandied-about concept of “360 degree” or “user-centric” marketing, you start to get at something that resembles practicing what you preach, walking the walk, doing rather than talking about doing. Being for your customers what you implicitly promised you would be.

If you decide to blog, you should be ready for every kind of comment. If you Tweet, you should be able to handle what comes back your way. If you enter a singing competition, send your short story out to a journal, audition for a part in your favorite play – you are actively engaging in all that comes after: the yes or the no, the rejection or not. All the greys in between.

Since creative individuals put themselves through this all the time in the hopes of getting to do what they love, it makes me crazy when seemingly great companies can’t stand the heat, though they turned on the oven and got in it. Many companies don’t fully embrace the “conversation” (a buzz word that annoys me a great deal but is accurate and so…there you go) they started and are practicing what could at best be called “90 degree” marketing. Two examples:

  • Napa Wineries – I recently spent several days in Napa and I made a point to tweet about my visits. Of a dozen wineries I mentioned while in Napa, only two responded. Bravo to Cornerstone Cellars & CADE who extended my positive experience by engaging with me further. If I was sold on their wines before, I’m now doubly sold on them as companies that care about their customers. I feel I have a connection to them now in a way I don’t have with, say, Larkmead. I’ve been a Larkmead member for a long time. That means I’ve spent a ton of money on their wine for the past several years. It also means that when I visit their winery, I get VIP treatment. Lovely, right? Sure. But I tweeted about that lovely treatment and I’ve heard not a word. Well perhaps they are busy? Not active on Twitter? you might think. There’s the rub – they actively tweet every day. But they never respond to a single customer. Check their stream. Check their @ replies. Nada. What kind of message does that send to me? You have time to market yourselves but not to talk with a very good customer? I’d rather you not be on Twitter at all vs. being there actively ignoring me. Talking at me vs. with me is 90 degree marketing at its finest.
  • 49ers – If you follow me on Twitter, you know I’m a 49er fan. Have been since I was very young and though we’ve had some bleak (b-l-e-a-k) years, this season is off to a great start. When clients ask me about brands “doing it right” in social media, I often think of the 49ers because they do a brilliant job of bringing their fans along for the ride of every game and give special access to locker room video, player interviews and special photos that traditional sports media can’t provide, especially mid week when the next game seems miles away. To follow the @49er stream is to be on the “inside” of a team you love. Their social media group continually surprises me with what they share and how often they share it – I’m convinced they are putting a solid amount of thought and care into delighting their fans. It shows. But guess what? They never respond either. Check their feed. All one way communication, megaphone style. Not a single @ reply (except for the failure to add a “.” before using a player’s handle to indicate a recent score, etc.) Can you imagine how the delight if fans actually got replies? I know it’s a bit more challenging since “@49ers” is used to refer to the team without intending to engage those manning the Twitter stream, but you can’t invite your fans to the coolest of parties and then ignore them once they arrive.

These are just two examples from the past week. There are dozens (hundreds? thousands?) of similar experiences to be had from many seemingly great brands and I’m certain I’m not alone in this.  It may be a stretch to link integrity with a fully integrated marketing approach and point “you  have no integrity” fingers at companies that don’t tweet back. But I do think that in an age of so much talking and so little doing, it is about integrity. If you don’t want to respond to customer questions on Twitter, don’t be on Twitter. If you don’t want to engage with your fans, don’t tell them you do.

I can already hear the rally cries of the social media teams who have hard data and compelling reasons why they simply can’t get the resources to handle every response (understood, depending on the company this task can be Herculean) or who are in a heavily regulated industry (been there, I get it) or have taken the decision to simply delight & inspire with content vs. dialogue. But when you see companies oh so large and oh so small doing it well (next week, I’ll share some of those), it seems to me you can’t get by on a 90 degree plan for much longer.

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