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Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Social Media Series: David Polinchock on Bridging New & Old

This week's guest for Flooring The Consumer's Social Media Series: Bridging New & Old is David Polinchock.

David Polinchock writes The Experience Manifesto. I hope you read it! That's where he celebrates innovative thinking about the brand experience, passion for the customer experience and delight with successful retail manifestations. Technology and social media are part of it, too, but as a tactic in support of strategy and experience. Throughout his writings, David injects common sense, practical perspective, and lots of valuable insight.

I first met David at the Brand Experience Lab, an amazing place where 'culture, creativity and technology' come together to bring brand stories to life, in May of 2005. He had us spell-bound as he discussed creating branded retail experiences and then took us on a guided walking tour of SoHo to observe various interpretations of successful retail experiences. Definitely inspiring!

C.B.: David, how and why did you get involved in social media?

David: That’s a good question. I started officially blogging in 2004, but I’ve also spent a lot of time doing events and I consider that a “social media” as well. I think it’s been interesting to see how folks in the Internet space, the people who used to be on the outside, have now become the inside. So, when we think SM, we think online. But I see SM being much broader. For example, I think our work on movie theaters, where we got an entire audience to play a game together by leaning in their seats, is social media.

C.B.: What do you like most about social media?

David: I think the thing that excites me the most is when I see the idea of SM leaving the Internet and actually taking place where I am. I think that things like loopt or foursquare are just the beginning of what my daughter Sydney (who’s 8) will see as she grows up. The ability to mix the real world with our SM world is going to have a major impact in the coming years.

C.B.: What do you like least about social media?

David: Without a doubt, the hype. Last year I wrote a blog piece about how upsetting it was that people were really excited that social media allowed brands to listen to customers and I just remember thinking to myself, this is why brands are so messed up. They think listening to their customers is a new & exciting thing. Plus, because it is sort of the wild west out there, we get a lots of folks jumping on the bandwagon just to capitalize on the language, not to create any value. I’ve said something like this more then once on my blog.

But the discussion by most in the ad industry about social media is just the latest tactic du jour. We had branded content, Second Life, viral, WOM, and on and on. Read the trades and look at how many times over the past couple of years, a slew of companies were built around chasing the tactic du jour. How many social media companies have been started in the past 6 months? But we do this instead of helping clients understand the true value of connecting with their audience by any means possible and appropriate. For many agencies and clients, they're just tactics that we jump on and jump off like they were a trampoline.

We really need to get back to answering core questions, like how will “blank” help create a more compelling, authentic and relevant brand experience for our audience. We need to stop thinking about the tactic and think about real communication.

I’m also sometimes frustrated by the whole need of immediacy all the time. OK, so you didn’t like the Motrin commercial, that’s cool. But did Motrin need to be slammed because they hadn’t responded immediately? On the weekend? Sure, if you had said “There’s poison in Motrin,” they should respond right away. But there will always be someone who doesn’t like what you do. Knowing when/when to respond will probably be the one of the trickiest mind fields in the future.

Lastly, I’ve also said a lot that SM + advertising = Amway. If you’re old enough (like me), you can remember someone in your life that really got into Amway and hawked in constantly. To the point where you stopped hanging with the person so you didn’t have to get the sales pitch. Unfortunately, advertisers still see everything through the prism of the old ways of doing things. So too often they don’t say how can I use this new tool to do something new, but where can I put my 30 second spot.

C.B.: What 5 suggestions do you have for companies to implement so they can more effectively bridge old media with new media and connect with end users? What should they try? What should they avoid? Should they model themselves after specific companies?

David: It has to start with a review of who they are and who their audience is. I love my mom, but it’s going to be a while before she’s using Twitter to communicate to customer service!

And then, they have to look at why they’re trying these things. If it’s an experiment that they really are interested in succeeding, then that’s great. But all too often, they’re just jumping on the bandwagon too and they haven’t really thought through the resources needed to make this things work. They’re used to thinking with as campaign mindset and that’s not how SM or the idea of brand experiences works.

They should also ask themselves first, what benefit will this have to our customers. For example, if someone decides to use Twitter because it could save the company money, then it probably won’t be successful in the long run. And I don’t mean to pick on Twitter.

So, they really should try everything that makes sense for who they are. They should avoid things that wouldn’t be authentic to who they are.

My last suggestion is that no matter what they’re doing, they need to listen. I’m still surprised when I learn that companies don’t have a Google alert set up. It’s not surprising at all that people don’t search Twitter and the like for their brand names.

C.B.: Any other thoughts to share about the effectiveness of social media in forging stronger relations with customers.

David: Right now, it should be all about the customer experience. Especially in a down economy. As a consumer, I may not be spending as much, but the things that are important to me, that’s where I’ll put my money. So you should always be looking at these tools to create those better relationships. How can I more quickly respond? How can I make something easier for my consumer. Most of all, the challenge is being flexible to deliver in all of the ways necessary. So for me, it’s one way. For my mom, it’s another and for Sydney it might be a third way. If I like to call, stop making me go to a web site. If I like your web site, don’t make me go somewhere else. That’s going to be a big challenge for folks!

Thank you, David!

Comments? Reactions?

What about Google alerts? Are you using them? How are you using them?

What about getting back to "answering core questions?' How do you think about creating a compelling and relevant brand experience for your customers? How are you building meaningful relationships with your customers?

I love David's definition of 'social media.' What do you think of it?

For additional insights from participants in the Social Media Series: Bridging New & Old please visit The Entire Bridging New & Old Social Media Series.

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