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Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Phil Gerbyshak on Bridging New & Old: Social Media Series

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

Phil Gerbyshak truly is the "Make It Great Guy." He's a "social media maximizer" focused on helping you connect with customers and employees. Check out PhilGerbyshak.com and his book 10 Ways To Make It Great and you'll be amazed at the wisdom he shares about how best to unleash the greatness inside us all. His recent Twitter advice is worth paying attention to!

What's most amazing is that Phil has a day job - as vice president of information technology for a financial services firm. And, yet, he has time to teach Social MediaSaturdays, and the Help Desk Manager's course [scroll to the bottom for a full description], while also encouraging and supporting us to 'make it great.'

C.B.: Phil, how/why did you get involved in social media?

Phil: I got involved with social media back in 2005 when Scott Ginsberg mentioned I should start a blog to capture my thoughts. It made sense then and it makes sense now.

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

Phil: I love the ability to connect with amazing people from around the world (like you) who I might never get the chance to meet if it weren't for social media.

I love connecting to amazing ideas and inspiring stories.

I love being able to quickly share what I know with as many people as possible.

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

Phil: I don't like the mob mentality and the anonymity that some folks hide behind. Mike Arrington recently got into a little spat with Leo LaPorte on the Gillmor Gang for all of us to see/hear. The video on YouTube showed only the 90 seconds where they were duking it out. Word has it Mike got over 600 people telling him what a jerk he was (and probably a lot worse) because of this video. Folks think they "know" Mike and Leo because they are in public, and feel like Mike deserved for Leo to tell him to screw off. If folks had to use their real names, they wouldn't be so bold, and probably wouldn't join the mob of "I hate Mike Arrington."

C.B.: How has social media changed how you interact with the marketplace as a consumer or customer?

Phil: Great question! I definitely always look for reviews of products I'm interested in, and I look for reviews from folks I trust. Celebrity spokespeople have zero effect on me. I want to hear from real people, and see service recovery when things get screwed up.

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?

First, have a blog so you can share things and make changes in more real time. The smaller companies like Freshbooks do this very well. Big companies should be able to do this even easier, but most don't.

Second, recognize your employees can be your best brand ambassadors. Set up good policies that your people can live inside of, and provide education so they can do a great job of living your brand.

Third, stop paying for spokespeople and look instead for real stories of folks who use your products or services. If you force this, you will expose yourself for the fake company who doesn't care. Don't force it. Just wait and make something really great that folks can use and love.

Next, let users mix up your products and don't hold them so tightly. Make things that I can interact with, not just use. Even the old soap bottle that Colgate uses can be turned into social media. Let me mix my own soap (with scents you already have), create my own bottle cover (that I can send to my friends and co-workers), and then make me a star by showing folks that it was me that created it.

Finally, if you screw up, own up and say you're sorry. Your company is NOT infallible. Set up Google alerts so you can hear every time someone mentions you/your brand and apologize. Service RECOVERY is really important. Dell used to be "Dell hell" because of Jeff Jarvis and others who had crappy experiences with Dell. Now, Dell is all over Twitter, connecting with users and helping folks who complain get their problems resolved.

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

Phil: Focus on the human element and not on automation. The more human you can be, the more folks will connect with your business and your brand. Folks can smell fake people from a mile away, so use REAL people to tell REAL stories that I can relate to. We want to be listened to, loved, and paid attention to. Find ways to do more of those 3 things, and your social media will be way more successful than if you just try to puke content out there.

Thank you, Phil!

Comments? Questions? Reactions?

Don't you just love the notion of looking for the real stores of people who use your products or services? I love the relevance and authenticity of it. What about letting your 'users mix up your products?' That's rather wild. How might you do that in your environment?

What about your human element and employees? Are they your brand ambassadors?

How do you approach 'screw up' situations?

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

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nesh thompson said...

Excellent interview. I think there is much to be said for the positivity of adversity and challenging problems head on. As Phil says, no company is 100% infallible and it is often the case that a brand is developed through helping a customer overcome problems rather than everything just going fine (though of course that is what we all strive for).

What is great about social media is that you have this ability to tune into the viral opinions of customers in a way that couldn't be achieved from normal word-of-mouth.

CB Whittemore said...

Nesh, thank you. You bring up a critical point about 'positivity of adversity and challenging problems head on.' That ability to immediately internalize and respond in a positive manner generates some of the most powerful word of mouth endorsements ever. To think we have tools that allow us to 'hear' so much faster and effectively than before. It's humbling and energizing.

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