Powered and The Power of Social Business Design

A new day is dawning at Powered and its name is social business design. If you’ve heard that term before, you can thank the folks over at Dachis Group — who Powered is now a part of. That’s right, you can read that again, “who Powered is now a part of.” That’s because as of yesterday, December 20, 2010, the very same Dachis Group acquired Powered and it’s subsidiaries, crayon, StepChange and Drillteam.

Social Media Design

Over the past 2.5 years, Dachis Group introduced the concept of social business design to the world and they’ve grown their business around it. Social business draws on many disciplines. It is composed of Enterprise 2.0 thought leaders including Dion Hinchcliffe, engaging with practitioners from the 2.0 Adoption Council, and bringing technology to life through Headshift. It draws upon the visual thinking capabilities of XPLANE and formulate business strategy through the business unit they’ve grown by hand since their beginning.

So how does Powered fit into social business design? Quite nicely in fact. Because Powered and its subsidiaries are all about social business customer engagement. You may know this as social media marketing, but calling it that doesn’t do the concept of more deeply engaging one’s customers justice. In fact, the problem with many social media campaigns is just that. They are campaigns, not sustainable programs that grow over time.

Where businesses truly succeed is when they transform from the inside out by re-engineering their processes, culture and technologies to get the most out of their relationships with their employees, partners, customers and fans. As part of the Dachis Group, Powered and its subsidiaries can now provide our customers workforce collaboration, customer participation (or engagement) and business partner optimization.

Needless to say, we here at Powered are excited to be part of the largest social business consultancy in the world. That, combined with the fact that we are part of a company with over 220 employees and offices in 10 cities across five different countries, gives us the best opportunity to win. And at the end of the day, who doesn’t like winning?

Paid Media… Meet Social Media: The New Twitter Model

For three years, many of us skeptics have wondered aloud about the viability of Twitter. Will they sell sponsorships? Can they corporate tools help merit their billion dollar plus valuation? Would power users be wiling to pay for their services? Apparently, the answer is no (or at least not at the core). Instead, Twitter is taking a page out of the paid media book of tricks — but with a social twist.

Witness, the promoted trend. Some of you who still make your way over to Twitter.com may have noticed that at the top of the trending topics list, their is now a little yellow “promoted” box. According to a trusted source, this slot is purchased for 24 hours and as of right now, is selling for somewhere in the $100,000/slot range. While little data has emerged about the success of these promoted trends (or the accompanying promoted tweets), up to 80% of the advertisers who have tested promoted trends and tweets are repeat buyers.

Twitter also has a third product called recommended accounts which they plan to dial up over the coming months (beta tests with select brands ran in September). These accounts can include people, companies and services. What I like about this last model is that it fulfills on the promise of marrying social media (an annuity) with paid media (ongoing costs). It will also put pressure on companies to get strategic about their bio, picture and quality of their tweet streams.

Coming Soon

While I’m still not 100% sold on the value of the sponsored tweet (apparently they are sold on a cost-per-click basis), I do like the idea of the trends and follower recommendations, especially as things like geo, demographic and day-part targeting come into effect (I’m assuming that Twitter has plans for those in the works). All of a sudden, brands will have an opportunity an amazing opportunity to present relevant content via links based on location, profile, current trends and past behavior. And most important of all, this gets done in a place that’s become a regular hang out spot for millions of regulars.

Where things could get really interesting is when tools like Tweetdeck and Hootsuite are fitted for these same types of paid media opportunities. I’m just guessing here but I have a hunch that Tweetdeck’s launch of their latest version that includes real time updates is signaling a tighter integration between Tweetdeck and Twitter (otherwise, I can’t imagine that Twitter would allow Tweetdeck full access to its API). It’s this kind of integration that will prevent Twitter from being disintermediated from itself by the ecosystem of tools and clients that have cropped up over the last three years.

Which brands will be most successful using Twitter’s new paid offerings? I guarantee that any kind of travel and entertainment business will benefit from this. Retailers — particularly around the holidays — should also benefit from the opportunity. B2B will definitely have a tougher time cracking this nut but then again, many B2B companies are more niche advertisers anyway.

What do you think? Will Twitter truly realize it’s billion dollar plus potential this way? I have a feeling that they may just be onto something.

Black Star Beer’s Commitment to Conversation

In my colleague, Joseph Jaffe’s, second book is titled Join the Conversation, he talks about he importance of a concept called, “commitment to conversation.” You can probably guess what this means but just in case your like me and need things spelled out for you, the concept is directed toward businesses and strongly encourages them to not just join a conversation but to maintain and follow up on conversations with key stakeholders.

Glenn Banton touched on this concept of commitment to conversation in a recent post on practical uses for geolocation services. One of the examples he cited was a missed a local coffee shop’s missed opportunity when I checked into a Starbucks across the street. Upon being invited to try their coffee instead, I  responded that if they could promise me a great tasting Americano (my drink of choice) and a 10% discount (the same discount Starbucks provided via their gold card at the time). Instead of continuing the conversation with me and potentially winning me and maybe a few of my 14,000 Twitter followers, they went dark. Why? We’ll never know. But it was a bad move on their part.

So what does this all have to do with Black Star Beer? I’ll tell you. To start with, they are the polar opposite of the aforementioned local coffee shop. The conversation started a couple of months ago when they invited me to head on over to their Facebook page to participate in a very cool, experiential contest they were running. While I didn’t win the contest, I was impressed enough with their contest (and follow through) to mention them in a follow up post on the value of a Facebook fan. In the post, I used Black Star Beer as an example of a company that engaged their customers and prospects through a thoughtful and clever contest.

Following my write up, I got an nice “thank you” e-mail that was accompanied by an offer to send along a press kit. Intrigued by what a press kit from a beer company might entail, I bit. What arrived was a nicely designed box with a can and bottle of a new beer they were launching in LA, the double-hopped golden larger, a CD with several videos (I included one of them which shows their new brewery in action below) and a dozen beautiful product shots. There was also a press release but most importantly, a hand-written post it note.

Rumor has it that the beer was good but the moral of the story here is that through Black Star’s commitment to conversation with me, they’ve received several mentions in my blog, on Facebook and on Twitter… an most importantly, a dedicated blog post patting them on the back for their good deeds. You know how much this cost them? $10-15 in shipping costs and then whatever amount of time their PR/social media person, Charlotte Robertson, invested in listening and responding. While I’m sure Charlotte doesn’t come cheap, I’m equally convinced that I’m not the only blogger/journalist that she’s reaching out to. And the result is not only earned media which does have a value attached to it but hopefully hundreds if not thousands of new customers (or more satisfied existing customers) thanks to others like me.

Is your company making a commitment to conversation? If it isn’t, maybe it’s time you take a closer look at what Black Star Beer is doing. Or give my company a call. We’ll be happy to share everything we know.

We’re Excited about Social Media Week Atlanta (11/8-11/12)

Are you planning on participating in Atlanta’s Social Media Week (November 8 – 12, 2010)?  It’s going to be a week filled with great content, networking and of course parties. In fact, our company — Powered — is doing it’s share to help on all three fronts. Here are the details:

Joseph Jaff, Greg Verdino & Aaron Strout

  • For starters, our very own Chief Interruptor (and three time published book author) Joseph Jaffe, will give a keynote presentation from 3-5 pm on Tuesday, November 9 at the Newell Rubbbermaid headquarters. Jaffe will be discussing his latest book: Flip the Funnel: How to Use Existing Customers to Gain New Ones. Jaffe will follow the discussion with a Q&A and then book signings.
  • That same night, Tuesday, November 9, Powered will host a Meet Up, from 5-7 pm, at Wildfire in the Perimeter Mall area. Joseph and Iwill be there so we hope you’ll join us for some food, networking and maybe an adult beverage or two.
  • Thursday, November 11, my colleague and Powered VP of Strategy, Greg Verdino, will conduct his own Author Event, from 11 am – 12 pm, also at the Newell Rubbermaid headquarters. Greg will discuss his new book, microMARKETING: Get Big Results by Thinking and Acting Small. We will follow the discussion with a Q&A and then Greg will be happy to sign at least a few books.
  • Immediately following Greg’s event, the two of us, will moderate a Social Media Innovations panel, hosted by Social Media Atlanta, to feature homegrown innovations. The panel will be from 1:30-4 pm (November 11th) at InterContinental Hotels Group headquarters, and the panel discussion will be followed by break-out sessions allowing attendees to interact with the local technologies.

So two things. 1) each event has it’s own sign up (I’ve linked to all of them) so be sure to register as space will be limited and 2) if you’re going to be there that week, please ping me on Twitter at @aaronstrout or e-mail me at aaron DOT strout AT powered DOT com.

For more information on Social Media Atlanta 2010, or to register for any of these, and other, free events, please see http://socialmediaatlanta.org/

Verizon’s “Room to Learn” Community

Today Verizon and Powered are proud to announce the launch [pdf] of a new “branded engagement community” called Room to Learn. It’s a big move for a smart company who operates in an industry that’s not known for it’s focus on customer service. In fact, the reason we’re so excited about this project is because we see this as a big step toward the future of the way customer service will get done in the future.

Director of eBusiness at Verizon, Mark Studness, and Powered CMO, Aaron Strout, talked about the project in a recent podcast: 

What’s unique about Room to Learn is that instead of waiting for customers to come to come to them with questions or complaints, Verizon is reaching out their customers with useful content. Content that will help them with all things media and home entertainment. Even better, the information and education that Verizon will provide it’s customers (and non-customers) doesn’t try and sell them anything. Imagine that?

Why would a company do this you ask? Because Verizon realizes that in order to maintain their leadership position in the market, they need to do something game changing. Something my colleague, Joseph Jaffe, likes to call customer service 2.0. It’s the concept of the “give before the get.” The results should be things like greater loyalty, deeper engagement, greater share of wallet and most importantly, referrals.

A few other exciting things to mention about this new branded engagement community:

  • The community manager will be none other than Becky Carroll, a seasoned social media professional who is well versed in blogging, podcasting and community.
  • A resident contributor in Alfred Poor. Yes, that Alfred Poor, the guy that has covered consumer electronics for 20+ years for the likes of PC World.
  • Community forums for customers to ask questions, talk with professionals or share ideas with one another.

What you’ll notice today is that the conversations on Room to Learn are just getting started. If you’re interested in joining, the good news is that you don’t even need to be a customer. Obviously, Verizon expects that if you participate, you’ll be respectful and will keep the language clean. But they are always looking for feedback to if you have constructive feedback or simple suggestions, you can let them (or us) know and we’ll be sure to work it into the mix.

Is your company following Verizon’s lead and getting proactive about customer service? If not, what’s stopping you?

5 Take Aways from the ANA’s 2010 Masters of Marketing Conference

Last year, I had the pleasure of attending my first Masters of Marketing event in Phoenix, AZ (recap here). The thing that blew me away at that event and convinced me not only to come back, but also to sponsor this year, was the amount of talent amassed in one place at one time. Unlike many other conferences, the speakers all stick around and network… for three days. This leads to unprecedented access to people like:

  • Mark Baynes – CMO, Kellogg Company
  • Marc Pritchard – CM, Procter & Gamble
  • Erin Nelson – CMO, Dell Inc.
  • Keith Pardy – CMO, Research in Motion
  • Ralph Santana – CMO, Samsung Electronics NA
  • Jim Speros – CMO, Fidelity Investments
  • Joseph Tripodi – CMO, Coca-Cola Company
  • Ted Ward – CMO, Geico Auto Insurance
  • Mary Beth West – CMO, Kraft Foods
  • Michael Francis – CMO, Target Corporation

What’s amazing is that the ten CMOs I’ve listed above only represent about 1% of the senior marketers attending the event. Given the talent and experience the Masters of Marketing event attracts, you can only imagine the quality of the 3-day marketing “MBA” you receive after attending. And that’s assuming you only make it to 50% of the sessions. Even more impressive is that many of the marketers seemed to be singing off the same song sheet. To that end, here are my five key takeaways from this year’s event:

Top Take Aways

  1. Companies are getting back to basic when it comes to defining what their brand stands for. Several speakers talked about the importance of a brand having purpose and there seems to be a greater awareness of a need for the brand to be better connected with its customers.
  2. While the topic of social media came up in almost every presentation, it’s still not a top priority for most brands. What is encouraging is that if social wasn’t on last year’s CMO’s “must do” list, it definitely is this year, even if it’s priority number 8, 9 or 10.
  3. As a follow up to point number two, most marketers are at least “social curious.” As someone that lives and breathes social media, I had at least a dozen very interesting conversations with marketers who wanted to know more about things like Twitter, location-based marketing and developing a social strategy.
  4. While many of the presenters included clips of their 30 second spots, it felt more integrated versus “showcased” in comparison to last year’s event. In fact, Coca Cola CMO, Joe Tripodi, only showed video clips from Youtube and customer research projects. By the way, with the exception of Seth Greenberg of Intuit, Joe seemed to be the most socially savvy CMO of the bunch.
  5. The uptick in the economy this year was reflected in the event itself. First and foremost, there were easily 50% more attendees this year. Also, the quality of the receptions and entertainment were ratcheted up a notch or three. To me, that’s a good sign that marketers are feeling comfortable (or at least cautiously optimistic) about spending again.

Another thing I included in last year’s wrap up post were some of my favorite tweets from the event (many were quotes from the speakers). You can see all the tweets from the event that were tagged with #ANAMarketers but once again, I’ve selected my top ten (in no particular order) out of the hundreds for your viewing pleasure:

  • @ANAmarketers: Friend casting on Facebook has no media cost. Friend casting was 4 more times more effective then a banner ad for #Intuit #ANAmarketers
  • @StepByStepMktng: AmEx CMO John Hayes: build a narrative around the WHY of what you do inside and outside the company. #ANAMarketers
  • @betterads: #ANAmarketers: @Starcom Laura Desmond – “Paid Media gets the party started, Owned & Earned keeps it going all night long”
  • @ANAmarketers:Very cool: #Target’s take over of the Standard Hotel in NYC http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QQ_v_WrahrM #ANAmarketers
  • @WellsMelanie: Social media can do a lot–but it can’t solve brand problems, say top marketers. #ANAmarketers http://bit.ly/dtylTj
  • @lisarosenberg: Univision’s Graciela Eleta: There is no average American. 46% of all people under 18 are minorities. #ANAmarketers #PNID
  • @cindygallop1: All CMOs speaking @ #ANAMarketers showing work – PLEASE give your agency shout-out by name. Best new biz opportunity they will have all year
  • @StepByStepMktng: Dell CMO Karen Quintos: we love data. We measure everything. we’re mining through data all the time. #ANAMarketers
  • @aaronstrout: Laura Desmond also talks about curation, content, conversation. Did she read @JaffeJuice’s #FliptheFunnel book last night? #ANAMarketers
  • @maryleesachs: Joe Tripodi of Coke talks about moving from measuring impressions to expressions, from loyalty to advocacy. Makes sense. #anamarketers

Oh, and while this isn’t really of value to anyone but me, my response on Twitter from the lovely and talented, Leann Rimes, was hands down my favorite tweet during the event. In fact, I did a quick podcast a couple of days later on what brands could learn from how Leann engages` with her customers (and prospective customers like me).

@leannrimes: @AaronStrout thx! It was fun!!!!

As an added bonus, there were some great performers at the event including the Goo Goo Dolls (remember them)? If you liked the song Name, here is a live recording (thank you iPhone 4) of the performance. I have to say, the sound quality is actually pretty good.

Who is Powered?

Normally, it is realistic to think that a company’s website can easily answer the question, “who are we.” That’s because in most cases, companies start off as something and grow organically. Occasionally, however, companies acquire (or are acquired by) other companies. And while this adds accretive products and services to their general offerings, it doesn’t radically change the focus of the business. In the case of Powered, nothing could be further from the truth… but we see that as a good thing.

In case you missed it, last January, Powered announced that it had acquired not one, not two, but THREE other companies. To borrow a term from Bill Watterson’s well-known cartoon series, Calvin and Hobbes, earlier this year Powered Inc. was transmogrified from a company that focused on building online communities to a social media agency.

Given what we were hearing in the market, this was the right move. But at the same time, January is a tricky time to merge four companies together because in our case, all four companies had a bunch of business that they were trying to close before the year got started in earnest. So all four companies were given a fair amount of leash and allowed to continue using their own names and pitching prospects using products and services that were in their wheelhouse.

As the head of marketing for Powered, you can imagine that my job of trying to promote a business comprised of four distinct entities located across three geographies — Austin, TX, New York, NY and Portland, OR — could be tricky. Up until a few months ago, that was absolutely true. But over the last three or four months, our collective companies are starting to gel and we now have a much more cohesive story to tell when asked “who are we.” But it’s taking a little time to catch the website up (kind of like changing the tires on a moving car).

In the spirit of giving people a little bit better sense of who we are, I thought it might not hurt to give a quick drilldown of what we say we do, who we we work with and then provide a few case studies. Oh, we also have a number of folks that work here who blog and tweet and podcast. If you haven’t met those folks (or didn’t know they were all under one figurative roof), I’ve provided links to them as well.

Powered is a dedicated social media agency that helps brands fully capitalize on their social initiatives, make them more relevant in an increasingly digital, connected and social world. Now with 75+ employees in its offices, we bring our clients “best-in-class” expertise across the social spectrum by offering a combination of strategy, planning, activation and management for social presence and programs including those centered on Facebook, location based/LBS, mobile applications, influencer activation and community building, content marketing, earned media and experiential marketing.

Clear as mud, right? Well they say that a picture is worth a thousand words…

At our simplest, you could say that we actually do three things:

  • Help companies “socialize” their websites
  • Build branded presences in places like Facebook, Twitter and Youtube
  • Get prospects, customers and enthusiasts to “do stuff” on behalf of companies. The “stuff” includes evangelizing, sharing, buying, referring and educating among other things.


Powered is lucky enough to work with A LOT of really cool brands. Rather than trying to list them all here, I’ve provided links to the various industries that we work with — each one contains company names and mini case studies about what we did (or are doing) with each of the brands:

Note: for a deeper dive on some of our active Facebook projects, be sure to head over here (StepChange is one of the four companies that is now a part of Powered Inc.


As I mentioned before, we have the benefit of working with some extremely smart people here at Powered… many of which try and practice what they preach (myself included). You can find the blog and twitter activity for many of us on the Powered.com home page. But for a slightly more comprehensive list, here are the folks that are regular content creators (alphabetically):

So what did I miss? What more can I tell you about Powered? Just let me know in the comments and I’ll do my best to answer!