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.

WHAT WE DO
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.

WHO WE WORK WITH

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.

THOUGHT LEADERSHIP

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!