I Love You Man!

At work this week, we had a few customers that were frustrated by/didn’t completely get how to setup our products. They expressed that frustration over the Web. I was able to respond to their concerns in a quick manner, solve their problems, and show them how much we appreciate them as customers.

The whole experience reminded me of a talk that I had heard many many years ago.  I was at a Promise Keepers event and the group’s founder Bill McCartney was speaking about his experiences when he was head football coach at the then national champion University of Colorado Buffalos.

He talked about how when he was head coach that he would take each player aside and show the player that he loved him.   I can’t imagine that he went up to each of them and was like “I love you man!”  People experience love in different ways, whether it’s taking someone out for a beer or writing them a quick e-mail telling them how much you appreciate them.

I think if you’re running a company and responsible for managing your employees or you’re a community manager like me and responsible for managing/growing your customer base, the number one thing that you have to do is learn to show love to every single member of your community.

By showing your community your appreciation… by doing what my friend Mike McDerment says “execute on extraordinary experiences everyday”, you’ll not only win yourself customers & users.  You’ll win yourself people that are passionate about your cause and who’ll help you get where you want to go.

Over Easter break, I was in Indianapolis to visit my sister and brother-in-law.  During my few days there, we went and hung out with a friend of theirs that runs a welding company where he makes these really rad custom handmade belt buckles.  Now I had heard about him before but  it didn’t make a big impression with me.  By him taking time to hang out and show us more about what he does, it allowed me to make more of personal connection with him and thus more willing/excited to talk about him with others.

Another prime example of this happened to me in February when I was at the after party for the Future of Web Apps conference in Miami’s South Beach.  Internet celebrity and host of Wine Library TV Gary Vaynerchuk was there.  Now him and I had met on numerous occasions but he meets hundreds of people a day so I didn’t expect him to remember me at all.

Well, I was talking with some others around a table and all of a sudden I feel someone rubbing my shoulders.  I turn around and it was Gary Vaynerchuk.    Now the interaction was maybe all of 30 seconds but it was meaningful.  He could have spent the entire time at the party with the throngs of folks that would have happily kissed his ass all night but he went out of his way to come over and say hi.    It meant a lot.

Wanna have a strong community of people that stand behind you,  your company or your product?  I firmly believe that to do that you have to do exactly what Bill McCartney said.  You have to tell each and every person in their own little way, “I love you man.”

Have you had this experience?  What’s the last time someone went out of their way in a way that you didn’t expect to show you how much they appreciate and love you?  When’s the last time that you did it for someone else?

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Learning from Data…

One of the awesome yet potentially scary byproducts of us as a culture using technology and the Web especially as a medium for consuming media is that we generate TONS and TONS of data which gets fed back to massive central computers and is stored forever.

Think about all the different online tools that you use on an online basis.   I buy a book of Amazon.  There’s data there.  I review a restaurant on Yelp.  There’s data.  I do a Google search.  There LOTS and LOTS of data there.

Every time we do anything online we allow people to pick, probe, and analyze our beviors that would have never been otherwise possible.

When companies have more data, they can more effectively test against what technique reaches you more effectively.  Is layout #1 or layout #2 going to give me a higher conversion rate on my Web site?  This is really great.  No longer do we have to make our decisions based on hunches or poorly made assumptions.

Think about all the great things that Google Analytics (GA) has allowed us to do.  I launched a Web site for my church here in DC back in November.   GA has been so good to me.  As we look to phase 2, I now know which pages people like, which we need to double down on, and which we need to completely rethink.

But what about other mediums?

I was at Social Web Foo Camp last weekend.  In one of the sessions, we were talking about the future of the social book.  We got into talking about the Amazon Kindle.   I hadn’t thought about how, by turning the book into a digital medium, you’re making it possible to grab all kinds of attention and engagement data about how people read books.

If you were an author, how cool would it be if you could know how far your reader got in your book, how many times folks had to flip back pages, what words people looked up, or how long people were staying actively engaged with the book.  Technically, you could gather that data with the Kindle and I’d be shocked if they weren’t.  “Well… only 23% got all the way to page 400.”  Maybe, when you write the second edition of the book,  you need to beef up right around page 400 because most folks are getting lost.

Also… with more data, you’re able to give your users more customized and more personal experiences.   The obvious examples are things like Amazon or Pandora, which give me recommended items based on my previous transaction history.

A cool example that I hadn’t thought of is the Firefox plug-in Ambient News.  Some really smart guys at Mozilla were trying to solve the problem of how can we create an RSS reader for our users with out them having to go through the crude process of manually subscribing to an RSS feed.  They made a plug-in which looks at the data around which sites you go to (they call this the ambient layer) and automatically put together a page of news feeds setup just for you.  It’s just magically there with all of your favorite sites.

But, so… we’re getting all of this rich data and these rich experiences because of the rich data that we’re generating for it.  What do we give up in the process?

Are we going to get to a point that all these services offer us such rich benefits but you first have to sell them your life… sell them your soul?  That’s one of the message that I took away from the movie We Live in Public, which you should all see and I want to write about later.

What do you think?

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Re-finding my muse…

Wikipedia describes a muse to be the “goddesses or spirits who inspire the creation of literature and the arts. They were considered the source of the knowledge, related orally for centuries in the ancient culture, that was contained in poetic lyrics and myths.”

Well as some of you have noticed, I have taken a small break from blogging.  I felt like I had lost my muse.   I didn’t know what to write about.  A lot of things that I was writing about and thinking about was boring myself so I decided to withdraw, reconnect with what’s happening in the world, and start up again.  This is me starting up again.

It’s funny because it all started right around when I listened to the audio of Merlin Mann and John Gruber’s talk from SXSW about how to be a better blogger.  They asked the question, “what are you obsessed with?

After thinking about it, I found this question increasingly hard to answer.   Do I want to be the guy who blogs about social media? Not really.  Do I want to be the guy who writes about a new CSS problem?  Not really.  Do I want to be the guy who reposts the random thing that I find on Digg or Google Reader?  Only if I can really add something to the convo.

I needed to figure out where I could focus my intellectual fire power, which led to me thinking more about where generally my passions lie.

I love what I do… commnity management. I love serving people.  I love helping people connect together. I love helping communities form, especially when it’s in a way that may not have happened otherwise. These are the things that I’m obsessed with.

I do love technology but for me it really is just a means to an end and not the end.   It absolutely doesn’t matter to me whether or not community is built using technology.  All too often I feel like we lean on technology too hard and end up missing out on the great memories that could be made with offline community.

This is the stuff that I want to write about.  This is the stuff that I think about all the time.  It’s what I’m obsessed with.

So… expect more cool things coming from this blog soon.

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