You’re an extremely prolific blogger but you recently launched a newsletter with separate content. Why did you feel it necessary to have a presence in people’s inboxes?
Blogs reach one kind of person. The newsletter reaches another. I’ve also launched an iPhone app, a better mobile UI, and I’m available in the Kindle Store, as well. To be a new media outlet is to be every bit as interested in finding the people you need to build relationships with, regardless of technology. If I thought it was sustainable, I’d buy a printing press, too.
When’s the last time you came across some really, truly useful branded content?
I find useful branded content lots lately, because many companies are learning how to be smarter with using content marketing in their efforts. Often times, it’ll be content created by a company who plays in that space. One example I like is when Sysomos uses their listening tools to generate interesting reports about the social media space. It’s a report I can use, and it’s done by a tool that sells to people like me in the space where they’re using it.
As someone who seems to spend a lot of time on the road, what do you look for in a travel brand?
I need brands on the move to be topical, bite sized, localized, and relevant to my travel experience.
What magazines, blogs, mobile apps, etc. do you consult when looking for travel-related resources or content?
I ask Twitter more than any other resource when it comes to travelling. I usually get up-to-the-minute information, including interesting deals, just by throwing the question out there to Twitter. Mind you, I have a decent-sized following. It might not work that way for everyone.
How can airlines use social media to engage customers beyond the trip planning and selling stage?
Airlines are already doing this. Morgan Johnston at JetBlue and (until recently) Paula Berg at Southwest are great examples of airlines reaching out and bridging customer service and PR/marketing efforts. There are a lot of people in the airline world looking at the social space for engagement points, and every time they participate, I take notice.
Why do you think the airline industry – on the whole – gets such a bad rap in terms of customer service? Is it that they insist on seeing it as a burden instead of an opportunity?
The airline industry isn’t alone in considering customer service a necessary cost centre instead of a great point of communications and relationship building. Southwest probably gets the best marks in the US, and I’d say Virgin America does well, too. But none of them get an “A” from me in how they handle service. I’d say that if I had marketing dollars for an airline, I’d throw 1-3 percent of them into call centre improvements, and by that, I mean human training.
You speak at lots of conferences and events around the world that are frequented by online marketers and social media types. Do you think the Internet has increased the power and importance of face-to-face connections or diminished them?
I think the Internet serves as “hamburger helper” for those moments in between face-to-face experiences. You can’t fully replace face-to-face, and even if you could, I think we humans like seeing each other in the flesh from time to time. The Internet, however, has improved the opportunities to do interesting things in between those moments.
In your book you talk about Robert Scoble’s experience with Microsoft and the importance of being “a person first” when it comes to corporate blogging. But is there a danger in a large brand becoming associated too closely with one individual or personality?
I think brands have to build a deep bench when it comes to mixing humans and brands. I think Scott Monty at Ford is doing a great job. If he leaves, who is their next person up at bat? We don’t know. Frank Eliason at Comcast is working to fix this with his brand and so is Richard Binhammer at Dell.
How do digital natives get the technophobes and social media skeptics within their company on board?
Show them the benefits. Don’t make it a prescription. Show people what they can do when they use the tools. Show success stories. Show case studies that prove the value. That’s how Tony Hsieh at Zappos did it, and they sold the company for over a billion dollars. You think they all knew that Twitter was a powerhouse tool? No. But Tony showed them, and the organization benefited greatly.
What will become of the agency model in a world where brands can reach millions with one measly tweet?
I think that marketers were given tools from another generation and that those tools are no longer as powerful. In my mind, what comes next is a rediscovery of the importance of relationships in business. Banging an email list for 1.5 percent conversion won’t cut it any more. We’ve got much better success rates in social media, only it takes more time and hand holding. The new formulas aren’t fully baked, so people shy away from the new tools. Well, the decline of the old tools is well documented. Sit around on that sinking ship much longer and…