Opinions And Ramblings By Adam Kmiec On All Things Media

What I Look For In A Conference

There’s no shortage of conferences you can attend. Some are mammoth in scale and complexity, like SXSW and CES. Others are more intimate in nature, generally covering a very specific topic. I love a great conference. Unfortunately, not all conferences are great. Most, are good and some are bad; but, few are great.

Time away from the office is priceless. When you attend a summit/conference, you’re giving up face time, meeting time and time to work on critical initiatives. That an organization wants you to attend a summit is a privilege. Beyond the time investment there are also financial investments being made. For example, attending SXSW Interactive can easily run north of $5,000 for the conference pass, hotel, airfare, food, drinks, etc. This isn’t to say that SXSW doesn’t deliver a return on that $5,000, it’s more to provide context, that knowledge isn’t free.

Having attended as both a participant and presenter at several conferences across the globe, I’ve developed a set of filters to determine if a conference is worth the investment:

  1. Commitment to Quality: This starts at the top. Conference circuits are a business and the leaders who run that business, have hard decisions to make. For example, how many sponsored presentations are part of the day’s agenda? But, it takes really solid leadership to say no to something that could generate revenue while infringing on the overall conference experience. A commitment to quality is reflected not only in those decisions, but in the editorial staff that’s putting together the day’s sessions. It’s not easy to get A level talent out of the office for an hour or two, to get on a stage and share their knowledge. However, a savvy editorial team coupled with strong leadership and great attendees, makes for a heck of a carrot when recruiting speakers. Many conferences claim to be high quality, few are high quality across every dimension.
  2. Vendor to Buyer Ratio: To run a conference, money has to come from somewhere. You either need attendees to form over anywhere from $500 to $2,000 for a “pass” or you need vendors to help fund the operation via advertising, speaking opportunities or the chance to connect with attendees that are “buyers.” Granted, this isn’t 100% black and white, as many conferences apply a combination of the two approaches. To my knowledge, I’ve never seen a formula that outlines the right ratio, but in my experience, when you get exceed 2 sellers for every 1 buyer, you cross a threshold that stunts innovation, learning and sharing, while casting a cloud over the entire summit experience. While 2:1 looks scientific, the reality is, this is equal parts art and science. It’s not just how many, but the quality and seniority level of the vendors. Again, this goes back to an overall commitment to quality. If you value the overall quality of experience, above all, you tend to end up with not only the right ratio, but also the right vendors.
  3. Content and Speakers: Again, no magic formula here and believe me, 10 attendees can listen to the same session and walk away with 10 different points of view regarding the quality of said session. That said, I try to keep this simple. I want 2 things from the content and speakers. First, I need a mix of inspirational and practical sessions. This isn’t easy. The practical ones, while not often fun can be the most valuable. And the inspirational ones, while having high talk value, can leave you struggling for how to apply the concept to your business. Too much of one and you have either a boring conference or a pointless one. Second, I want speakers from varying walks of life. Their backgrounds should be diverse, as should their roles, seniority and business verticals. This variety often creates compelling dialogue and enriches the overall conference experience.

There are only 2 conferences / summits that consistently hit the mark across my 3 pieces of criteria: iMedia and Brand Innovators. In full disclosure, I’ve had the opportunity to attend their summits, sit on advisory boards that guide programming and have become friends with several members of the summit staff. I think it’s important you know that, but I think it’s also important that you know, that level of investment and connection to these summits wouldn’t happen, if I didn’t find them both to offer incomparable value.

iMedia and Brand Innovators are similar in their approach. First and foremost, they realize, the goal of a great summit experience, is to inspire, connect and enable its attendees. The value they both place on quality is unmatched. From the speakers to the location to the vendors and everything else in between, they deliver a nearly flawless experience. But, what separates iMedia and Brand Innovators from so many other conferences, goes well beyond that aspect. They both have, in my opinion, the right approach to a summit size. They’re small enough to be manageable and provoke honest, real dialogue, but large enough to learn from a diverse wealth of knowledge. It’s similar to having a great party. You need the right mix of personalities and number of people.

I have a high bar for attending summits. You should too. Your time is valuable. Make sure when you attend a summit that you’re time is well spent. If you attend an upcoming iMedia or Brand Innovators event, you’ll be increasing your odds of making that happen.

A Truly Special Father’s Day

Today, June 15, 2014, is Father’s Day. It’s the 1 day a year, we acknowledge Dad. Many ties and golf balls were purchased. Oh there will also be some grill tools, socks and of course a wide assortment of “Best Dad” items.

But, beyond Father’s Day, today is also my son, John’s, birthday. It was bound to happen; the calendars foretold we would one day, share this day. I never thought much of it, until this past week.

John Turns 5

In so many ways my journey to becoming a great dad is tied to my son. By all definitions of the word, “dad”, it was April 13, 2007 when I was finally bestowed that title. That was the day my daughter, Cora, was born. With Cora, everything was easy. She looked like her mom, buy she was me, 100%. This was the girl who talked early and fast. The girl who lacked fear; she climbed trees, road trikes and slid down slides. School came easy to her; so easy in fact, that she simply stopped doing homework…just like I did when I was her age. Understanding how to be Cora’s dad, was simple…it meant following the blue print for my father raised me.

  1. Set the bar high
  2. Nurture curiosity
  3. Be tough, but fair
  4. Introduce different points of view
  5. Make it clear, the one person you never lie to, is your dad

Understanding what would motivate, interest and inspire Cora was as easy as looking in the mirror. Like I said, she looks like her mother, but she’s wired like me. Frankly, in many respects, such similarities made being a father relatively easy.

John, however, is the perfect example that two kids, from the same DNA, can be completely different. Everything that Cora is, John is not. Cora is blonde and blue eyed, but John has brown hair and eyes. Cora is very black and white; perhaps it’s what makes her so successful in her STEM program. For her, there are only 2 outcomes; it’s binary. But, John sees the shades of grey in between Cora’s black and white bookends. John’s a natural born athlete, with Cora more of an artist. Where Cora lacks fear, John is more prudent…he evaluates a situation first, identifies the risk, determines if it’s worth taking and then maybe, takes action. This is not to say that one approach is better than the other, but John’s personality is definitely not the same as mine.

John’s uniqueness offers balance and for some time, challenge. If Cora is an ENTJ, like me, John’s something like a ESFP. Where Cora and I judge, John perceives. Where we think, he feels. And where we rely on intuition, John senses. Thankfully, we’re all extroverts!

I thought I had this whole fatherhood thing figured out. With Cora, it seemed that every button I pressed, was the right button. Trying to raise John in the same way I’d raised Cora lead to countless mistakes. Kids are unique and you can’t copy and paste the same approach. That was fatherhood lesson 1.

As I look back on it, I think it was John’s love of sports (specifically basketball and baseball) that helped me understand how to be a better father for him. He’s a natural; simple as that. As I’ve said many times before, he has more natural ability than I ever did; and I was very good. He likes to work at it. Nary a day goes by when he doesn’t ask “dad, wanna play catch?” And what father turns that down?

John At The Bat

Sports are more grey than they are black and white. They take time, patience and constant adapting. Watching him find joy in playing is such a fulfilling and rewarding experience.

I think when guys imagine having sons they imagine this “chip off the old block” who’s a spitting image of them. We yearn for a “Jr.” even if he’s not a Jr. in name. John may look like me, but he’s not wired like me. And that difference has made me a better person and father to both my children.

When John learned we would be sharing this day, he wanted to know who got to choose breakfast. I mean, it’s an important thing, right? I’m proud to write, I had no problem letting this be his day. After all, without him, I’d just be a dad and not a father.

The Open Road

We did something a little bit different for Memorial Day weekend this year. We didn’t stay home. Although on Monday, we were back in Chicago and we smoked some 7 lbs of meat. We didn’t hit the beach. Although many of our friends did. We didn’t fly out of town. Although we looked into and it’s something we’ve done before. No, this year, we hopped on the Harley and followed the Lake Michigan Circle Tour, going from Chicago to Milwaukee. I won’t bury the lead; if you get the chance to do this drive, do it. It’s stunning.

Last year, we bought our first motorcycle: a 2014 Harley Davidson Sportster Iron 883. Unfortunately, we purchased it pretty late in the year and due to 2013 snowpocalypse and 2014 snowmageddon, we really didn’t get an opportunity to take it out very often. But, with the weather finally turning around, we’ve had it out pretty much every week. It’s  a perfect bike for a beginner. With 5 gears and the iconic Harley engine, you can get going pretty fast, but you’ll never go fast enough to put yourself in harm’s way. The 3 gallon tank will get you anywhere between 120 and 150 miles; just long enough to get away.

As we looked at the forecast for the weekend, taking the bike out for our first ride over 20 miles, was a no-brainer. This of course didn’t mean we weren’t nervous. To mitigate some of the risks that were causing the nervousness we made 3 decisions:

  1. We would leave at the crack of dawn on Saturday. Not only would the roads be emptier, but we’d also catch a spectacular sunrise coming over Lake Michigan.
  2. We planned to stop every 40 miles. The first time would be stretch out. The second would be for gas.
  3. We stuck to the Circle Tour route, which eliminated highways.

What a trip. I can see why people, once bitten by the motorcycle bug, are lifelong riders.

Our Harley Davidson Sportster Iron 883 Along Kenosha Beach

The photo above was taken at Kenosha beach, just after sunrise. As we were driving up, the shear beauty of the sand combined with the different hues of blue from the lake and the sky, made for unexpected stop. That’s the thing about riding a bike:

There’s always something waiting at the end of the road. If you’re not willing to see what it is, you probably shouldn’t be out there in the first place.

There was no GPS to listen to. We had no phones to distract us; they were tucked neatly away in our pockets. We even lacked music to sing along with. All we had were each other, the road and the hum of the engine. It was all we needed.


Friday Five – May 23, 2014

Anthropologie Chooses Pinterest To Launching A First Look At Their June 2014 Catalog
In another example of how important Pinterest is becoming to retailers, Anthropologie chose Pinterest, not email, not their website, not Facebook, to tease customers with the new items that are going to be featured in next month’s June printed/mailed catalog. As part of the Pinterest launch they partnered with Sarah Yates, a noted and influential blogger, that’s already being read by their customer base. I’m clearly not the target, but these shoes are something else http://bit.ly/1vM4g62

How Glamour is rethinking content for the mobile era
Big data. Yep. Big data. That’s what’s driving Glamour’s new approach to content. “Glamour, using data from Parse.ly, Omniture and Chartbeat, saw fashion readers tend to come in around lunchtime and again at night, when they’re planning their outfit for the next day. They tend to read on the desktop, whose bigger screen is better suited to perusing outfits than smartphones.” But, then “around 2 p.m., traffic to Glamour’s celebrity content spikes. Entertainment-seekers typically come from Facebook via their smartphone and look for updates on stars like Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper. Glamour started posting later in the day, which led to an 11 percent increase in unique visitors and 23 percent lift in pageviews to its entertainment channel.” Simple, smart and strategic. You can’t assume people will consume your content the same way across all screens, devices and times of the day. This is one of the things that makes creating a strong content strategy so challenging.

What Are You Drinking?
No really, what are you drinking. This beautifully built site experience from The New York Times, is a brilliant example of simplifying choices and helping people make smart decisions. I highly recommend you spend a few minutes playing around with the experience. It impresses and inspires.

Saatchi Launches Digital Training Program
Not the first and certainly not the last; advertising agency Saatchi is launching a new program aimed at improving the digital skills of all their employees. It’s not just agencies, it’s also our vendor partners like General Mills who are investing in programs aimed at improving the digital knowledge and skills of employees: http://bit.ly/1vMa7bB – The quest to be digitally fit is continual. It never stops. Hopefully Friday Five is one of many building blocks you’re using to stay sharp.

Doctors Check Online Ratings From Patients and Make Change

About 25% of U.S. adults consulted online physician-rating sites, and more than a third of them went to a physician or avoided one based on the ratings, according to a recent study by researchers at the University of Michigan and published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

That’s a big change from a few years ago. As social media feedback becomes a decision making criteria for patients, doctors are making adjustments to avoid being given more bad grades. My favorite quote from the article is this:

“First we did what anyone would do, we just ignored it,” says Dr. DeNicola. “Then new patients were actually canceling appointments because of reviews and we realized this could be more serious than we thought,” he says.

Be it reviews of doctors, restaurants or hair stylists, social media feedback is here to stay and everyone is taking notice.

Is Instagram Really The King Of Social Engagement?

Managing a company’s social media footprint is challenging. Even as the landscape sees more consolidation (e.g. WhatsApp), it also sees more diversity and fragmentation. It seems that for every acquisition and merger, 10 new social platforms/networks launch to take their place.

As marketers we’re wired to want to be first, fast, innovative, different, unique and game changing. But, as protectors of a company’s brand and accountable for the success of a company’s efforts in social media, we often need to temper our enthusiasm for being first, with being right. This isn’t an easy balance to maintain. The internal and external pressures are enormous. Nearly every social marketing and content leader I know is inundated with questions from internal stakeholders asking why they aren’t doing X like Y brand or how come they aren’t on Z platform. We need only to look at the number of brands looking to mirror Oreo’s “real time marketing” approach to know, headlines and internal stakeholder questions, drive actions.

There’s nothing like a provocative headline to stir up a high volume of emails from internal and external stakeholders. My inbox the past few days, has been filled up with people wanting my take on Nate Elliott’s latest report, proclaiming, “Instagram Is The King Of Social Engagement.”

Interactions With Brands' Posts - Per Forrester

That’s quite a headline. It’s almost enough to make you drop everything you’re doing in social media and transition all of your dollars and investment to Instagram.


At the heart of a great enterprise social media strategy is the ability to answer one simple question, “why?” Yes, a 1 word question. You need to be able to answer why you’re investing in something or why you’re not. The ability to answer why, comes from having a the right filters in place to guide your social strategy.

Before I continue, it’s critical to understand that a solid social strategy can not be created via paint by numbers, nor is it something you can copy and paste from another organization. If twitter works for your organization, great. If Yelp! is critical for your organization, fantastic. What works for us at Walgreens, may not work for your company. We’re also well aware that works great for Red Bull, may not be applicable to us.

When we think about where we need to invest our time, effort, resources and dollars, we ask ourselves 3 simple questions:

  1. Does it have the potential to scale. The operative word is “potential.” Not every social platform scales immediately. And not every social platform that scales immediately has the potential to sustain that scale.
  2. Is it at the perfect intersection of our brand and our customers. It seems simple, but you have to be very honest and critical. “Perfect” is a high bar.
  3. Does the platform allow us to create content that’s:
  • Linked: Discoverable, Connected, Aggregated, Tracked
  • Liquid: Everywhere, All The Time, On Demand, Screen Agnostic, Scalable And Right Sized
  • Loved: Sought Out, Share-Worthy, Memorable

There are certainly other variables we consider, but they’re ancillary to the 3 key questions we ask first.

Being this back to the powerful proclamation that “Instagram Is The King Of Social Engagement”, we didn’t over-react, because we have a great handle on “why.” When I read the headline and accompanying research, I’m perplexed as to why this is news. After all, the law of the web has always been that you can generate high engagement on low volumes. Is that truly any different than knowing that it’s wet when it rains? It’s simply not news.

As I read the original Forrester blog post and then the onslaught of media coverage around that headline, 3 thoughts came to mind:

  1. The base for Instagram brand followers is small. This immediately skews the data. The average brand has under 1,000 Instagram followers, so getting 40 people (4%) to “like” a photo is fairly easy. With FB and twitter, brands often have 100s of 1000s of followers or in our case, millions. With a larger base, the engagement rate always goes down.
  2. “Engagement” has and continues to be a nebulous descriptor. While yes, you can double-tap to like a photo, you can’t click thru to anything in Instagram. If you try to include a link, Instagram converts it to plain-text. If you’re a business that’s not in the business of branding, but rather in the business of direct response, omni-channel retailing, conversions, etc., is liking a photo a valuable engagement? I can’t answer that for you, but it’s a question to ask yourself.
  3. As scale increases, mature ad products become important. For every person who complains about Facebook cutting organic reach to 2%, remember you can pay to reach the other 98%. Also, with Facebook’s advanced targeting, you could choose to pay to reach only a certain audience group. Twitter, YouTube and other social platforms also offer this level of maturity in their ad products. At present ads on Instagram run a brand nearly $1,000,000 a month and similar to when Apple launched iAd, Instagram must approved your ad creative. While these are still early days for Instagram, the data is very clear: advertising on Instagram doesn’t scale efficiently.

The above 3 thoughts, for us, are pretty big. Instagram could be big, it might not be. It might be great for your business, it might not. It might now be right, now, but could be ready in 6 months. Only you have the answer to “why.” But, in a world where page views are monetized, it looks like Forrester and other publications are generating a lot better return on covering this story than most present day efforts by brands in Instagram.

Friday Five – April 25, 2014

The Rise of the Mobile Addict
Hearing the mobile is big, doesn’t come as a surprise. You need only to look around a conference room table as people wait for attendees to enter to know that we’re practically voluntarily chained to our phones. Flurry, a mobile analytics company, conducted an in depth study to understand how people engaged with their mobile phones. The research and analysis uncovered a group of people called “mobile addicts.” What’s a mobile addict you ask? It’s someone that launches an app more than 60 times a day. Apps, like it or not, are the reason we have our phones and they’re the conduit to our experiences on the web. There’s a lot more data and insight contained in the link. I highly recommend you making 5 minutes to check it out.

Facebook Knows Everything About You, And If You Don’t Believe Us Here’s Proof
Ubisoft is launching a new video game called Watch Dogs. The game centers around the character Aiden Pearce, a brilliant hacker and thug. Aiden will identify “targets” of interest and then take them out. Of course, a good hit-man, knows a lot about his target and that’s where the Facebook part comes in. To promote the game Ubisoft has created a tool/app that shows just how much Facebook knows about you. I won’t spoil the fun. It’s a fun experience that shows, how powerful social data is, why privacy concerns exists and why, as marketers, we need to strive for a balance between targeted and creepy…while always protecting the user experience

To Encourage Holiday Sex That Results In Babies, A Danish Campaign Offers “Ovulation Discount”
Despite continually being named for having some of the most happy people in the world, Denmark’s birth rate sits at a 27-year low. This is real concern for Denmark. No really. I’m serious. It’s an epidemic. To fix the problem, a travel agency, called “Spies Travel” used data. Yes, data. They found that Danes have 46% more sex on vacation and that 10% of all Danish babies are conceived abroad. See, real data. Capitalizing on that data, they’re offering discounts to Danes who want to take a vacation for the purposes of getting pregnant. Yes, this seems crazy. But, it’s also insights driven. Playing it safe hasn’t worked for Denmark, the past 27 years. They needed something different. If you always do what you always did, you’ll always get what you always got.

Universities Are Starting to Crack Down on Graduation Selfies
It finally came to this. Perhaps this will be the tipping point for ending the habits of selfies. It probably won’t. But, this just goes to show you how pervasive this consumer behavior is. Not unlike our Danish travel campaign, we have some real insights here about consumers and their love for expression. While the selfie itself may go away, the idea of seeing ourselves in media won’t. That’s a behavior that’s been around for hundreds of years…vanity, it’s definitely my favorite sin.

Facebook activism rarely goes deeper than a single click
From the research study abstract: “Despite the tremendous amount of attention that has been paid to the internet as a tool for civic engagement, we still have little idea how “active” is the average online activist or how social networks matter in facilitating electronic protest. In this paper, we use complete records on the donation and recruitment activity of 1.2 million members of the Save Darfur “Cause” on Facebook to provide a detailed first look at a massive online social movement. While both donation and recruitment behavior are socially patterned, the vast majority of Cause members recruited no one else into the Cause and contributed no money to it.” Let that sink in. It’s really powerful. The answer can’t simply be, “oh, we’ll just put it on Facebook and people will share it.” We need a real insight, a solid story and simplicity. If you want to read the full research, you can download the PDF here: http://bit.ly/1lJgciu

I Want To Believe

By every definition of the word, I’m a mutt. In the classic representation of what it means to be part of the melting pot, that is America. My maternal grandmother is Puerto Rican and Spanish (from Spain). My maternal grandfather is Arabic and Yemen. They brought together a household that balanced traditional Roman Catholic ideals and Muslim beliefs. Yes, you read that right. Then you have my dad’s parents. For as long as I can remember, they argued over whether they were Austrian or Polish. If you know anything about Poland’s complex history, you can understand why that was an argument for 20+ years. The birth certificates said of great grandmother said Austrian, but they and I, for a period of time, spoke Polish. My dad and his family were quite Catholic, though my dad had a much more liberal and worldly view of religion.8

Don't Stop Believing

Think about that. A farm boy from New Hampshire somehow found love with a Puerto Rican, Spanish, Middle Eastern girl from Brooklyn. If that’s not America, I don’t know what is. I will tell you this, family get togethers were always amazing. Only with a diverse family like mine could you have kielbasa, rice and beans, paella, hummus with pita bread and baklava at the same dinner table.

Growing up in Brooklyn, I had friends who were Jewish, Arabic, Spanish, German, Asian and more. My kindergarden seemingly mirrored a United Nations meeting. There was diversity like nothing else I’ve ever seen in my 34 years walking and traveling this Earth.

In 1986 we moved from NYC, the great cultural mecca of the world, to the suburbs of NJ. Now NJ itself isn’t small, but the town I grew up in was Vernon, NJ – population 20,000…diversity, virtually nonexistent (95.1% white).  To say I experienced a culture shock, would be an understatement. I’d also be downplaying it, if I said, I faced some racial prejudice. I was called a SPIC, camel jockey, sand nigger, dot head, porch monkey and a host of other names. I fought when ignoring the barbs became too much. I went to therapy to discuss my anger and resentment. I resented my parents for moving me to the middle of nowhere and for not being able to make the hate from others go away.

There was a period of time when I simply tried to hide my cultural heritage. I embraced KMIEC (said Kim-yeche), a clearly white-European name and I shunned all the other parts of my family that made me, me. It’s fair to say, I had some awkward adolescent years.

In high school, things changed a bit. I was an athlete who had brains. I was never part of the popular crowd, but I also wasn’t shunned by them. For what it’s worth, I think that’s the perfect sweet spot to be in during high school. You can be you, without the pressures of being who the popular crowd expects you to be. I finished in the top 25 of my class and had scholarship offers from MIT, Columbia and Clemson. All great schools. I chose Minnesota. I chose it for 3 reasons:

  1. It was the furthest away from where everyone else I grew up with was going to be attending. Most of my peers were staying on the East Coast, with the majority attending schools in the Boston area.
  2. It had a great Business program.
  3. They gave me nearly a 100% full scholarship.

Let me focus on the scholarship. Come college admission season, I exploited every ethnic loophole that existed. While the majority of public scholarships are distributed to “white” individuals, it’s no surprise that the majority of “need based” scholarships are given to minorities.  I knew how the system worked and I maximized the system to my financial advantage. I graduated in 3 years and with zero college debt, despite attending The University of Minnesota as an out of state resident. A big part of graduating debt free was a benefit afforded to me by University for being an “outstanding minority” who wanted to attend The Carlson School of Management. That’s right, my minority status netted me a nearly 40% reduction in total tuition fees. Add in the scholarships I earned, that were only possible, because of my minority status, and my tuition, room and board was essentially 100% funded.

This was the first and the only time I would ever characterize myself, on a formal piece of paper, as a minority. Upon graduating, I felt ashamed. I questioned whether I’d earned the right to attend the university, on my own merits, or if I was merely someone who fit a quota. This shame and self doubt propelled me to always work my ass off. I believed and still believe, that while I may not be smarter than you, I will outwork you. I try to instill the same work ethic to my kids.

While working at a large agency in Chicago, during the dot com boom and bust, I was advised by Sr. leader that I should make sure my file indicated I was Hispanic, African American (Egypt is in Africa ayer all) and/or some other minority status. I asked why? She remarked, it would protect me during layoffs. The company would never eliminate a person of color like me. I’m dead serious. This was a real conversation. When I explained to her that I had checked the Caucasian box, she shook her head and was aghast that I would eliminate the potential opportunities, advancement and protection that my minority status would have afforded me.

I’ve been working full time since 1997. I’ve never checked a box other than Caucasian. I want to believe that the world is fair. I want to believe that race, color, gender or creed don’t play a role in hiring. I want to believe that companies only hire the best candidates. I want to believe companies only fire or let go the worst candidates. I want to believe.

Fast forward several years and apparently as a person of color, I was supposed to vote for Obama. I didn’t. My mom basically called me a traitor to my race. I tried to reason with her; explaining that I voted for a candidate based on their beliefs and policies, not their gender (I voted Hillary in the primaries) or race. She would have none of that. Obama’s win was supposed to demonstrate to me and my children that a presidency was not of reach for a mixed race family like mine. I quipped, well, seeing as we’ve never had a female president, I guess my daughter can never dream of being one. This was clearly not something we were going to see eye to eye on.

Yesterday, when it was announced that the Supreme Court upheld Michigan’s ban on racial preferences in university admissions, I was supposed to be irate. I wasn’t. The color of my skin (a golden brown) should not afford me a benefit, an extra consideration, a better chance or higher likelihood of something happening. My skills, my work ethic, my desire and my contributions, however, should.

When I got engaged (the first time), my mom explained to my fiancé (a blonde hair, blue eyed, Norwegian, from Minnesota), that she would never understand the sting of racial prejudice that may one day be placed upon her future children. She based that point of view on the inability of my father, the 6 ft 1 in Polish Chemist from New Hampshire to understand the pain I suffered growing up in Vernon, NJ.

She might be right. She might not.

What I do know is that my children are taught that nothing is given to them, there are no handouts and every day they need to work harder than the last. As I look forward 10 years, when my daughter is 17 and ready to apply to colleges, I may be faced with an interesting conundrum – apply as a minority (gender, race, etc.) and open up a world of financial aid options or file as a non-minority and potential pay more long term. Dollars and cents vs. stubbornness.

I want to believe that in 10 years, it won’t be a conundrum, because we will have evolved as a people, culture and society. I want to believe that in 10 years, we will neither be granted nor suppressed opportunities because of our ethnic makeup. I want to believe that instead, we will be afforded opportunities based on the content of our character, the effort we have put in and the value we bring to society.

I want to believe.

Friday Five – April, 11, 2014

Facebook announces News Feed cleanup to get rid of spammy messages, “like-baiting”
If you were a fan of content from Upworthy, Thought Catalog or Buzzfeed, you might be in for a change in your news feed. FB, in an effort to make sure high quality content enters your news feed, is cracking down on link and like-baiting. Link-baiting, are articles with a headline that don’t match the content on the page. Like-baiting is when a brand says to fans, “like this post if, you…” – Make no mistake, the best quality always wins. Great quality isn’t spammy or gimmicky. Facebook is trying to make sure all brands adhere to this belief.

A look inside publishers’ content studios
When it comes to creating great content, there is not one-size fits all approach. Every company and industry has a unique culture, set of business challenges and staffing models. This article from DigiDay does a great job of highlighting how publishers (e.g. NY Times) are rewiring their organizations to produce better content, faster and cheaper.

NFC Nails Could Change The Beauty Industry
NFC in your phone? Sure, that’s awesome. But, now, we have NFC in your finger tips. Takara Tomy Arts in Japan has created a line of press on nails that light up when near NFC powered phones. Fad? Or the future of “wearables”?

The Internet Of Caring Things
This is a long read. But, I have a feeling it’s going to be a link you come back to, again and again. This great post from Trend Watching, highlights the future of connected devices, with a point of view, that the best connected devices will be the ones that create and improve our daily lives.

The Steve Jobs email that outlined Apple’s strategy a year before his death
An email, used as evidence in Apple’s ongoing patent case against Samsung, reveals how Steve Jobs planned the next few years for Apple. I share this, not because it’s a Steve Jobs email, but because it shows the importance of betting on behaviors (e.g. People wanting access to all their things all the time) and the need to keep innovating quickly. This passage about the iPad 2 sticks out the most to me:

2011 Strategy: ship iPad 2 with amazing hardware and software before our competitors even catch up with our current model

It’s an interesting concept and something that’s very applicable to us, given our omni-channel focus. It’s not good enough to ship one great product or launch when great campaign. The bar is now, launching several great products and campaigns, with a pace that leaves the competition gasping for air, as they try to catchup.

The Only 3 Times You Should Speak In A Meeting

One of my mentors, who I still call on for advice, shared with me her approach to meetings. I was relaying that info to someone today and it dawned on me, I’d never shared this great advice more broadly.

I think many of us take 1 of 2 paths in a meeting. We speak all the time or we say nothing. Those who say nothing, of course, are given the horrible label of “wallflower.” [sarcasm font] Wallflowers of course aren’t leaders [/sarcasm font]. The other end of that spectrum are people who talk all the time; they yearn to hear their voice heard. Well, at least that seems to be the prevailing thought.


So with that said, as I was entering a point in my career where I was routinely finding myself in meetings with the C-suite, my mentor shared with me her philosophy for when to talk in a meeting:

Speak First: If you’re the first to speak in a meeting, you set the tone, frame up the context of the meeting, outline what’s to be discussed and the decisions that need to be made. As the first person to speak, all other commentary will have to pivot off of your opening remarks. This is a great role when you’re the sponsor of an initiative, but not responsible for overall completion of the initiative or the tasks required to complete it.

Speak When You’ll Own: When you’re responsible for key parts of an initiatives, you need to fight for your fair share of the resources, budget, scope, timing, support and more. You need to both pick your spots and speak in a tone and octave that enables you to explain risks clearly and the reasons you need what you need. Also, since you’re responsible for the “task” it’s critical to make sure people understand you have that responsibility. Equally as important is making sure you understand what’s being asked of you and what scope changes are becoming your responsibility.

Speak Last: The last word is undervalued. The recency effect is very powerful in large organizations. As the person who speaks last you can sum up the key points (which are almost always captured flawlessly by scribes), outline the next steps, assign responsibilities, express satisfaction/dissatisfaction and more. The tone you set when you speak last, often sticks and it’s remembered. The “speak last” approach is something reserved for the person who owns the responsibility for the overall initiative.

It should go without saying, but obviously speak when you’re asked a question too.

I didn’t get this advice til a bit later on in my career. It’s something I’ve been working on for the past year and have tried to lean in to since I returned to Walgreens. Try it out.

What It Takes To Be A Truly Enterprise Social Platform

It’s 2014. I can tweet from 36,000 miles up in the sky. I can turn the lights in my house off and on from my phone. I can adjust the temperature in my house from 1000s of miles away, with just a few taps on my phone. Taking selfies on stage, during a live event is common place. We have public political discourse on platforms like Facebook and Reddit. Edward Snowden can live stream in for an interview at SXSW. With platforms like IFTT I can have have every photo I take on Instagram be automatically backed up to my Google Drive account and then have a text sent to my wife, letting her know they’re backed up. Yeah, technology is amazing. It really is. Tech has evolved to a point where anything is truly possible. We don’t think in terms of “can we do that” – we think in terms of “how we’ll do it.”

With such maturity in technology, business adoption of digital/social and the marketplace as a whole, it’s perplexing that we still don’t have a truly enterprise social platform. Oh, we have platforms. We have no shortage of platforms. These platforms are like tools that go into a toolbox. Ask a social marketer what’s in their social toolbox and you’ll get a wide variety of answers. The toolbox will run the range of small and niche platforms that do 1 thing exceptionally well, to platforms that do nothing exceptionally well, but do everything. You’ll find platforms that you pay for monthly on a credit card and you’ll find platforms that are hundreds of thousands of dollars and billed every quarter.

There are platforms for publishing (Hootsuite). There are platforms for sourcing (Percolate). There are platforms for monitoring (Sysomos). There are platforms for analyzing (Crimson Hexagon). There are platforms for reporting (Simply Measured). There are platforms just to make data look better in the form of dashboards (Geckoboard). We have platforms for everything. What we don’t have is 1 truly enterprise social platform that can do it all, and do it all exceptionally well.

We had the promise of such a platform. Remember the marketing behind…SalesForce’s Marketing Cloud? It was to be the end all, be all answer for a social business. But, it fell flat. Actually, it imploded. Don’t take my word for it though. Marc Benioff, SalesForce’s CEO, at DreamForce 2013, all but admitted, Marketing Cloud never realized its vision. The revenue numbers reported at the end of fiscal for SalesForce back that up as well. I’m not picking on SalesFore, more so, it’s important to note that if a company like SalesForce can’t get it right, you can’t expect others to as well. It’s hard. Social, at scale, is hard.

At any marketing conference, you can bet, leaders of social are discussing the tools/platforms they’re using, with one another. If you were to listen in to these conversations, it would sound a lot like something connected to something via tape, bundled together with rubber brands, with Google docs in there somewhere, filling a gap. It’s a mess. And, honestly, as we close Q1 of 2014, I can’t believe it’s still a mess.

I always say, don’t shake a stick at something, if you aren’t willing to offer a recommendation for how to fix what’s wrong. With that in mind, here’s what I think a truly enterprise social platform needs to have…actually, before I get into that, first let me outline what companies building platforms need to understand:

The “Plumbing” Isn’t Easily Changed: If you’re already working with a suite of platforms and partners, and chances are, you are, changing platforms and partners can be painful. While there are some platforms you can change out with very little pain, the fact is, often times, changing platforms brings upon legacy challenges. There’s also the likelihood that there are some platforms you’d like to retain. With all that in mind, what makes a buyer’s life easier is if your platform works more like a connector than a pipe. If you’re coming into a situation where there’s already existing plumbing in place, your platforms ability to connect and play nice with all the existing platforms that are in place, makes your platform enterprise ready.

The Seat License Model Is Antiquated: There’s simply no reason you should be offering a seat license model, if you’re claiming your platform is designed for the enterprise. A truly enterprise approach would mean that anyone, at any time, from any team, any partner, across the globe, should be able to access and use your platform. What makes your platform sticky in an organization is having it used by a significant number of people. The more people who use, enjoy and rely on your platform, the better. When you charge per seat, what you’re conveying is that you don’t want your platform used at the enterprise level. Let’s use some simple math to illustrate this point. Let’s assume your platform uses a $100 per person per seat per month approach. At a company like Walgreens, where we have 200,000+ employees, you’d in essence be charging $240,000,000 a year. Yes, I said, $240,000,000. Even if I go with a 90% discount, and it’s only $10 a person per month, we’re talking about $24,000,000. That’s insane. Beyond the fact the dollar amount is ridiculous, it also positions your company as someone who nickels and dimes. If you have a great platform, price it like one. Don’t try to compensate for how much your platform lacks, by charging on a per seat basis.

Sell The Platform or Services, Not Both: Building on my nickel and dime comment, don’t adopt a car dealer mentality where after I’ve bought the car you keep selling everything from warranties to undercoating. If you make a killer platform, make a killer platform and charge a fair price for it. If you’re great at enterprise services and strategy, start a consultancy. When you try to sell both, it makes buyers wonder if the reason you’re pushing your enterprise services so hard, is to compensate for an inferior platform.

Ok, now on to what a true enterprise social platform should look like. It’s actually quite simple. A social enterprise platform needs 7 core features:

Light Listening: A light listening feature needs to answer one simple question, “what’s going on, right now.” That’s it, it’s that simple. I’m serious. This feature needs to address the business scenario that often arises, where someone asks, “what do consumers think/feel about X.” This feature takes the pulse of a situation. It’s directional. It doesn’t have to be 100% accurate. It needs to be accurate enough to offer some directional context.

End To End Publishing: Your platform should allow for the sourcing of content, review of content, editing of content, distributing of content and the evaluation/measurement of content. Many platforms do 1 or 2 of these things really well. But, no one does them all at an A-level.

Rich Analytics: Where light listening answers the question, what’s going on right now, rich analytics answer the question, “what happened.” Hindsight is supposed to be 20/20. Rich Analytics need to be 20/15. If we’ll accept 70% accuracy for sentiment analysis with the light listening portion of a platform, the rich analytics must be 90%+ accurate. You also can’t lock this data behind a wall. It needs to exportable into a wide variety of formats. It should also have the ability to mashup other data sets. For example, a conversation volume chart, is a nice 1st step. If everyone is talking about a specific link on your website, wouldn’t it be great to be able to see your Omniture data related to that link, in the same enterprise platform?

Customer Care Management: If you want to be a serious enterprise player, you need a customer care module. The key here is that module must work as a stand alone feature, because in many orgs, care is handled by a separate team. It also needs to fit into the other modules for situations where an org has 1 team working across all aspects of social, including care. Most platforms can only do 1 of these flows well.

Mobile At The Core: We don’t want to hear it’s mobile web friendly because it’s built in HTML 5. That’s a nice first step. But, your platform better have an app there iOS and Android ready. Simply put, 75% of everything I can do from a desktop experience needs to supported in your app.

Flexible Integration: This is the hardest part. I get it. I want you to integrate with Simply Measured, but you see them as a competitor. I get it. But, I also need you to figure it out. Again, if you want to be enterprise and you want to become the irreplaceable plumbing, you’d better figure out how to play well with a whole host of other platforms and partners.

Multiple User Roles: Probably the easiest feature to nail. Some people need to be administrators, capable of changing, creating, deleting, etc. Others require just read only access. There’s also a host of other roles in between those two end points.

I don’t pretend to know how to build software. It’s not easy. I can appreciate that. I can also appreciate that in the Wild Wild West that has been the last 5 years, in social, it was much easier to build a half baked platform that sorta did 1 thing really well. Clients were lining up to buy your version of Windows ME and there was little reason to think bigger and establish a higher bar for quality of experience.

It’s 2014. Social is growing up faster than we all thought. The bar is high now. It’s no longer amateur hour. I’m sure I missed a few things in this post. But, I’m also confident I hit on 90% of the pain points and requirements, expected by Sr. leaders in social.

You can do better. You need to do better. If there’s one thing history has shown us, the first one to really nail it, wins. In this space you don’t want to be 2nd place.