Category Archives: Internet

Carving out a niche

Last week in the office, one of our engineers was up to his usual routine: giving one of our H-1B hires an impromptu English lesson.

“I’m not sure what the word is, but you see them in cathedrals all over Europe.”

“I’m Jewish.”

“Doesn’t matter. They put statues in them, off to the side of where people worship.”

“Wait,” I interrupted. “Do you mean a ‘crèche?'”

The first engineer looked thoughtful for a second. “Aren’t those in nativity scenes?”

“Eh, I think you’re right,” I said. “Hold on; googling.” I try not to lapse into Guy Answer Syndrome, but it’s hard to fight biology.

recess + statue + cathedral

Ruth St. Denis in Radha at the housewarming of Frank Haven.

“Got it,” I said. “The word we’re thinking of is ‘niche.’” As my mind processed the definition, a light went on.

I always assumed carving out a niche meant burnishing one’s credentials by becoming proficient in a specific field. Of course, that’s true, but there’s another step required; you must elevate yourself.

A niche is more than a hole in the wall; it’s adorned and embellished so a worshipper are reassured; “this is the saint I’m looking for.” A niche draws the eye and sets expectations; it’s a frame for the devout, but for the uninitiated, it’s a billboard.

I’ve already chiseled some space for myself. Now, the really hard work begins.

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Filed under Community Management, Internet, Personal, Social Media

CTRL + C and CTRL + V = inappropriate crisis management

This post isn’t about Rush Limbaugh. It’s about how companies react to a crisis.

Several days ago, out of professional curiosity (and a wee bit of schadenfreude), I visited Twitter and Facebook accounts belonging to several of Limbaugh’s sponsors.

Most circled the wagons while they settled on a strategy. (Five will get you ten that no Community Managers participated in these conversations.) While the suits crafted a corporate response, their social media drones flew in tight formation, awaiting instructions.

Which brings me to ProFlowers’ Twitter page.

One of my guiding principles (at work and in life) is that at any given moment, we’re all doing the best we can. So when I saw this, I was surprised and a little sad (click to enlarge):

ProFlowers.com Twitter feed, March 2, 2012

ProFlowers.com social media team: if this is the best you can do, I respectfully suggest that you find a new line of work. Preferably one where you don’t interact with the public.

Consider how much white-hot outrage it takes the average American to write an angry letter, then ask yourself whether CTRL + C and CTRL + V is appropriate crisis management.

When people still sent letters of complaint, marketers could get away with cookie cutter, Mail Merge responses like these. Using social media as a rubber stamp isn’t just lazy, it’s disrespectful; you’re telling customers (and your competitors) that contacting you was a complete waste of their time. For some ProFlowers.com female clients, I imagine it added insult to injury.

ProFlowers might have alienated fewer people if they’d simply posted an opaque response to buy some time and went dark until they had a real announcement to make.

Put another way: a florist in a small town sponsors a local bowling team. After the team loses a tournament, several keglers start a brawl that results in injuries, arrests and very unflattering local news coverage. Because the team was sponsored by Roger’s Florists, a group of concerned citizens visits the proprietor to find out if he’ll continue supporting the team.

Each time a customer asks Roger whether he’ll keep buying bowling shirts and shoes for the team and letting them use his van for road trips, he extracts a 3 X 5 card and clears his throat before reciting:

“Your concerns affect how we manage our dealings with local sports teams. Thank you again for your feedback.”

or:

“I understand your concerns and I will ensure that your feedback is communicated to the manager of the bowling team.”

Even after Roger washes his hands of the bowling team, how many customers will keep him at the top of their list the next time they have a need for a florist? There’s a lot of competition out there.

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In which I share an ironic moment with myself.

In which I share an ironic moment with myself.

High expectations, indeed.

Scalpers 1, me, zero. (click through for the larger version.)

Well, it was like, this, see:

Dave Chappelle performs standup only intermittently since he retired from his breakout TV series. As a result, if you want to see him live, you need to be very lucky, or you have to know someone. Or, you’ll go to a scalper.

Tickets for all three nights sold out in less than half an hour, so a friend posted an ad on Craigslist seeking 2 tix for last night’s show, and a guy responded. I met him at Powell BART on Tuesday night and he showed me his printed StubHub receipts for the tickets.

The paperwork looked legit, so I gave him $150, much less than what he paid for them via StubHub and just a little over face value. He bought them as a New Year’s gift for his girl, but she had to do inventory at Nordstrom last night, so he decided to unload them. I overlooked this giant red flag because I really wanted to see Dave Chappelle.

Red Flag Day, photo on Flickr by tuchodi

Nothing to see here.

The line at the venue was the longest I’ve ever seen at The Independent, so it took a long time for us to actually get in even after doors were opened. And then we got the bad news from the guy reading barcodes at the door; he’d scanned these tickets 40 minutes ago when the doors first opened.

God bless the mark.

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Filed under Internet, Personal, San Francisco