My New Book, ‘Attack of the Customers,’ is now available

Attack of the Customers front cover

Click on the book cover to order with a 30% discount. Use promo code 9AVB4H4K

An idea I’ve been kicking around for a couple of years became a formal book project in January. Eleven months later, Attack of the Customers is now available! I’d like to ask for your support by liking the book on the Amazon page and registering your like on the book’s Facebook page. And if you can go the extra mile and plunk down $13.50, I think you’ll find it a pretty interesting read (use discount code at right).

In some ways, this book is an update of my first book, The New Influencers, which was published more than five years ago. One of the things that has always captivated me about social media is the power it gives to individuals to greatly amplify their voice. Several of the case studies in New Influencers involved customer attacks in the days when blogs were about all people had to work with. Today, attacks take many different forms and involve many different tools, but the pattern is the same: People have learned that they can get better results from rallying friends and supporters to their cause than by going through established customer service or complaint channels.

Most customer attacks don’t go viral, but they can be effective even without big numbers. Just last week a woman who claimed she had been victimized in a contract dispute with a big Canadian retailer took her cause to YouTube and Facebook. With YouTube views averaging about 25,000 per day, her story caught the eye of mainstream media, which is usually the turning point at which things happen. One thing I discovered in writing the book is that mainstream media attention is essential to helping a cause go viral. Newspapers and magazines may be suffering financially right now, but they’re just as important as they always have been to validate and spread information.

Farming Out Customer Care

One reason customer attacks have become so numerous in recent years is because businesses and government agencies have historically had such miserable customer service. Support organizations were outsourced en masse in the 1990s, customer service agents were hidden beneath layers of confusing call routing menus and complaints routinely disappeared into black holes. Big organizations often didn’t respond to complaints because they didn’t have to. Customers had no easy way to share their frustrations, so there was little concern that a product or service deficiency would become a problem.

Goodbye to all that, and good riddance. Customers now complain so fluidly that the problem for many businesses is figuring out which gripes to take seriously. In the final chapter of Attack of the Customers, my co-author Greg Gianforte presents a formula he calls “Eight to Great.” It’s a list of eight steps companies can take to become customer-focused at the core, and it’s been applied by thousands of companies during Greg’s term as founder and CEO of RightNow Technologies.

His advice really comes down to the Golden Rule: Treat others the way you would like to be treated. The trouble is that the payoff of good customer satisfaction is a lot harder to measure than the benefit of a dime saved in production. We make the case that companies have no choice but to invest in this area, though. In the age of the empowered customer, service is one of the few points of differentiation left.

Self-Publishing Experiment

This is the first of my five books that I’ve self-published. We used Amazon CreateSpace and hired professional design and copy editing resources, but much of the work between the covers was done with Microsoft Word. I even created the index myself to see what the experience was like (although I don’t think I’ll try that again). Many authors are experimenting with self-publishing now because the commissions on commercially published works are so small that book-writing becomes a $10/hour proposition. Social networks are also sufficiently mature that good word-of-mouth can potentially replace traditional marketing.

Whether that’s true or not I expect to find out in the coming months. I certainly could use your help. Whether it’s a like, a review or a credit card, anything you can do to express your support is gratefully appreciated.

And if you’re a blogger or editor who would like a review copy, just leave a comment here or drop me a line and I’ll be pleased to send you one.

My Interview With Mike Moran

I’ve probably recommended Mike Moran and Bill Hunt’s Search Engine Marketing, Inc. to colleagues and groups a couple of hundred times, so it was a kick to have an opportunity to be interviewed by Mike for his popular Biznology blog. He asked a couple of questions I had honestly never heard before. Not surprisingly, all his questions were perceptive and focused. 

I offer some comments about what corporations do wrong in social media space, as well as what they do right. Mike also challenged me to come up with the most surprising social media success stories, which required some thought! Let me know what you think.

How to Get Started With Social Media

The Massachusetts Technology Leadership Council held an informative seminar at Communispace this morning entitled “Getting Started with Social Media — Lessons from the Front Lines.” I took notes of the comments by the four speakers and pulled out a few highlights to share:

perry_allisonPerry Allison (left), Vice President of Social Marketing Innovation at talked about the value of gathering detailed feedback from a small number of people. Referring to a project that Eons conducted with Quaker Oats, she said she was initially concerned that only 80 members of the baby clothes site offered comments. “I thought Quaker wouldn’t be excited about 80 members, because this is a company that advertises on baby items on television to millions. But the brand manager was ecstatic because of the feedback and insight they were getting.” The main thing they advertise is this brand of baby clothes.

It’s the engagement that gets clients energized, she said. “Advertising currently drives more revenue, but what gets brands most excited is engagement marketing.”

Allison offered a list of common mistakes that companies make in creating online communities:  “Overloading people with information, not having a clear concept of the goals, not defining a clear value proposition, using marketing speak, and viewing the destination as a thing rather than a process.”  That last point is particularly important.  Markers have been taught to treat campaigns as projects with defined beginnings and ends.  But customer communities, if well managed, can last for years.  The value is in the process, not the deliverable.

A couple of the panelists commented on the dilemma facing mainstream media organizations today as their power is eroded by the influence of new sources.

pam_johnstonPam Johnston (left), Vice President of Member Experience at, brought an interesting background to the discussion.  She spent more than 15 years in television news before joining Gather, which means she understands the mainstream media mindset.  The most disruptive force in social media is its ability to define new trusted sources, she said. “People are looking for a trusted source and it may not be the Boston Globe. It may be your neighbor.

“I can tell you from experience that traditional media don’t want to be a hub,” she said. “They have a top-down mentality: ‘If you want it, you have to come to my site to get it.'”

Dan Kennedy, Assistant Professor at the Northeastern School Of Journalism and author of the Media Nation blog, was even more blunt about the challenges facing mainstream media. “The question of how news organizations are going to monetize anything they’re doing is the question facing the industry right now. The Boston Globe may have the largest audience its’ ever had and it’s losing $1 million a week,” he said.

Brian Halligan, CEO of HubSpot, offered a five-step approach to getting started with social media:

1. Start a blog. It’s a living breathing thing.

2. Create interesting content. If you do that, people will link to you.

3. Publish everywhere: Use Twitter, Facebook, FriendFeed and any other channel you have available.

4. Optimize for search engines. If you’ve got a good pithy title (Top 10 Tips, anyone?), then publicize it. Make it easy for people to post your content right to Twitter, Digg, Facebook and other destinations.

5. Measure it. Look at your traffic, page views, unique visitors, time spent on site. That’s how you know whether your hard work is paying off.

Sound easy? Creating remarkable content isn’t instinctive for everyone. That’s why Gather’s Johnston was dismayed when Burger King backed down last week on its audacious “Whopper Sacrifice” campaign on Facebook. The program got lots of attention for originality, even if its premise – members “unfriended” others in exchange for free hamburgers – was controversial. Burger King yanked the campaign last week over complaints that it was encouraging antisocial behavior.

“It was probably the most successful campaign Facebook has ever done,” she said. “I thought it was funny and memorable. It got people talking and those are important qualities for a memorable campaign.”

On the always popular issue of return on investment, Halligan had this to say: “Most of our customers create a LinkedIn group or Facebook page and see, on average, a 13% month-over-month growth in leads. I’d advise jumping into this. You don’t need venture backing to start a Twitter account. If you’ve got time and energy and something to say, then do it.”

Finally, Halligan got my vote for best quote with this one: “”Marketers are lions looking for elephants in the jungle. But the elephants have all left the jungle and they’re at watering holes out on the savannah. Those watering holes are called Google and Facebook and Twitter and Gather and Eons.”

So get your tail out of the jungle.