Share some interesting things with customers every day

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Here’s something interesting I read today on the effects of smartphones on shopping. The article matters because it’s about a big trend (changing habits in shopping, especially in everyday environments like grocery stores) and has long-term societal implications. For example, what will be the next social habit that’s disrupted or changed by smartphones? You might wonder why an article on shopping and smartphones matters to our conversation.

I shared this link because I thought it was intriguing and could help you with your day. You might not have liked it if I shared a cat video, pictures of breakfast, or another Internet cliche (or maybe you would. Everyone needs a momentary distraction now and then). I believe that when the content is truly useful to you, it will make your day better.

When you share content with customers, you should make the same decision and thought process. What’s interesting to your customer? It might be something you care about deeply that’s related to serving the customer. It might be a piece of relevant information about your product or service that you feel they should know. And it might be an article about larger industry trends. In any of those cases, sharing to the customer should create value.

And value is subjective, so it’s not often easy to decide what to communicate. Aside from the obvious (be smart, and only share the things you would want other people to attribute to you in public), there are a few easy ways to share what’s going on in your industry, what you think the customer should know, and how to share what you care about in a thoughtful way.

First, start with the context – what matters about this item? For an industry-relevant post you could be sharing information about trends, market validation, and the “big picture” – the shopping article linked at the beginning of this post is a great example. The knowledge is relevant because it demonstrates how society is changing in long-run ways, and will change behavior.

Second, you should also share why you think this item matters to the individual (or to the class of customer). When you’re sharing product or service knowledge, if you present the information in a value/benefit statement it will be easier for the customer to see the value of the content. “What’s in it for me?” should be your mantra when viewing the content from the customer’s perspective – if there isn’t value there, perhaps you should share something else or not at all.

And finally, it’s ok to share things that matter to you that aren’t directly relevant to the customer – just make sure they are broadly applicable. Imagine the “how would this play on the front page of the New York Times” test and you’ll figure out pretty quickly what not to share (and if you don’t know, ask a friend first). When you share, focus on incremental improvement. Don’t be afraid to ask customers, employees, and partners: “how can we do better”?

Revisiting the API of Me

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Revisiting the API of ME

About 6 months ago, I wrote an article on the “API of ME“, an idea for a system of capturing, sharing, and **limiting* information by and about customers so that they could participate actively in a marketplace of data that includes their data. This is a follow-up to that post, inspired by HelpMeWrite*

The Big Picture of Your Big Data

Big Companies (and governmental entities) make decisions about our data every day. Wouldn’t it be great if it was easier to create “the API of Me” and segment the information those companies were allowed to sell? And wouldn’t it also be great if the company could ask you (and give you micro-payment) for additional data it wanted to sell? For the purposes of argument, let’s talk about voluntary means of asking for and receiving information instead of other forms of information collection.

Why do we need a system to do this?

The current online identity system is hopelessly fragmented and controlled by companies, not consumers.

I believe that customers and browsers (people who consume media and do not purchase) have a right to know how their information is being used.

Most things that are free on the Internet need a business model. I believe that Companies have a right to make money off of this consumption and should be sharing more openly with customers how their data is being used (whether it is sold directly or aggregated.) I also believe that customers should have a right to control how that data is being asked for and used.

And there is so much information being shared today in a combination of media by customers that it’s really hard to even know what you’re sharing. It would be great if it were easier for customers to make their preferences known about the information being used.

We all need a service that can expand our existing electronic identity to other future uses and to allow those future uses to learn more about us and to provide better service, more utility, and societal good while minimizing the possibility of “bad actors” to make inappropriate use of that information.

This idea needs to support an elegant, multi-factor authentication solution that’s as simple as possible, and no simpler.

What’s the goal?

The goal of this idea is to make data sharing transparent. An API of ME would also allow you to become a data broker for the information you would like to share with the world, and to make that sharing process easy to use and understand. If you imagine a venn diagram of “most private,” “somewhat private,” and “public” information that you specify, an API of ME would help you separate that content and activity into buckets.

When a company wants your data and has never made an agreement with you for that information, a possible solution might include a detailed request for information not unlike the way that oAuth connections (consider how you connect a 3rd-party account like Twitter or Facebook) ask for that information today.

What is the benefit of an API of ME for Customers?

Customers would benefit from an API of Me by being able to specify directly what information they’d like to share and where. If the system worked well, the default level of sharing would make sense to most people (it might look like “share everything”, “share nothing,” and “tell me the kind of things you’d like to share.”) In an ideal world those customers would get paid for sharing that data.

What is the benefit of an API of ME for Companies?

Simply put, better qualified leads for activity, sales, interactions, and a true possibility at building a relationship. When a company really knows me – understanding where and when I like to be contacted and the types of offers that are valuable to me – that company gains my trust. I’m more likely to take a chance that they will do a good thing rather than immediate suspect ill will.

Can this happen?

Who knows. We are already in the business of sharing a lot of information with each other and with the companies that facilitation. Those companies are already selling our data (because, as you well know, if you’re not paying for the product, the product is you.) And yet there is the possibility that brokering the conversation will start not only a backlash at the extent to which this information is being bought and sold today but also a real marketplace for information where the key elements are owned and negotiated by the customer.

Your Next 10 social media posts: 5 industry-related, 3-business-related, and 2 about you

“For every 10 posts, make 5 about your industry, 3 about your business, and 2 about you”

@TAMcCann at the Agent Reboot conference in Bellevue, WA.

On Wednesday, I attended the Agent Reboot conference in Bellevue, WA.  During his panel discussion, Gist CEO T.A. McCann (disclosure: I work for him) suggested the following axiom, which I think is a great rule to keep in mind when you’re posting online.  I wanted to take a minute to share the way I interpret that quote and how I think about posting online.

Industry Posts (50%)

I work for a company in the tech space (software), and our users are in many different verticals.  So that makes for an interesting discussion of “Industry.”  I think the larger industry we’re in looks like Customer Relationship Management, Loyalty, and Marketing.  But it’s also Customer Support, Market Intelligence, and research.

I maintain lists that help me to track the thought leaders in different spaces: for example, I make sure that I read CRM posts by Brent Leary, Mitch Lieberman, Paul Greenberg, and others.  My goal is to provide thought-provoking, relevant content and to engage with the interesting questions in the larger software (and business field).  It also helps to contribute, either by adding thoughts in the comments or by asking your peers what they think.

Posts about your business (30%)

This category of posts is relatively obvious (help other people learn about your business) but there’s an important point to be gleaned here.  If you answer questions that people have by showing them how your product or service can help them solve that problem, it’s a much more effective message than simply sending out the same marketing message over and over again.  Make the post about your business, but share a relevant point of view that people can use today, and add to the conversation (you can’t control it, but you can shape it.)

Posts about You (20%)

Finally, don’t forget to share some of you in your social media posts.  If you’re a sports fan, tell us what you think.  If you believe in a cause, welcome people to join you.  And if you want to tell someone that you had a particularly good meal and where to find it, don’t shy from that either.

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