FIRE Sessions Afternoon Recap: Live #Blogchat and Why Offline is Still Sexy

This re-cap is from Kindred Spirit Mack Collier. (Check out his blog or follow him on Twitter.)

F.I.R.E. Sessions 2011

After a wonderful lunch, we headed back to the stage at the Peace Center for a Live #Blogchat.  Every time I mention to someone that we’ll be doing a Live version of #Blogchat at an event, they almost always get this puzzled look on their faces and ask how a Twitter chat works in person.  It’s simple: We turn off Twitter and talk to each other ;)

And given the smartitude in this room, I knew we would have an amazing discussion, and we did.  The general topic was how companies can connect with their customers via their blogs and help them tell their stories.  The discussion quickly shifted toward building engagement with readers, and thought Scott Stratten and Josh Hallett had some wonderful thoughts for rewarding participation from readers.  Josh told the story about how with one of Voce’s clients, they identify the most active contributors to their blogs and message boards, and give them some moderation abilities.  I thought this was a fabulous example of rewarding the type of behavior that you want to encourage.  And also giving ownership to your biggest fans, which is always smart.

At one point, I was asking the group how we can look to move the engagement level with our customers past simply getting comments.  I thought John Moore had a wonderful thought and reminder: Make the interactions more personal with our customers.  He suggested that social media can almost make us lazy, and that we tend to forget that in many ways, social media is NOT personal communication, or as personal as it could be.  Think about it, what’s more personal to you; a reply on Twitter, a phone call, or a handwritten note?  The phone call and note would be a far more personal reply to most of us than a simple tweet.


Which ended up being the perfect segue to John and Geno’s talk on offline marketing and how every touchpoint with your customer is a marketing opportunity.  John spoke first, and I was excited to hear him speak for the first time.  I loved this thought from John that seemed to frame his topic:

Marketers do not decide what gets talked about.  PEOPLE DECIDE.

This dovetailed nicely with John’s focus that every touchpoint is a marketing opportunity.  John talked about the value of being unique and giving customers a reason to talk about your brand and business.  John also used several examples to back up this thinking:

1 – Buckley’s cough syrup, ‘It tastes awful.  And it works.’  As John says, it’s true on both counts ;)

2 – Zappos’ job application is designed in a way to help the company learn more about the PERSON applying for the job, not their professional skills.  For example, it has a crossword puzzle on it.  Zappos knows if you take the time to work the puzzle, you probably ‘get’ their culture.

3 – Groupon’s unsubscribe option for its emails.  When you want to unsubscribe to Groupon’s emails, you are taken to a page with a picture of an unassuming Groupon employee that’s called Derrick.  Apparently, Derrick is the guy that’s been ‘spamming’ you with Groupon emails.  To opt-out of Groupon’s emails, you click a button titled ‘Punish Derrick’.  At this point, a video plays showing someone coming up behind Derrick and smacking him in the head.  Then the screen tells you that you were mean to Derrick, and that you can make it up to him by re-subscribing to Groupon’s emails.  Nice little guilt-trip there as well ;)

Another point that John made about a brand’s personality was ‘The more obvious you are, the more talkable you become.’

So in sum, John wants us to realize that:

1 – WOM comes from customers, not the brands.

2 – Every touchpoint is a marketing opportunity, and a chance to create positive (or negative) WOM.

3 – When you show your personality and what makes your brand unique, that creates conversation.


Next up was Brains on Fire’s very own Geno Church, who opened with one of the most powerful points of the entire day:

We are the stories we tell.  Being part of a great story compels us to share.

Think about the stories that your marketing is telling about your brand.  To expand on this, think about the stories that your customers are telling about your brand as a result of their interacting with your marketing efforts.  Are the stories similar or completely disconnected?

What I love about Geno’s approach is that he focuses on the value of brands finding their most passionate and authentic story.  Because that’s the story that will resonate with others.  Earlier this month I heard director Kevin Smith speak at Content Marketing World.  He made a point that really resonated with me then, and even moreso after hearing Geno’s talk.  He said that people are so desperate to hear the truth.  That we are all fed bullshit on a daily basis, and that if anyone or brand is willing to just be honest and authentic with the people they are trying to connect with, that they will win.

Toward the end of the talk, Geno told the story of how his beloved Mini Cooper was damaged in a wreck, and he had to get a new one.  He ordered it online, and when he went to pick it up, the wraparound banner that normally comes around the steering wheel had been turned over.  The saleswoman at the dealership that had worked with Geno to get his Mini wrote on it ‘I am going home with my dad today!! :)’  That was a very small, but personal touch by the saleswoman.  Because she understood how important this purchase was to Geno, and took a few seconds to move the pre-requisite marketing message out of the way, to replace it with a personal one.

And maybe that’s what the theme of the FIRE Sessions and ‘Let’s Get Dirty’ is really about.  Maybe ‘getting dirty’ with your efforts in connecting with your customers isn’t about marketing to them, but about understanding and connecting with them as people.

Or maybe it means something completely different.  That’s the beauty of the FIRE Sessions, they always spark my thoughts and imagination, and I know they did for everyone else that attended.  Thank you to the Brains on Fire crew for giving me another healthy dose of inspiration!

  • John Moore

    Mack … when the BlogChat LIVE discussion turned to how companies can take customer engagement up to the next level, the first thing that came to my mind was talking directly to an evangelical fan. Not through a reply on Twitter or through a comment on someone’s Facebook wall. Nope. It was about picking up the phone and calling that evangelical fan.

    The “cleaner” way to engage with customers is through online conversation. The “dirtier” and more meaningful way is to actually talk voice-to-voice and face-to-face with evangelical customers.

    Funny how that’s such a novel concept in the “social” media marketing world that dominates the attention of marketers today.

    • Mack Collier

      Good thoughts, John.  Maybe then we should view online as being a better way, in most cases, to locate passionate customers, but offline is how we can create deeper connections.  I know from my own experiences that online has enabled connections that would be all but impossible for me to initiate offline.  But after establishing those connections online, I could deepen them by interacting with those people in an offline setting.  

      I think both have a place and a role to play.  BTW thanks again for the time at #Firesessions, always learn a ton from you.

    • amywood

      Agree, about the real life, real time, face to face exchange. It’s incredible and I will make it a priority to do more of it thanks to the Fire Sessions! But let me explore something else: Google + hangouts are new and empowering us to reach out and connect more personally with a passionate fan or ten. I’ve recently had some great connections with viewers who have, for example, watched my live stream behind the scenes during the news for two plus years.  Now suddenly we’re virtually face to face in G+ hangouts and actually having a conversation.  I’m really enjoying the chance to get to know them better. Is this also a two way tool, we should explore in our quest for connecting?  It seems to be a step or two below a true face to face exchange, but a powerful tool none the less.

  • Geno Church

    Mack, thanks for the kind words… you make me sound far smarter than I am.

    The beauty of stories… is the digging required to find them. We can learn so much when we don’t always look forward but turn inward and understand why people value and love a brand.

    Then we have a greater chance of knowing where we should go together…

    Thanks for being part of the BOF family…

  • Chase McMichael | InfiniGraph

    Geno  looking forward to seeing you in SF at Socialize have to make time to show what new @infinigraph   BTW the post ROCKS love your input on my recent socialtimes
    Social Ménage à Trois in Paid, Earned and Owned Media    @chasemcmichael