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Picture 40As the impact of online social media grows, I’m increasingly intrigued by the possibilities that live programming can offer as a more intimate and personal companion to Twitter, Facebook, and the blogosphere. I’ve noticed this not only with my own recent speaking experiences (which have been thoroughly energizing), but also by attending live events like Kane Camp, TEDxTC, and the MIMA Summit—each of which has been driven by a strong social media presence. So I was eagerly anticipating the first Merge Meetup, which happened earlier this week. Meetup, a fixture of the social networking world, is a shockingly user-friendly online tool for connecting people of like interests and helping them schedule live events.

Like most things related to Merge, the first Meetup was an experiment, I had no idea what to expect (and I must admit to fears that the session would be a colossal dud). And thankfully, like most things Merge, I was thrilled with the interest and the outcome. I was joined by 16 people—mostly with a design, or creative background—at Common Roots Cafe in Minneapolis, for a vigorous discussion of the state of design, design business, and design thinking. The format was loose and most of the session was spent with each of us providing revealing and illuminating introductions and background stories.

Despite the lack of a singular focus, some common themes emerged from the session, the first of which was restlessness. With the majority of the group in our 40’s and 50’s (apologies to the few in attendance who don’t fall in that demographic), we’ve been working in the creative industry for 20-30 years. There was a palpable sense that the client service model that is the norm in our industry has become unfulfilling, personally, professionally, and creatively. As we went around the room, this sentiment was echoed repeatedly. “I still love the creative process,” said Deb Miner, a designer who has launched a line of children’s products called I Get Around, “but I hate being in competition with other designers.” Scott Geiger, who worked for many years designing for the healthcare industry, described a scenario that seemed to resonate with everyone, “We would present some really great creative concepts and the client would be thrilled, then three days later they would call back and say that the project had been killed by someone higher up the ladder.”

Another prominent theme was the desire to give back to the world through our work as designers. Many in the group expressed a sense that just earning a fee for our work was not enough anymore and that there is an untapped potential in the design community to solve some of societies complex problems. This theme connects strongly with the topic of Service Design which I have been discussing regularly on Merge.

Finally, I found a common thread around the desire to find ways to collaborate more with other designers, and with professionals in other disciplines. Michael Foley, of Alphabet Moss, a firm with dual specialties of graphic design and garden design, commented that the garden design process is much more collaborative, “I’m constantly working with people who have different skill sets and backgrounds. I wish I had more of that on the graphic design side.” Again, the new models we’re seeing in some of the successful Service Design firms (mostly in Europe, so far) live into this potential by embedding designers within multi-disciplinary teams of ethnographers, physicians, anthropologists and others.

We had some amazing ideas for how the Meetup concept could evolve into a more focused format and I will be exploring these in more depth. Thanks again to those who joined me, and stay tuned for an announcement soon about the next Merge Meetup which I hope to schedule for early December.

Picture 5Seth Godin, author of Tribes and Meatball Sundae is a whirlwind. I began to write notes during his keynote presentation at MIMA Summit 09 and quickly realized this was a losing strategy. His presentation was so loaded with ideas and he spoke so fast that I simply didn’t have a chance. Frankly it was a bit difficult to follow the connection between the dots, but the individual ideas were so compelling, it almost didn’t matter (I guess that’s part of why he sells so many books). Here’s a list of some of those ideas.

  • There’s more than one way to do stuff
  • We are in the midst of an industrial revolution
  • We must ask for permission to engage the people who want to learn from us (rather than continually trying to reach the people who don’t)
  • $1 million to $40 million without advertising (Godin blog post about them here)
  • Be remarkable >> Tell a story >> They spread the word >> Get permission (then repeat cycle)
  • Tribes are what matter now: connecting people and ideas who want to be connected
  • Zappos (Godin’s blog post about them here)
  • Tell a story >> Connect a tribe around it >> Lead a movement >> Make change
  • Tom’s Shoes (Their blog post about Seth Godin here)
  • Who are you upsetting?
    Who are you connecting?
    Who are you leading?

Picture 4After a weekend at AIGA Minnesota’s Design Camp (which I’ll blog about later this week), I’m now spending Monday at the Minnesota Interactive Media Association’s (MIMA) Summit. The event, in it’s seventh year, is sold out at 1,000 attendees…many of whom I’m sure were lured by keynote speaker and social media rock star Seth Godin. Of course, social media is topic number one. I’ll be live blogging throughout the day.

First keynote speaker: Jackie Huba

Web is democratized, BUT, 1% of visitors to a site actually create content—they become very influential.

41% of people on Facebook between ages 26-44

Fastest growing age group on Facebook: Women 55+

Most trusted form of advertising:
1. Friends
2. Online opinions (anonymous)
3. Websites
4. Editorial content
5. Brand sponsorships

Strong correlation between word of mouth activity and company growth

Measuring customer loyalty ladder:
Ownership (customer feels like they are part of the company)
Satisfaction (just measuring “satisfaction” not adequate)

Story: Domino’s “booger” video

Blog readers actually alerted company of video and helped identify where the store was.

CEO posted apology video to YouTube

46% polled before video would by a Dominos pizza
15% after
24% after CEO video

Story: Motrin Moms
Key learning: LISTEN

Story: Bacon Salt
Early activity exclusively through social media
Obscurity to Oprah in 2 years

Story: Fiskars
Fisk•A•Teers—ambassadors for campaign=virtual salesforce
6,250 members in 50 states
1,000 certified volunteer demonstarators
Stores with Fisk•A•Teer activity have 3x the sales
13 new product ideas per month
85% of Fisk•A•Teers likely to recommend brand


1. Listen
2. Attract (don’t interrupt)
3. Participate (involve customers)

Breakout Session: Creating a Social Media Workshop
Laura Chavoen, Imagination

No rules in social media

Social media shift causing dramatic disruptions across business world

Most customers don’t know the difference between a blog, a forum, a wiki…and they shouldn’t have to.

Human nature doesn’t change—human behavior DOES

Markets consist of unique human beings, not demographic sectors—don’t overvalue data
Media is no longer just a source of information, but is now also a site of coordination

This all means there is a NEW OPPORTUNITY for marketers

Huffington Post has integrated content with social media—all within their domain

Road Map:
1. Objectives (why)
2. Audience (who)
3. Strategy (how)
4. Tactics (where)

Case Studies:

Pepsi Innovation Day:
Invited social media experts for inside tour of operations and the LISTENED to what they said afterward online

Very active on Twitter to pose questions about customer service

Navy for Moms
Robust community

Online community turned into place for customers to talk about kids and parenting
Graco had an ear into R&D opportunities

Little Debbie
Sent product to bloggers and saw huge spike in online activity

1.2 million people upload data to site
30,000 online running groups
Community encourages me to run…buy product

T-shirt designs voted on by users

Netflix Prize
$1 million prize for improving recommendation engine
Winning team—many had never met in person

Listening to customers is no longer an option: it’s a must!

Must build into your cycle the time to listen, learn and adjust

The only thing more popular than using social media is questioning it

Coke didn’t have a Facebook group, but they’re customers created one—Coke reached out to organizers and supports it

Reality: They are already talking about you
If you trust someone to work for you, trust them to use social media
Key: give them guidelines

Fear: we’ll lose control of our brand
Reality: you’ll learn what your brand is really about

Starbucks is number one brand on Facebook (3.6 million fans)
“we are gaining ROI from this effort”

Fear: our audience doesn’t use social media
Reality: Then you don’t have an audience (79% of US is online)

Fear: we don’t have time for social media
Reality: Remember how we felt about email?
Start small and let it grow and prove its value

Fear: if we make a mistake it will haunt us forever
Reality: It’s accountability (take responsibility)
It’s never too late to improve

Fear: How do we measure ROI?
Reality: Ramifications of ignoring

Social media has changed measurement:
Now we measure engagement, involvement, interactions, intimacy, influence

Quantifying Success:
Dell reaches $1 million in revenue from Twitter stream
Carnival invites community members to be first to ride on new ship—most successful launch ever

If you learn what’s important to your customers, you’ll learn what’s important to your business

Follow Doug Powell on Twitter

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