‘Social’ CEOs Emphasize User Experience

Ides of March is good time to evaluate role of ‘friends’

Is it still all about who our friends are? On this fateful day many, many years ago, Julius Caesar thought he knew who his friends were—turned out Brutus wasn’t such a good one after all. Facebook keeps rolling along with the activity of our “friends” as its major engagement tool. I was able to catch The Social Network again this week—it’s still an impressive tale to go from putting up a box for your relationship status to where they are today.

I’ve also been getting a lot of references for Pinterest this week, the quickly-climbing-the-charts website devoted to social scrapbooking and photo-sharing. A line in a PCmag.com interview with founder Ben Silbermann caught my attention. “The company is also working to help users find other users—strangers and friends—by allowing connections between sources. The idea is to enable their members to tap into influences and inspiration that they might not otherwise uncover.”

Then this morning I was reading an interview with Gail F. Goodman, Constant Contact’s chief executive. They have been very successful in working with small businesses and will now try to parlay those relationships by going into the daily coupon business—and focusing on that audience. (Is it just me or are you and I the only ones not going into the daily coupon business.)

“We think the way to find your next great customer is through your existing customers,” said Gail F. Goodman, Constant Contact’s chief executive, “rather than through a big list of consumers who don’t know much about you.” SaveLocal [their new program] is about sending coupons to your current customer base, and providing them with an incentive to share the coupons with their social network in order to bring in new customers.”

So the question then becomes, just how much can we impose, depend, forward, ask and infer on our customers, subscribers, members and friends to lead us to the next such person? Is there a tipping point? There probably is. I had no problem this week receiving a call from an employer asking for a recommendation of a friend for a job he’s applying for. Similarly, if I think the mechanic in my neighborhood does a great job and is incredibly honest, I want to help him out. But I know Facebook—which at times can seem a little boastful—is starting to wear on some folks. And any time that I’m forwarded something from a friend, I’m a little more wary of spending too much time on it.

So where does that leave us as marketers? Here’s what Goodman had to say when asked about potential daily deal burnout: “We think of SaveLocal as building on the consumer experience that the daily deal companies have demonstrated. Their model has been about large-scale consumer lists, but we saw a while ago that it wasn’t perfectly serving our customer base of small businesses, 70 percent of which have fewer than 10 employees. We started talking to our customers about what did and didn’t work for them with Groupon and LivingSocial. We knew there had to be a better way, but it took us until the beginning of last summer to come up with what we thought would be a twist on the model that would make coupons work.’

They took a successful idea and tailored it to fit their audience. That makes sense—as does the time-tested strategy that we’re for the little people. As for Pinterest, Silbermann also didn’t launch until he thought that they had everything just right—most prominently design and user experience. “Collections have to be something that you’re proud of,” he said “If the collections didn’t look awesome, why would anyone spend time working on them? You have to show that you put in as much effort as you expect [your users] to put in.”

So for today, the answer appears to be to find and develop your quality product and then engage your customers and friends where they like to be engaged. Simple but it makes sense.


Here’s the best place to find your true friends:
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