New opportunities, new challenges

As I look back over the past 15+ years I have been working within the Internet space, I never could have predicted the changes that have come about as a result of this amazing technology. From the first early days of just trying to get connected using SLIP/PPP, to the birth of multimedia content and now the rise of the social web, I feel really blessed to have contributed, even in small way, to how the Internet has changed the world.

Over that time, I have learned a ton! From innovative product and service concepts, to how brands are engaging customers, the pace of change has been incredibly invigorating. In my practice, I have focused on Customer Experience and Innovation with a particular emphasis on the social web. I’ve tried to delve into not only social media tools, but how attitudes have changed within companies as they look at how their business fundamentally interacts with their customers.

I began my company with the goal of “bringing companies closer to customers.” And I like to think that I’ve been able to do that by understanding our clients’ objectives and constructing solutions that help them more effectively interact with their internal and external stakeholders.

But what do you do when you are given a fantastic opportunity to work with a terrifically talented and hard-working team at a great company? As hard as it is to leave what I am doing now, I feel the time is right for me to join the Corporate Development team at LoyaltyOne (AirMiles). This move makes perfect sense for me at this time; I don’t feel that I am leaving anything behind because I am taking all the skills and resources I’ve developed and applying them to a new set of challenges.

At this stage, I won’t be taking on additional clients or projects, but I will, of course, remain engaged in this industry and involved in all the pioneering groups that continue to move it forward. And, I promise to continue to learn and contribute with everyone who has made this medium the great, ongoing experiment in communication and interaction.

Politicians using social media

During a recent by-election in my neighborhood, I started following one of the candidates to see if indeed they were really trying to engage their followers. But since the election, I haven’t seen any posts at all!

I’m thinking about the recent rise of social media use by politicians and I wonder if the candidates’ use of social media was just to win the election or were they just trying to use something during the election that’s “new and cool” to convince voters that they are keeping up with the times?

Here is a link to the orginal post on PCWorld- and reproduced below.



After seeing some tweets by a candidate in a recent provincial by-election in my neighbourhood, I pondered the recent rise of social media use by politicians. I wonder if the candidates’ use of social media was just to win the election or were they just trying to use something during the election that’s “new and cool” to convince voters that they are keeping up with the times?

Since the rise of mass electronic media in the last century, politicians have been trying out new technologies to communicate their messages to voters. In the early 1960s politicians were looking to the relatively new medium of television as the next big thing to connect with voters. The first televised presidential debates between Richard Nixon and John Kennedy attracted enormous publicity and would prove to be a turning point in the 1960 presidential election.

At the time, the Kennedy team knew that America was tired of the same old politicians and the team wanted to harness the relatively new medium of TV to portray Kennedy as a young, dashing politician in contrast to the more conservative Nixon. In the first debate Nixon argued his points clearly, but didn’t look as composed and relaxed on screen as Kennedy. To highlight the difference the new medium made to the results of the first debate, those watching on TV said that Kennedy won the debate and those listening on radio gave the win to Nixon.

More recently in the 2008 Presidential Race, Team Obama used social media very effectively to convert online donations into voters and channel online enthusiasm to effective on-the-ground support.

For example, in February 2008, Barack Obama did not attend any conventional campaign fundraisers. Despite that, he raised $55M in 29 days through the use of social media tools such as Twitter and Facebook. During the same period, McCain raised $11M through conventional fundraisers.

But what about after the election? Was Obama’s use of social media just to win the vote? In the case of Obama, the use of Twitter for example has continued post-election with the image below showing a recent tweet.


Closer to home, Toronto Mayor David Miller is certainly an ardent “twitterer'” using it to interact with city residents on a variety of topics from city council to Toronto FC soccer club matches.

When used authentically, social media can help politicians get their message across to motivate voters. But savvy politicians need to know that in order to retain credibility with their constituents they have to be willing to put in the time to continue to connect with their followers; if not, they run the risk of being thought of as jumping on the “new technology” bandwagon, and damaging their image and reducing their credibility.

Socially yours,

Jeffrey Veffer
Twitter: @jeffreyveffer

Who uses social networks, anyway?

In this post for PC World I look at a few startling statistics on who is using social networks and their influence.

Here is the post on PCWorld and reproduced below



When I first started getting into social networking a few years ago, most of the research available said that the dominant age group using sites like Facebook were teens and young adults. I expected this for no other reason than the founders of Facebook were looking to share photos from college with other students and so that’s the age group that found the site useful and fun.

Over the next few years, as more and more people starting getting into social networking, the numbers changed so that now there are more US Facebook users aged 26-44 than 18-25. In fact, users 55 and over make up the fastest growing segment using the site – they’ve grown a tremendous 513% over the first six months of this year. If you were to add up all the time spent just on Facebook, it would come out to 5% of all time spent online by US users (or about 3 solid hours) each and every month.

What’s more amazing is the sheer number of people that have an account on Facebook. The site reported recently that it has over 250 million users worldwide. If Facebook were a country it would be the world’s 4th largest behind the United States!

It’s clear that people are flocking to social networks – but why? The predominant motivation for creating a social network presence is social rather than professional; although, as more people use professional networking sites like LinkedIn, the more the balance will tip away from arranging parties to arranging meetings.

With usage statistics like these, it’s clear that social networks appeal to more of us than just teens or college students. As more people join, the more useful these networks are for everyone.

Socially yours,

Jeffrey Veffer
Twitter: @jeffreyveffer

Digital Life- Google and statistics


Google recently launched its Internet Stats site which brings together information from across five different industry groups and serves it up in bite sized, Twitter-like pieces for easy consumption. It by no means is a fully comprehensive look at all the statistics out there it does provide an interesting set of seemingly separate chunks of information.

That got me thinking – what if I could take some stats and try to build a story around them and set them to music? So here is the first draft of what that looks like.

Panel discussion – How To Acheive A Sustainable Social Media Ecosystem

I will be speaking as part of a panel on the topic of:

“How To Achieve A Sustainable Social Media Ecosystem”

Here are the event details:

Companies are increasingly tapping into Social Media.  What differentiates the champions from the flash in the pan are two things: Sustainability and an Ecosystem approach.

In this talk, you will first hear about the 4 pillars of achieving a sustainable Social Media strategy:

  • Thinking
  • Planning
  • Building
  • Managing

We will then dive deeper into the best practices and case studies of 3 popular Social Media tools – Blog, Facebook and Twitter – and how such an ecosystem, when done right, helps steer a company’s connection with their customers.

Date: Tuesday, June 16, 2009
Time:    6:00 PM – 8:30 PM

Location: Sutton Place Hotel, 955 Bay St., (Royal Sutton Salon A)

To register click here:

The best of social media marketing – for now

This is a great list of brands that are focused and using social media to support their goals. What I found interesting is their criteria for deciding the best:

  1. All of these are very focused, while they bring lots of benefits, they’re really designed to do one thing and do that well
  2. They put the product or service directly at the center.
  3. They are completely customer focused, they aren’t designed to do things that the company may want e.g. build community, evangelists etc. they are designed to serve customers.
  4. They are utilities much more than they are communications.
  5. Simply put, they make it easier for customers to do more business with them.

I really like the last one- with these new technologies its easy to lose focus on the customer and making things easier is one of the best things about technology.

10 things to remember for social media success

How many Fortune 1000 companies have a Social Media Strategy? Better yet, how many of those will fail in the next year? These are questions worth asking as the future success of these campaigns depends on separating the buzz from what provides lasting value to brands.
Along these lines we wanted to share what we’ve been hearing lately from our clients. They have heard that their competition is using Social Media and are interested in the potential, but during these times they are coming back to the same question: “How does Social Media help me: grow my business/increase sales/cut costs?”
Of course this is eminently justifiable as the benefits have to be tangible and understandable to executives in order to get approval to move ahead in concert with other initiatives that are currently underway.
Here’s what we have learned (so far):

  1. Need buy in from the top. There will likely not be the same level of participation from the top but with the right set of guidelines, executives can see that participation from company staff can actually help build customer engagement with the brand.
  2. Need an internal culture to support it. Executives must understand that the conversation about their brand and products is taking place whether or not they participate. Lack of participation is not going to stop conversations from happening and may in fact lead to missed opportunities to shape the dialog.
  3. Understand that it’s not the tools but the topics. It should be the substance of the conversation which should be the focus. Tools change, but customers have issues that need to be heard and there is a great opportunity to get previously unmet customer needs out of the dialog if you co-ordinate this data with other channels.
  4. People don’t live and breath your products. Unless you are RIM or maybe APPLE you have to consider your products in the context of the customer’s lives; how they enable customers to meet (or exceed) their needs. The conversations should be real and not just marketing jargon. Customers can see beyond language that doesn’t relate to their experience.
  5. Need to go beyond click-thrus and impressions to measure overall brand engagement. Executives must be prepared that it might not increase transactions in immediate short term but will allow a new dialog with customers. What does this mean? If someone engages with a brand on a social media site then recommends your product to others on their blog should you say your website failed? Of course not. It must be one component of the overall mix.
  6. Measure measure measure. Based on your overall objectives and also the objectives of your other partners in the value chain you need to use metrics that have relevance to your business – metrics that executives understand.
  7. Need to dedicate resources to this as an ongoing initiative. Just doing it for a short term won’t produce desired results over long term. There’s a need to understand and implement compatible compensation structure to reward success to make sure that this doesn’t go the way of other “buzz-word” tactics.
  8. Consider it as part of current marketing mix. It should not be thought of as standing alone, or as a replacement to current initiatives (see excellent post by @tamera)
  9. Understand current customer viewpoints on products and services. In order to start finding ways to engage customers, review existing customer needs insight and if necessary look at re-examining ways to get deep customer needs back into the organization.
  10. Tweak and build feedback loop to continually improve the initiative.

And don’t fret if it doesn’t immediately take off. No matter what anyone says, nobody has this totally figured out yet…