On May 1st, I had the pleasure of speaking at the AVISTA's Center for Entrepreneurship at Walla Walla Community College. I was asked to speak on the kinds of websites that work, those that don't, and why it matters. I want to thank the ACE for the opportunity.
SELF Magazine, which purports to be a "magazine for women that specializes in health, fitness, nutrition, beauty and happiness"(1) asks marathon runner and cancer survivor Monika Allen for permission to use a photo of herself in an article, saying only that they were looking for photos of runners wearing tutus.
Allen, who was recently diagnosed with incurable brain cancer BUT RAN A MARATHON ANYWAY!!! said yes, assuming that her photo would be used in a positive way. SELF Magazine then publishes an article called "The BS Meter" which makes fun of Allen and other runners wearing tutus. Their art department and entire editorial department somehow miss that one of the two women pictured has "DIE TUMOR DIE" emblazoned across her chest.
There are few workers I feel sympathy for as much as waiters and waitresses. It's often a thankless and very difficult job. Because of idiotic loopholes in the laws, a restaurant can still pay a waiter or waitress much less than minimum wage, expecting that the server will make up the difference through tips.
For myself, I rarely tip less than 20% because I know how tough a server's job can be. To me, it's just a social contract. So you can imagine my utter dismay when reading about a pastor who made a horrible comment on an Applebees receipt containing an 18% gratuity added for a party of 8 or more: "I give God 10%, why should you get 18%?"
Attention, all companies and organizations who haven't put together a strategy for engaging social media, this is your official 3:00 a.m. wake-up call. Stuff just got real. Whaddaya gonna do about it?
I have two stories to tell you this week. One involves a happy little artisanal bakery with a keen eye for social media and a happy customer with a big idea. The other involves a large financial institution with an already awful reputation that seems hell-bent on digging themselves even deeper into social media debt. Both stories involve a phenomenon called organic feedback.
Sugar Mammas Baked Goods is an artisanal bakery located in beautiful downtown Lewiston. They keep it simple: quality doughnuts, rolls, muffins, cupcakes, and other pastries made completely from scratch every day. The Mammas come in about 4 a.m. to start baking, and by the time they open at 7:00 their case is full of goodies for a steady stream of happy customers looking for their daily fix.
Sugar Mammas usually makes three kinds of raised doughnuts in the morning: chocolate glazed, vanilla glazed, and maple bars (made with real maple syrup). The doughnuts usually get snatched up by an enthusiastic stream of regulars fairly quickly before the lunch-time crowd comes in for soup and homemade bread sticks.
Many bakeries with such a reputation for quality aren't that open to suggestions; proceeding along the "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" mentality. I'm something of a foodie myself, so I can understand that point of view. A lot of rockstar pastry chefs, for example, have reputations for following their own artistic vision no matter what. Not that there's anything wrong with having a solid idea of where you're going, creatively, but some people take that to extremes.
However, when we designed Sugar Mammas' website, one of the things they made sure that we added was a quick way for customers to post flavor suggestions. Customers can register on the site (become a Sugar Baby), easily post kudos (testimonials) and suggest a flavor. Very shortly after we launched the site, one of Sugar Mammas' happy customers did just that. Megan Weber wrote:
Four days later, a very happy Megan stopped in to taste Sugar Mammas' newest creation: simply gorgeous chocolate glazed rounds and bars artistically drizzled with a special peanut butter glaze (made with real organic peanut butter). The new flavor was an instant hit not only with Megan, but with Sugar Mammas' other happy customers, including myself.
"We consider this not just our bakery but our customer's," says co-owner (and head Mamma) Anna Hill. "Our customers are always right, so when they come here we want them to feel like they're at home. We want them to come back to a place they feel welcome, and we always encourage them to give us their feedback!"
Of course, companies like Sugar Mammas have been doing this for a lot longer than the internet has been around, but social media has made it easier than ever for companies to have this kind of one-on-one interaction with their customers. Sugar Mammas made their customer feel like a true partner in their business. By choosing a website package that makes it easy for their enthusiastic fans to have a voice in their business, Sugar Mammas is doing their part to create a feedback loop that engages the best ideas of their best customers to make their business better, which creates more best customers and spurs growth.
The story I have for you later in the week shows the dark side of organic feedback. It's definitely a win for consumers, but one more loss in a long series of social media blunders for the company involved. Stay tuned!