Followers vs Engagement – Measuring Social Media

Social Media

Today on Twitter an interesting question was asked: would you prefer to have 100,000 followers or 100,000 conversations (engagement) on social media?

How would you answer this?

Early in the world of social media folks were rushing to get “likes” and followers. To be successful in social media, you could show metrics that had little relevance to the bottom line and be a hero. One million Facebook likes? Whoo! Let’s party!

Then social media got a bit more sophisticated and started to be taken more seriously by the executives. Combine that with changes in organic reach by Facebook and other social sites, many marketeers had to realize they were now going to have to pay to reach all those likes – because of while they had thousands of fans and followers, their content was not engaging.

A few months ago I posted a blog about content – about the benefit of using your marketing to surprise and delight your audience. I’ve been a vocal advocate that marketing (any form) should be useful for the audience receiving it, should be encouraging a two-way conversation, and not just be a megaphone to shout “BUY NOW!” to people.

For me this becomes even more critical in social media. For many companies, tying social media directly to sales will require investments in marketing automation systems, tagging, a landing page strategy, and so on. But so many of us can parse enough information from Google Analytics to get a fair bead on which social conversations are driving people to websites or to take a specific action.  Bottom line for me: social media that is engaging, with good content, and human interaction produces results. To answer the question at the beginning: I would choose to have 100,000 conversations any day.

What is your social media story? Do you have a success (or a failure) you want to share? Chime in below or tweet me @tinashakour. 


Cupcakes and People – the Work from Home Debate

cupcakeAre you distracted?

Recently I was listening to NPR during the drive along highway 101 and I hear the ridiculous comment from an “expert” that the reason so many employers do not favor flexible work schedules and work from home is because at home, an employee can be distracted by things such as laundry and walking the dog.


According to this expert, laundry is the most fascinating thing in the world and if I work from home I must feel compelled to clean clothes, fold them, and put them away. I wonder if this applies to men also? As for walking the dog – please – my dogs sleep all day. I know because I spy on them with a Dropcam.

A few days later I saw a tweet about distractions for workers at home and I had to comment. At that moment I was getting antsy in my seat in an office because I knew there were cupcakes in the kitchen and my cube neighbor was in and I had a list of things I wanted to bug him about. These things are far more distracting than laundry,  let me tell you.

And speaking of my cube-mate. Pity him. I am constantly popping my head over the wall to ask a “quick question”. So I am pretty darn sure I’m one of his distractions in the office.

I believe the benefits of trusting your employees to be grown-ups and work hard for you cannot be understated. There are numerous reports, like this one from Forbes, that will back up that belief. Yet we still hear these comments about laundry being a distraction. I love going to the office because I can “stalk” people and get answers quickly – but I am also easily distracted by everything around me. I know myself well enough and know I need office days and I need “focus” days someplace where I can control the environment.

What is your personal work style? Does your company give you the flexibility you need to be a truly productive and awesome employee? Share your thoughts below or tweet me @tinashakour. 


3 Reasons to (Re-)Love Email Marketing


If you had asked me a couple years ago how I felt about email marketing you would have gotten a tirade of frustration and angst. Many companies use email as the “easy” way to reach contacts. Customers and leads get bludgeoned with every message that needs to go out – often with a redundant “three-touch” model to make sure they are really, really annnoyed with you and either unsubcribe or hit the spam button (or both).

But then I had a chance to be creative with email. I went into a company that needed some serious uplift on their demand generation. They had loyal customers and they only sent transactional emails regarding payments and account status. I created a surprise reward system that was automated and then let run. If a customer reached a certain level of activity on their account, they were rewarded with free running time on the systems. Poof! Like magic, we saw a pretty solid outpouring of love. Some people even took pictures of the email and tweeted them out. We also saw an increase in activity time for those accounts. Hooray!

Since then I’ve had other chances to fly far and wide with email marketing and I have re-discovered that it is a tool I love, when used properly. Like any tool, it is never a once size fits all. But here are a few of the things I adore:

  1. Email is so very measurable
    Even with free tools like Mailchimp (my fave), metrics are easy to obtain. Open rates and click through rates are easily measured, along with specificly what link was clicked. If you have an end to end marketing automation system, you will be able to see exactly what generates customer activity. And I have to admit, it’s kinda fun to see just how high you can get those metrics to go.
  2. Done right, the end receiver is happy
    Whenever I get an email that is an informative newsletter from a company I’ve opted in with, I’m happy. Or maybe it is a surprise email that says “come back and shop with us – here is 30% off” – oh… I like those very much! Nurturing and informative emails keep people signed up. They may not open every email, but you are staying on their radar (and in their inbox).
  3. Done right, email generates results
    A picture is worth a thousand words – so here is a graphic showing the results for a non-profit fundingraising campaign I created. Those click-throughs went to the “donate now” button and we blew out our donation goals this year!

email success

What do appreciate most about email marketing? Please comment below or tweet me @tinashakour.




Surprises (for me) from the Internet of Things

Back in May we filmed this TechWiseTV episode on the Internet of Things – I had a blast with the guests and was surprised how interesting things like factory automation and public utilities could really be. For example, I really think of power companies as way behind the times (and many may be) the technology available to them addresses the newer reality of people adding solar panels and renewable energy to the grid.

Also, the router sitting in the tank of water was pretty cool to watch.

Water Router

Ad Agency Threatens A Puppy as a Joke: Not Cool

Need Caffeine

I hadn’t even finished my caffeine intake of the morning out of my delightful new Shiba Inu mug when I saw this on Linkedin:

If You Skip This Ad, One Agency Says It Will Electrocute A Puppy


Of course, I know before I click on the article there is no way someone really intends to electrocute a puppy. I have not gotten thay cynical about the internet. But the whole idea does violate my constant theory that marketing should surprise and delight. Making your audience feel awful is not clever; it is not funny – it is a way to get people to rally against your brand. Of course we all say “there is no bad news, just how you handle it” but that doesn’t always apply in a digital marketing age.  The attempt at the end to “save” the ad, by claiming they will donate to the SPCA, doesn’t work. That smirky grin isn’t convincing me at all.

To prove my point, for each page view this blog gets between now and 8:00am PDT, I will donate $.50 (the cost of the ad for that agency) to each two of my favorite animal santuaries and rescue groups: Animal Guardian Network and NW Shibas4Life.

Surprise and Delight. Not guilt and fear.




Be Kind, Be Human


I was heartbroken this weekend when one of the dog rescue groups I work with through Shiba Prom posted that they were suspending operations for a few months. The post explained that the volunteers for the non-profit rescue group were getting badly beaten up on social media and in email, making it hard for the group to retain their volunteers. They needed some time off.

The very same weekend someone very close to me spent spent hours combating internal libel and assaults within a not-for-profit fraternal organization. Monday I received a note from an individual telling me about being verbally abused while attempting to save a dog from a kill shelter.

It isn’t just the non-profit world. I see it in sports, in politics, in media. It is in the way a woman snaps at the checkout person at the grocery and in the way a man angrily honks his car horn when a person hesitates too long at a stop sign. It is in the way we see kids bullying each other and showing no remorse when it results in death. In her Ted talk, comedian Maysoon Zayid, who has cerebral palsy, notes that if she was growing up today her palsy might have been more of an issue due to the excessive meanness on social media.

Today I spent lunch with a good friend and our conversation turned to how, on the weekend of “America’s birthday”, we both were shocked at the inundation of negativity and hate in our circles and world. We observed how American culture seems so hate filled and so very “us versus them” to a point of being extreme.

There is an old Internet saying: Don’t feed the trolls. It is a truism that was pertinent in the dawn of the bulletin boards and message forums and feels even more needed now – and not just in Internet culture. Don’t give in to the rage, don’t give in to hate. Do Not Feed the Trolls. When you lash out in anger, when you spew hate at another, you may feel better for a few seconds but the backlash on your own emotions will be deep. There are studies that prove when a person smiles, their mood improves – and it is contagious to those around you. Likewise, when you give in to hate, when you spew venom into the world – not only does it hurt you, but it spreads more hate and rage into the your world.

So for all of us, post a positive comment on Facebook. Retweet some positive messages. Add an appreciative comment on a blog. And smile at the checkout person.

Be Kind, Be Human

PS – I do try to live by this but if you catch me on a grouchy day – please be kind. It may help me! :)
PPS – About an hour after writing this, I saw this awesome article come through on Twitter: How your Happiness makes your friends happy too. 

Wanna Hear Something Silly but Totally Amazing?

Having Fun Raises funds

Having Fun Raises Funds

How was your weekend? Mine was pretty great – I helped run the social media, PR and events for an online virtual dance party for dogs.

Yes, you read that correctly. Shiba Prom is a non-profit organization that runs an online fundraiser to benefit dog and Shiba Inu rescue groups across the United States. This is our major fundraiser of the year and we have a Prom King and Queen, gift baskets, online DJs, a “barktender” and more.

This year we raised over $42,000 for the non-profit dog rescue groups.

I’m thrilled to be a member of the Shiba Prom board and to help create new ways for the rescue groups to raise funs. Our motto is “Having Fun Raising Funds” and it was really a blast to be part of the team this year.

You can find more info about Shiba Prom at and on Facebook at


Three Reasons the Internet of Things Helps the Wine Industry

Wine Industry and the Internet of Things

Wine Industry and the Internet of Things


Years ago when I was a Cisco SE (pre-sales engineer – I was the technical half of the sales team and designed networks) my territory included Napa, Marin and Sonoma. Sounds like a sweet gig, but it was hard to get people to take the wine industry seriously. The main thought was “they are farmers – why do they need technology?”

Years later I’m at Cisco Live recording for TechWiseTV and I see this amazing setup: The Internet of Things and a whole interactive demo on wine making. I had to make sure we captured this one on camera! As I interviewed Harold (who had about 5 minutes notice that cameras were going to be on him) I learned that this isn’t just about wine making, but significant to agriculture too.

1) Wineries need technology, just like a chemist does.

Wine making, in many ways, is chemistry and science. Grapes are picked off the vine and immediately they begin to change. Fermentation has to be precise, barreling or storing in stainless steel tanks are chemical reactions and choices that fully shape the finished product. Being able to track the crop as it comes off the vines and gets to processing is critical.

2) Wireless networks are critical.

When I worked in wine country, we spent a lot of time  talking about the wine business and the technology they used – and that often they are in historic buildings, use long deep caves that get no cellular signal, and so forth. Early on, wireless networks were huge to wineries  - you couldn’t very well run ethernet cables all the way out through the wine caves, now could you? (Well, not easily or cheaply). Wireless was a game changer for large wineries (and even some smaller ones).

3) Smart growing is important – especially in a drought season.

Sensors in the ground can measure the water level of the soil and trigger watering for the vines – and only the vines that need it, versus a scatter shot of watering everything. With the California drought, this is a significant piece of very usable technology for any crop grower. Another significant technology for the wine industry specifically:  barrel sensors allow the wine maker to leave the barrel alone – not opening it and exposing it to contaminants while still monitoring the conditions inside the barrel.

It was a great opportunity to see how an industry I love is getting to shine with technology! And the free wine samples were pretty nice too. :)

How Facebook is Missing a Marketing Opportunity

facebook fan page

Profile Picture from a FAN page for a Shiba Inu

Recently, a string of incidents on Facebook brought a shining spotlight on to the differences between personal accounts and fan pages. Sadly, as I help people wade through these, it reinforces that Facebook is really missing a chance to do well by their users and create marketing opportunities.

A little background: when you sign up for an account on FB, you agree that you are over the age of 13, you will not use an alias or a false name, and you will not the account for commercial purposes. And so enters the pet people – people who want to not have a personal online presence so they build an account under the pet’s name and don’t read the terms of service (ToS). If you use Twitter, it’s may even be logical to you that it’s OK to do this on FB. On Twitter I follow the Bay Bridge, the SF fog, a few robots, a shark, and the Mars Rover – all clearly not people but things. In addition, if you are new to Facebook, setting up a fan page is not intuitive. So people make “personal” accounts called Sir Fluffy Meowalot and  build up a network of friends – other people with pets who interact and schedule meet-ups and promote events and buy goods…oh wait, yes, people with pets spend a ton of money. They are a perfect target for ads on Facebook if the targeting system allowed it. Which it doesn’t because all of these accounts violate the terms of service.

And that brings me to the disconnect. Yes, these folks have violated the ToS. However, they have then had their accounts deleted, been notified they must convert to a fan page, and their history is gone.

From the Facebook perspective, a page is meant to be a fan page, or a page geared for businesses. The Page design seems to have been developed with the idea that the person, entity or business represented on the page does not care about their privacy and does not want to interact with their audience. For example, a page can not start a private message to someone who has liked their page. Communication has to start with the fan first sending a PM. In addition, a page cannot comment on anything in a personal account, even if that personal account has liked their page. Furthermore, blocking trolls on a page is much harder than blocking a person on a personal account. In fact, blocking someone on a page means they cannot post, but they can still lurk and see your content.

Here is an example of how some of this could play out. Let’s say I’m a famous singer with a name like “Justin”. I have a fan page. Peggy Smith has liked my page and she sent me this great snail mail letter with a song she had written and she hopes I can sing it someday. It’s really a great song and I want to send her a private message via Facebook saying “I have a concert tomorrow night and I’m totally singing your song”. But I can’t do that. Furthermore, I can’t go to her personal profile and post on her timeline. I can’t even post on my timeline and tag her as the awesome person who wrote this song.

The wrench in all the gear works here is privacy. I understand FB doesn’t want a brand with a page to be able to spam you with private message and dump garbage on your timeline – Facebook wants the brand to pay for that privilege – but Facebook is missing a golden opportunity to have an account somewhere in the middle between a personal account and a fan page. One of the biggest mantras I have for my clients is that marketing needs to be human and needs to be a two-way conversation. So realize how a Facebook page essentially violates what modern marketeers are trying to accomplish. A page can essentially only “talk” to another page – ruining the whole idea of human authenticity in marketing.

One final note on my reasoning here: pages do not get ads presented to them but personal accounts do. Back to my comment above about pet people spend tons of money. However, by forcing them to convert to a page, Facebook is missing a great marketing opportunity. Creating a type of account that is somewhere in between a personal account and a page would keep the faith with their users and allow Facebook to sell better targeted ads.

What are your thoughts on this? Should Facebook have a new type of account, are Pages useful to you? What have you seen?

Disclosure: I have a fan page for my Shiba Inus and have always ran it that way – but I knew about pages because I’m in marketing and I knew about the ToS. Not everyone has that insight. 

Thoughts on Form Fills vs Value

Fill out the form

Last year I wrote a blog about ads in search results and was surprised by how many people said they ignore  the paid results and the ads. A recent article talked about how we are trained to never get up our information in a digital format because marketeers then hound us: email, phone calls, using cookie based tracking to offer more in-page ads and pop-up ads, and even resorting to direct mail.

Yet, we do give up our information – willingly – when it is content we really want. Think about it – Whatsapp or GroupMe wants your cell phone number and you willingly give it up for a free service –  even when you know it can be used to market to you and track you. I work with a non-profit that likes to text me monthly messages about their program. I gave up my mobile number on the promise it was once a month. It has been, and each time it’s content I like and it is content I might have missed if I hadn’t seen it in a text. I willingly fill out a registration form to download great ebooks from groups I know provide solid content, and events I love to attend to get the info they request. Granted, my phone number is often 415-555-1212 (because I cannot remember Jenny’s number anymore) but that’s OK. As a person who has requested forms to be filled out for marketing and sales, I get that sometimes you will get bogus info. No hard feelings. There are some communication channels that folks do not want contacted on.

I was recently on a shopping website and there was a pop-up ad: join our mailing list and save 10% off today. Sure, OK – I’ll unsubscribe later if you spam me. Twitter small business sends me a ton of email, but so far I’ve been good with it because it is interesting content about half the time. And sometimes it is an ad credit which I really like! So I’m happy to have your content sent to my contact info – when it has value. But  I recently visited a technical site to watch a  video and the marketing form fills required just to watch the video drove me crazy. Address, Phone, Country, How many people in the company, What is your projected timeline to buy a new solution… and so on. An IT person visiting a site to learn about a new technology will not fill out that content. A CIO might, but the video wasn’t targeted at a CIO. I gave up in frustration and flipped over to YouTube to find “free” videos on the same topic.

I believe  the form fill  can no longer be a cookie cutter approach – it just won’t work with your customers. People will give you their information but you have to provide value and not ask them to fill in every field that your instance of needs populated. I’ve said this many times: know your audience. What information do they have, what information are they willing to give up,  and what do you really, really need to contact them again in the future?

How do you get people to share their information with you – willingly? Reply below or tweet me @tinashakour.