The next 10 years – LeWeb 2013

Ten years of LeWeb, how time flies. I have been at LeWeb for the past four years and it has always been a privilege. The theme for LeWeb for this year really triggered me to think about the future of technology and naturally of startups. As ever, I still strongly believe that startups are the best option to turn our economic processes on their heads. And the past ten years more than prove my point. Startups like Google, PayPal, Facebook, eBay, Twitter, YouTube, Spotify, Uber, AirBnB and many others have changed our lifestyle and our habits in amazing ways. However, for the next 10 years, I believe that technology will not be the primary driver of innovation.

In the past twenty years, a lot of innovation has come through the fact that we finally could. The world shrank as we finally could easily connect and keep up with friends around the world. New cell phone technology allowed us to move around and still access the same online resources as at our offices. Computers in everything have allowed us to automate many processes and make them much more efficient. But times are changing. I am not saying that technology is slowing down, because it is not. However, I strongly believe that we will see more and more technology that is driven by social developments.

I believe in the collaboration economy. And I believe that that is the track for the future. Technology that allows us to share with each other. So we can share knowledge, but also resources that we have to our disposal and that we do not use 24/7. Like the extra bedrooms we are offering on Airbnb, the rides on Blablacar, the communal bikes in cities like London, Paris, New York, San Francisco, Kopenhagen and others. I believe that in the next ten years, we will see technology integrate more and more into our daily lives to make it more a part of it than an attachment.

Take Google Glass for example. It is one of those developments that can change the way in which we interact with technology in relationship with others. But it is not the glasses themselves that will trigger us. It is the things they can do for us that are becoming more and more important. So, I do not believe that wearable technology as such is going to be a technology driver. But I believe that the way it will allow us to interact with our friends and our environment, will be the driver for technological innovation.

That is where startups come in. The next ten years are a time to reassess all the processes that run in the world to see whether we can replace them by a combination of individual masses and resources. Because there is a lot to gain in a revision of our daily routines to make them more fun and more effective through new technology. And startups are the ideal vehicle to question these daily routines.

What are your thoughts? Add them in the comments, or talk to me at LeWeb next week. I will be interviewing interesting people at LeWeb and hopefully posting some blogposts and some videos. See you there?

Five reasons why I love Webit

I never considered going to Istanbul for a tech conference, even though Plamen Russev has been trying to get me here for years now. Until this year. I decided that 2013 had to be the year and so I am now at Webit. And I have to say that I love it so far. Why? Let me quickly break that down for you:

1. I meet people that I have never seen before, from areas that I do not usually see at other conferences. Just this morning I talked to startups from the Ukraine, Estonia, Morocco, the United Arab Emirates and Germany. (I stand corrected, I talk to startups from Germany more often.)
2. Especially when you book early, the ticket prices make Webit much more accessible than most other conferences. Off the top of my head, a silver ticket costs around €150 when you pre-register. So, is it cool because it is cheap? No. It is cool because this ticket price allows startups with a much tighter budget to enjoy a conference and especially the networking.
3. People are eager. A lot of the people I have met are eager. They want to learn, they want to grow, they want to change. And there is a great opportunity that I rarely focus on when I am back home or at conferences in London, Paris or Amsterdam. I keep asking myself why I do not think about eastern Europe, Africa and Asia more often. Sure, I have met guys that do startups in Beirut, Tel Aviv and Cairo. But here, eastern Europe, southern Europe and many Arabic nations are standing in line with me to get lunch. And talking to them has allowed me to see new opportunities beyond our regular markets.
4. Networking. Did I mention that already? I have yet to try the networking site, but so far I have met some great people. And with 8100+ attendees, there are lots of networking opportunities.
5. Short sleeves. Yes, I know, a rather unprofessional reason. But lets face it, I left Rotterdam with pouring rain and 6 degrees. It is November and I am in Istanbul, wearing a short sleeved shirt and eating kebabs and networking on the water front with some great people pushing great technology. It is hard to get it better than that.

So, five reasons why I love Webit. And if you are up for the challenge of taxi drivers that do not speak Turkish, it could be a great experience. Anyway, I am off again. Time to meet more people, to have more food and to visit a party in a club on an island between two continents in the middle of the Bosporus tonight.

– And in case you were wondering, Plamen has not bribed me into writing any of this. 😉

The ultimate use for Google Glass, the Age of Context and Ikea

Screen Shot 2013-08-30 at 10.53.12Google Glass has been the first to move information from your pocket to your line of sight. There are two sides to that story and you can love it or hate it. Regardless of your opinion of Google Glass, fact is that this kind of technology will probably be the next generation of wearable technology that will be finding its way into your life in the coming ten years. The reason for this, is that it is just much more convenient to look into the right top corner of your eye, instead of reaching into your pocket. And in turn, due to the fact that Google Glass is always on your head (note: I did not say that Google Glass is always ON), you allow it to relate to everything around you much easier. That is the Age of context. (Yes, Robert Scoble and Shel Israel are writing a book on the subject.)

Anyway, because Google Glass is so much more aware of your surroundings, it is in a completely different league when you are talking about providing useful information when you need it. No longer will you have to look for information on a detached box. Google Glass will develop further, so it can ‘sense’ your surroundings and answer your questions. That might all sound very sci-fi and that probably is true. On the other hand, it is a lot closer than you might thing. And that was a thought that crossed my mind when I looked at a picture from Daphne Channa Horn today.

Why is that picture relevant for me? Not because she was trying to navigate to her destination using Google Glass. That was nice, but that is something that has been done before. No, the picture triggered me because she was at Ikea. And we all know what Ikea stands for. And I don’t mean great furniture for good prices. I mean that for many people, Ikea stands for evenings of frustration trying to figure out how to mend your relationship after the assembly of that great looking cupboard failed. Enter Google Glass. Finally, you can assemble your cupboard without screaming, yelling or delays. I can see people pay good money for the Google Glass Ikea app. With a simple “Go Glass, build Billy” it will take stock of all the parts you have laid out on the floor. As you look around the room, it will identify the pieces one by one and point you to the right boards and the right screws at the right time. Who needs to 3D print a cupboard at home when we are finally able to assemble our own flat packed furniture?

Ok, granted, some of you might be better at flat packed furniture than I just gave you credit for. But there is a huge market out there to provide real interactive manuals to get things done by using tools like Google Glass. And I am excited about this. You can now fix things yourself. You might even have a professional looking over your shoulder as you do it to give you directions like the surgeon operating via the internet. The possibilities are endless.

What would you like Google Glass to assist you with?

Why I believe most startup accelerators will not help your startup

plastic-rocketWith startup accelerators popping up all over the world, this might not be the most popular thing to write. However, it is something that has been on my mind for the past year. As a mentor for one startup accelerator and a visitor of many, I have gotten to know the inner workings and discussed them with others. And they all lead me to draw the same conclusion. Most accelerators do not fit the needs of startups.

So where is that gap between the holy grail in startup growth and my own statement? Well, let me put it this way. There is a distinct difference between the way forward for a great startup and the goals of an accelerator. This might sound strange to you, but unfortunately, it is very true. The biggest problem is the way in which most accelerators focus on the business model and their demo day. The success of most accelerators is judged on the performance of its startups on a podium on the last day of the program. And most see the number of startups leaving the accelerator with funding as the biggest factor for success. Unfortunately, this is often much further from true success than you would think.

Through the years, I have worked with, spoken with and advised a lot of startups. They all had their share of challenges and even though many saw their funding as their primary problem, it seldom was. I will not deny that you need money to pay your team and improve on your startup. However, more often than not, money will not solve the problems, but only make them bigger.
As a startup, your first focus should be on product development, finding a connection to your market and launching and developing the leanest product you can. Most accelerators agree with this up to this point. After which they will then go and work with you on your business models and marketing strategy to make sure that you are going to get funding down the road. For most startups, this time is put to much better use if they can focus on product development and finding the connection to their market through the feedback of their users. After all, money will only speed up the process and if the direction of the startup is not 100% right, it will only send your startup on a course to distance yourself from the market more and more.

That, to me, is another problem that comes with startup accelerators. Usually, the founders of the accelerator are paid, but none of the mentors are. And there is a problem with that strategy. Naturally, I am such a philanthropist that it never bugged me. But I know that not getting paid brings out the worst in people. I know that many mentors in accelerators only mentor startups in which they see a possible monetary gain over time. Subsequently, they try to steer the startup onto the course which they believe will bring in the big money. This might not be in the interest of the startup at all, but as the mentors are part of the program, their advise is followed. And before you know it, your startup has turned into something that is chasing the possibility of big money with a super smooth pitch, while alienating itself from its potential user base.

So, are all accelerators evil? No. I think the original idea of a startup accelerator can still be successful. But we need to remember what the original intention of an accelerator was. It was meant to speed up the process of startup development and launch the startup into a higher orbit than it could have obtained in the same timeframe otherwise. If you read this correctly, you will see that there is no specific mention of money or business model in there. Those can be part of the process, but should never be leading. The leading factor in an accelerator is whether they can help you develop both your team as well as your product beyond what you would be capable of yourself.

If you ask me, this is the best -and only- way a good accelerator can work. In my opinion, this is also the only way in which an accelerator can make sure that the startups that go through their program will become exceptional and will achieve great successes. Unlike startups that are built up on a diet of business models and the chase for investment money. It is rare to see those rise beyond average bread and butter companies.

If you are considering joining a startup, make sure you ask the right questions and have a clear idea what is going to happen. And if it is not purely aimed at developing your team and your product, you are better off gathering your own team of mentors around you. It will allow you to grow faster and be a better quicker than you think.

Go find your own grand adventure – Chris Guillebeau – LeWeb

leweb-day1This morning Chris Guillebeau shared three quick lessons that he had learned while he visited every country in the world.

Time and Money
If you cannot understand all of the different costs of a project, then the project or the quest becomes much easier to pursue and to complete.
For Chris personally, he just wanted to travel. And then he changed it to visiting 100 countries in the world. He thought about it and started to share it. But then he got the criticism from someone that visiting these countries was not going to be hard, all you need is enough time and money. Which caused him to structure his quest. Which meant figuring out what he had to do to succeed and what the cost of succeeding would be. And then he could break it down and share it as it all grew and became possible for him.

Experience produces confidence
Actually going and doing, helps you become confident that you can do it. Start with the smaller things first, then build up. It will help you grow. As you succeed in smaller things, you will help you understand that you can succeed at the big goals as well. He has seen others look up to him and playing down their own quest, because his had been much bigger. But whatever your quest is, it is the most important thing for you to focus on. The most important thing in your life at that time.

You are not alone
The new demographics are less about where you come from, but more about psychographics. About shared views, shared values etc. In essence, you are not allone. If you have a crazy idea, if you believe there is nobody as crazy as me, then there certrainly other people all over the world that share your passion. That want to make the same ideas succeed. So, it has helped him a lot to see that other people had the same dream and made it succeed. And it helped him to tell their tales to grow in his own understanding of his own quest.

Two suggestions to live by:
Get your own quest. It is important. As Elon Musk said, we spend too much time on small things. And we need to move up in the world and build a bigger thing. And all the people Chris has talked to that have gone on to try their own grand adventures, and they shared with him that at some point they had just decided to go for it. Whether it would succeed or not, it was important for them to do it and it changed them.

Find a way to tie your quest to something that makes the world a better place.
There are so many opportunities to mean something to the world. And it is not meant to sound heavy or be a heavy responsibility, but it is about sharing and helping build the world. And doing that is not just about giving things up for others, it is also about the fact that through doing that, it will contribute to us. It will change us, build us up which he shared he experienced when Chris and his wife worked with an NGO on a hospital ship.

A great story. And yes, I want to live up to at least part of that. That is why I am building TechPastors. Because I have a dream, I want to pull it off and I believe that I am not alone in believing that the church and Christian organizations could really do with a clear view of what you can do with technology. So, I am going to push forward. Want to help? Let me know!

LeWeb: I am ready

leweb-day1Yes, it is time. LeWeb is going to be starting in minutes and I am happy to be back. It promises to be a really interesting conference. I have noticed that the quotes of two of the Google speakers read “Don’t be evil” and in the light of recent developments that could be an interesting statement to make.

Anyway, I will be blogging here today. I hope to be sharing some of the pictures that Luca Sartoni is taking and just give you a nice overview of the day.

I will also be adding blogposts to Techpastors, my new blog. It will be the start of something new and hopefully something that we can make bigger than myself. The site is still in a very preliminary layout, but I wanted to have it up for LeWeb. So, enjoy!

The price of storage: get 20Gb free, or 1Tb if you like pictures

Screen Shot 2013-05-21 at 11.02.58The past week has seen a rise of storage opportunities. Last Thursday I tweeted about Copy. It is a new dropbox competitor that has decided to show off that storage has become cheaper and cheaper. Where Dropbox, Google Drive and Skydrive only start you off with a measly 5Gb, Copy jumps in and gives you 15Gb to start with. If you use a referral link from someone, you can get an extra 5Gb which brings you up to 20 free gigabytes. A good start. And whenever anyone uses your personal link to register, Copy gives you an extra 5Gb of storage. Without a limit. With three people using my link, I am now up to 30Gb. But Chris Pirillo got his bonus storage up to 10Tb. Now that sheds a whole new light on free storage. I do not even have 10Tb worth of harddisk space in my house…

And as we are on terabytes of storage, Flickr has released its all new and revamped service yesterday. Where the old service limited people to just 200 photos and seconds of video, the new service is like a self-help, free for all, storage bonanza. Now they offer 1Tb of storage for your photos for free. And all the annoyance you get is some ads on the pages. I have been a long standing Flickr Pro member and I love their new look. The photos are presented better, there is a much improved timeline and I finally enjoy going to the Flickr homepage to see what my friends are doing, instead of looking at their activity in my Facebook or Twitter timeline. However, as a Pro member, I do feel left out in the cold a bit. I have my subscription until October 2014 and all that gives me is unlimited space, no ads and detailed stats. I am certain I will not be touching that 1 Tb limit this year, I seldom look at the stats and I haven’t got a clue how many ads they show, so that could not be too bad. So, if you are a free member of Flickr, or if you are just starting out, just don’t pay for anything. I am sure that by the time you have filled up your 1Tb (that would allow for 500,000 very high resolution pictures) they will come out with a free 10Tb upgrade.

Storage has become cheap. So, go and create, take up space and claim it. After all, it is much easier to do online than nicking it from your neighbors yard.

And if you want to get 20Gb of online storage for free, click this link: http://copy.com/?r=UhTwO6 (and give me some 5Gb extra in the process, thanks!)

Nuts bedrijf Delta wil mij graag langdurig als klant. Mijn voordeel? Euhm, niets.

Screen Shot 2013-05-14 at 18.10.42Vorig jaar is mijn leveringscontract voor energie verlopen. Wij zitten al bijna 11 jaar bij Delta NV en zijn daar op zich best tevreden mee. Heb ik dan een speciale band met de Delta? Nou, nee, dat nou ook weer niet. Het is natuurlijk een lokale onderneming en daarmee lijken ze wat minder onpersoonlijk dan de grote concurrenten uit het midden van het land. Maar verder kan ik eigenlijk niets bedenken. Al is het gevoel dat je bij een kantoor binnen kunt stappen wel prettiger dan een onpersoonlijk 0900 nummer.

Maar goed, vorig jaar verliep het contract waarmee we ons voor 3 jaar aan de Delta verbonden. Een goed moment om over te sluiten. Dat dacht ook de Delta en ze stuurden ons een mail. “Wilt u uw contract oversluiten?” Ik heb er toen eens goed naar gekeken, maar ik zag eigenlijk geen enkel voordeel. Een vaste energieprijs is natuurlijk leuk, maar hoeveel voordeel haal je daar nou precies uit? Dus ben ik ook eens bij andere leveranciers gaan kijken. De een geeft je een cadeau, de andere een korting. Er is nogal wat te doen rondom het winnen van klanten in de energiebranche. Zo niet bij de Delta. Desgevraagd reageert de Delta in een tweet met “Het is een bewuste keuze om niet te stunten met kortingen. Wij bieden u de zekerheid van een laag tarief en goede service.^P” En daar kun je het als goede klant dan weer mee doen.

Nou ben ik wat betreft energie toch wel weer trouw. Dus blijf ik lekker zitten waar ik zit, laat het contract verlopen en ga verder met een variabele leveringsprijs. Op zich niets mis mee. Maar voor de Delta is het niet genoeg. Gisterenmiddag ontving ik opnieuw een mailtje van de Delta om mij aan te sporen om opnieuw de keuze te maken voor een leveringscontract. Gestimuleerd door mijn ongeremde optimisme besloot ik opnieuw de website van de Delta te bezoeken. Want als ze, zoveel maanden na het verlopen van het contract, ineens nog een mailtje sturen, dan hebben ze misschien begrepen dat het behouden van klanten je wat waard moet zijn. Dus klikte ik vol verwachting op de link in de mail.

Een emmer ijswater daalde neer in mijn nek. Om te beginnen moest ik opnieuw registreren om mijn persoonlijke aanbiedingen te krijgen. Vervelend, want dat had ik vorig jaar ook al eens gedaan. En aangezien mijn klantnummer en mijn adres niet veranderd zijn, had dat dus best bewaard kunnen blijven. -Vlak na ik dit probleem had, is gebleken dat de Delta hun Mijn Delta offline hebben moeten halen, omdat mensen de gegevens van anderen te zien krijgen. Maar de site voor de energiecontracten is nog steeds online, dus die zal daar niet onder vallen.- Na opnieuw geregistreerd te hebben, krijg ik mijn die opties voor mijn neus. Ik kan mijn contract 1 jaar vastleggen, 3 jaar vastleggen of 1 jaar variabel houden. Tussen 1 en 3 jaar vastleggen zit precies €0,- verschil. Als ik het contract variabel hou, dan verwacht de Delta dat ik zeker €1,53 per maand duurder uit ben dan wanneer ik mijn contract vastleg. Vol verbazing zak ik achterover. Dit kan toch niet waar zijn. Ongeacht wat ik doe, het is de Delta blijkbaar niets waard om mij als klant te hebben. Mijzelf langer verbinden aan de Delta en ze daarmee een garantie te geven op een bepaalde omzet is duidelijk niet genoeg om mij als klant waarde te laten hebben.

Beste Delta, ik vind jullie best aardig hoor, maar de liefde kan niet van een kant komen. Als ik me voor langere tijd aan jullie verbindt, dan wil ik daar graag een stukje waardering voor terugzien. Dat kan in de energieprijs zijn, dat kan ook op een andere manier. Maar dat kan niet door mij hetzelfde te bieden als ieder ander die zich wel, of niet aan jullie wil verbinden. Dan kijk ik net zo lief rond naar een maatschappij die mij wel als klant weet te waarderen. En de mogelijkheid tot het eventueel kans maken op het winnen van een kaartje voor Concert at Sea compenseert dat echt niet.

Beste energiemaatschappijen, weten jullie je klanten wel te waarderen? Willen jullie mij erbij als klant? Je weet me te vinden. Ik hoor het wel.

Three months in, how about that Nokia?

Yes, I grabbed the shot from the Nokia site to hide my own homescreen. ;-)

Yes, I grabbed the shot from the Nokia site to hide my own homescreen. 😉

It is only fair to get back to you all. Exactly three months ago, I asked the question whether I could switch to the Nokia Lumia 920 and Windows Phone 8, or not. And you might not believe it, but I do have an answer. In fact, the past three months with the Lumia have been a very interesting ride.

Did you think I was an Apple man? Many did. Yes, I own a Macbook Pro, an iPad, an iPhone and I enjoyed them. But I have always looked beyond them. I have had an Android phone for quite a while. I rooted it, played with it and enjoyed it. Only recently a Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 10.1 was given to us to enlarge our collection of technical gadgets. And then there is the Nokia Lumia 920. To be honest, I just love tinkering with this stuff. I like trying it out and finding its boundaries. I have found those on all of my products. There are things they do well, there are things they don’t do at all, or do terribly bad. That is something that you need to learn and accept more than linger on.

One of the things I love about the Nokia is that it brings people to me. Wherever I am on the Nokia, people come up to me and ask “Hey, is that that Windows Phone?” or “Hey, is that a new Nokia?” and they all continue to ask how I like it and whether they can hold it. Invariably they are impressed with the screen, invariably they think it is big, and invariably they think it is heavy. And so did I if I have to be honest. I felt like that when I first held it. But the weight and size disappear on you as you put it in daily use. And to answer that question, yes, it has become my daily phone and I love it. It has its shortcomings, but I enjoy it. I enjoy the color, the shape, the way it feels in my hand. And I love the camera. Man, I love that camera. It is just a joy to shoot pictures and video with it. The only thing I need now is a mount for my motorbike so I can use the Nokia as my GPS and my GoPro alternative.

Downsides? Yes, like I said, the Nokia has its shortcomings. To be honest, I don’t think they lie with Nokia. They are part of how Windows Phone 8 works. So I still have trouble with my social media mentions. I still cannot tag people in the Facebook app for WP8. I am still looking for a better app to sort out my notifications and there are few apps that actually get released for WP8. Which is a shame. Because the phone feels fast and responsive. It is easy to use and it is better at predicting my typing than my paid Swiftkey keyboards on both the Android phone as well as on the Tab 2. And those two beat the iPad and iPhone keyboards for me…

My conclusion? Over the past three monts I get asked the question “so, should I buy it?” more often than “how are you today?”. And this is my answer. There are different phones for different people. If you like straightforward, you are not into tech and just want a phone you can use with minimal fuss, get the iPhone. If you want a phone to tinker with, if you want something you can mold to your own perception of what a phone should be, get an Android. And if you do anything with images and video, if you want something different, if you use html5 sites more than apps or if you want to have an easy connection to Windows, get the Lumia 920. (And yes, I generalize. Thank you for reminding me.) Can I switch over to Windows Phone 8? Yes, I can. Could you? That is up to you. But if you ask me, you can too.

Trying out the new Lumia 920, could I switch over?

Lumia-920-arrivalHaving played with the Nokia Lumia 920 with Marko Ahtisaari at LeWeb in Paris in December, it triggered me to consider switching back to Nokia. Yes, I am one of those that has had a long list of Nokia phones up until the time the iPhone was launched, then I was sold. It was a great phone and a very good successor to my Nokia N95 of the time. Mind you, it is still lying on my desk as a reminder of how far smartphones have come in the past six years.

As many, my mobile device is one of the most important tools I have in my pocket. It helps me do whatever I need to do. From keeping appointments to calling and interacting with friends. It supplies me with the background tracks to my life and it accompanies me everywhere I go. So, my phone just needs to work. Period. I love a phone that facilitates me and does not bother me with the details. That is the reason why I first fell for the iPhone and why I have also added Android phones to my mobile experience. Even in the past seven days I have switched back and forth between Android 4.1.2 and iOS6. And now I have officially switched to the Nokia Lumia 920.

The arrival of the phone offered a deja vu. The box is very similar to the box of the Lumia 800 that I got a year ago. However, the phone is a lot better. I am glad they got rid of the -in my opinion- hideous bulge the glass had. The Lumia 920 is nice and flat all around. It is a big phone though, especially if you come from the 4″ phone screens. Luckily Nokia sent me a Lumia in vibrant red, because I love the fact that they don’t have to be subdued colors anymore. You want to lay it on the table screen down just to see the red back. Obviously it comes with red in-ear earplugs that I have not tried out yet. Maybe tomorrow.

Now we get to the part where I set up a phone. I have already had a Windows Phone, but connecting it to my Microsoft account did not do much for my settings. Unline an Android phone that starts syncing everything right away, the WP8 phone just thanks you and syncs your mail, contacts and calendar from your Microsoft account. And as I am mainly on Google, that doesn’t do anything for me. So, the quest for apps and syncs was on again. Luckily, connecting the phone to Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn was easy. But there is no way to work with Google+. That is a shame. Also, you notice Google’s complete neglect of WP8 as you find out there is no Gmail app for WP8 nor do they have Chrome for it. And those are my two most used apps on my Android, iPhone and iPad. That is annoying.

Last time around I started ranting about the notifications. Nokia’s brand manager ensured me that it has improved a lot. So, I am looking forward to testing it out. Whatsapp seems to be working nicely with notifications that can be read -partly- at the top of your screen. Now I need to do the same for Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn mentions. I see those on the so-called me-tile, but that doesn’t trigger me much. Yet. And I am now trying to find alternatives for my most used apps on my other phones through an app searching service. We will see how that works out.

I would love to hear what your favorite apps are and what you would want to see me try with the Lumia 920.

How HMV’s twitter account went to the dogs – and how to prevent it

hmv-dog-marketingHMV was hot news on Twitter today when staff took over the retailers twitter channel. I am not going to dive into the whole deal about financial troubles and layoffs. It is a tough time for retailers in the business HMV is in and with their new owners it might take them some time to get back on top. In the meantime it has been interesting to see how new technology has been completely passed up on in the first steps of restructuring.

I will try to set the scene based on the -now deleted- tweets by HMV staff this afternoon. Apparently HMV had an intern make the HMV Tweets account on Twitter. Nothing special. Even big companies choose to let interns rule their interpersonal communication with their fans. A good idea? Not at all, and I can give you lots of  reasons why. However, that is not the purpose of this post, so I will leave them out.

So, HMV had a twitter account and they have mainly used it to communicate new releases, congratulating the stars on their own label and congratulating followers with winning their own competition. They did do a single personal retweet of someone calling everyone to purchase from HMV to support the high street. So, nothing too personal and relational on there. But as people love their media, they still have thousands of followers. There are two sides to that story. Yes, you can dump your messages to almost 70 thousand people as a corporate. But the people holding the keys to that account can also reach some of your most loyal 70 thousand customers with one simple click.

hmvtweetsAnd that is what happened. The person(s) who tweeted this have been seeing the demise of HMV as something they could have been able to turn around. It might have been someone who has really wanted to put in more than their share to make HMV work again. Or so the tweet seems to suggest when he or she says: “However, when the company you dearly love is being ruined and those hard working individuals, who wanted to make hmv great again, have mostly been fired”. So they broke the silence they were bound to by their contracts and came out with what was happening at the offices. The bad news spread quickly over twitter and it did not take long before the news picked up on it and articles started appearing on the BBC and ITV website.

Will this affect the retailer in the long run? Possibly. After all, the tweets first reached their 70 thousand most loyal followers. So what should have been done? It is hard to say, but it does start with control over the social media channels of your organisation. Especially when you are going to be giving the company a lot of bad news, it might be wiser to make sure the account is under control of someone you can really, really trust. Perhaps only for that first hour after the bad news hits, perhaps for longer, but make sure there is some kind of control. After all, these are channels that are now seen as at least as important for your communications as your official press releasees.

Quick tips?

  1. If you are a large organisation, use something like Hootsuite or another client that will allow you to grant access to teams of coworkers to your social media channels. You might never need to, but the ease of -temporarily- denying someone access can come in handy one day.
  2. If you are in a position where media silence needs to be obeyed, make sure social media is on that list of media channels that you have created a strategy for.
  3. Have a quick press release available when someone has been able to gain access to the account after all your trouble. Don’t let it spin out of control. Take over the channel again and communicate with your audience.
  4. Do not go around and delete all the tweets thinking that that will be the end of it. Screenshots happen. And they are around for a lot longer.
  5. Know your way around your social media channels. The HMV marketing manager that asked how to shut down Twitter is an example of how quickly your organisation can look bad.

 

Meeting expectations means understanding what your customer really wants

Everybody has been there. The salesman that is happy to sell you something that completely matches your expectations until the product has been delivered. You have asked all the right questions and he has given you all the right answers. He understood where you were coming from and you felt he had the perfect solution for you. However, when the product arrives, it turns out that your expectations and the products’ properties cannot match up. And you feel you have been had. When you call the salesman he feels he has been had as well, as he was sure he answered your questions with all his knowledge and honesty.

Reality often is that the salesman might actually have done a great job. However, there have been aspects of the product that he was not told about, or that he did not consider to be very important in your conversation. This problem often does not originate with the salesman, but all the way up at product development and sales management. Don’t be that company. Make sure that you know what it is your customers are really looking for. Find out the questions they might have and how you should be answering them to satisfy their needs. If that means changing your product, do it. Make sure you live up to your promise. Do not force your customer in a position where he is tied to a product that he feels is inferior because his and your definitions were not the same. As an easy example, unlimited means just that to a consumer where your company might call it unlimited if it is unlimited on one of the 6 aspects of the product.

Don’t be that company because your customers are worth more than that.