Field Trip: Social Crush

Out of the desk for the next two days at Social Crush, a hands-on social media conference for businesses. Follow on Twitter at #socialcrush or #colacrush. Good stuff!

Guest blogging on innovation.

Someone once told me I ask too many questions. Actually I’ve heard that a lot over the years. I used to think it was because I was nosy. Now I’m feeling a little more noble about my need to know everything.

Visit the Riggs Partners R-blog for my latest guest post on innovation.

Tour de France season is here!

This year’s Tour de France has been one for the record books already — mainly for a string of bizarre serious crashes that have taken out several significant GC contenders. I love watching the Tour de France. Listening to the Phil- and Paul-isms and just about every syllable that comes from Bob Roll’s mouth. That anyone can ride a bike that far for that long over that terrain amazes me. While doping issues will probably always cloud the sport and its athletes, I admire these guys for what they accomplish.

Talking about the ups and downs of this year’s tour these past few days has reminded me of a blog post I wrote a year or so ago. In it I recapped what happened when a popular cyclist-blogger wrote a cover letter to Johan Bruyneel trying to hook on to the wheel of Team RadioShack.

If you never read it, it’s a great lesson in the power of social media. Plus, it’s just a great story. Read it here.

Have a few more minutes? Take five to enjoy the blog post that started me down the Fat Cyclist trail, An Open Letter to Assos. This should be mandatory reading for anyone who cycles, has ever purchased a cycling bib or has customers for that matter.

I heart UX.

This week I got to do something completely new: a usability study. Being completely new to the process, I didn’t know much going in. Only that websites should be constructed for the people who use them. Makes sense right?

Well, that’s not the way it usually works. Many organizations create the website they think they need. One where content and design are based on their perception of their audience and their needs. It’s not built for their key audiences: the people who will actually be using the site. Or worse, it’s created for the wrong audience. For two days, I had the privilege of watching True Matter completely dissect the perceptions and needs of several audiences for a website that’s under development. It was absolutely fascinating.

Dean penned a great post on this very topic last week. It’s worth a read. It’s full of great information that works even for the smallest website or Facebook page.

My first usability experience was pretty eye opening. It made me realize many websites are clunky and useless because they’re not built around their audience’s needs and usage patterns.

A website that’s not functional for audiences is so 2009. In 2011, if you don’t ask what audiences need and want, you’re going to hear about it. But probably not by e-mail. Today’s wired users head straight to Facebook and Twitter. Hopefully you’re listening.

Passion and Best Practices

I saw a great tweet earlier this week from Feedback Agency sharing a blog post from Jonathan Betz: a discussion of what he calls the Passion Gap. Here’s how he defines it:

“This, to me, is the difference between a product built by someone who is deeply invested in the in the underlying product idea, as compared to a product built by someone who is just trying to check off a set of feature boxes. This is what I think of as the Passion Gap.”

You can read the entire post here, but Jonathan felt some of Foursquare’s ongoing success in spite of Facebook Places’ introduction last year was founder Dennis Crowley. He’s so deeply invested in not just Foursquare, but the success of location-based marketing that he lives it and breathes it.

I thought that was a great observation.

In this day and age when so many companies spend so much effort analyzing others’ best practices in an effort to replicate success, there’s a key ingredient of the success they’ll never be able to capture.

The journey to a best practice is littered with experiments, ideas and results that never see daylight. There’s a level of immersion that adds depth to the work at hand. The journey can also include a “Dennis Crowley” who drives and pushes a “good” practice to the point where it evolves into a “best” practice.

All the information in the world is no substitute for passion. Today’s engaged consumers and clients can see and feel the Passion Gap so do what you can to close it. Or even better, make sure it never exists in the first place.