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9 posts from August 2009

08/31/2009 Ads are like hookups; Social Media is like dating

It's amazing to see how businesses are going nuts over social media. Everyone wants to talk about it. Everyone wants to do social media marketing even if they don't really understand what it is. Robert Scoble had an interesting article about how he monetarily values Twitter and everyone I talk to in the industry says the same thing: All of their clients want Social Media.

While it's great that there's such a desire for this relationship marketing, the people asking for it often view it as the same type of quickie marketing they're used to: Create a sexy ad and let it run. It's like a hookup: Fun, flashy, not much commitment and you can walk away in the morning.  You have the idea that people are waiting for you to show up in a place they can't avoid you, too.

Social media might not cost as much as advertising but it takes a longer commitment and honest assessment of your brand. You might actually find that you need to change a few things (gasp!) to really attract the people you want and need. It's more like dating because it's going to take some time, you'll make mistakes along the way, and your ultimate measure of success will be how much you put into it. The end prize is also the same: A real relationship.

So here's my dating advice for Brands dipping their toes into the Social Media scene:
  1. Most people are not that into you - One of the most eye opening experiences for businesses is when they find out how little chatter there is about their brands online. Yes, if you have a big national brand that's done lots of advertising over many years, there's probably some chatter. But the reality is that once you start listening, you often don't hear that much. And why should you? Most people have much more important things to talk about beside your brand. Like their lives or their interests. You didn't honestly think they were obsessing over your product or service, did you? Like all self-centered daters, it's a challenge to realize that you're not that interesting naturally. You'll actually have to work at making yourself interesting so more people will talk about you.
  2. People tire quickly of other people who talk incessantly about themselves - One common mistake in dating and social media is that you burst on the scene and talk only about yourself. In social media, this can result in a stream of tweets and Facebook updates which are nothing more than small sales blurbs. If you run a discount business, or one where your value proposition is low price or deals, this may work for you. JetBlue and Southwest do this successfully with Twitter as does Dell. For people looking for a specific low cost deal, this is a good social media strategy.  For the rest, restating your marketing and sales pitches in social media is, well, boring. Hard to get a second date when you're boring us on the first one.
  3. Take the long-term view - Getting social media right requires planning. If you whisk your first date off to a moonlit dinner in the Bahamas, with champagne and calypso band, what on earth are you going to do on the second or third date? Taking a longer view means you have to have a content plan online on what you want to share and talk about. While this usually doesn't require lots of outside costs, it does require internal staff time, since they're the ones with the stories. You need to gather your stories, figure out how to tell them correctly, and decide how and when to put them online. Whether you're Scheherazade and the 1,001 nights or Salome with the Seven Veils (ooh, bad endings both), stretching things out to see what will happen next works. This is the hardest part but it's the one you need to keep your people coming back.
  4. Reward good behavior - Remember, in dating you want to show what parts you like too. If your date does something good, make sure you reward them, whether that's publicity, deals or letting them get to second base. You better start thinking about your reward system too, so they don't get unrealistic expectations.
  5. Own up to your mistakes quickly - Boy, the last thing you want is to have your date hear something bad about you first without addressing it. If you've made a mistake, online or offline, own up to it. Hearing it from you is better than hearing about it from others, especially if you're in denial. Things like this can be the kiss of death for a budding relationship. Make sure you have a process in place for dealing with this.
Of course, once you pass the dating phase and into a real relationship, you'll have to keep that spiced up as well. But that's really another blog post.

If you're the Eliot Spitzer of Social Media and just want to pay for it with no emotional ties, you can expect a bad ending. If you just want the quick hook up, well don't start complaining about feeling lonely or some unwanted "attachment" you might've picked up.


Social media is a commitment. If you're not ready for one, you should probably stay away.
08/26/2009 Wanted: Digital Storytellers

There's a superb scene in one of my all time favorites, the English TV series "The Singing Detective" written by the brilliant Dennis Potter and starring the great Michael Gambon. Sexy nurse Mills is greasing the skin challenged Marlowe and has to attend to his "private parts." To keep himself from getting overly aroused, Marlowe tries to focus on something boring and finally zeroes in on: The Story (his book).

When it comes to online marketing (and offline as well) it seems like we've lost track of the importance of the story. There's no doubt of the importance of storytelling with social media (like here, here, and here) but there are far too few examples of great online storytelling. Just like in the film, we have a hard time taking our mind off of the sexiness and glitz, on Web sites, in online advertising, on Twitter, and focusing on the hard stuff: crafting the story.

Recently I saw a great example from Johnny Walker online: a one-take story of the walker. While it was fun that it went out online, it still used a traditional, proven media: film. We're still looking for the great online storytellers who use the new medium, with all of its non-linear and two-way power to tell stories in such compelling way.

Burma_shave_sign Nowhere is this more evident than in online advertising. Web sites have done a better job but still are in its infancy as it relates to storytelling. I've always been impressed by the old Burma Shave billboard campaign of putting up its jingles along the highway at different intervals. Yes, they had a captive audience, but I bet that after the first two, people were dying to see how the story continued.

Wanting to know how a story ends (or even what happens in the next chapter) is the sign of a good story. Ever seen an online promotion or Web site where you couldn't wait to come back to see what happens next?  I haven't. If you have, please comment below!

One challenge for marketers is that we don't do sequential well. We get something up, and let it run. An ongoing content strategy for a Web site and social media is crucial yet sometimes marketers cut this first, due to budget requirements. An ongoing content strategy for online advertising is almost non-existent.

Not to mention that marketers often confuse talking about promotions with telling stories. You can do the former in the latter, but seldom vice versa. The more we can get marketers to speak like human beings, the better the chance of telling good stories.

How are you telling your story online? Is it worth listening to? Will anyone really care how it continues or how it ends?

Remember The Singing Detective and stop concentrating on greasing your private parts and focus on your story!

[For those of you who only know of the bastardization of The Singing Detective through the Robert Downey movie, here's a clip from the real deal].
08/25/2009 If Only Online Advertising Were Like Early TV

A recent report by Dynamic Logic claims that smaller display ads, you know, those little buttons stacked neatly on top of each other, have a greater impact than bigger, more intrusive ads, like Leaderboards or Big Ads.

Just to confuse us, Dynamic Logic then goes on to state that Rich Media ads with video perform best of all. Simple Flash ads perform worst of all.

That would make sense, except for the fact that none of the smaller ads use Rich Media but many use Flash. So small ads perform best except for Rich Media ads that are never small ads.

To make sure no one's feelings are hurt, they fess up that size doesn't matter; it's all about the creative, really. And most ads don't work because the creative isn't very good, and its all the agency's and media planning department's fault.

Let's get real about this. Most online advertising is an afterthought. The ads are the bastard children of print or TV ads with all the style of the former but with no substance. Since most don't work, the DIY crowd rightfully creates dancing mortgage seekers, or worse, that perform better.

Despite the IAC's best intentions and larger formats, none of this will change until we start seeing marketers start the campaign online, and then move that to traditional. Has anyone ever heard of a TV spot coming from a Rich Media ad, rather than vice versa? The best online ads seem to show up when there's not a repurposing of the traditional ads, like the Tiger Woods banners, or the well-done takeover campaigns by Deep Focus for True Blood and Mad Men.

The latter is clearly the wave of the future as it pulls out the creative stops by embedding relevant content with creative on key sites, rather than blasting out ads all over a content network. The thought and detail that has to go into something like this, or even a well done rich media ad like the VW Twitter analyzer, is surprising only because we're not used to seeing the attention and creative power focused on online advertising.


I'm still hoping to see a parallel with early TV. The first few years were terrible. Then young directors realized that there were far fewer rules in the new medium and started creating for TV instead of Hollywood. They were so successful that they either became big name directors (Robert Altman, Sidney Lumet) or Hollywood simply remade the TV shows into Oscar Winners (Marty).

The opportunity is there. The question is whether enough of us will pay attention to it.
08/17/2009 A Morning with the Master

I had the good fortune to hear Avinash Kaushik last week at Epik One's Seminars for Success Summit. I read Avinash's book a number of years ago and follow him on his blog and Twitter. But he's way better in person.

He spent the morning talking about Multi Channel Analysis and the main thrust of his presentation was the challenge of giving credit where credit is due. Offline guys don't get online and don't give it any credit for driving bricks and mortar business. Online guys turn their noses up at offline, and don't give traditional any credit at driving online sales. The reality is that it's one ecosystem; that, to quote Dave Hughes, it's all Non-Line Marketing.


Avinash talked about a number of tactics to use to validate the effect of one 'line to the other 'line. Old things like 800 numbers, coupon codes and vanity URLs (hello direct marketing!). But he also talked about looking beyond the expected Web metrics and looking three to four layers below what you normally look at. And to extend this past the campaign to see residual effect of traditional channels like radio TV and print.

He talked about some smart ideas like measuring the value of store locator results pages and online catalog requests. He pointed out new services to track phone calls and live chat.

Most importantly, he talked about tying online data with offline data. Or, as he put it succinctly, "If you don't have a CRM tool, you're screwed!"

Ah, now we come to the crux of the problem. I've worked with some big companies who didn't even come close to having a CRM tool. They had no idea how to value or measure anything except the sales channel; was it up or down? There was no discussion about lifetime valuation of a customer and no tools to measure, over time, the true value of outreach.

As marketers, we normally don't do a good job of showing our value. We need to do a better job of explaining and taking the time to connect the dots for clients: Showing them what we do, and bringing that back to their business. When times are good, we feel that marketing works. When times are tough, we have to fight for every penny.

Avinash gave me some great ideas to think about; ideas I'll incorporate into some of my clients marketing programs. What I didn't get was what to do about companies who find implementing a proper CRM tool daunting or a waste of money.

I wish there were as easy a solution as Google Analytics.
08/11/2009 The End of the Beginning for Twitter?

Robert Scoble had an interesting comment on yesterday's blog. Once you get through his bluster, he seems like a guy dealing with an out of control monster, i.e. his Twitter followers. In trying to do the right thing for everyone, the whole Twitter experience became unworkable.

Maybe it's time to put in some limits to Twitter. On the upper scale, these would only apply to a few, but in doing so, Twitter might be able to make its tool more manageable
  • Set the Free Twitter limit of followers and people you can follow to 5,000 (or 10,000 or 1,000) - Limiting who you're following is easy. Limiting and changing who's following you would be harder. But they're clever guys at Twitter. One of the interesting things that might happen here is that have to refresh followers and follows regularly. This might be a good thing, forcing Twitterers to make new contacts, and listen to new people, continually.
  • Make people pay, for various levels of followers (25K, 50K, 100K) - This might be an acceptable business model for Twitter and would work for those who need big followers (brands or social media superstars). It would hurt spammers and some big swinging Tweets who have big followings but no biz model. Twitter would have to build some type of spam filters if they're going to make people pay, so that they don't run into Scoble-type issues.

Look at the top 100 on Twitterholic.com. They are all (pretty much) celebs or businesses. All of them can afford to pay for their following. There's almost no one on that top list you'd have any type of personal relationship with.

Of course, as soon as you limit who can follow you, it starts feeling more like Facebook, i.e. not a good thing.

It seems like we're starting to see the end of the beginning for Twitter. When it's top social media evangelists can't use it, there's trouble. Of course, I think it's worthwhile to think of this is a small or medium connection place rather than a big one. And I think when you take the auto-follow out of the equation, there's still a question of how many people you can manage (See Armano's 50-50 Rule post).

But something's got to give, when top social media evangelists start complaining about having too many people to deal with. It's kind of sad, actually. This has been a fun year on Twitter, the wild west of online.

08/10/2009 It's Time to Purge the Purgers

The big news last week was that social media superstar Robert Scoble had purged the people he followed from his Twitter account. He went from following 90,000 to none in no time. Scoble had instituted an Auto-Follow for his Twitter crowd, meaning that if you followed him, he would automatically follow you back. Lots of big swinging Tweets, like Guy Kawasaki, do this. The problem for Scoble is that he says he received too much spam. Now that he wasn't following anyone, the spam problem disappeared.

Well good for him. But the problem is that a number of other people followed suit (it wouldn't be social media if they didn't now, would it) and it raises an interesting question about Twitter. 

Why should you really follow someone if they don't follow you back?

The great excitement and promise for Twitter is that it is the best two-way thing out there. We've been talking interactive and one-to-one for almost 15 years now, and Twitter is probably the closest we've come. But it's playing out in two ways:
  • Individuals who you can actually listen to and connect with in real time; and
  • Broadcasters who are using Twitter to blast out their message, seeing it as another outreach medium
The problems start when broadcasters start posing as individuals. Pete Cashmore isn't really on Twitter, Mashable is. And now Robert Scoble is removing himself from Twitter as well, it's a Scobleizer broadcast instead. They're more like CNN and USAToday then they are like Chris Brogan.

The biggest problem I have with this is that it's not authentic. Seth Godin, as usual, is a good model here. He's realized that he can't have relationships with so many people at once, so rather than using the relationship tool Twitter and faking it, he eschews it completely. He's being very honest. However, over the years, every time I've sent Seth an email, no matter how trivial, he's answered it within 24 hours. Talk about authentic! He obviously doesn't need Twitter and will not compromise what he stands for.

I mentioned Chris Brogan before. He has as many followers as Scoble. Right now, he's still following them back. And Chris is great at answering DMs and email. He's been a huge help in the few things I've asked him.

Purge.sm I think we need to #PURGE the broadcasters posing as individuals. The reality is that it hurts them more than it hurts us. If someone unfollows me, big deal, I'm not basing my marketability on the number of Twitter followers I have. But broadcasters do. It's the only measure they have, since they're in a one-way conversation. It's like Nielsen TV ratings for them.

And if they broadcast something really interesting, some of their remaining followers will probably ReTweet it, so we're not really missing anything.

Except a two-way relationship.

So long, @scobleizer, I hardly new you. #PURGE

08/06/2009 1-800-Flowers is no Shrinking Violet

The best thing I've seen on social media in a while happened this last week when 1-800-Flowers revolutionized its Facebook pages with e-commerce. Remember when the hot thing on Facebook was sending virtual flowers, beer and ice cream? Business sprouted up to take advantage of this new Fad.

1-800-Flowers has instead turned the virtual real. It's trying to realize the true promise of social media by letting people do anything from their comfortable social media homes. Isn't that the true promise of what everyone's attempting to do? Find where your customer are and go there, instead of inviting them to go somewhere else?

I think this is a game changer.  What do you think?



08/04/2009 Business Culture and the Social Media Subversive

We hear a lot about how social media helps companies gain authenticity; how it enables people throughout the organization to make decisions; how it allows employees to connect directly with customers and solve their problems.

Well, what if your organization or business doesn't work that way? What happens if your culture is one of making sure the boss Okays everything? How can companies engage in social media if they haven't empowered people to take initiatives without second guessing them constantly?

I'm sure some of you will say that in today's world those questions lack relevance. But I've seen this in action. It's usually the case with a strong executive, sometimes the company's founder. While the organization might be quite successful, it's a very much command and control culture.

So if social media authentically reflects you, and your reflection isn't a good one, maybe your business should just forget about social media. PRSarahEvans made a great point at the social media breakfast yesterday when someone asked her about what to do when a company is afraid to jump into social media. She answered that companies should take a look internally about what causes the fear and start to address it before doing anything. (I think she'd make a great coach, by the way).

I think the companies who have this command and control culture are the ones who pop up in social media and then disappear after a few months. There's no commitment to the process or patience with building relationships. It's probably the same inside the company. And since cultures like these HATE hearing anything negative about themselves, they'd rather ignore the negative comments than address them.

Bolshevik Do you recognize yourself in one of these organizations? If you do, and you feel frustrated by this, I think you should become a Social Media Subversive. Start the revolution baby!

Only you'll have to do it surreptitiously. Set up your secret listening posts about your brand and category. Create your accounts and engage people who talk about you. Build a relationship that leads to a sale or inquiry, and keep doing it.

Probably someone at work will get mad at you, but if you have results, what's the problem? They probably won't find out until you reveal your success (since they're not monitoring anything). Take a page from the military: Don't Ask, Don't Tell.

Of course you could risk your job for insubordination. But if you do, even after your success, why would you want to work at a place like that? And you can take your social media success and market it to other companies.

The worst case would be that the success makes others jealous and they take the social media duties away and give them to someone else, someone with the "right" credentials who doesn't really get social media and drives this right into the ground.

Even if this happens, you'll still have a great story to tell.

Does anyone know of companies with this command and control culture where social media has flourished? I'd love to know...
08/03/2009 Burlington Social Media Breakfast #2

The second Burlington Social Media Breakfast today was another huge hit. There is a lot of interest and enthusiasm in this town/state to understand and get on top of this. Today's event had a PR focused and it was organized by #BTVSMB club founder Nicole Ravlin of People Making Good. Nicole is one of the best PR peeps in Vermont and she knows that lots of in-house PR people (and agencies as well) struggle to figure out where social media is in their mix.

Today's speakers included Sarah Evans, better known by her Twitter tag @prsarahevans, and Jason Kintzler, founder of Pitch Engine. The two of them did a great job presenting and an even better job at answering the many questions that came their way in the Q+A.

Both of them riffed on the same message: The world of Public relations has changed drastically and the old days of creating a press release and sending it to the media were, if not over, then almost over. One of the realities PR people (and the brands they work for) face is that they can't control the message any more. Both said similar things - It's about starting the story not ending it.

One thing I found very interesting is the emphasis both of them put on search. Over the last several years, a number of people have suggested that search and PR firms should merge. PR ultimately is about Findability. It used to be that you found out about companies through major publications. Now you find them online through blogs and social media, yes, but primarily through search.

Sarah talked a lot about using keywords and incorporating Google Adwords into every PR campaign. Jason talked about adding links and creating short, keyword rich online releases and how all content is searchable.

There were a lot of other good points but these are two of the best for companies and marketers to think about. Social media and online PR not only build relationships with real people, but it's one of the best ways to drive traffic to your brand. The content you create on social media does both.

And as it should, the event did two important things:
  • It got people's wheels turning about how they could use what they learned here today.
  • It made Burlington people want to connect more.
Joe Mescher will set up a TweetChat on Wednesday's to keep this going. In the mean time, make sure you sign up as a BTV social media club member. We're doing smaller, more informal breakfasts each month.

Our next big event is slated for the end of October or beginning of November. Look for details later this fall.

Thanks again Sarah, Jason and Nicole!

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