Archive for category Communications & Social Media

The schizophrenic marketer

Crazy HomerSchizophrenia – noun – a severe mental disorder characterized by some, but not necessarily all, of the following features: emotional blunting, intellectual deterioration, social isolation, disorganized speech and behavior, delusions, and hallucinations (dictionary.com) 

Sound like anyone you know? How about us marketers? Well maybe not you, specifically, but I’d argue that many of our peers seem to be showing signs of schizophrenia. See if any of these sound familiar…

Exhibit 1: Company X wants to promote a new mission or vision or product. So they hit up Twitter with some spiffy new hashtag. At first glance Company X is ready to proclaim the short endeavor a success but then realize the only ones using the hashtag are employees. Moreover, it is the same few constantly talking among themselves, or more to the point, to themselves.

Exhibit 2: So Company X decides to give LinkedIn a try. They’re a B2B firm and they know from market research that their target segment is actively involved on LinkedIn. So what do they do? Duh, start a group. Start yet ANOTHER LinkedIn group. But this one will (of course) stand out because it has THEIR brand on it. Who *wouldn’t* want to be part of a conversation sponsored by their brand. Knock knock, it’s reality. Please come on back.

Exhibit 3: My favorite still is the Facebook promotion. Company X starts promoting a Facebook page. “Like” them and earn a chance at a winning some prize, or get a 5% discount on your next order. I’m probably in the minority, but my loyalty or endorsement has to be worth more than that. And even if it’s not worth more, human nature is to assume that it is. Now as for the “like” sluts out there (you know who you are), does Company X really even want those endorsements? The “like” button has become a hyper-inflationary currency. Marketers can’t print it fast enough, and the more they print the less valuable it becomes.

So my dear marketers – I beseech you to do the following…

1) Stop talking to yourselves out loud. Frankly, it’s weird and uncomfortable.

2) Stop assuming that the conversations you start are necessarily going to be the most relevant.

3) Don’t act so desperate. It’s not becoming and certainly isn’t going to drive customer loyalty.

Instead – be sincere. Go to where the conversations are already taking place. And for goodness sake, you don’t have to do all the talking. Listening from time to time may also be helpful.

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Kathy Sierra: Pixie Dust & The Mountain of Mediocrity

Kathy Sierra: Pixie Dust & The Mountain of Mediocrity

I never understood how any of this made sense, given that very little of what I see “brands” (or their human spokestweeters) do on social media is changing the fundamental nature of how users interact with their products. “But that is not the point! It is about being human!”. Nope, I still don’t get it. Why would anyone want to compete on *that*? It felt fragile to be in essentially a marketing arms-race of who-is-the-most-engaging-social-media rock star. What does that really have to do with what users do with the product?

A nice companion read to Kris’ Going beyond the sizzle (of technology marketing).

[via: Tom Fishburn: Marketing Fairy Dust]

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Social Media Overdose

If it’s not broken, don’t fix it.

Do you have a blog?
What’s your Twitter handle?
Are you on LinkedIn?
Facebook me!
Let’s start an internal group on Yammer!
We need to start a community!

Everyday we are bombarded with the pressure to join some type of social media platform – some old, some new, but in either case there’s always this huge fuss about being part of it… as if to say that if you’re not doing all of the above, you’re somehow missing out on the next big thing.

Let’s clear the air – the power of social media is not about in the tools or the number of them in your arsenal – it’s how you use the tools, how the network of relevant users is using those tools and whether or not each one is serving a distinct purpose. Truth be told, not every tool is going to be applicable for your purposes and so… YOU DON’T NEED TO BE ON EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THEM.

Case in point… Seth Godin does not tweet. Yes, he has a twitter handle but it’s nothing more than a feed for his blog. He doesn’t have comments enabled on his blog, and he doesn’t respond to Twitter @replies. Yet, you’ve probably read his blog. His purpose, to communicate an idea and to see if that idea sticks. Plain and simple. You won’t find him tweeting up opinions on politics or responding to some dissident view point.

OK OK… so that’s Seth Godin – you could argue that’s an atypical example. But does that mean you as a marketer need to be doing all of the above. If anything, I’d argue if the point of social media is about starting an engaged and collaborative conversation -why would you make it so difficult for people to track (potentially) multiple conversations. Instead, wouldn’t you want to bring your audience to a single, focused platform where they can engage with not only you but the rest of your audience?

So while I’m all about embracing the benefits of social media, I also believe that the benefits become dilutive when we go too broad. I’ll leave you with this simple analogy I heard a colleague say to me today…

“I buy the drill for the hole that it leaves, not because I want more tools.”

In other words, don’t go buying the latest, fanciest drill when a simpler (less expensive) one will do .Don’t create multiple conversations when one will do. Don’t create multiple channels when one will do. If you have a great blog where people are engaged – do you really need to pull people away to a linkedin group?

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Making a mockery of movement marketing

Today, on Facebook, I saw at least 5 pink ribbon videos, articles, symbols, etc. And then I saw one for rescued animals, and then one for substance abuse recovery. Don’t get me wrong, these are all GREAT causes. But I submit to you that social media has let out the air out of movement marketing.

What was once an actionable and noble thing has now become an overplayed and misrepresented form of brand association. And it’s not just big companies that are doing it (though they are probably the worst perpetrators). It’s us as consumers, as friends and as neighbors.

Let’s have less talk and more walk.

Less on awareness and more on action.

Less 30 second Facebook posting and more 30 minutes volunteering.

Social media has made it too easy for us to feel good about ourselves that we’ve forgotten the point behind movement marketing – and that’s to move people.

Will 50,000 virtual thumbs up change someone’s life? Maybe. Would just 50 people giving up an hour to help their community? Abso-freakin-lutely.

Put another way, how much movement are you really doing by posting that FB badge on your profile saying you believe animal abuse is wrong? I mean – I should hope we all feel that way. We need to do more than just give ourselves a pat on the back.

1) Bring people together to become change agents. And a FB page does not mean you’ve brought people together. I work for a giant, complicated organization and one of the things that often frustrates people is how difficult it can be to move the needle. That said, it’s also amazing to see what can be accomplished when the masses are aligned. I’d argue there isn’t a problem we couldn’t solve by working in concert. So don’t just hand out ribbons – bring people together.

2) Don’t make it about YOU. The blatant co-branding with the pink ribbons has become out of control. The pink ribbon isn’t about your fried chicken. It isn’t about your brand. (See my earlier blog about why your brand should come second) The movement is about the people and the cause, not your brand.

3) Give it away. Nothing irks me more than seeing “$.50 cents of every purchase will be donated to blah blah blah”. To me that’s nothing more than the same discount or coupon you’d give to the customer if there wasn’t a charity. That doesn’t move me and I doubt it moves you. Instead of marking it down – GIVE IT AWAY. You don’t have to do it for a month, or even a week. Denny’s gave away breakfast for a day costing them about $14 million in sales but bringing in about $50 million worth of free advertising (source).

Hopefully I’ve successfully turned my rant into something a bit more productive. My fear in all this co-branding is that we’re doing more harm than good, not only for big brands but for the movements themselves. People feel like their part of the movement when in reality they’re just as disengaged as they were before – except with a page on their FB profile. HOW TERRIBLY UNINSPIRING!

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The expectations of giving

GivingLately I’ve been feeling cynical. Several people I know have jumped on the bandwagon blogging, tweeting, attending digital events, etc all in the name of personal/professional growth. I think to myself, are these guys really interested in growing and putting ideas out there? Or are they just trying to get a piece of the action to promote themselves.

Then I wonder, is there a difference? At the end of the day aren’t we all here to promote ourselves? A business or consultant isn’t blogging in the interests of free information and the greater good. Would these people still give without the get?

I know that without you, the few and faithful readers, I’d have stopped writing a long time ago. If no one read my blog, I’d just be writing to a void. And yet, that’s what I see happening. People writing into a void, and while they hope people will talk to them – they don’t act like it. They don’t give expectantly.

Now let me say there’s a fine line to this argument. I don’t look at social media as some divine strategy to promote myself or business because it’s not. But the days of one way communication are over so there must be a corresponding change in mindset.

Put another way, the significance of social media is not in who follows you. It’s not how many people like your product or service. It’s the connection that’s made… And the number of followers or likes, which increases the probability of making a real connection, is not the metric that should matter to you.

It comes down to a very subtle change in expectations. If you expect to be hailed as a thought leader, if you expect a sale, if you expect a raise, if you expect world supremacy – you will fail. BUT if you give with the expectation that you will make a difference in someone’s day, with the expectation that you will connect with someone you wouldn’t have otherwise connected with – THAT’S SOMETHING!

If you’re putting something out there – it’s OK to expect something back. Just know what it is you’re expecting.

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Make it easy

My wife is a huge fan of BravoTV’s Top Chef, and I have to admit that somewhere along the way, I got drawn into the show as well. And while I’m not a fan of reality TV as a genre, I do enjoy the food and watching the “cheftestants” prepare their meals.

Like any good multi-media, multi-channel marketing strategy, Top Chef has taken to the internet to provide some companion content to the show. Coming mostly in the form of blogs and twitter accounts from the judges, every Thursday we get some more context and perspective on what we saw the night before.

After a few weeks of my wife regaling me with snippets from Chef Tom Colicchio’s blog, I went off in search of the blog myself, only to be utterly disappointed and, at the same time, not at all surprised at what I found.

A fan of RSS feeds, I rely on Google Reader to aggregate and centralize most of my online content consumption. Twitter is a great way to surface important topics, but for me, nothing beats RSS for sifting quickly through large piles of content.

Like many of its contemporaries, BravoTV lacks any sort of RSS implementation on its blogs. Sure, there’s a Top Chef twitter account, but it doesn’t, as far as I can tell, include any links to the Top Chef blogs, which is itself yet another miss on Top Chef’s part. I’m sure it made sense in some meeting somewhere, the idea that dedicated fans will want – need, even – to go directly to a website to read the newest blog post the second it comes out. By doing so they’ll let us collect data, serve them ads, and cross-promote any number of other initiatives. A good deal for all.

The thing they’re missing, of course, is that the most loyal customers are the ones that follow your RSS and twitter feeds. Not only are they the most loyal customers, but they’re the most likely to promote your stuff to their friends. While its important for us to figure out ways to accomplish our business goals (metric tracking, serving ads, cross-promoting other initiatives, or whatever), doing so by increasing the number of hoops through which our “best fans” should reasonably go assumes a scarcity and uniqueness of content that will never be true again. (Hat tip to John Gruber, whose analysis of the Daring Fireball RSS Feed membership is one of my favorite takes on this topic).

So in the end its up to us to 1) get as many people to see our stuff as possible, 2) reduce the number of steps our fans go through to get the content they really want, and 3) figure out how to accomplish our business goals under that framework.

Because without readers/customers, it doesn’t matter how good the content is or how many different wants we’ve devised to meet our business goals.

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In Search of the Corporate Mullet

Bring the mullet backFirst, I apologize if I’ve offended anyone that sports a mullet. This post is not aimed at you. Quite the contrary, you are actually my new model citizens.

As I browse the corporate blogs, tweets, and fan pages out there, I’m disappointed by how banal and predictable most of them are. While there is some very informative content out there, by and large there’s a complete lack of personality. Always clean-cut is no way to go through life. The same should hold true for your social media efforts.

Instead, find your inner corporate mullet. Business up front is good, but don’t forget to show the party in the back.

A celebrity with a million followers isn’t just tweeting about his next big movie or endorsement. No, he’s talking about anything under the sun, even at the risk of being quirky. And it endears him to his fans. Ashton Kutcher didn’t get to 5 million + fans by acting like a corporate brand. When in reality he is as much a brand as any big business.

Same goes for some of the best marketers I follow on the web. They don’t just talk marketing. Instead they’re engaged in entirely unrelated conversations that tell me who they are as people (something I am trying to better apply to my own digital life). Some of my favorite marketers include @marketingprofs, @dmscott (who just wrote a great story on storytelling) and @sarasantiago (who was just named one of the 100 coolest peeps in Milwaukee. I’m told I just missed the cutoff at 101). All of them have one thing in common – they are not your run-of-the-mill, blatant self-promoters.

I’m not trying to stop you from doing your press releases and case studies. Those are important too. But just talking corporate speak isn’t going to bring you any closer to real people. And as I said in an earlier blog, as a B2B marketer, I can’t forget that the one who ultimately buys my product/service/solution is a person (not a business).

If real people make the ultimate purchase decisions, why don’t we talk to them like they’re real people? You have my permission to stop acting like a business, if only for a moment. Go forth and flaunt that mullet. Who knows… you may even like it!

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The perils of social media

e-Books? Dude!

Musician dogs are just that much cooler

Over the weekend my friend Kris and his family (yes, that Kris) came over for some dinner, some good conversation, and some better than average peanut butter cookies. Somewhere along the way, Kris and I got into a discussion about the new Amazon Kindle. In search of an e-reader that’s not an iPad, Kris was interested by the recent announcement of the Kindle 3 WiFi and its seemingly bargain-basement price.

And so we spent the next few minutes discussing the new Kindle. Apart from the massive selection of books and magazines in the Kindle Store, the Kindle also has the ability to pull web pages from Instapaper and display them as text-only on the Kindle, a feature that’s great for those that subscribe to multiple blogs and news sources and want to read them in a convenient newspaper like format (see here for more on how to use Instapaper)

Later that evening Kris went home and asked for Kindle opinions via Facebook. Predictably, the very first comment was “Dude! Get an iPad!!” (said in your best Bill S. Preston, Esquire voice). Round and round they went, the commenter and Kris, never quite seeing eye to eye; Kris said repeatedly that he was looking for a dedicated e-reader that hit a lower price point and functionality combination than the iPad; the commenter kept repeating the phrase “game changer,” somewhat unwilling to accept the premise that anyone could want something other than what he wants.

Being sheeple

And thus underlines one problem with social media: often the most basic elements of segmentation are overlooked by the online vocal minority. They complain about the iPhone’s lack of “advanced functionality,” even though the iPhone seems to be targeted at the fat part of the adoption curve (translation: the larger, less technically adept segments). They make sweeping statements like “Everyone wants a Verizon iPhone!!” and ask questions like “Who would want a Wii when you could have a Playstation 3?!?” They generally forget that there are groups of people out there completely unlike themselves, people who want phones that make calls, email that’s intuitive, and an e-reader that has access to hundreds of thousands of books, magazines, and newspapers. And while they understand the iPad and its coolness, they don’t really care enough to actually buy one.

But …

My point here is that its easy to get lost in the echo chamber that is the blogosphere, to get swept up in the pomp and circumstance that leads many to believe that everyone must be just like them. But the world is a bit more interesting than that. Just like there’s no one perfect spaghetti sauce, there’s no one perfect e-reader solution, and its important for us to remember that.

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Beyond Marketing: The value of social media

Social Media BandwagonAt dinner with a group of colleagues the topic of social media came up. Particularly with regard to Twitter, the overwhelming consensus (that is everyone at the table but me) was that people didn’t see the point. While there are always laggards, I was not expecting this table to be among that group.

Of course, it should also come as no surprise that I began making the case for social media. I was abruptly cut off and told, “well it’s different because you’re in marketing.” As if to say Twitter was just a bunch of celebrities and marketers hanging out talking to each other. Sadly, the point caught me off guard and I really had to stop and consider that statement. Fortunately my quick wit caught up with me after dinner as I made my way back to my hotel room ready for response. Since dinner’s over – you all get to hear my thoughts here on this blog.

No – Twitter is not just for marketers or celebrities. And no, Twitter is not just to let people know you’ve just used the bathroom at your cousin’s girlfriend’s house with the door wide open, or other acts equally mundane. Twitter, or more broadly speaking, social media is…

1) A tool for collaborative communication and problem resolution. This should be a no brainer. Got a problem? Ask your tweeps. Got an idea to brainstorm, blog it and see what comes back. There is a ton of expertise out there, and the content is by and large free. I think by now most readers get this, but @comcastcares is a great example of real-time problem resolution made possible through real-time communication like Twitter.

2) A customer insight machine. I know what you’re thinking – this is supposed to be for non-marketers. If so, I call BS. Customer insight is everyone’s job – not just marketing, not just sales. If you are not listening to your customers, your competitors, your peers and industry luminaries – then something bad should happen to you. There’s no excuse to not be at least listening in to those conversations.

3) Entertainment. See @shitmydadsays or@thedayhascome. That’s I’ll say on that.

4) A community enabler. So yes, there’s a lot of marketers out there. But are we always marketing? No. In fact, I tweet to talk with and learn from other marketers. And it’s not just around industries or functions. In Milwaukee we had huge flooding last month. The damage was catastrophic in some places, and you know what medium broke the story to the most people first? Not TV, not radio, not the national weather service. It was Twitter. Just look up #brewcityflood or read this great blog from @TriveraGuy which tells the story far better than I could.

So I’ll say it again – Social Media is not just for Marketers. It’s not just for tracking celebs or giving your friends the blow by blow of your trip to the acupuncturist. Still don’t believe me? Then you leave me no choice but to quote the intellectual wizard that is @kaynewest who said “Fresh code is my dress code”. I can’t argue with that.

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