Posts Tagged ‘Social Media’

Most people don’t realize that I started my career in the music industry. Prior to my ventures in the digital marketing industry, I founded and managed a couple of independent labels and also ran a division of one of the larger independent distributors in the US. I learned many valuable lessons about business back then, but the one lesson that has best stood up to the test of time is that content can be a currency. This was is true for music, and it is true for web-based content today. But just what do I mean by “Content is Currency”?

Content in the Attention Economy

As marketers, we must understand the attention economy. As media fragments, attention becomes scarce. Content becomes the conduit to earn consumer attention – it becomes the currency, if you will, that creates the marketer’s side of the value exchange.

The cries of Content is King have reverberated through the halls of agencies and media companies forever. However, sometimes, content value seems to be misinterpreted by marketers as production quality, clarity of the marketing message or brand voice.  At the very least,  the definition of “high quality” content has become such a given that it is  not properly planned for, thus resulting in content that can easily have little relevancy or value to the consumer.

While  compelling content buys attention in all media, digital media presents the opportunity of discoverability, one of the unique  and most valuable attributes of the web in general. Most notably, search and social media play the largest roles in consumers discovering brand relevancy and value via content.  Search explicitly matches consumer interest and demand with content and products. Social media  on the other hand implicitly facilitates discoverability via sharing. Social media both further fragments attention and facilitates discovery of relevant content through the social graph at the same time. When consumers find content relevant and compelling, the psychology of human interaction and the  mathematics of network theory facilitate sharing. At a certain scale the content “goes viral”. Folks, viral is a result and not a tactic, but the goal should always be to produce compelling content that consumers value.

Do You Have a Content Strategy?

When planning your company’s content strategy, here are a few vital elements to not forget.

  • Frequency: if content is a currency, you might as well have a lot of it. More importantly, develop an editorial calendar for your different types of content across owned, earned and paid media.
  • Relevancy: for content to be compelling it has to be relevant to the consumer. Content should also be somewhat related to your product category or the lifestyles in which your product is used. Don’t forget that for some channels, like email, elements of relevancy come in the form of personalization.
  • Voice: without getting into the specific type of content (videos, blogs, tweets, mashups, or any other experiential content type), every brand needs to develop a voice beyond that of the brand voice. Are you going to be funny and witty, serious and informative, irreverent and unexpected? A little of each? This will tactically drive the content. Of course, there are some givens – like, humorous content often facilitates sharing. But it all has to be on strategy.
  • Authenticity: consumers want to see the personality behind the contrived brand voice. A little human authenticity goes a long way. Marketers are human too – at least most of us are. There is a place for the brand voice – know where it belongs and where it doesn’t.
  • Transparency: Consumers want to feel like they can trust your brand. They want to know more about the inner workings of the companies they chose to support. Consumers know that they are being marketed to in all facets of media, don’t hide the fact that you still want their business, but prove that you are willing to earn it. We all make mistakes, consumers want to know that you acknowledge that when necessary and that you learn and apologize. They’ll support you, within reason.
  • Immediacy: consumers expect an immediate response to negative news, as well as rampant and even individual customer service inquiries or complaints.  The immediatecy response plan needs to include all owned media (ie: your website or blog, social spokes like Facebook or Twitter, and CRM channels). This is a prime example of how PR, customer service and general marketing communications have all merged.
  • Discoverability: take the time to map out the distribution channels of your content and optimize the discoverability of each channel. Blogs, for example, provide excellent search engine visibility; Facebook’s open graph and api’s from all of the popular social platforms make sharing easy; while a recruitment and engagement strategy for specific social platforms like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube build a base of consumers with an interest in your brand who are potentially willing to share it across their social graphs.

From a strategy perspective, prioritizing content just may be one of the most cost effective, albeit unsexy, line items on your next marketing plan, if it is not formally there already. Content as a currency creates the value exchange for consumer attention, which marketers spend billions of dollars for otherwise. Social media and your content strategy are not replacements for advertising and promotions, but part of a holistic marketing mix,  boosting brand perception and  trust, which doesn’t come easily these days. Additionally, the discoverability of valuable content can help reach consumers who are light users of other media.

So does your brand have a formal content strategy?

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With the announcement of the Open Graph, Facebook has once again provided an evolutionary leap for the entire industry. Publishers, brands and consumers alike will benefit from “a smarter, personalized web that gets better with every action taken”, as concisely described by Mark Zuckerberg at yesterday’s F8 conference.  With Facebook’s critical mass (nearly 500 million members as of today), the Open Graph is poised to become the most powerful move the company has made so far – if successful it will revolutionize the web as we know it and propel Facebook into a position to compete with Google for the throne of dominance.

The Open Graph – We Like

Facebook is already fairly ubiquitous among consumers. Facebook Connect has extended that ubiquity to sites outside of Facebook, but the process for consumers, publishers and marketers was not seamless. While successful, Connect was not the technology that extended the social experience of Facebook to the entire web. But that is exactly what the Open Graph will do. Facebook has simplified the process of implementing the code for developers and for sharing and connecting with content and brands for consumers. It is truly a win-win-win. One line of code (an iFrame for those who care), will enable publishers to include a “Like” button, which will facilitate social actions anywhere on the web. As long as you are logged into Facebook, your cookie will allow your social graph to augment the experience on any site with the code. Bret Taylor said it best during F8  yesterday that “Lowering the friction of sharing will increase the volume of sharing”.

Vaults of Data

Facebook already sits on a data goldmine, but these vaults will become far deeper with wider ranging application as the Open Graph further connects social graphs of individuals, brands and publishers around the web. For now the targeting opportunities resulting from the additional data will be limited, most likely providing marketers the opportunity to target interests “liked” for the time being. But the potential of the data applications are profound – think Minority Report-like, as mobile and geo-location converge on the Open Graph.

Privacy

Inevitably there will be some privacy backlash, as all forms of behavioral data applications are under severe scrutiny by the FTC and advocacy groups. Of course Facebook thought about this too – and they will be rolling out a new simplistic privacy panel where you can opt out of the Open Graph. Ultimately there will be collection of an amount of non-personally identifiable data at a scale that we have never witnessed before, and the proximity and ability to connect it to personally identifiable information will most likely become the issue at hand. But the benefit of the Open Graph adding significant value to the overall consumer experience, and the affinity with Facebook as a trusted brand powering the collection, storage and usage of the data will trump any privacy backlash. Make no doubt about it – there will be some backlash – there always is – but we will get past it rather quickly. The social web is here in a big way, and our lives have been changed forever – and soon everyone will realize it.

A Monumental Day

For marketers, in the short term this turning point will make it exponentially easier to turn fans into advocates, identify new prospective customers, and drive peer influence through the coveted Facebook newsfeed. In the long term, the potential is far wider reaching and as mobile and geo-location (Facebook is launching their own geo-location service as well) converge with the Open Graph, this may be the catalyst that soon connects the online and offline world. It is truly a monumental day.

You can see the F8 conference videos here.

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Over the last two years of explosive social media growth, I have written several times about the growing issue of information and inbox overload, and the dunbar number and ambient relationships. I’ve observed a segment of consumers going on social media diets, if you will, eliminating social media from their lives or at least restricting it to limited networks and a limited amount of time.

Enter SuicideMachine.org, a service that automatically deletes your social media life, in some instances with no possibility of reinstating it. Facebook is taking them seriously enough to ban the service from accessing their servers.

I’m still not sure how much of this is parody and how much is serious. The service itself is for real, but is this a trend that taps into consumer desires? Are that many people this fed up with social media infringing on their “real lives”?

“My internet life is dying, but my real life is starting”

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In a moment of David v. Goliath gloUnitedry, a United Airlines passenger, David Carroll of the Canadian folk band Sons of Maxwell, has become an interesting thorn in the side of United’s marketing department after his revenge video goes viral on YouTube and beyond.

The backstory here is that about a year ago, Carroll’s guitar was broken by United baggage handlers. After nine months of red tape and ultimately a denied claim for damages, Carrol produced a song and video about the incident. As of this posting there are over 3,250,000 views and over 15,000 comments. It is the fourth link down in the organic search results fo the term “United Airlines” – a classic example of how social media reflects real world problems, and can be amplified to the point of a major PR nightmare for a major brand.

The blogosphere, twitter, and even traditional media (including the Rolling Stone and CNN) picked up the story. United Airlines breaking Caroll’s guitar was in fact the biggest thing that ever happened to his career. “I’ll have a side of invaluable PR with my revenge please”.

There is now a Wikipedia entry about the Son’s of Maxwell (primarily focused on the United Incident), and I assume the number of fans and level of participation on their Facebookpage has increased since the incident (although it is a paltry 3,674 at the time of this post).

Taylor Guitars even posted a response video (rightfully taking full advantage of the PR opportunity) with tips about travelling with guitars:

If you search Google for “United Airlines”, the “United Breaks” Guitars parody sits just above a parody from Mad TV about United employees, which must have been much funnier to United Airlines’ marketing department prior to it reinforcing the current state of the consumer experience. Nonetheless, it’s pretty funny!

Moral of the story…if you have bad customer service – there is no place to run, no place to hide, and apparently no place to fly!

So why did this particular video go viral while others with similar attributes (funny, parody, well seeded in social channels) don’t? Well, first of all, there’s no magic formula. Remember, “viral” is a result, not a marketing discipline. Compelling content shared and distributed in social channels will have the potential to go viral, period. Perhaps the collective comradary surrounding the fact that we’ve all had bad airline experiences helped. One thing is certain – at some point the right combination of social (people/bloggers) and traditional (media) influencers propelled this video and incident into even more hearts, minds, tweets, blogs, emails, and broadcasts. Within the fabric of the social web, momentum begets momentum.

Social media is forcing companies to rethink operational, service and product related issues.  It is vital to address and correct problems proactively, otherwise, inevitably, the problem will force a fix the hard way.

 

ommaYesterday was the second OMMA Social conference hosted by the fine folks from MediaPost. I moderated a panel that focused on strategy titled “As Social Media Grows, How Not to Miss the Forest for the Trees”.Marketers and agencies tend to focus on the “shiny new thing” – first it was MySpace, then Facebook, now Twitter, and there were even the moments of Second Life (ugh) and other platforms and digital sub-channels. At some point in the not too distant future it will be something else. Additionally, platforms like Wikipedia and Flickr and YouTube and Delicious all have a place in our arsenal of presence, as do some of the smaller second tier social sites, but most marketers don’t seem to methodically determine objective and develop strategies, but rather run into these channels simply because consumers are there and they need to follow. Aftrer all fishing where the proverbial fish are is what us marketers do, right? But without a strategy for the long term fundamental shift in how brands can engage consumers in social media, taking into account the multi-disciplinary nature of these platforms, companies may be headed in the wrong direction due to shortsightedness.

The official description and panelists that I hand selected for this important topic of social media strategy are below. The audience was full of laptops blogging and tweeting the conference, maybe more so than I have seen before. In fact here is a great blog post that summarizes our panel.

As Social Media Grows, How Not to Miss the Forest for the Trees  
Tweets, Facebook apps, MySpace pages, YouTube channels, and blogging are all trees in a large social media forest, and given the forest’s increasing density, it’s getting easier and easier to get lost. In fact, many marketers are jumping into the channels and tactics of social media without spending enough time focusing on objectives and strategies. Marketers and agencies will discuss how to use the channels that fit their strategies, rather than let channels dictate them.  

Moderator 
Jason Heller, EVP, Laredo Group  
 
Panelists 
Ian Schafer, CEO, Deep Focus 
Shiv Singh, VP, Global Social Media Lead, Razorfish 
Denise Sposato, Director of Communities, H&R Block 
Don Steele, VP, Digital Marketing, MTVN Entertainment Group  

You can read the Twitter stream for all Omma Social posts (#ommasocial) here.

Apparently the video of the panels will be up in a week or so here.

dgdYesterday I had the honor of being the emcee for two half day conferences, DigiDay Mobile & DigiDay Social. During hard economic times, the turnout for these conferences was actually almost shocking. I was amazed to see a standing room only crowd as early as 7:45am.  This was the first mobile and social media conference for DM2 Events (soon to be renamed DigiDay Events, I believe), run by Nick Friese, formerly of MediaPost & OMMA.

If you couldn’t make it in person, there were many attendees in the audience posting play-by-play sound bytes via Twitter, and others blogging about it. Presentations will be available via slideshare as well.

While it was a long day chock full of interesting presentations, I’ll whittle it down to a few paragraphs…

DigiDay Mobile

The mobile conference kicked off the morning discussing the elephant in the room – the economy. The main take away was that although many marketers still look at mobile as an experimental channel, usage and adoption among consumers is still increasing. The ability to easily integrate mobile into an overall marketing mix presents tremendous opportunities to engage consumers.

The presentation that resonated most with me and many of the conference attendees was by Jeremy Wright from Nokia (co-founder of Enpocket, which was acquired by Nokia several years ago). Jeremy provided a truly global perspective of how ubiquitous and powerful the mobile channel has become, how in emerging markets the mobile web is THE web, how the world is becoming clickable, and how reach matters (imagine that).

DigiDay Social

This was a fun event to emcee. Social media marketing is the hottest topic in the marketing world today. Everything is becoming infused with social media tools and experiences, and the tipping point on diving into the social media world is behind us. It is no longer a “nice to have” capability for an agency, nor an ancillary tactic for marketers – social media marketing has become its own discipline and requires the strategic planning and acumen as any other marketing discipline.

The opening keynote for the social media conference was Scott Monty from Ford.  Scott has become a social media brand himself and has helped Ford become a leader in social media for the automotive category. His keynote focused on how Ford uses various social channels to connect with consumers. Ford’s positioning is “Drive One” and their social media positioning is “Meet One”.

Other notable presentations included a case study by Don Steele, VP Digital Marketing for MTV Networks, who preached engaging consumers where they habituate online. The four pillars of MTVN’s social strategy: Organic, Smart, Engaging, Honest. It was great to hear about how MTV works within and monitors social networks, social bookmarks, picture and video sharing sites, Wikipedia and more. This was one of the few holistic presentations I’ve heard in a while. Way to go Don!

The panel on social media measurement and ROI, as expected, was a highly tweeted panel. Although there are no standards for measuring social media ROI, it’s become a given that as any business investment, it has to have a return, even if the return is hard to measure and part of a bigger picture – which of course social media is on both counts.

The last panel of the day was about “What are you doing/buying right now? Where can you get the best ROI on your social marketing investment?” – this panel reflected the advertising side of social media, a topic not discussed for most of the day that focused on the marketing applications versus advertising. Although audience members probably wanted to walk away with a short list on what to buy beyond Facebook and MySpace, not many specifics were discussed. Although mainly focused on advertising, the panel reminded the audience that social media is still about providing value to the consumer  and engaging them in the right manner. A solid point driven home was that the “click” is inherently an anti-social behavior – why make someone move away from a social activity they are participating in (not that anyone is foolish enough to use clicks to measure anything, right?!?). Panlist Eric Wheeler, CEO of 33Across helped to end the panel with a great line that he quoted from David Olgilvy  “Never stand between a client and their drink.”… and a lively cocktail hour (or two) followed!

See you at the next event!

soap1You have heard a millions times by now that social media provides consumers (also know as “people”) with more control than ever before. The increase of control and organic growth created environments with little to no formal rules, for any of the 100+ million participants around the world, consumers and marketers alike.

Well, marketers are people too, and marketers of all sizes are beginning to participate in the proverbial conversation – sans rules. We live in an era of millions of soapboxes. Whether you run a one person company or a global corporation, there is a level of proper etiquette required for your newly acquired soapbox.

Here are a few tips to make that soapbox work for you and not against you.

1) Listen First: The key to all good relationships is honing your listening skills. Skillfull communication cannot happen without skillful listening. Understanding the consumers and communities that you wish to engage is the first step to successfully doing so. Start off on the right foot. Knowledge is power, so to speak.

2) Make A Proper Introduction: Would you do either of the following?

  • Walk into a room full of people and blurt out “come to my store!” or “come to my meeting next door” ? 
  • Start handing out business cards to every person in the room and walking away without saying hello and introducing yourself?

Of course not! Well that is the equivalent of what many small businesses are doing by trolling targeted communities within social networks and promoting their communities or other commercial interests without actually adding value or otherwise participating. I have noticed an uptick in small businesses and individuals essentially spamming communities with their drive by self promotion tactics (most notably on Facebook lately). The spammy behavior is rampant and getting worse. It waters down the experience for others and just makes you look bad.

You need to actually participate or stand down, pick a side – well, pick participation, and start by introducing yourself the way you would in…dare I say it…a real world social situation.

3) Add Value & Earn Respect: Participating is not enough. You need to actually add value and earn respect. This is a lot harder to do when you are faking the funk or otherwise don’t belong in a community in the first place. Hence the need to participate in an authentic manner. Be a resource. Provide useful information. You can’t make people like you, you must earn it.

4) Check The Ego At The Door: Nobody likes an egomaniac. Get into the habit of  providing interesting facts and links, and highlighting other members of the community and even those outside the community. “Give props unto others”. Humility goes a long way.

5) Work Together:Brand and category evangelists are often very easy to find, approachable and open to supporting you. If have truly earned the respect of the community at-large (see point #3 & 4), you can even reach out directly to ask for help. Social media presents many opportunities to work closely with consumers to gain ongoing valuable feedback and insight, to rally support against negative detractors in the various communities, and to help make your products better. Let them help you. After all, that’s what friends are for.

 So, what are some of your top tips for not abusing the soapbox?

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