Posts Tagged ‘Social Media’

logo_mediapostThis is an article I wrote for MediaPost, published on Jan 26th

What an amazing moment in history we have witnessed.

I’m not referring to our first black president, the renewed hope for our deteriorating morale, nor the reclamation of our stature as a productive participant in the global society, but rather the precedent of such astronomical digital engagement focused around a single purpose. The proverbial water cooler effect was alive and kicking as live TV met social media for the first time ever via CNN’s live stream of President Barack Obama’s inauguration and an effective implementation of Facebook’s data portability product, Facebook Connect.

As media continues to fragment and marketing interaction becomes more personal, the Obama story represents a macro view of the forest that sometimes marketers and agencies tend to miss due to the intricacy of the trees.

The Basics: The Product, The Brand

During Obama’s campaign for the presidency, his team was praised for their use of digital media channels, particularly the incorporation of emerging channels like social media and mobile. I applaud the marketing team for their efforts, but remind you that it is brand Obama that fostered the community, engagement, energy and word of mouth, more so than the marketing vehicles.

That being said, the channels lent themselves to what brand Obama stands for — transparency, community, revitalization and unity. Sen. John McCain’s campaign utilized similar channels but they yielded different results, albeit the McCain campaign had seemingly differing prioritization of these channels and lacked the support of the younger demos fueling some of the social media participation. Generally, brand McCain simply represented something different than brand Obama.

Transparency

Everywhere we look, transparency is becoming an increasingly significant attribute. Consumers don’t want transparency, they demand it – from our politicians, from the businesses that represent the backbone of our economy, and from our marketing efforts. The ubiquitous requirement of transparency benefits all except those who have something to hide. You can’t run and you can’t hide. The social media ecosystem now represents a mechanism of enforcement, judge, jury and executioner. Especially in the down economy, you must be honest with yourself about your product, your business practices and operations. Fix what is truly broken. Surely we all agree with the old adage that perception is 90% of reality, and never before has reality been able to influence perception in the manner it does today.

Integration

“Obama Everywhere” was the header of the block of links leading to his presence within various social networks, but should have been the incorporated his presence in all channels. Now that Obama’s in office, the federal government has an integrated communications strategy that exceeds that of many marketers. Who would’ve thunk it? The consistent message of “change” and “revitalization” have been weaved across media platform and marketing discipline and are actualized to become more than just words.

The icing on the cake: The re-launch of WhiteHouse.gov at 12:01 p.m. on inauguration day. The welcoming message: “WhiteHouse.gov will be a central part of President Obama’s pledge to make his the most transparent and accountable administration in American history” complete with a new blog, email updates, and access to the Office of Public Liaison, which “seeks to embody the essence of the President’s movement for change through the meaningful engagement of citizens and their elected officials by the federal government.” The last time I visited WhiteHouse.gov was when my ISP asked me to check my internet connection. It’s now in my list of RSS feeds.

Mobility

During his campaign Obama utilized the mobile channel to engage and activate voters, many of whom were segmented on a local level. Text messages reminded you to get out and vote — heck, the selection of Sen. Joe Biden as Obama’s running mate was announced via SMS before any other channel. The iPhone app made rallying behind your candidate an interactive experience versus a stream of static messaging. Those who attended the inauguration in D.C. had the opportunity to receive SMS updates about which entrances to use, which routes had the least traffic, and even a reminder of the weather. Although the mobile efforts may not have done much to influence baby boomers in the mid-west at scale, it was one of the multi-faceted ways brand Obama reached those who favor the channel of their choice. When thinking about mobile, think about aspects of utility and activation.

The Take Away: The Un-Campaign

Brand Obama led less of a campaign and created more of a movement. Although “hope” and “dreams” may work for political speeches, they do not present the foundation of a solid marketing strategy. Most brands have not achieved the level of equity as brand Obama, but all brands have advocates. Energizing brand advocates and listening to the market at large are universal principles of brand marketing that have been around since the dawn of marketing time. The tools and channels have evolved, and will continue to do so.

Social media has reached a point where the energy of brand advocates (or detractors for that matter) creates a constant undertone, unattached to the parameters of your marketing campaigns. It is no longer optional to monitor the social media ecosystem and modify your marketing, PR and product development efforts based on this undertone. Prospective brand consumers have access to the collective at all times. Are you doing what you can to understand what consumers feel about your brand? Does the reality of what your brand stands for meet your desire of its perception? Remember, your brand is what consumers say and think it is.

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I wanted to use a recent experience with horrendous service from BMW of Manhattan, to reflect on one of the main issues that companies don’t understabmwnd about social media. The basic principle is actually so fundamentally simple. If people are complaining about your service or products in the social media ecosystems than you have a problem with your service or product quality.

The Evolution of a Problem
We bought a BMW X5 in May from BMW of Manhattan. The experience commenced on the wrong foot. The sales guy got the order wrong, which of course we didn’t discover until after waiting for 5 weeks for our car to be delivered to the showroom. We timed the return of the last lease and the pick up of the new car for the same day. We now had no vehicle and my wife drives over 100 miles a day to get to school. One of the selling points of a luxury car is the ability to use loaners when your car is being serviced. However, this wasn’t service-related so they couldn’t arrange a loaner. So we had to rent a car for another few weeks, which I felt was only right for BMW of Manhattan to pay for due to their mistake. After fighting them on this point, the general manager ultimately agreed to pay for half. Although a bit upset (and now driving a rented Chevy for 2 weeks), in the grand scheme of things, I would have let this slide if it was the only problem I ever had with them.

When Quality Assurance Fails
Within the first 30 days of owning the car, we started experiencing electrical problems. We brought it into service and somehow the problem seemed to “fix itself” (yeah right – that happens a lot with technology). By September, the entire navigation system and screen to control all the other electronic amenities went out…then came back…then went out. It was clear that there was a problem.  Again, upset, but in the grand scheme of things, I would have even let this slide if it was fixed in a convenient and timely manner at no cost to me.

When Promises (and Brand Positioning) Are Not Fulfilled: “The Ultimate Driving Machine”???
When we bought the car we were told that loaners are always available when we need service for the car. We were also told that the loaners can be picked up from any service location. LIES on both counts! Loaners are one of the reasons why we buy luxury cars. Our previous experience with several Infiniti models was excellent and we had no reason to expect any different from BMW. When my wife told me that we had to book a service date in December (2 months away) in order to schedule an available loaner I was taken back. Taken back at the fact that we were lied to, taken advantage of, and as a marketer – taken back that BMW would sacrifice the desire to keep me as a long term valuable customer, generate word of mouth, and fulfill on their brand promise.  Although I enjoy the car, the problems were beginning to get on my nerves. I expect exceptional service from a brand like BMW, and so far I have received  anything but that from BMW of Manhattan. I have left messages for the general manager and sent letters to corporate. Nothing. The BMW service center in Brooklyn was MUCH better, but again, since we were lied to by BMW of Manhattan, we apparently are unable to pickup a loaner vehicle in Brooklyn. Today my wife spent hours waiting to get the car back because the service center was short staffed and very busy. Anything else to add to the list of problems guys? Let’s see how long the problem stays fixed. I am going to go ballistic if it returns.

The Social Media Lesson
So here I am blogging about the poor experience, even going out of my way to layer the post with enough mentions of BMW of Manhattan that it hopefully comes up on the first page of search engines when someone searches for “BMW of Manhattan”. My 700+ connections in Facebook, my Twitter network, and my LinkedIn network, which are all comprised of affluent luxury car buyers, many of which are actually in the New York and surrounding areas, are now commenting about my experience with the poor service. Word of mouth to not buy from BMW of Manhattan is now spreading, even if only within the microcosm of my network, and some of the networks of those individuals within my network. This is not a social media problem – it is a service quality problem.

I wonder if anyone from BMW of Manhattan (or even BMW corporate) is monitoring social media to hear the multiple rants and posting I have published about this issue. If so, please post a comment here and I will be able to get back to you and discuss. I’d be happy to discuss some ways to improve your service. For the record – I really do love my X5. It’s a solidly built vehicle, andmaybe I just had bad enough luck to have a bad saleperson, and got one with a bum navigation system. But I cannot endorse doing business with BMW of Manhattan after all that I have witnessed. It seems that the problems started with my first experience on the sale floor, and continued with some faulty equipment, but the clincher was that after all of that, there were no records in my customer record saying “we screwed up with this guy already, please take care of this valuable customer”. This lack of basic customer service quality assurance now reverberates throughout the fabric of my social media ecosystem. What an easy problem to solve. Also an easy problem to discover by listening to the social media conversations. BMW are you listening?

As social network’s Facebook and MySpace continue to drive mind boggling consumer usage, certain activities bubble to the top as immensely popular. Among those activities is photo sharing. Doug Beaver, part of Facebook’s engineering team posted a note today with some interesting facts about the amount of photos posted, shared and served on Facebook. These stats put Facebook over the previously recognized largest photo sharing site, Photobucket, which has been rolled into MySpace after last year’s $250 million acquisition.

  • 2-3 Terabytes of photos are being uploaded to the site every day
  • We have just over one petabyte of photo storage
  • We serve over 15 billion photo images per day
  • Photo traffic now peaks at over 300,000 images served per second

The question on everyone’s mind…

If a photo’s worth a thousand words, how much market cap are 10 billion photos worth?

Of course the power behind social media is not the advertising options, but rather the ability to monitor, learn from and connect with consumers. However, there are plenty of advertising opportunities as well, and each focuses on tapping into the social graph to create relevancy.

After months in beta, MySpace finally officially rolled out the MyAds program, allowing for self serve ad creation and targeted placement throughout all of MySpace. For the record, this is the same program that larger advertisers had access to for some time (“hyper-targeted ads”), but now  the program is available to the advertising masses…a la Google and more directly Facebook. Personally, I think this will be embraced by small advertisers in droves. While not a pull medium like search, the ability to specifically target consumers based on relevant interest is powerful, albeit I do not think that MySpace’s program, is anywhere as powerful as Facebook’s Social Ads platform.

The roll out was timed to ride the momentum of the recent launch of  MySpace Music, a platform that allows independent artists & bands to market and sell their music to a rather large and appropriate audience. The ad creation tool makes it easy for any advertiser to create IAB standard 728×90 or 300×250 ads. It’s a little restrictive, but for the Photoshop adverse, it works – upload an image or two, add text, done. The tool even includes a built in compression tool – you can upload an image up to 600k, not too shabby.

Here’s an example of a test ad I created for my underwater photography website.

Although you cannot target based on user-defined keywords like you can on Facebook, I was able to target those interested in photography & scuba diving – again, not shabby at all. But this won’t be the rifle shot case for every advertiser in every category.

Unlike Facebook, which currently stands alone as an independent, Rupert Murdoch’s Newscorp / Fox Interactive empire can always leverage the eventual base of small advertisers in the future, possibly including many local advertisers, by running ads created through this system across other Newscorp properties.

MySpace was selling over $700million in ads annually without this program. The top four search engines have over 500,000 advertisers. Can MySpace tap into that pool? Only time will tell, but I think the long term answer is yes.

I decided to add a new posting format to TheDigitalBlur.  The “Digital Marketing Round-Up” will be posted around the end of each month and will be a  combination of short thoughts on issues that I feel will have a big impact on us marketers in the not so distant future. This ranges from acquisitions to  companies restructuring, new applications of technology, and new ad programs. I hope you enjoy it!

So without further delay, The inaugural Digital Round-up for June 2008…

Google Applying Cookie Data: Despite the cries of privacy advocates, this can be a major breakthrough in online advertising. A few years ago Google changed its privacy policy to state that they might eventually use cookie data to “display customized content and advertising.” Apparently a securities analyst has discovered that they are indeed doing so, and this was confirmed by Google. Well, I certainly hope so!

I am waiting for the true integration of Google and Doubleclick units, and although this will present a fine privacy line as it relates to the personally identifiable data that Google does indeed have via Gmail etc, there should be an easy way of firewalling that data if need be. We live in a data driven world folks. This is the future of content and marketing distribution. Creating increased relevancy for the consumer is a good thing. I have posted many thoughts on this matter, and I expect that we will get past the perceived privacy issues as we have with every other aspect of digital marketing to date. Doubleclick has been the martyr of at least one round of this issue in the past. Relevancy is a benefit, I wish we could all just get over it and move on.

Microsoft Acquires Semantic Search Technology: After the failed attempt at acquiring Yahoo, Microsoft last week announced the acquisition of semantic search company Powerset. Of course this was in the works for a long time , but the timing of the announcement was classic. Does Microsoft + Powerset = a threat to Google? Not in a million years. The momentum of Google’s stronghold on search is going to be tough to beat, or even compete with, as Yahoo and Microsoft have both learned the hard way to date. But the advances in semantic technology will in theory make for better search experiences over time, and this is Microsoft’s first step in the direction of developing a new search mouse mouse trap, or least improving the existing one. I’ve reported previously about Yahoo adopting semantic web standards, and have predicted that the application of semantic technology will fuel the next evolution of the web itself. In the increasingly data driven world we live in, I fiercely stand by that prediction.

Nokia Acquires Remaining Part of Symbian: It’s no secret that consumers’ and marketers’ dependence on the carriers for on-deck mobile opportunities will change over the next few years. Nokia has been making headway in the mobile advertising space, and the acquisition of Symbian should prove to be part of paving the road to the golden goose. Symbian currently runs on over half of the smart phones in the global market. However, with Apple’s iPhone and the soon-to-be-rolled-out open platform “Android” from Google, Symbian’s market share can be eroded quite easily. By standardizing an open platform, Nokia should be able to entice additional development and remain a major player in the mobile OS world.

More Print Shift To The Web: The LA Times slashed 250 jobs last week, the findings – consumers don’t have the time to read the paper anymore. Editor Russ Stanton stated that “The Web and print departments will be merged into one operation with a single budget, and the company will also refocus on being more versatile. We’ve heard these sentiments before, and we’ll here them again from others.

Average TV Network Viewer Age = 50 Years Old: Of course this varies from network to network (CW median age is only 34), but the trend shows that TV viewing audiences are getting older as media continues to fragment. It’s a brave new world out there, and as digital media consumption increases, we need to solve some of the basic issues that have plagued our industry since the dawn of online marketing history, including establishing more industry level research and data on the correlation of various aspects of advertising as it relates to effectiveness, as well as educating marketers about digital measurement in general. It still boggles my mind how many marketers (and agencies for that matter) mis-align their KPI’s (key performance indicators) with their objectives, or chose to use irrelevant metrics like CTR. There’s a lot of experimentation happening with emerging media, and most have not mastered the basics yet. A year has past since I published an article in MediaPost on this very subject, and on an industry level I haven;’tseen  or heard of much change.

MySpace & Facebook – Battle of The Redesigns: Facebook is quickly catching up to MySpace’s market dominance, in part due to the open platform for developers and the streamlined nature of the profile design and application of the social graph. With Facebook’s upcoming redesign,  applications will be moving to a separate tab, and the news feed will become even more prominent than it is currently. This is a big change amid marketers’  experimentation revolving primarily around launching applications and subsequntly trying to foster participation.  Meanwhile MySpace rolled out a redesign a few weeks ago, which was primarily focused on streamlining the chaotic mess of  a structure that was once consumer profiles. Cleaner navigation and increased applications of the social graph has been Facebook’s strong point. and MySpace’s achilles heel. MySpace had no choice but to update., and ‘they done good’. Even though they are a leader today, there always exists the chance of  MySpace getting displaced as we have seen with other social networks like Friendster.

Publicis Consolidates and Creates Vivaki: Next in the big agencies to announce the consolidation of digital assets is Publicis. WPP and Carat have already sone so in varying capacities, and inevitably all the others will follow suit soon enough.  Note to David Kenny & Jack Klues: the first step to proving that Vivaki is the right digital solution is following best practices. That 10 second flash intro on the new Vivaki website needs to go! Rishad, same to you buddy on the Denuo site.

This is a topic near and dear to my heart, and I often write about the morphing agency structure. The fragmentation of media and the shift to a data driven marketplace has created a shift of general marketing strategy from the creative agencies to that of the media agencies. Many of the holding companies have even developed units that specifically specialize in the development and stewardship of strategy. We will continue to see re-bundling of agency services, although to a degree the specialist is needed more than ever . Agencies must attract and recruit specialized individuals to ensure the proficient execution across an ever growing palette of channels. We have seen many senior digital agency execs moving to the client and publisher side as an additional trend lately. Integration of services to offer a big picture approach while maintaining proficiency in the specialties will be the new agency positioning.

Social Media As A Formal Discipline?: As the opportunity cost of not monitoring the conversations and interactions surrounding your brands and products increases, the role of full time Social Media Strategists and Community Managers  have crept into recent rounds of recruitment for marketers and agencies alike. The required commitment to the social media ecosystem has made it apparent that the attention of at least one full time staffer on the agency or client side is going to be a requirement at some point for all brands.  Although brands can have their agencies assign a full time person assigned to their brand (today there are many specialized and integrated agencies who offer social marketing services), there is an economic reality that brands may be best served in this manner internally, with support from agencies for specific tasks and projects. It’s far too early to tell, but if I were a major brand I’d be looking for  an internal manager at this point. The costs of the monitoring tools are coming down and the players are becoming more diverse. The social media ecosystem is evolving before our eyes, it’s a lot to keep up with. Brands must commit to be committed – hire a social media manager or at least an agency that can help you wrap your arms around what’s happening in social media and what it means to your brand.

Thank you to MediaPost for publishing a version of my “Magical Parallel Universe” rant…

Did the title of this post pique your interest? Good. This is a hot topic of conversation.

Are you a traditional marketer or agency person, or even a digital agency person who is frustrated at the new crop of “social media elite” who claim that they know all the answers? Or…are you a social media marketing maven who is frustrated that the rest of the industry just doesn’t get it?

Ok, be forewarned that this post is a little bit of a rant. I straddle both sides of this argument, but I’m equally invigorated, frustrated and amused at the state of affairs in the marketing industry today. This battle between the old guard and those who are trying to become the new guard is a repetition of history and has created more confusion than it has solved.

Does the following sound familiar to you?

Agency Person or Marketer:I’ve read a lot of research about how consumers are spending uber amounts of time in social media environments. How do I engage [or insert other descriptive verb here: tap into, leverage, reach] consumers within these environments?

Social Media Maven:OMG you used that verb? You clearly don’t understand what social media means. Let’s look into my crystal ball and I’ll give you some clues.

Agency Person or Marketer:Ok so I get the fact that social media is different, but how do I measure this? How do I understand what return I can get?

Social Media Maven: Hold me back, I think I’m gonna hurl. ROI? You actually think that I can clearly explain to you how to measure social media? You have so much to learn grasshopper.

Agency Person or Marketer: What about your clients? How are they engaging consumers in social media? Are they?

Social Media Maven: If I filled you in on all the details I’d have to kill you, sorry.

Agency Person or Marketer:But I’m running a business. I measure everything. Just because I want to measure the return of a marketing investment doesn’t make me a direct marketer. I measure my TV, I measure my online advertising, I measure our existing research projects, heck, I even measure the impact of using different materials to build our products and what it means to our business. How is social media any different?

Guys and gals I got news for you – the internet and it’s diverse sub-segments are not magical parallel universes, rather, an extension of the world we live in. Granted, social media growth is the biggest shift in “media behavior” since search (or maybe video was the next after search). But truth be told, the social media mavens are right in stating that it’s not really media at all…well, not in the way we used to look at media, as a channel to distribute messages to audiences (advertising). But that doesn’t mean that you can’t advertise in social media environments. It means that this is just one cog of a much bigger picture. Are the integrated deals on MySpace not advertising? Sure they are – yes I know, it’s marketing not advertising, but isn’t there an advertising component to it? Why do we argue that aspect of the merging of various marketing disciplines?

A Celebration of Integration
Let’s also not forget that all of this fits into the bigger picture of a multi-platform marketing communications plan. Integration with the bigger picture is a point often left out of the social media conversation, and I think that’s a big mistake. Ultimately the barrier to big agencies and brands understanding how to include social media in their marcom is simply an acquisition or the hiring of a few people who have experience. The theme of the times is centralization and integration. Clients do not want the splintering to continue. Might we take a step backwards before taking two integrated steps forward? Maybe. So be it. It’s bound to be where we will end up.

A New Discipline?
Is social media a new discipline? Maybe. It certainly represents the blurring of media, marketing, creative, technology PR and research. One of the challenges this presents is where the budgets come from and whose responsibility it is to manage. Don’t forget that 10 years or so ago many marketers were still challenged with figuring out whether their “online budgets” came from IT or marketing. We can now look back and laugh at that position. Social media will present an additional hurdle of meaning different things to different brands, based on what your brand means to the consumer. But the benefits of potentially connecting with consumers on a deeper level is huge, and truly the fact that the social media evangelists are trying to convey – observe, monitor, and listen before trying to become part of the experience or conversation.

Ode to the Old School
Agencies and brands don’t fret – you are not crazy nor are your years of marketing experience not translatable to an understanding of how to work in the social media ecosystem. Sorry if my social media brethren offer such elitist views at times. I’ve had too many discussions and overheard/observed/read too many conversations posts from bloggers and the growing “Twitterati” (who often spend more time tweeting amongst themselves than actually DOING anything) about how ten relationships are innately worth more than a million impressions. How arrogant and uninformed to think that this rule can be universally true. It all comes down to the definition of a relationship and the quality of the consumer feedback. For many marketers, this will be a factor of what their brands and businesses mean to consumers. Social media becomes a valuable feedback loop or research base for some brands, and for others it’s insignificant. Yeah I said it – social media can be insignificant for many brands. Are a small group of influencers truly worth that much more than the masses of followers who can be reached via many means? The majority of your brand’s consumers and potential customers will never interact with you nor the posts of the influencers within social media. Deal with it. Those evangelizing social media are all vying for the same clients. The largest brands with the strongest brand personality, the brands that consumers are already proud to be associated with, who stand the most to lose or gain by working within or ignoring social media. The other day an industry colleague, Alan Wolk, referred to these brands quite accurately as “Prom King brands”, I’d recommend reading the Ad Week article here.

Research, PR, Damage Control
Social media as a research lab? Sure, go for it – but the value is relative to the investment and commitment to striking a balance between an authentic experience to the consumer and to providing benefit to the brand. So maybe the question marketers should be asking is not how to use social media, but how much to invest, which again, is a function of how consumers perceive our brands and what social media means to THEM – not to US. No matter how hard we try to be consumer centric, it seems that it always comes back to that being a bigger buzz-phrase than any other. So social media as a research lab seems like a good starting point for any brand.

While it’s great to see brands create new social media extensions to monitor and deal with consumers’ feedback and complaints, don’t forget that you can’t please all the people all the time. Any researcher would largely discount the feedback of the polar ends of positive and negative opinion, which does not represent the market as a whole. This is not to say ignore the customer. It only means that you must manage investment in the polar ends of opinion.

All Roads Lead to Rome
Seriously guys – we shouldn’t worry about measuring investment return? If I hear that one more time, I’m going to get sick. The purpose of all marketing investments is the same. To sell stuff. The only difference between disciplines is where in the influence and decision cycle the investment impacts consumers and how easy or difficult it is to measure the potential impact. No marketing investment is made for fun, whether branding, direct response, relationship marketing, research, PR, social media or otherwise.

I promised a bit of a rant here, so there you have it. I’m frustrated that some of us make it so complicated for agencies and marketers to try to understand rather than working hand in hand to play nicely in the sandbox, experiment further and keep the consumer as the focal point of our decision making process. Agree, disagree? Have some great case studies you want to share? Connect with me on Twitter: @JasonDPG or on Facebook. Hey look ma, I’m using social media!

JerkVery rarely do I comment on the writings of others in the marketing industry. This may be one of the first in the history of my blog (ok it’s not that long a history, but still). Then again, it’s very rare that I feel a piece that is equally as insightful as it is well written and even entertaining, all at the same time. I have to give my colleague Kevin Ryan kudos for an article in Search Engine Watch today (apparently a rebuttal to an earlier story by another author), which accomplishes this rare feat.

I have to admit, I have heard it referenced once before, but I wasn’t familiar with John Gabriel’s Greater Internet F*ckwad Theory. Basically his theory is quite hilariously (or sadly, depending on your outlook) accurate in many instances, and it goes a little something like this:

“Normal Person + Anonymity + Audience = Total F*ckwad”

So – what does this have to do with digital marketing?

Well, in the context of social media, it is indicative of the type of personality that can crash the the online conversational party with other consumers and ruin it. It is yet another reason to monitor social and blog activity, and to ensure that your business provides good service and is transparent, and minimizes the potential of turning a normal customer who has received a less than optimal brand experience into a proverbial f*ckwad.

Commit to being committed to monitoring the ecosystem, develop a plan on how to deal with each broad type of situation. Plan for scenarios. F*ckwad-proof your business.