Tag Archives: Social Media

There’s no Social Media

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Image courtesy of Swiss Miss

Dictionaries define media as a means of mass communication. Slapping a ‘Social’ in front of ‘Media’ doesn’t make it less of a means of mass communication. That’s why these boring debates about monetizing Facebook are pointless. And this mass communication mindset leads to dead brand pages on Social Networks with no engagement opportunities. Twitter profiles as RSS feeds. Or media departments being tasked to develop ‘social media campaigns’ because media belongs in media. 

Yeah, I know, it’s the Wild West out there: Everyone claims to be a Social Media expert – Strategists, Account Planners, Media Folks, Brand Managers. And so we end up with people being euphoric about 10,000 ‘friends’ of their brand. Or Twitteratis counting down to their 7,000th follower. In reality, this all makes no sense because they apply old metrics to a new reality. It’s questionable if marketers can move away from doing something to people and convert into a mediator role: Helping others with their social interaction. 

Who knows if Facebook and Twitter ever become profitable ventures. Frankly, I couldn’t care less. There’s a lot of data to be mined, new spread sheets to be created, data centers to be kept busy. All this data mining might be very insightful and help the balance sheet of these companies. Somebody will become rich.

But what these tools really do is make us visible to the world. The richness of this experience has nothing to do with numbers. It has to do with new forms of connections and interactions. With new ways to communicate with each other. A new form of humanity. 

Calling it Social Media makes it more vulnerable to the madness of targeting, relevancy and data centers. Let’s find new words for this experience. This is too important to let the vultures take over. Again.

Groundswell – the new media bible

When you wake up at 3.30 am to catch an early flight (after 3 hours of sleep) and you spend the full flight reading a book, you know you have a winner in your hand. It’s not easy to keep social marketing/conversational marketing freaks and geeks thoroughly entertained while, at the same time, adding a new level of understanding and knowledge to my 100-social-media-blogs-daily-brainwashed mind. But Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff achieved this goal by writing the first new media bible titled “Groundswell”.

Targeted towards the marketing department at businesses, the insights won’t disappoint or bore the chin-stroking social media experts. Quite the opposite: “Groundswell” gives marketers enough reasons to listen to and join the conversation but warning them throughout the book to take it slowly and, in the spirit of “Meatball Sundae”,  adjust their social media strategy to their specific business and desired objectives.

The examples and case studies were fresh but I was hoping for an online extension of the book (Joseph Jaffe did a great job) and, even more important, all of us would have benefited from failure stories. There are many and we can all learn from them. But these are just constructive additions:

The writing, the case studies, tools you can use each day to evaluate your new marketing strategy and a first attempt at calculating the ROI for various media tactics should make you run out to the bookstore. Or just click here.

We are in the problem-solving business

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Advertising used to be so easy: You write a cool tagline, develop a cool commercial, make sure all communications surrounding the commercial is integrated and then hope for the best. You worked for a great agency when you were thinking about the client goals throughout the creation process. You worked for a mediocre agency when everybody just cared about the awards and recognition. And you worked for a real crapshop when everybody was just thinking about their paycheck.

Ob boy, things have really changed. Now, agencies have to deliver experiences that improve people’s lives and, at the same time, make sure to help their clients with the bottom line. Thinking about awards shouldn’t even make the Top 10 list anymore.

In the old days, we tried to build emotional connections through funny 30-second sketches and innovative imagery. Today, we build emotional connections by helping people solve their problems: The widget displaying real-time traffic on your desktop, easing your commute and saving nanoseconds because you don’t have to type the URL. The Pizza Builder that makes the ordering process less arduous and so much more enjoyable. The Facebook CarPool application that helps people to connect with each other to reduce the their carbon footprint and get from A to B quicker.

The flashy ad doesn’t work anymore. People have moved on a while ago. Today, businesses build emotional connections  through utility. Make my life easier, more enjoyable, more experiential. Give me stories and memories to share, develop something special for me. Show that you understand me. Show that you don’t want to pollute my life with more noise. Show that you care about me. That’s how you develop connections and relationships.
And make people care about you.

Praising conformity

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The American culture is in love with nonconformity: Cowboys, Daniel Plainview (Daniel Day-Lewis) from ‘There will be blood’, Jesse Ventura, Ron Paul, Eliot Spitzer – the list is endless. The Milgram experiment illustrated the distrust towards authority:

“The extreme willingness of adults to go to almost any lengths on the command of an authority constitutes the chief finding of the study and the fact most urgently demanding explanation.

Ordinary people, simply doing their jobs, and without any particular hostility on their part, can become agents in a terrible destructive process. Moreover, even when the destructive effects of their work become patently clear, and they are asked to carry out actions incompatible with fundamental standards of morality, relatively few people have the resources needed to resist authority.”

The eroding trust in authorities (Enron, Catholic church, Presidency, etc.) fed the hunger for long wolves. People that do what they need to do because they feel like it. Moral superiority belongs to the loners that create their own rules.

Not so, says David Berreby, author of “Us and Them: Understanding your Tribal Mind”.

In a NY Times piece, he explains that the psychologists Hodges and Geyser took a second look at the Milgram and Asch experiments and came to new conclusions:

“This means that the subjects in the most famous “people are sheep” experiments were not sheep at all – they were human beings who largely stuck to their guns, but now and then went along with the group. Why? Because in getting along with other people, most decent people know, as Hodges and Geyser put it, the “importance of cooperations, tact and social solidarity in situations that are tense or difficult.”

(…) Milgram’s “subjects were not simply obeying a leader, but responding to someone whose credentials and good faith they thought they could trust.” Without that kind of trust society would fall apart tomorrow, because most of what we know about the world comes to us from other people.”

David’s writing reminded me of Mark Earls’ “Herd” book, blog and overall thesis that it is our innate nature as “herd” animals that causes mass movements, not the influence of a handful of individuals.

The traditional church of marketing was built around the belief that humans are lone wolves that want to stand out from the crowd. The problem is that people have a tribal desire to follow the herd and be part of a group. Sure, there are instances when they want to stand out and be considered as lone wolves. But, the rest of the time, the same people want to be part of a group and just fit in.

To leverage the full power of Conversational Marketing, businesses have to change how they think about human/tribal behavior. The advent of Social Networks and Web 2.0 has shown us that humans want to stand out by fitting in. Social Media campaigns have to feed this primal human desire and help people to belong.

Stop talking. Start doing.

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Did you hear the song that started to become a hit last year and turned into a monster hit in 2008? That song is played at every conference, Web 2.0 summit and social media meeting of the minds. Nobody knows the exact title but it goes like “Businesses have to stop talking and start doing”. I’m sure you’ve heard that song many, many times.

Most businesses interested in Social Media and Conversational Marketing remind me of people ordering fitness equipment through infomercials: They know they need to do something about their fitness and health. And they order stuff to start talking about really doing it. Yes, they open up the package, are so confused by the instructions that they stop doing anything. Just to continue watching infomercial, still talking about doing something.

People are opening up to the public more and more each and every day. They describe in detail their desires, needs, fears,  anxieties, hopes, etc., etc. Opportunity is growing each and every day for businesses to help these people, build more useful products that tap into these feelings. Have you bothered listening? People tell businesses what they want. Sometimes very clearly. Sometimes not that overt. But they are always telling you what they are feeling.

Business that listen will survive and prosper in this new marketing reality. They won’t see themselves as the hero anymore. Instead, they see people as the heroes and will do everything to expand their superpowers by giving them what they want.

It’ s not enough to think about doing anymore. It’s time to listen and start doing.

Doom or opportunity?

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It’s Sunday evening. JP Morgan just purchased Bear Stearns for $2 a share. A 97% of devaluation since stocks started trading Friday last week. And this seems to be just the beginning: foreclosures are still on the rise, more people will join the unemployment line and there are certainly numerous financial disasters looming in the future.

Advertising seems to be one of the few industries that is chugging along – business as usual. But the winds of change are evident everywhere we look: People are cutting back on non-existential purchases. The credit card ride of the 90’s and first seven years of the new millenium is offcially over. These societal changes will carry over to the corner offices of all businesses.

Each line item of advertising/marketing budgets will be reviewed, questioned, re-reviewed. And many dollars will be kept as cash to be ready for even worse days. Many of us have been through these times in 2000/2001. If you thought those times were bad, think again. The current economic crisis will stay with us for years to come. And that’s the best time to make your case for Social Media/Conversational Marketing.

Both will be able to stand out as a shining light in the darkness of declining ROI’s and overvalued media buys. Social Media and Conversational Marketing are the future of marketing. Now is the time to make our case and help businesses through these treacherous times.

Herd behavior and Conversational Marketing

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Most marketing theory is based on the idea that people are logical creatures. At one point in the purchase decision process, people will take careful account of all available information before making the final decision. There is growing evidence that this is not the case. (to get more in-depth look at Herd behavior and how you should adjust our marketing, read Mark Earls’ ‘How to Change Mass Behavior by Harnessing our True Nature’. A must for marketers.)

One of the most quoted theories is called ‘Information Cascades’ that can lead people to serious miscalculations and errors. Here’s how Robert J. Shiller from the NY Times explains the theory:

“Suppose that a group of individuals must make an important decision, based on useful but incomplete information. Each one of them has received some information relevant to the decision, but the information is incomplete and “noisy” and does not always point to the right conclusion.

Let’s update the example to apply it to the recent bubble: The individuals in the group must each decide whether real estate is a terrific investment and whether to buy some property. Suppose that there is a 60 percent probability that any one person’s information will lead to the right decision.

In other words, that person’s information is useful but not definitive — and not clear enough to make a firm judgment about something as momentous as a market bubble. Perhaps that is how Mr. Greenspan assessed the probability that he could make an accurate judgment about the stock market bubble.

The theory helps explain why he — or anyone trying to verify the existence of a market bubble — may have squelched his own judgment.

The fundamental problem is that the information obtained by any individual — even one as well-placed as the chairman of the Federal Reserve — is bound to be incomplete. If people could somehow hold a national town meeting and share their independent information, they would have the opportunity to see the full weight of the evidence. Any individual errors would be averaged out, and the participants would collectively reach the correct decision.”

Let’s look a typical purchase decision: You are in the market for a laptop. You’ve always had a PC but you are delighted by your iPhone and iPod experience. You have trepidations switching from PC to Mac – the learning curve worries you. But you hear Vista is not the best operating system ever. What to do? You scan the CNET’s, PC World’s of the world. The information gets more confusing. So you start to ask around: The Mac cultists, the PC nerds, friends using Vista on a new laptop, friends that switched from PC to Mac. And you scan message boards, social networks and other independent point of views. That’s how you form your opinion: through personal opinions, half-truths and emotionally charged point of views.

In general, herd behavior happens for two reasons: Social pressure of conformity and the perception that large groups can’t be wrong. Businesses need to focus on the latter. Interjecting reason and facts into a conversation can change the discussion considerably. Individuals might have that nagging feeling that the large group is wrong but they still follow the herd: Humans often fall into the trap that large groups know something they don’t. And that’s the opportunity most businesses miss out on:

Does Vista really suck? Is it really slow? The majority says so. I haven’t tried it yet. All I know is from people that told me that they would rather have XP back. Instead of hiring new agencies to sell the public on Vista, Microsoft should invest their money on social media outreach and Conversational Marketing efforts to listen, learn, respond and change.

Companies who learn how to have a conversations and empower their fans to spread the word will be able to fight the ‘Information Cascades Effect’. When people engage other people in conversations about products, they know that they’re dealing with subjective opinions. They will be open and ready to listen and respond to companies who engage them with facts, not marketing blubber. Consider Conversational Marketing as a daily town meeting about your product and business.