From December 2010

Why social media is over

Social media is over. Done. Finished. We’ve chatted. Engaged. Joined the conversation. Tweeted, Influenced. Facebooked. And told everyone how cool we are. Not to mention what we’ve had for lunch. We’ve tried all the shiny new tools. And that new social media smell has come and gone. In short, we’ve spent a heckuva lot of time talking, evangelizing and whining. So what’s next?

Is it time for it to die? For us to move on to something more productive? Not exactly. It’s time for social media to mature. Instead of being the next shiny thing, it’s finally starting to become integrated into everything a business does – from marketing, PR, customer support to employee engagement. At least that’s what I’m hearing and seeing. And believe.

Unless you’re living under a rock, in which case you wouldn’t likely be reading this, you’re probably coming to a similar realization. I don’t know about you, but I’m digesting way more information than I was just five years ago. Between Twitter, 40+ blogs, and various online news sources, I often struggle to make sense of it all. Social just to be social isn’t working. I’m either building quality relationships in the form of friendships and connections. Or learning new things that enhance my ability to do my job, add value to others or otherwise enrich my life or I’m just wasting time. Might as well watch Judge Judy if that’s the case. I’m getting picky about the content I read. More protective of my time. And every business needs to do the same.

Social media is now one more piece of integrated marketing – a powerful one at that. It’s a powerful way to connect employees. To build or destroy morale. No, it doesn’t replace everything we’ve done in the past so much as enhances. The biggest brands still spend a lot to rise above the noise. Broadcast still has a place even if it’s reach is diminishing. Direct mail still works (yes, sometimes the snail does a better job getting through – at least the spam filter is manual). But rather than being a separate silo, it’s time to integrate social into your customer service, your support. Your marketing and HR.

Social gives consumers a powerful platform to share their thoughts – and you a powerful platform from which to listen. I’d say the iPhone and iPad have been catalysts taking social to a whole new level by allowing us to connect and share pretty much anywhere anytime.

Rather than just chatting and influencing, I think we’re ready to put these tools to work in more businesses large or small. To make business social again – between people. Almost like it was a 100 years ago. Sterile is rarely going to cut it these days. You gotta find a way to connect in a meaningful way. Yes, social requires some solid skills not everyone has. It’s not easy to be a community manager, for example. But it shouldn’t be it’s own silo. Think cross-functionally. Think purposefully. It’s time for social media to move on. And 2011 oughta be the year.

Openly social at IBM, Creating significance, How Klout measures, Kim and BMW, and crisis happens

If a company like IBM can openly embrace social tools like Twitter – where they have 25,000 employees, most any company that sells to real businesses and people can outside of covert operations.  I think this is a prime example of how to implement a social media program and empower your employees. Great presentation by Ian Greenleigh for skeptics and those in the process of figuring out how social fits in their business.

I’ll admit that I’m not a big game player in Social Media. I use it primarily to learn and connect with others. While watching others claim their mayor badges, I’ve been thinking about how this will play out for business – where it’ll intersect commerce and deliver what every business wants: ROI. I knew there was a place for it and that it wouldn’t be too long until people (including myself) saw how these games were valuable tools for engaging: “putting the ‘market’ back in marketing.”  Umair talks about how social media is for society – creating significance, not just influence. That’s the power of these tools that we’ve only begun to realize.

If you’ve wondered, as I have, how Klout actually measures influence then this is a good read. Last week I shared a post about how it’s not the number of followers but the quality that matters. I’ve also struggled with the concept of influence – wondering if it’s just a popularity contest and how it seriously has any tangible effect on business communication and commerce. I think the post above rings truer – that influence isn’t the core purpose of social. Especially when most items on Twitter are not read or retweeted. And that fewer than 5% of one’s followers really pay attention to anything you say. Face it, we’re too busy to do so. Beyond Klout there’s Peerindex and as the market matures we’ll find more effective ways to measure the things that matter. But I give props to Klout for trying – and giving us the tools to test and discuss.

Despite the fact that Tom Moradpour hasn’t been blogging long, his posts are filled with sharp insights that give marketers much to think about. (Of course, nor have I). Could be his dearth of experience at Pepsi or maybe he’s just a master at headlines that pull me in. Either way, I have to share two here today – what he learned from Kim Kardashian’s death – the power of star power and opportunities missed plus how BMW didn’t use their logo but left their audience with it emblazoned (if only momentarily) in their eyes.

I’ve been reading David Armano almost since he started blogging back in 2006 (or before). I’m not sure if it was Future Lab where I discovered him, but he’s on my must read list along with Valeria Maltoni as two of the best thinkers in content and social. Lost in many discussions on how to generate ROI from all the shiny new social tools out there is planning for crisis. Sooner or later something’s going to go wrong  in your social program. Your company might have a major gaffe. Or maybe a customer has a really bad day and takes it out on you. Either way you’ve got to be prepared – IN ADVANCE . His thoughts on planning for multiple social media crisis scenarios should be on your list to read. To share with your management team and colleagues. Taking proactive steps to plan will help you navigate effectively in the heat of the crisis. Don’t ever think it can’t happen to you.

Why are agencies and clients like oil and water?

Hiring creative agencies to help you build your image, be it your logo, brochure, website, packaging and advertising is tricky. Or PR, video, social media or online initiative. There are so many agencies, all of which pretty much look the same, smell the same and do the same thing. And in the heat of the pitch, they’re going to strut to their best stuff. But ask most agencies to tell you why them, they’ll all tell you how creative they are, how they use the latest research and how strategic they are with each of their clients. And focused on results.

Problem is, no one cares about your business like  you do. No one. Agencies often only care so far as it gets them a new account. They deliver a great product out of the gate and then fall off. They’ll promise much, but once you seal the deal, often your left with regurgitated creative. Lackluster effort and disappointed. Yet time after time I hear about clients’ frustrations with agencies.

But I can’t always point fingers at the agencies. I’ve heard an equal number of stories about bad clients. You know who you are. The ones that don’t articulate what they want up front. That don’t set measurable goals. That say they want great work but really don’t. That make the agency jump through 67 rounds of changes, watering down the concept with each iteration.

I’ve always believed it takes a good client to get good work. You must have trust and look at as a partnership rather than a transaction. But that costs money. Agencies need billable hours so if they win your account and you grind them hard on price because you must, they’re forced to pursue the next account and repeat the cycle. It’s vicious and most often both parties lose.

Good creative takes time. And that costs money. It takes time to learn your business, your processes. To get the working relationship right. But companies are impatient for results Like the music industry, an agency has to hit a home run out of the gate to have a chance at the next campaign. The next budget cycle.

And the smaller the agency the harder they must constantly chase work. I know. I was there once. It’s brutal. Fact is, to succeed today, you need to deliver results on both sides. The client has a lot of internal selling to do to push breakthrough creative. There are a lot of dots to connect. And the agency has a lot of work to do to stand out in the market.

Agencies would do themselves a service to hone their skills – deliver something clients can’t get by hiring freelance talent from the creative staffing firms. The same ones agencies pull from. They need the emotional tug to draw clients in. Then wow them with great service and great work that delivers results for the clients. They need to be that outside guide helping the client see what they can’t because they’re too close to it.

In return, clients need to trust their agencies to deliver that great work. To take the time to hire an agency who’ll become their trusted long-term partner. To do the work you hired them to do. Not the safe stuff everyone gravitates to. That’s just noise. It feeds the downward cycle.

Business models are rapidly changing. Just like the magazine and newspaper industries are upended, so is the ad biz. Technology makes it easier for clients to do a lot of what agencies used to do themselves. So agencies, to justify their existence, need to reinvent themselves. Offer what the client can’t do themselves. The deep expertise.

It’s time to think different as Apple said a few years ago. We both need each other. We need to find the common ground where each derives value from the other. Isn’t that what any business is about?

Content is Hard. follow less, blue is green, anyone can be creative and more.

Content marketing is not just buzzword, it’s perhaps the only way to build meaningful engagement with prospects and customers over the longer term. Particularly in B2B. In theory it sounds easy – write a lot of content specific to your niche, get the search engines to rank you higher, people will find you, appreciate your thinking and presto – you’ve got a hot lead. Or even a sale. Except that it’s not so easy. That’s why I think this interview between Valeria Maltoni and Kristina Halvorson is important. It hits on the why, what and how do you measure? Yes, content is the way to go, no, perhaps the only way forward for marketers. But you can never under estimate the hard work and long process each week to achieve success.

We’re always looking for examples on how social media can fit into our business. We know all about the shiny new tools – and can easily become overwhelmed by the quantity of new things we’re told we NEED. But hopefully by now you recognize that it’s not about the tools nor is it about you. Or that you need to use all the tools (even if you could). Social doesn’t scale. Having one on one conversations is a lot of work. And limited by the time you and your teams have. So it’s helpful to see how the Fortune 500 use social media to grow sales and revenue. Despite all of these tools, there are just five ways.

Along with all the chatter about social media tools is the push for more followers to build your “influence”. I’ve long concluded that the number of followers doesn’t really add the value for me. It’s who I’m following and who I’m engaging with that counts. And if I can connect with people from which I can learn and be inspired – and who I can also help – then that’s what moves the needle. Same with business. Do you really want to email or direct mail 25,000 people? Many who don’t care about you or your business? Or would you rather find the 250 or 2,500 people who are interested in buying from you or referring you to those who would? Right. Same goes with social media. I thought Francisco Rosales summed it up very nicely in this post on why ”less followers” is the new “more followers”.

Thought green was and is the next biggest thing in design? Sure, we’ve still not realized the full breadth of possibilities in greening everything we make. And there’s still a lot of hype around it – pseudo green because it simply sounds like the right thing to do but may not actually be THAT green. Enter blue – beyond green. It’s about designing products and buildings that give back to the environment and communities in which they’re made and/or used. Good thoughts for pushing ahead and actually making a difference.

I just discovered Edward Boches of Mullen this week and what a treat. I can’t recall how many times I’ve heard from people that they’re not creative. What they don’t realize is that you don’t have to be Picasso to be creative. Nor do you have to have creative in your title. We get hung up on titles and definitions. And for years, there’s been much mystique written on creative genius and the creative process. But anyone can be ‘creative’ if they let themselves. It’s a matter of perspective. There’s creativity in everyday life. His post on how anyone can be creative in the digital age is proof and why it’s a must read for those who perceive themselves the least creative.

Tech distracts, it’s the product stupid, supply chain is sexy, branding sans logo and more this Friday

Growing up digital. Wired for distraction – a timely read since I’d recently finished Nicholas Carr’s The Shallows about how the internet is causing us lose focus easily. I believe we’ll only become more distracted as technology become inextricably woven into everything we do. For marketers, it means we’ll have to work harder at establishing relationships and emotional connections with our prospects, customers,  and colleagues. People simply don’t have time to digest all of the messages they’re bombarded with and need to be more selective should they want to actually accomplish anything. That means shorter messages, more targeted. Think snackable sound bites. My hope is that we don’t lose sight of the simple tactile experiences that await us in the physical world – like soft ocean breeze, rustling leaves or the experience of building in-person relationships.

Building on the above is this post by Jonathan Baskin on the dangerous lure of the social web. He talks about how people have always talked about brands. Now they’re more wary and have more tools to share their likes and dislikes. And marketers have more tools too. The keys to the kingdom today, however, are to build a better product. Don’t be fooled by the hype ; this is a good read for anyone either caught up with shiny object syndrome or just kicking the tires of the social web.

I first heard Kinaxis’ story at the MarketingProfs B2B Forum last May in Boston and was inspired at how this company that develops what most people would consider pretty dry – supply chain management software – makes it engaging and fun via social media. They’re a sterling example of a B2B Company that gets the concept of Integrated Marketing and the real power of social media. Oh, it helps that they really know how to execute and measure results too.

Companies invest thousands of dollars in their identity. Logos are valuable identifiers for brands – but they’re certainly not the brand. And I’d argue that they’re less important than what people are saying about you. No, brands, as Marty Neumeier states in The Brand Gap, aren’t what you think it is, it’s what they (your customers) think it is. And that’s why I enjoyed this insight into Italian luxury brand Bottega Veneta on why they don’t use a logo. For them, it’s about craftsmanship and art. Consistently delivering great products with great design. Something Apple also does well and I might add that their logos have become more subtle over the years with a focus on distinctive design.

I love good design – whether it’s something beautiful to look at or touch or something so simple it gets out of the way and I don’t even notice it. In the technology world, Apple does this better than anyone at present. I believe the built environment often lacks good design with the strip malls and houses are slapped up with great efficiency but without the enduring qualities that draw you in. We go to these places because we have to. This week I stumbled across this post on imagination featuring some incredible examples in the built environment. That I saved the link but can’t recall exactly where shows a bit about how easy it is to get sidetracked while doing research online. My favorite is the seed cathedral in the UK – featuring 60,000 filaments that carry light to the inside. For me, such architecture sparks my thinking – inspires me to push for more creative solutions to everyday communication problems. It’s about asking what if we . . .? Or how about Container City in Mexico which turns junk into something very useful and beautiful in its own way?

#UsGuys – Spontaneous Community

I’ve been on Twitter since mid 2007, gradually engaging with more people, following conference streams and earlier this year, joining chats like #imcchat, #kaizenblog and #nmchat. It’s in the chats where I’ve started forming some pretty cool friendships – I’d call them friendships even though we’ve not met in real life. And experiencing much of what Shel Israel writes in Twitterville about the new global neighborhoods. Then #UsGuys happens and added an incredibly rich dimension I never expected.

It all started with a really bad logo redesign. I know there are many bad logos out there and most don’t warrant an uproar, but this was the Gap. A company that should know better. I think @tommoradpour and I connected on a Twitter Chat. Then he introduced me to @Galactic during our conversation around #gapgate as we shared links and dismay that such a respected brand could do this to themselves. Then @mikulaja and @RealChaseAdams joined in and most of our allotted 140 characters were consumed by including everyone. So #UsGuys was formed to solve the problem.

@NickKellet joined in and pretty soon we have people asking what’s with #UsGuys? You mean you have your own hashtag? I think it was @MargieClayman who asked that. Almost like a butterfly that flaps it’s wings and half a world away triggers an avalanche, #UsGuys became this inclusive 24/7 community talking social media, marketing, branding, and yes, really bad logos.

@RealChaseAdams really picked up the torch serving as chief host while the rest of us jumped in and out as time permitted. Read his great post on what #UsGuys is here.  I believe well over 100 520 people have stopped by. Some kick the tires while others stay for a long cup a joe, then come back for happy hour. @solete in Spain somehow never needs to sleep as she’s always adding value and humor to the conversation. And one evening I had a great conversation about business with @qstreet in Philadelphia – something that never would have happened outside of a tribe like this. Then @danenow in Palm Springs posted a photo of his workspace and asked others to do the same. And so it goes.

#UsGuys may not be global, but we span the U.S., Canada, Spain and the UK (maybe others I’m not aware of). I hadn’t written about this before because Chase Adams did such a great job with the intro I hadn’t saw the need. But now over a month in, I feel compelled to talk about how cool, warm, welcoming, refreshing (insert gushing adjective here) the #UsGuys community has become. I’ve had great exchanges with many and know that we could easily pick it up in real life.

The coolest thing about #UsGuys is that we came together over common interests and are forming connections that would have been virtually impossible without a platform like Twitter. We’re experiencing the Flat World that Tom Friedman wrote about a few years ago. While easy to take for granted, it’s almost magical. To those not overly active on Twitter, when I explain this cool community that just spontaneously happened over a bad logo – thank you Gap, there’s a blank look. You really just have to experience it.

Bottom line: #UsGuys has shown me there are some super cool people with substance out there doing great work who exude warmth and inclusiveness. They’re fun, unpretentious, interesting. People who don’t try too hard to be something they’re not. Nick summed it up best:

“Membership of the tribe has given me a true sense of belonging. #usguys has become my extended team, my source of inspiration, my sounding board. It’s a safe, friendly playground.”

Tom has kicked off a great blog out of the group and I can only think that we’re just beginning to see the potential of the #UsGuys community. Sure some people will come and go. There will be ebbs and flows. Some will not find value at times the convo gets too trivial. The key is to spend some time in the stream. Stop by at different times of day: join in when it suits you – 24/7.

Key takeaways for business?

  • Community happens, sometimes spontaneously. Nurture it. Don’t force it. Or fake it.
  • Go where the action is. If it’s on Twitter, great. Or Facebook. Or your local park bench. Don’t try to force people onto a platform.
  • You get out of it what you put into it. You have to invest the time. Stop by regularly and connect. Rome wasn’t built in a day and nor are relationships. Trust takes time.
  • Be respectful, responsive and inclusive and you’ll reap far greater rewards.
  • Be willing to let go. When you start a community, you don’t always know where it’ll lead. Enjoy the journey.
  • Make it simple. Don’t over think it. It’ll develop a richer personality without every move being scripted.
  • And when it starts gaining momentum, let it ride for a bit to allow it time to achieve flow and rhythm.

No telling where #UsGuys is going, but it’s one tribe I’m thrilled to be a part of.