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A few weeks ago, I started working with a new client, a mid-size business. They started using Social Media a few years back and, over time, developed presences on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ YouTube, LinkedIn, Foursquare, a blog, Facebook Places, Tumblr and just started on Pinterest. Their previous Social Media consultant operated on the premise: Businesses need to be on as many social media channels as they can.

Why? In this rapidly changing world, businesses never know where their customer is going to be, so a business needs to be everywhere.

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Mr. Consultant, stand in the corner and write “I will never recommend something that insane again.” 10,000 times.

There are two reasons why consultants, experts or agencies would give obnoxious advice:

– They try to fleece customers.

– They don’t know what they are doing.

I won’t even bother with people that try to fleece brands. Ultimately, brands will see through it and end the scam prematurely.

I’m much more concerned with people that believe in the philosophy that brands should be everywhere. Should Axe advertise on each TV Channel, even the Hallmark Channel? Should PETA run an ad in the Hunter’s Journal? Should Obama advertise on the Rush Limbaugh show?

Social Media shows its immaturity when “being everywhere” is still an advice I hear every day. Just like traditional and digital media, social media needs to rely on research – for example a social media audit. Understanding demographics, psychographics, spend decisions, social network use, day/time parting – all the good stuff and more that helps you understand where you need to be, when you need to be there, and what you should be doing/saying while you’re around. This helps brands and their community not to waste anyone’s time, helps to achieve goals and measure results.

Don’t be everywhere. Just be where your research tells you to be.

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10+ years ago everybody tried to build portals. “Stickiness” ruled the digital marketing world.

5+ years ago everybody started to build microsite. The intention was to capture a single-minded idea in one destination. Brand sites had become too complex and hard for people to navigate.

Some of the microsites worked well: If you were in the market for a specific car, the microsite provides you with the most relevant information to get your task done.

While some sites worked, the web quickly became a dump for bad executions, wasting billions of client dollars with nothing to show for. Microsites transformed into ugly hybrids of brand and single-minded idea sites, adding more content and clutter.

3+ years ago everybody started to dislike microsites. Nobody clicked on banners, traffic was too small to justify further investment and suddenly brands wanted to be where everybody else was: MySpace, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and all the others platforms with tons of traffic. Microsites became an afterthought. Marketers looked at the dump of failed microsites, shaking their heads and muttering: “Microsites don’t work.” aka “It’s you, not me.”

It was always me and not you.

Well-executed microsites still work and will work for a long time to come. They’re just as hard to find as a fan of Frank McCourt.

2+ years ago marketers fell in love with apps. They revolutionized the way we shared content with an audience, replaced the typical catalog website with a more interactive and innovative medium. Just like the microsite a few years ago. Each app has a single-minded idea and functionality. And, most importantly, functionality.

That was always the biggest problem with microsites: The only purpose was to convey an abstract message or to aspire to be some kind of cultural phenomenon/expression of technology prowess. “We hired the best flash developer.”

The end of microsites seems to be near. I still think they can survive and not be swallowed by the App Monster that’s taking over our media engagement time. They just have to serve a purpose, an extension of the product/brand, they should serve as a value add for the brand offering.

Maybe I should rewrite the headline to: “Long live the microsite.”

What do you think?

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For its annual look at the blogging world, Technorati interviewed 4,114 bloggers in 145 countries. The focus of this year’s report was on why and how they blog, how they connect with brands and the usage of Social Media.

The Bloggers

The majority of surveyed bloggers were hobbyists (61%) with varied frequency of posting. 11% of the surveyed bloggers post daily, 13% are hoping for extra income and only 5% are professional bloggers. The majority of bloggers are educated, married parents between 25 and 44 years old. The majority continues to be male (59%), we experience a slight gender shift from last year when 64% were men.

80% of surveyed have been blogging for over two years, and around 50% for over four years. They tend to juggle an average of three different blogs, last year the average was two years.

The Platform War

The term ‘blogosphere’ is hardly used anymore because it’s hard to define the line between a blog and another social network. Is Instagram a blog? Twitter? Foursquare?

51% of surveyed bloggers used WordPress, followed by Blogger (21%) and Blogspot (14%). Social Media continues to be biggest traffic driver (Facebook, Twitter, and new face in the crowd, Google+). The average number of Twitter followers for a blogger is 847, jumping to 1,674 when we’re talking about a professional blogger. Interesting to see how quickly professional bloggers jumped on the Google+ bandwagon to further syndicate their content. Still, this is not an indication that Google+ has any staying power.

90% of professional bloggers use Twitter to promote their content, 40% of them use automated tools to syndicate their content, 37% link their Twitter and Facebook accounts so they only have to post once. Besides Facebook and Twitter, LinkedIn was the next most popular social platform followed by YouTube and Flickr.

The majority of traffic comes from Facebook and Twitter, followed by LinkedIn, YouTube and upstart StumbleUpon. Additional traffic is derived from tags, comments, Google, Technorati and SEO.

The Blogging Business

2/3 of bloggers post about brand, and a 1/3 do reviews. Brands are intrigued by the power of bloggers and they tend to aggressively court them. A third of hobby bloggers are approached by brands twice a week, while professional bloggers get approached an average of eight times a week. Some bloggers receive up to 1,000 pitches a week.

Still, bloggers feel undervalued by brands – 60% feel they’re not treated as well by brands as the traditional media. Often, brands don’t research the blogs well enough and they are not interested in building a real relationship with the blogger. Less than 25% of respondents said brands provide any value.

When bloggers sign a deal with brands, 86% disclose the nature of the paid post and 58% disclosed when they were reviewing a product they had received for free. (This is a disturbing number: Brands need to require bloggers to disclose their paid posts and free products 100%)

Who influences bloggers? Other bloggers. In 2010 only 30%, in 2011 68% of other bloggers influence them. The other influencers (in decreasing importance): friends, social media, print, family, major news sites and TV.

An interesting report you need to read in detail before connecting a brand with blogger.

Here’s the full report.

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The majority of companies involved in the Social Web are listening to their communities, some are participating but almost no one is providing the necessary leadership to cultivate, nurture and shape the community engagement over a long period of time.

You can’t leave community leadership to community managers

A key skill companies need to develop over time is a deep comprehension and experience how to lead communities. Without this key skill, brands won’t be successful in the long term with any social strategies. Well-run companies have the skills and knowledge base to lead communities because an enterprise is an internal community with leadership. However, internal communities and corporate have explicit rules and rewards to shape the enterprise and reward behavior.

Leading an external community requires a different skill set

More importantly, social business leaders need to understand what shapes an external community culture. The main shortfall of brands engaging on the Social Web is their view of social platforms as a homogenous culture. Each platform has a different culture, different rules, different ways to engage successfully. What works on Twitter, won’t work on Facebook, LinkedIn or Google+. Each social platform has unique community culture, which means in plain English: “This is how we do things here.”

Brands need to participate

You can’t understand a community culture without participating. How can you understand a baseball fan when you never went to a game and chanted for your favorite team? How can you understand Grateful Dead fans if you’ve never been to a performance? While we recommend full participation of brands in communities, we also make sure that they understand over time what drives people’s behavior in the community. This deep understanding is the difference between a brand just floating around and a brand leading the community by dipping into the cultural forces that are driving the overarching community culture.

Important pointers for community leadership

– Stories: What are the success stories being told, the myths shared and heroes being admired?

– Games: What are the game mechanics that work within the community and what games are being played?

– Motivation: What motivates the community to participate, collaborate and lead?

– Rewards: What behavior is being rewarded and punished?

Develop co-leaders

A very successful tactic to become a leader in a community is to identify and reward emerging leaders. Empowering other leaders gives a strong signal to the community about yourself: what you value and what kind of participation and engagement you’re willing to support. A pretty standard management practice: Identify and recognize leaders by supporting them.

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The brief about a viral video. The request for a LinkedIn strategy. The need to be on Twitter. POV’s about location-based marketing. What about Quora? What’s the strategy for the iPhone app? Are you done with the iPad strategy?

Brands and agencies: We’re all guilty

Marketing and advertising should be about making the product/service we’re trying to sell look good. The lightning fast speed of technology change has led to this bizarre reality that we’re trying to fit our product/service to the technology. To make the technology look good.

Brands and agencies are trying to top the competition all the time. That’s their job. We’re all tasked to come up with new and innovative ideas. But, somehow, everybody just focuses on the “new and innovative” part. And we have forgotten the idea part.

We chase the newest and innovative platform and tool because “new and innovative” equals technology. The latest garage venture, the latest tool that has some traction because you need to be first. Whoever is first on the platform gets all the PR, the calls from Ad Age and NY Times, the brownie points.Deep inside we know that our definition of “new and innovative” is too incremental to make a real dent. To move the needle. Since everybody is doing the same thing, because that little early adopter advantage disappears in a heartbeat. Chasing technology has become our idea.

That’s why Foursquare is now littered with useless promotions. Facebook with pages nobody cares about. Twitter with feeds nobody reads. YouTube with videos nobody every watched. Second Life, well…

Let’s stop building “The Homer”.

“The Homer” has two bubble domes; one in the front, while the one in the back is for quarreling kids, and comes with optional restraints and muzzles. The engine sound causes people to think “the world’s coming to an end.” There are three horns, as Homer claims that “you can never find a horn when you’re mad.” The three horns play the song “La Cucaracha.” Last but not least, the car features shag carpeting, tailfins and a metal bowler as a hood ornament.

Homer had no clue what he was doing. He just came up with a list of features, things he would like to have. Because he always wanted to have them. Or because nobody had them yet. Just like the kitchen sink brief you received yesterday. Or the kitchen sink memo that you’re preparing for your employees tight now.

The technology looks so bright and shiny because our ideas are often so stale and superficial. That’s why people can distinguish between platforms. But they have no clue which product or service ran an ad/campaign or initiative. Because the ideas are meant to fit the technology. It needs to be the other way around.

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One of the keys to being successful in the marketplace is to be findable. For many companies that translates into trying to be everywhere. It speaks to the old broadcasting mentality of filling every empty minute, space and sound wave with messages. And so companies have presences on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Flickr, LinkedIn, Foursquare and and and. Mostly coupled with a weak infrastructure to support all these platforms, presences and initiatives.

These unfocused efforts often lead to deserted fad islands and empty bandwagons.

It’s more valuable to each stakeholder to identify first where your audience is and will be in the future. Join them in the best way you can. Take a long, hard look at your real capacity to add value to a platform. If all you be is mediocre, stay away. Build your infrastructure first and then join your audience. Not the other way around.

Your marketing shouldn’t be run by Google and SEO lords whispering in your ear to build more and more places and links. Your marketing should be run by the desire to provide something special and valuable.