Archives for posts with tag: Twitter

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The conference season is upon us.

It costs a lot of money to go to conferences. Conference fee, transportation, hotel, expenses. Let’s not forget the time you’ll spend away from your daily work, the loss of productivity.

Why should you go to conferences?

Should you really spend all this time and effort to watch the keynote that will be streamed lived and can be viewed online until the end of time?

Should you follow a presentation that will be uploaded to Slideshare 5 minutes after it’s done?

Should you try to meet some semi-important web celebrity?

Should you feel obliged to see all sessions just because you paid for all this content?

I would argue, this is the wrong way to attend a conference.

What do I remember from conferences?

The conversations. The human connections. Moments where I learn from people what drives them, what makes them tick, what they are working on. The coffee with an interesting person that has 25 followers on Twitter. The drink with a woman who is about to change the world. The discussions about marketing at 11pm with five brilliant minds. The friendships that last.

That’s why I’m going to conferences.

Conference advice

Don’t try to go to every session. You will come home drained and exhausted.

Choose one or two sessions per day. While you’re there, try to focus. Use Twitter (or other channels) to add your voice to the conversation, not just rehashing sound bites of the speaker. Be engaged and present.

The rest of the time, roam the floors. Make new friends, help solve problems, explore new point of views.

Go against the stream.

Most conferences are organized around the sheep principle: Just follow the masses.

Instead, create your own conference. The one that’s valuable to you.

The one that creates memories.

The one that matters.

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When we look back in 20 years, the last few years will mark a massive turning point in the history of humankind.

In 2010 would anybody bet one dime on Ghaddafi being overthrown? Or weekly uprisings in Syria? A pharaoh-like figure being relegated to a a sad criminal case? Who would have thought a small tribe could change the face of the GOP in a few months? And, now we have the 99% movement.

I went down to the Los Angeles City Hall to have a look at the OccupyLA movement. A lot of tents, a lot of signs, a lot of discussions. While many of the movements of the Arab Spring were supported by usage of Facebook and Twitter, I saw numerous signs that asked people to abstain from using these popular platforms. Instead, they asked people to use specific sites that can’t be accessed by corporations or the government.

That in itself is fascinating. While people still spread their message through popular social platforms, the real conversation takes place off the common path. This trend will continue and grow in importance. While Facebook and Twitter are mainstream, people will find new ways of connecting with their tribe. There’s a growing understanding that Twitter and Facebook, while convenient and ubiquitous, are not driven by the mission to connect the world or contribute to the greater good. Nope, they are driven by shareholder value and the desire to cash in at one point.

Movements will build their own platforms outside of the mainstream.

This is a huge opportunity for brands.

I’m not sure where the 99% movement is going. Will it become mainstream or just another flash in the pan? Time will tell.

However, I’m certain that the majority of people would like to build a society that spreads wealth more evenly and gives all of us a chance to participate in a flourishing economy. Companies that invest in social causes (or create their own social causes) in full alignment with their core values will not only reap the benefits of popular support but will reinforce brand values and what the brand really stands for.

Let’s face it: Customers are desperate for something to believe in.

This deeply-seated desire represents an unprecedented opportunity for companies seeking to be an instrument of change rather than greed.

Innovative companies will understand that they have to be part of the change. And, they will reap the rewards for doing so. In the future, it’s not enough to be a business leader. You also have to design and build communities that drive their business success for years to come.

Just ask Ben & Jerry’s. They support the 99% movement unequivocally.

And, they already reap the benefits: Publishers and people guessing the name of their #OWS ice cream flavor.

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Everybody in the marketing world talks about community. At one point, community had a real meaning. We used to live in places that felt like communities. We interacted with other people in our neighborhood, talked to them daily, our little place in the world had the feel of a community. The little store next door. The neighbor we chatted with for a few minutes. Kids driving their bikes down the street. Block parties. Remember those times?

When we started to develop digital landmarks, we created communities grouped around shared passions. And we called those ‘online communities’. That felt real because people lived in those places, sought them out actively and particiapted. It had a communal feel to it.

Over time, everything changed.

The word ‘community’ became meaningless.

Suddenly, any message board, Facebook page or Twitter feed was called a community.

Let me give it to you straight:

– A Facebook page with a lot of ‘likes’ is not a community. It’s just a Facebook page with a lot of ‘likes’.

– A Twitter feed with a lot of followers is not a community. It’s just a Twitter feed with a lot of followers.

There’s a huge difference between a community and an aggregation of people with weak ties.

You can live in a neighborhood and never talk to your neighbors, never know what makes them tick, never care if the store next door will survive in tough economic times. All these people are just neighbors. Nothing more. Just because you live in the same neighborhood (in real life or on your social media platforms) doesn’t mean you’re part of a community.

Community is about a shared passion. Community has context. Community consists of meaningful interactions. When you develop all of these, you have a community.

Communities can’t be created.

People create communities, and unless you have some secret sauce I don’t know about, you can’t create people. You can build digital landmarks and social platforms for people to create their own community. You can develop the infrastructure. The passion, love, heart, blood, sweat and tears is up to people. Not you.

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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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Yahoo!, the last traditional media company, is in deep trouble. Just like AOL, MSN and Forbes.com – dinosaurs founded in a time where media agencies had to manage scarcity. The Yahoo! Homepage used to be part of a digital media plan just like buying commercials during the NFL season for beer brands. Two things changed: ad networks, DSP’s and ad exchanges changed the focus of media agencies from placement buying to audience buying. And, more importantly, people are less interested in reading professional content and pay more attention to content created by their friends.

What is Yahoo’s response to a changed marketplace and customer behavior?

More content, more video, more, more, more. I wonder if Albert Einstein’s “Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results” has become Yahoo’s mission statement. More is not the answer. Traditional media companies will never be able to compete with the amount of content created on Social Networks, Twitter, Foursquare, YouTube, Facebook, Google+, Blogs, sites, Tumblr, etc. I’m not predicting the death of Yahoo!, nothing ever dies. VCR’s are still flashing “12:00” in millions of households, papers are being delivered to millions of door steps each morning and millions of faxes are being delivered each week. It took decades after the telegraph

was invented until the last telegraph was sent. (January 27, 2006, to be exact.) Yahoo! will be around for a long time to come. More irrelevant and less valuable by the day.

The demise of Yahoo! points to an important development

Online advertising is in the middle of a radical evolution but the majority of agencies/brands are acting as if it was still 2005. During that period, the majority of digital marketers were complaining about silos and the fact that they were cut off from the traditional campaign. Digital advertising had no place at the table and was not more than an afterthought: “Make sure the banner ad looks like the commercial.”

The disconnect is now between display advertising and social media

I see more integration between TV/Print campaigns and Social Media compared to Display Advertising and Social Media. The challenge is that Display Advertising continues to be deeply anchored in the world of Direct Marketing, creating a massive disconnect between that display advertising and Social Media. When your goal is to convert prospects into leads, a Social Media integration seems nothing than a silly distraction. Or, is it?

We’re reliving 2005 in the display advertising space: SEM/SEO is always at the table, Social Media the hot new toy and display advertising was relegated to the basement and algorithms.

What is the remaining value of media buying agencies?

The agency role in this new ecosystem will be re-evaluated by brands. The main challenge for media buying agencies will be their unique value proposition. It used to be access, buying power and custom tools. That competitive advantage is slowly disappearing because content created outside of traditional media properties gains importance and relevance over time.

The secondary challenge is the lack of trusted measurements. Ask 100,000 marketers about trusted and reliable measurements and you will get 150,000 answers. Is it impressions, clicks, conversions, engagement, connections – what the hell is it? It’s a lack of industry leadership but also a lack of confidence by agencies based on the fickle brands. “Oh, you focus on conversions? Sure, we can do that.”

Sorry, I don’t know the answer. I just have a lot of questions.

The marketing landscape continues to evolve rapidly. We’re still trying to answer the questions of 2005, while our clients expect us to answer the questions of 2012. As a industry, we need to find better ways to measure, to attribute and to communicate our value proposition to clients.

The conference season is upon us. I hope we can spend less time talking about case studies and acting as if we knew the answers. Instead, let’s ask more questions.

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Is it going to location-based marketing? Hyper-local marketing? Google+? Facebook’s timeline? Twitter ads? Social Search? What about the convergence of mobile and social? Touchscreen computing?

Clients ask me that question all the time and my answer remains the same:

Nobody knows what the next big thing is going to be. Nobody. More importantly, you shouldn’t be concerned about it. We haven’t even figured out the basics of digital marketing yet.

Let’s be frank here: The only working tactic working in the digital space is SEM. Measurable, scalable and tied back to your basic ROI. Once you leave the SEM area, digital marketers continue to work in the Wild West. We still haven’t worked out how to engage with customer through display advertising. Instead, we try to try work the attribution and measurement game:

“The metrics are all wrong.”

“It’s not about the last click.”

All true but it doesn’t instill any confidence in our clients when we sell our arsenal of digital tools with a major asterisk attached to them.

We need to fix digital marketing from scratch.

SEM/SEO? Check

Display advertising? Clearly, we need to start from scratch. We have optimized the delivery of ad units to customers but the creative side of the equation continues to be abysmal. The declining click-through rates are proof of that.

Social Media? Most companies have still not understood the power of Social Media. 95% of marketing efforts on social platforms continue to be megaphone-style, mass marketing efforts. Cutting down the power of Social Marketing to almost nothing.

Location-based marketing? Coupons are nice but they are not the be-all and end-all of location-based marketing strategies. By focusing on pure coupon play, you’re missing out in great opportunities.

The next big thing is already there.

Actually, there are many next big things. You’re just not using them properly yet. You’re not innovating enough using all these new platforms.

The majority of brands act like little children riding a bike on training wheels. After a few minutes, they get off the bike and ask: “When can I drive a car?”

Let’s try to ride the bike properly first.

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There are indications that use of Social Media is declining.People are still on Facebook and Twitter all day but they are getting savvy and more effective in their use of the tools. For brands, it’s getting harder to form a connection with customers; they are becoming very selective.

We caused that problem.

Social Media pundits, marketing experts and most of the agencies have encouraged brands to create Facebook and Twitter pages: “You need to join the conversation” was the mantra of the last few years. Many companies followed that lead. Problem is, people have only that much time and space in their life for brands to engage with. Typically, people have space for  2-3 brands they are very passionate about: an airline, an automotive brands, a restaurant. The majority of customers don’t want to hear from 98% of the brands on Facebook and Twitter.

Why? Because most companies continue to focus on themselves.

It’s the marketing comfort zone: Just like marketers want to engage people with their newsletters, campaign site, display ads and other marketing tactics, they regard social platforms as another way to message prospects regularly. The brand voice has become more social, the intent has remained the same.

People go to Facebook to connect with friends, not to connect with brands. If you provide them content that excites them (entertains them, inspires them, etc.), they might connect with their friends through your content. People have started to get annoyed by irrelevant contests, questions or content that doesn’t excite them, just considers them as extras in a brand play.

Instead, find valuable and entertaining ways to serve your customers.

Stop being brand-centric and start focus on your customers. How can you serve your customers? What would be valuable/entertaining/inspiring/exciting for your customers? Don’t focus on numbers, identify the customer of value and deliver something they want to talk about. Enrich people and they will enrich you.

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I’ve been interested in investing and macro-economy after I lost my shirt wasting money before the dot-com bubble burst. (eToys, anyone?) That came in handy in the last few years, helped me understand where we are going from here and how one can profit from these challenges. Bubbles are very common symptoms of a misaligned system and when you’re not prepared for their explosion or deflation, you will get hurt and suffer.

So, let’s talk about the imminent Social Crash.

More and more people are using social channels. This trend will continue, I don’t foresee people going back to their traditional ways. The tools will change, how people will use the tools will change and how brands will engage with people will change. (Let’s hope.) Social Marketing is a toddler, temper tantrums and amazement over little things (Oooh, Facebook integrated Skype: GAMECHANGER!) included.

It’s a pretty safe bet to say that the big players of the industry will be fine: Facebook, Twitter, Zynga and the other few billion dollar players. They might lose a huge chunk of their valuation over time but the Zuckerberg’s of the world will be doing well.

I’m not worried about them.

I’m worried about the smaller guys.

The social media consultants, the little shops that evangelize Social Marketing and execute smaller initiatives. The ones that struggle to get a $5,000 project and make a tiny profit from it. And all the startups that bank on social remaining to be the next big thing. The entrepreneurs building the new Twitter. (The next big thing won’t be social, trust me. It will have social features but the focus won’t be social.)

I suspect all of them will be gone in no time.

Why?

The more social the Web becomes, the less valuable weak connections and relationships will be.

Most social initiatives disappoint. They don’t perform as expected, don’t result in a measurable ROI or are plagued with extremely high expectations. The aftermath will make clients gun-shy. And make them move their money to more buttoned-up shops, firms that are part of a bigger network with access to analytics tool and other capabilities to make better informed decisions.

The majority of brands are starting to understand that social media experts are too limited in their capabilities. They desire a holistic, integrated approach that regards Social Marketing as one part of the marketing mix and not the holy grail of marketing.

The social space is moving on from media to social business. You need to understand the enterprise space, organizational structures and have deep insights into current CRM systems to be able to play in this new field.

The overall feeling in the market place is that anybody can do Social Media.

That’s the moment when the bubble goes “BOOM”. In the dot-com bubble, everybody thought they were Warren Buffett. During the housing bubble, everybody thought they could flip a house. And, now everybody believes to be a Social Marketing expert.

The crash is imminent. Maybe next month VC’s will stop investing in social sites. Maybe next year the majority of small shops focusing on Twitter pages will close down. It might happen any moment. But it will happen.

How to emerge victorious after the imminent Social Crash.

Don’t have all your fortunes tied up in high-risk social platforms like Facebook or Twitter. Diversify. Spread your investments to other platforms.

Diversify around user behavior. It changes constantly. Who knew people would check into places and expect discounts 5 years ago? Are you sure they will continue to do so in 12 months?

Think outside your current capabilities/expertise. Just ask the HTML programmers that received a BMW as a signing bonus in 2000 and flipped burgers in 2002. Educate yourself constantly.

Eliminate loss leaders. You might be comfortable building Facebook pages for smaller clients but is it profitable? Do you spend too much time with one client and don’t get enough in return? Time to cut ties.

If you’re struggling now; exit today. It won’t get easier. Time to move on.

Learn from Joseph P. Kennedy

The father of JFK, Bobby and Ted Kennedy saw his wealth increase from $4 million to $180 million. ($2.8 billion in today’s money.) These years were the dog days of the depression: 1929 to 1935.

When nobody wanted to invest in Real Estate, he doubled up by looking for value.

He diversified (liquor after the prohibition ended, reorganizing and refinancing several Hollywood studios) and developed  powerful business networks.

Now, I know that many things done by Joseph P. Kennedy were unethical (insider trading, just to name one) but my point is that there are amazing opportunities once Social crashes. Capitalism is about creative destruction.

When the dot-com bubble burst, the Internet population continued to grow. People became more digital. And new ventures were born. History will repeat itself after the Social Crash. The Social Web will continue to prosper. It will become less media and more business, part of the collaborative enterprise.

You can prosper, too. If you prepare for a crash now and get your affairs in order.

Unfortunately, the majority of people don’t believe in crashes, just in minor corrections.

From where I sit, they look like lemmings heading towards a bluff, beneath them only the cold, stormy sea.

Don’t be one of them.

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A few weeks I wrote about “The Shanty Towns of Social Marketing”:

“It’s a world filled with anarchy, impenetrable walls that make it hard for people from the outside to see what’s going inside and it’s an unethical world. In this world, you can buy Facebook fans by the thousands. You can ask them to “like” your brand in exchange for goods. They give you options to download your pricey apps in exchange for credits. Need 10,000 more LinkedIn fans? That creepy guy with the fedora and mink coat can help you. Have to pump up your follower number on Twitter by 100,000? Enter the greasy door next to the red neon sign, flashing “Open”. It’s a shanty town comprised of people who work for improvised, unsustainable companies that might go out of business any day.

An island filled with bottom-feeders, preying on the innocent. And supporting the cynical and unethical marketers.”

Either Mr. Gingrich didn’t read my post (likely) or he read the post and got a “good” idea (unlikely): No matter what, it seems Mr. Gingrich and his team (allegedly) were buying fake  Twitter followers. PeekYou dug a little bit deeper and they concluded that just 8% of Newt Gingrich’s followers are real people.

Mhm.

I briefly glanced at Mr. Gingrich’s followers and, well, it doesn’t look good.

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The egg screen of death.

What about Obama?

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Some eggs but not as eggtastic as Newt. But that’s just silly me, having a glance.

PeekYou went even further and analyzed the GOP 2012 contenders for comparison: Still, 8% of Gingrich’s followers are real, 20% real followers for Sarah Palin and Pawlenty tops the chart with 32% real followers. (Allegedly.)

I’m glad this happened.

Not many people have written about the rotten eggs of Social Marketing. It finally sheds a bright light on this unethical practice. (Especially when you boast about the number of followers.)

Clearly, Mr. Gingrich uses the follower count to stroke his own ego and get attention/respect from the clueless press. That’s about it.

A high number of fans is meaningless if no one ever shares your stuff or does anything to advance your cause.

Who knows, this might be the beginning of the end for these silly services. It’s a definite wake-up call for agencies and their clients to have a second look at their Social Marketing strategy. Especially when all you see is the egg screen of death.

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What brand built the first island on Second Life? What brand marketed itself first on Twitter? Quora? MySpace? Napster?

Who cares?

It’s good to be the first on the moon. It’s great to introduce the first touch-screen tablet. It’s an advantage to feature the first hybrid car.

Nobody cares if you’re the first to market yourself on a new platform.

Let me rephrase that: Nobody of your prospective customers cares if you’re the first to market yourself on a new platform.

Your agency might care. It’s good PR and communicates they’re an innovative marketer.

Your communication department might care. They get featured in trade magazines and invited to speak at conferences.

And your customer? They are busy living their lives.

It can cost you a pretty dime to be the first mover.

Remember the iAd? The first movers had to pay $1 million just to get in. Within a few months, the price dropped to $300,000.

Think about it.

The user base was very small in the beginning and Apple charged a million.

Now, millions are using the tablet and the price dropped dramatically.

It’s the premium you pay when you are the first mover.

The next Gold Rush: Google+

Google+ launched a few weeks ago. Apparently, it has a lot of traction. Social Media experts are falling all over themselves to squeeze money out of that new platform by marketing webinars how to make money from Google+. Brands and agencies are anxious to get in on the deal. Ford is already in.

Good for Ford.

Did they sell any more cars because of their Google+ presence? Did they change anybody’s mind about the brand because they “hung out” with 14 people?

Of course not.

Look, I like what Ford and Scott Monty is doing. They utilize Social Marketing in very innovative ways. They got a lot of PR and applause from the echo chamber for their Google+ initiative.

You’re not Ford.

You have a lot of time. Take that time and explore what others are doing. Only geeks and nerds are on Google+ right now. No reason to rush into it. Understand the landscape, participate as an individual to understand how people are using it. Make a business case and dive into the platform with a Direct Marketing approach: Start small, test, layer and, once you found something that works, expand.

Don’t think of yourself as a teenager that missed a party: The world is not coming to an end. You’re an adult now. There will be many more parties.