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For the record…

I am very, very pro- social media and SM marketing, despite my somewhat skeptical recent posts.

The bubble will burst (the backlash is already coming, with teens leading the way by slashing their Facebook communities),

I’m advocating smart and sustainable social media tactics and planning, not that it doesn’t work.   I believe it does, but understanding how and why and when is important, and should be investigated more instead of just accepting as truth.  In these relatively early stages, we measure by followers and retweets, not by results (many marketers aren’t even sure what those are, unless they run a social-media-buzz-only business, or are coordinated, big-budget, campaigns à la Hasbro and Tribal BBD for Monopoly City Streets).

I’ve seen real results from FB, Twitter and LinkedIn, but we’ve all also seen more “Social Media Experts” than there are tweets, and as an industry we need to be smart about our business, our jobs and our futures.

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2010/01/07 at 22:30 Leave a comment

Shadows and Tall Trees: what social media marketing can learn from third-world pro-social movements

Trying to nourish the roots from the canopy of Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn- what the industry can learn from aid organizations and third world groundswell.

Even if your company, brand or product is not aiming for guerrilla, grassroots marketing models, shouting from the rooftops, no matter how state of the art your audio-visual equipment, may never even reach your traditional client.

The best return to investment ratio marketing tool is word of mouth.  No campaign will beat your best friend, father or trusted colleague raving about real world upside- great results, exceeded expectations, superior service, critical savings or having daily routines eased by a brand or business, wherever it’s found.

The trick, of course, is that those hearing the lauding may not need or want such a thing, and the message is not reaching the audience looking for it. What if you want a new netbook, but don’t know anyone you trust, or with similar usage habits, that just got one? You have no other source but the usual product claims and lures found on company websites or superstore specials.

In the age of brands growing personalities and trying to make themselves accessible and personal by tweeting news, promotions, or links to articles mentioning their wares, the reality is that this approach can be just as impersonal and scatter-shot as traditional media advertising.  Yes, it’s far cheaper and much more nimble (no production and media buying lead times), only with two significant extra hurdles: first, there isn’t the advanced, specific initial demographic data that allows you to target those you want or need to reach and second, even one had this information, one has to get the consumer to follow them to receive the message.

Facebook advertising can alleviate this to a great degree- it’s very nature allows Facebook to offer very specific consumers bases.  It’s not hard to reach out to all the 23-year-old female young urban professionals that listen to Jay-Z and like to knit and eat pepperoni pizza.  So now you’re specific, but are you engaged?

Facebook’s Pages are the middle ground- users opt in, choose to be updated, and have asked to participate with your brand.  Seems ideal- a somewhat captive audience on the world’s biggest social media platform, with people spending so much time there that one grows nostalgic for the (yester)days when parents bemoaned the amount of time their kids spend in front of the tv instead of bosses worrying about work hours whittled away online.

The reality is that those that tend to join these pages join LOTS of pages.  There are users who become fans of bands and stores and designers and companies and products and movements (real and imaginary), nearly every channel or medium you can think of.  There are few users who join just a few pages, and those tend to be solely cultural or political.

Jockeying for attention among a hundred other groups: back to square one.

So what does one do?  How do you “move the needle,” “rise above the clutter,” ‘be heard among the chorus of voices?”  A good road map can be found in an unlikely place: non-profit aid organizations.

Entities like the U.N. and its branches- UNESCO, UNICEF or Government foreign aid programs like USAID and giant NGOs like the WHO’s Sonagachi Project are big, well-funded and in the trenches.  The central, urban trenches.  They tend to focus on the cities (the most visible, obvious areas).  They pour tons of good intentions and money into education, awareness, infrastructure, regional offices and specific initiatives time after time, yet find that they are making little headway in their extraordinary efforts.

Why?  Because they are standing on the canopy, shouting through their proverbial bullhorn, watering these trees, missing every plant, bush, flower and blade of grass in between.

In other words: they’re missing those that need them most- the less visible, the less likely to reach out; the majority of the population.

Project (RED), of which I am an avid supporter, is the poster child for what is happening out there: great marketing, tremendous corporate partnerships, tremendous awareness with the social media universe, engaging campaigns and content, but not reaching the people they were built to serve.  Measure with traditional and cutting-edge metrics, they score off the charts for success in the twitterverse, on Facebook, the blogworld… but not in the savannas and jungles of Africa, where all their social media awareness is not matching the slow, slow progress they’re making in their fight.

They’re getting tons of return when it comes to social media success, but the equation doesn’t balance out- their goal is not being reached, at least not in any meaningful way.  The proportion is so lopsided it’s astonishing.

There is a complete and utter disconnect: the number of followers on Twitter, the legion of Facebook fans, the high awareness are all relatively useless if they are not endemic to the community you’re ultimately aiming for.   If mommy bloggers regurgitate your message all day long, adding up to 100,000 tweets a day for two weeks straight, what does it matter if you’re looking to reach that 23-year-old pizza eating knitter who doesn’t interact with, or is not influenced by, that demographic?  The answer, honestly, is: not much.

The reality is that every one of us in the marketing world- traditional, corporate, digital, social media, wherever, whatever, need to ground ourselves, converse with our real audience, go outside the hubs and online cliques and frankly get our hands dirty.  There is no substitute for an actual dialogue with your audience- no amount of retweets or diggs will ever offer you the insight or tools that a two-way conversation with a couple of real live customers does.

When it comes to social media, anecdotal research, even with a healthy dose of salt, is more valuable than a million twitter shouts into the wind.  Because the reality is that the M.O. of most of us is just that.

We need to dig among those proverbial roots- get out there, observe, interact and THEN plan how to nourish them.  Not the other way around.  There are good case studies out there and they are easy to find and even easier to learn from.  They’re coming from ground up, rural aid organizations led by single and singular people with vision and passion and the humility to listen;  an unexpected, nontraditional place.  Which is right up our edgy, out there, trail-blazing alleys.

For some examples, and a little perspective, pick up Nick Kristof and Sheryl Wudunn’s Half the Sky. You’ll be surprised what a high-powered, high budgeted executive can learn from an uneducated, unconnected former prostitute in Kolkota.

2010/01/07 at 21:49 1 comment

Social media housekeeping during the holidays – LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook

by Licensing, Merchandising & Brand Management group member (LinkedIn), Kat Shoa

Social media housekeeping during the holidays – LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook

As everyone gears up (or down) for the holidays, this might be a good time to take a step back and perform some housekeeping on your social media activities. Just like other aspects of your business, your social media gets outdated, collects garbage, and needs to get refreshed. I’ll be writing a lot more about social media in the future, so come back and visit.

Social media handbook

If your employees are using any form of social media, it may be a good time to develop a “social media guidelines” handbook for them (especially true for LinkedIn, where work related activity is more pronounced). You need to ensure your company is not misrepresented and your employees keep your image consistent with your goals, but check with an attorney to make sure you’re not stepping over the line.

LinkedIn

This is where most business social networking/media occurs, and it has become the de facto networking site to search for information on companies and individuals. Whether you’re cleaning up or catching up, set some time aside to take care of the following:

Company profile. Have you developed new products or technologies? Have you entered new verticals? Have you acquired other companies? Make sure your company profile is up to date.

Personal profile update. Check your personal profile and make sure it still reflects how you’d like to be presented. Did you perform new activities that haven’t been included in your profile? It’s the end of the year. You can review your 2009 activities and update anything that’s worth mentioning.

Contacts. I know so many people who haven’t connected to all their contacts yet. Someone I recently met told me he has so many contacts, he went through all the names up to the letter L, and never finished it (!). Make sure all your contacts are connected to you on LinkedIn. This is a good time to send a “happy holidays” note along with a connection request. Never send a blank request without a note.

Recommendations requests. If you performed a great job with a client, a partner, or a vendor, before they forget about it, make sure to ask for a recommendation. This is another one where a nice “happy holiday” or “nice working with you in 2009” note will come in handy. Once you receive this recommendation, you can also use it on your website, corporate presentations, etc.

Groups. There are new groups being created every day. Go through your groups list and see if you still benefit from all of them. If you don’t, leave the less interesting ones and join newer or more interesting groups.

Applications. LinkedIn occasionally adds new useful applications without announcing them. Check the apps section of LinkedIn and make sure to use the ones that pique your interest.

Q&A ratings. If you asked any questions, go back and rate the responses.

Twitter

Most companies are still confused about Twitter and how to use it, but if you are a user, make sure you have an informative “background” on your profile with marketing info, contacts, “links” (you can’t really link on them) and pleasing background colors. You can google “twitter background” and find a lot of free or cheap background pages on the web.

Facebook

If your company has a Facebook page, you can use it for a last push for product promotions during the holidays. But also with your “happy holidays” note, make sure to ask your followers to recommend you to their friends to increase followers.

As I mentioned, I’ll be writing a lot more in the future about specifics of social media. If there are any specific topics you’d like me to write about, feel free to let me know in the “comments” section of this blog.

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2010/01/02 at 03:35 2 comments

Augmented Reality Advertising Is Here

Augmented Reality Advertising Is Here

Augmented reality and geo-location really started to gain steam in 2009, and we expect to see even more developments in 2010. Geo-location in particular has really compelling opportunities when it comes to advertising. Already businesses are discovering the benefits they can gain by engaging and promoting services via Foursquare — it was really only a matter of time before bigger companies would start to take notice.

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2009/12/21 at 18:22 1 comment

Is true democracy happening now, on the web, and succeeding (no, Wikipedia does not count)

Firefox 3.5: The World’s Most Popular Browser

Firefox 3.5 is now the most popular browser worldwide, edging past Internet Explorer 7, according to analytics site StatCounter.

The timing has favored FF3.5, however: IE7 usage has died off as people upgrade to IE8, meaning that Internet Explorer’smarket share is currently spread equally across IE7 and IE8. Add together all versions of IE versus all versions of Firefox, and Microsoft’s browser is still leading the pack by a long way.

Nonetheless, the trend lines favor Firefox in the long run: IE’s market share continues its slow decline while Firefox has sustained steady growth.

One very interesting angle to this development is that Firefox, a product of the Mozilla open source group, is truly a people’s product- developed by, and with, input from various programmers who wanted to seize their browsing destiny from the mega conglomerates with the EURO billion R&D budgets and built it collaboratively and over time.
Wikipedia is a similar collaboration, but is not as pure- the content is often self-serving, and is only as good as the sources who post information- the reliability and knowledge of whom is always in doubt.  By definition, Wikipedia is a cross- cultural “democratic” project.  One we all heavily rely on, but its formula for success is also its achilles heel, especially as content curation (big buzz word for 2010) becomes more the norm and web content is held more and more to the standards of print media that it intends to replace.
Firefox is a gateway- its creators and contributors have their own agendas, but its function largely frees it from the bias and agendas that may bring down or “taint” other web phenomena.
Without budgets or campaigns, through word of mouth only, Firefox has passed Safari (which is backed by one of the worlds best branding and marketing machines) and if current trends continue, it will pass IE as the browser of choice.  The thing about grass roots marketing is that its success is the purest and most accurate to measure against ROI (or any other metric).  If it didn’t work, people wouldn’t use it, rave about it, and influence their friends and colleagues to do the same.

The understatement of the millenia would be to say that the web has changed everything, and leveled so many playing fields.  The success of Mozilla and Firefox, more than anything else out there right now, might indicate how and in what ways going forward.

Will traditional media (read: Apple and Microsoft, ha! what an indication of that massive change) be able to respond?  Will they throw money and campaigns and marketing gurus at the challenge, or will they change their models- working more closely with the net’s “everyman” programmers and creators?

2009/12/21 at 16:48 Leave a comment

10 Rules for Increasing Community Engagement

10 Rules for Increasing Community Engagement

Courtesy Mashable,

10 crucial things you need to do to keep your audience engaged with you and with your business/community.

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2009/12/16 at 18:26 Leave a comment

Hiding in plain sight- evergreen brands, evolutionary pace and the Wall Street Journal.

When Rupert Murdoch bought the Wall Street Journal, liberals, old-school journalists and hard-core business-philes all bemoaned the end of an era, of an institution.

There was little doubt he’d leave his mark- Murdoch has never been known to be light-handed, it wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to call him a 21st century William Randolph Hearst.

The majority  readers and admirers were sure he’d promote himself, his agenda (and that of his multitude of businesses).  Fluff pieces on his subsidiaries, corporate profiles of favored friends and partners, an uber-capitalist periodical containing promotional analysis and profiles of businesses that suited Murdoch’s taste.

The Journal has changed, to be sure, but in a much broader sense, inching closer to a right leaning NY Times than a business-anchored daily.  In the upper echelon of global newspapers, The WSJ enjoyed a well-earned spot amongst the elite of the top-tier dailies (elite meaning quality, not snobbish, but that’s a whole other bait and switch of title and subject).

It is increasingly about politics, splashy images and general interest content.  Yet, if you asked most people, including those who cried out at the time of the sale and since, they’d describe it as a business paper.  And that’s exactly what Murdoch and co. are counting on.

For so long, the Journal has been an institution, a cornerstone of commerce reporting and as steady and conservative- in its subject matter, not politics- as can be.  It is ingrained in the collective cultural conscious as such, but that consciousness no longer reflects reality.

How often does this happen?  And how long before we notice?

There are the business school anecdotes about Kleenex starting originally being marketed as a make-up remover, Crisco as candles, Kotex as surgical bandages, Silly Putty as a cheap war-era replacement for rubber, but this is the other end of the brand conversion curve.  Instead of starting out with marketing a product as a specific thing and then finding its unintended usage has far greater upside and viability, this is a brand that has been something for so long that it continues to be perceived to be what it was not what it is.

The reason is lifespan.  Consider TLC, “The Learning Channel,” sister network to Discovery and Animal Planet, it was originally stocked with educational fare.  It has since evolved or devolved into a reality based network with marginal educational value.  It is rarely referred to by its long form name as most people do not perceive it as an educational destination.

Then there’s KFC- formerly proudly known as Kentucky Fried Chicken.  In the wake of the eighties health craze, 90s vanity and aughts obesity crisis, the company has gone out of its way to market itself as KFC, years before they had a non-fried option on the menu.

But the journal has been around for, well, for forever.  And its identity is so integrated into our cultural DNA that the general population hasn’t noticed that it really has changed. Like someone you see everyday who has lost a not insignificant amount of weight, or gone grey, but so slowly, with changes hardly noticeable from day to day, you don’t notice until you see a picture from last year’s company picnic.

The aforementioned bemoaners were right- they’ve just been lulled into complacency by the slow changes, an almost real life evolutionary pace- there was no relaunch, no rebrand no WSJ2.0 campaign here.  It’s a real and steady (d)evolution into a general news periodical with a right leaning agenda.

It’s just hiding in plain sight- behind its evergreen brand.

The Media Equation

Under Murdoch, Tilting Rightward at The Journal

By DAVID CARR

Published: December 14, 2009

There are growing indications in the news pages that Rupert Murdoch, a lifelong conservative, is looking to use The Wall Street Journal to play politics.

Sunday was the second anniversary of the sale of The Wall Street Journal to Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation.

Mark Lennihan/Associated Press

Rupert Murdoch, a lifelong conservative, addressing the newsroom at The Wall Street Journal two years ago, when he took over

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2009/12/15 at 02:29 Leave a comment

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