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Archive for March, 2011

The danger of content-centric strategies in Social Business:

Let me preface this short post with the catalyst behind it – this article by Sarah Shearman for Marketing.co.uk: “Content key to marketing in social media says P&G exec.” Let me throw a few bits and pieces of the article your way, and we’ll get started.

Content is the best currency in social media, according to Usama Al-Qassab, e-commerce marketing and digital innovation team leader at Procter & Gamble.

Speaking at a panel debate at the Social Media World Forum today (29 March) on the role of social media in traditional marketing strategy, Al-Qassab said: “There is a lot of talk about social commerce, but the average person is not yet there yet. On sites such as Facebook, the majority of people do not go there to purchase and still prefer their traditional online retailers. In order to monetise social media, it should not be seen in isolation and needs to be integrated into the wider marketing mix. But unless you have content, there is no point. The content you deliver and the investment behind that is key, much bigger than straight media dollars.”

And this (edited for brevity):

“To grab people’s attention in social media, you need to do something amazing and to do this, [what] you need is a function of how good your product is and how human you appear. The less good your product is and the less human you appear, the more spectacular, giving and generous the thing you do as an organisation needs to be.” - John Willshire, head of innovation at PHD

“There is so much content out there that is great and excellent, [but that] does not mean anyone will be able to even see it. The only way you can get people to see things and talk about things is by giving them a big push. Everything, whether it be business cards, letterheads, the website, the TV advertising, should all drive to one specific thing you want people to do. People don’t talk about things because they think they are great, they talk about them because they think they ought to, or because other people talk about them. Popular things get more popular, as a result of being in the public eye. It is about driving the content and hoping to get additional benefits, when people start getting involved.” - Nick Butcher, global head of social media and digital innovation at ZenithOptimedia.

First, let me begin by saying that I have absolutely no problem with what is now called creative/content, or even a proper focus on it. Content is important. It helps communicate to consumers the value and advantages of buying a product or service. It makes consumers discover, desire, crave, and develop a preference for a product. Now, more than ever, content is easy to share, which ads to its value and power. Content also pulls people to websites, which is pretty damn important if you are trying to keep consumers interested and/or primed to visit websites and click on buttons. For these reasons, content is at the core of all things digital marketing, and great content is worth its weight in gold. You will get absolutely no argument from me there. All of this is true.

But here is where experienced marketing executives around the world – including pretty brilliant guys like John, Nick and Usama – fall into a common trap: Mistaking social media channels for marketing channels.

The problem is simple: Marketing professionals see the marketing opportunity in these powerful new channels – as well they should. Their reflex is to do what they know, which is to adapt their marketing thinking to the social space: shift some of their communications, strategies,creative and content to the Facebooks, Twitters and Youtubes of the moment. It’s their job after all. It’s what they know. “Push” has always worked everywhere else, therefore it will work in the social space as well. (And in spite of what social media purists claim, “push” does work quite well on social channels. Ask Dell and Old Spice, for starters.) The problem, however, is that digital social channels are not solely marketing channels. In fact, they are mostly not marketing channels. They are social channels (hence the nomenclature). As such, they favor dialog rather than monologue. Publishing content and creative might be seen as a conversation starter, but it is not in any way, shape or form a dialog. It is a monologue through and through. And there is the rub.

At the root of the confusion between social marketing and social business are two distinct operational world views:

The easiest way to illustrate the problem is – as always – with a silly picture of old white dudes in suits sitting around a table.

Below is the functional view of social media channels as perceived (and expressed) by marketing professionals like John, Nick, Usama and thousands upon thousands of others around the world, including the majority of CMOs:

The problem with a unilateral functional view of SM channels

This begins a chain reaction of tactical thinking in which “content” – whose importance to the marketing function (on and off the web) is without question – becomes the core component of marketing-driven social media programs: If “content is king” for marketing on and off the web, then content must also be king for marketing in social media channels.

Logical, right?

If you have ever wondered why “content” was such a recurring theme and point of focus in the social space – when it clearly doesn’t need to be, this is why. What you are looking at in the above image, and what you are hearing from John, Nick, Usama and their peers isn’t representative of either social business or a social media program for business. What it illustrates is limited to social media marketing: The traditional marketing function adapted and applied to social media channels. This world view reflects a belief that social media management is primarily a marketing function.

This view point is of course a little too limited to work super well in a social medium, where people value non-marketing interactions at least as much (if not a lot more) than marketing-related ones.

Since social media channels and the social space are not inherently marketing-focused channels, the correct approach for a business looking to see both short and long term results, is one that is NOT primarily marketing-centric, and therefore NOT primarily content-centric. Here is what that more integrated social business model looks like:

Social Business favors multi-functional adoption across the org

The above image reflects the nature of social business. This multi-functional approach to social media, marked by the adoption of social channels by all functions and departments across an organization, stands a much better chance of yielding results in a space that is not inherently marketing-focused (and can be, at times, openly hostile to overtly marketing-focused exploitation by companies that haven’t yet thought things through).

This model does not focus on “content” as the key component of its social media program “strategy.” Instead, the model focuses on creating new types of value for consumers and stakeholders:

1. Pragmatically this is done to gain a competitive advantage, or – because the more value an organization creates for its customers, the more win becomes associated with its reputation.

2. From the consumer side, as long as the organization driving such a program seems to be genuinely interested in improving the lives or the experience of people it comes in contact with, as long as it seems to want to foster a relationship with them that isn’t automated, that is as truly human and genuine as an old fashioned handshake or a kiss on the cheek or a warm and honest hello, this business socialization activity won’t come across as one-sided and self-serving. This is important.

Sometimes, the best marketing isn’t marketing at all. It grows out of the personal connections that happen between the impression and the purchase, the thousand little personal interactions that happen between the purchase and the coffee shop, and the bonds consumers form with human beings around them. These human beings can be fellow customers of Brand x or employees or Brand x, or perhaps future customers of Brand x. For the purposes of this piece, let’s just focus on employees of Brand x.

Thus, having your marketing department push content all day long via Facebook pages and Twitter accounts and Youtube channels basically amounts to executing a simple social media marketing strategy. It doesn’t build anything. It doesn’t stick either. It’s just marketing spend at a lower cost and with a higher content velocity. Not bad, but that won’t get you very far in the social space.

Moving beyond “social media marketing” – A short list of business functions in social media that do not require content to create value and yield results:

We have seen how Marketing, advertising and PR all tend to focus on content in and out of social channels and why. (And again, there is nothing wrong with that.) Now, let us briefly look at a few other functions that can find a profitable home in the social space that require zero content creation, publication or curation.

  • Digital Customer Service
  • Business Intelligence
  • Digital market research
  • Consumer Insights Management
  • Online Reputation Management
  • Digital keyword and sentiment monitoring
  • Digital campaign or program measurement
  • Digital crisis management
  • Community management
  • Digital technical support
  • Digital concierge services

There are more, but you get the idea. None of these are particularly “content” driven functions, are they. Yet… “content” is supposed to be at the core of social media programs, right?

An emphasis on “content” in social media and social communications is simply code for “we think of social media primarily as a marketing channel.” It clearly needs to be treated as far more than that.

Organizations whose executives come to believe that “content” is key or central to social media success, equity or potential are making a grave mistake: Content doesn’t in fact drive engagement, traction or success in social media. “Content” drives marketing and responses to marketing in social media. As important as that is, we all have to be realistic about the limits of this kind of approach.

Realistically, content doesn’t drive customer service, crisis management, reputation management or market research in social media, nor does it drive conversations about customer service, crisis management, reputation, market research or even shopping experiences about a brand in social media. Since these and other key business function are principal building blocks of every successful social media program (for business), you see how an emphasis on content can hobble an organization’s social media program right from the start if its importance is mistakenly overstated.

Content’s relation to old vs. new forms of media:

Old media was 100% about messaging and distribution. Marketing was a monologue, primarily because the media used by marketing didn’t give consumers a voice. Viewers didn’t talk back to brands through their TV. Listeners didn’t talk back to brands through their radio. Billboards, print ads, posters, point of sale displays, coupons and even Web 1.0 websites functioned the same way: You created the message and pushed it out. The channels were basically one-way pipelines with marketers at one end and consumers at the other, the latter being the receiving end.

Social media channels are very different. Dialog rules in the social space. Marketing is at best suspect, and tolerated only if it doesn’t come across as exploitation of the channel by a company. Moreover, marketing in social media is permission-based: Too much marketing, or the wrong kind, and social media denizens will disengage from an offending brand. The wrong approach in these social channels can even do more harm than good for a company that forgets to treat consumers like individual human beings.

Though occasional monologues and messaging can find their place in the social space within a healthy mix of engagement activity, an operational emphasis on any kind of marketing monologue doesn’t work. Put simply, companies need to stop shoving “content” through social media channels like sh*t through a goose for ten seconds, take a step back, and start placing as much – if not more – emphasis on listening to consumers in order to then respond to them and begin a process of socialization. That is at the core of true engagement, and the fuel that will drive companies’ loyalty engines in the social space. The recent emphasis on content creation and publishing isn’t helping companies engage better. Instead, it is creating a wedge between brands and consumers. A wall of noise, even. It has become terribly counterproductive.

Two more things to think about:

1. Engagement and buzz are not the same thing. Pushing content through social media channels to generate buzz is perfectly fine and it can work very well. But don’t kid yourselves: Generating buzz around content or a campaign isn’t engagement. Not by a long shot. So next time someone tries to tell you that content and engagement go hand in hand, ask them to explain the difference between engagement and buzz. Chances are that they have the two mixed up. (Beware: That kind of confusion can send organizations down the wrong road fast.)

2. Saying hello or thank you doesn’t qualify as content. By the same token, having a conversation with someone is not content creation or curation. Responding to customer service requests via twitter is not content either. In fact, the more your communications resemble a conversation or dialogue, the less your communications qualify as “content.” The flip side of this is that the more focused an organization is on content when it comes to its social media presence, the more anti-social it will appear to be.

Strike for a balance. Always. The social space is far too complex and filled with opportunities to put all of your operational eggs in one basket – even the one tagged “content.”

Cheers,

Olivier

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Social Media ROI: In stores now. Available in print and e-formats. (Click here for a sample chapter.)

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Since I am still in Europe haven’t had time to sit down and write the six or seven blog posts I started drafting on the TGV to Paris last Friday, let me just point you to this solid video of Guy Kawasaki speaking with Brian Solis about the Apple paradox, the key elements behind Virgin America and Zappos’ success, the negative impact of disengaged CEOs, AT&T’s disconnect with the reality of their customers’ experience, the death of the oracles of technology and of course… the three pillars of enchantment.

I will review Enchantment when I get back to the US, by the way, so stay tuned for that.

Okay, so… Can I be honest about this video?  As much as I dig Brian, how brilliant he is, how well he understands digital communications and operational models and stuff that flies over most people’s heads, and how friendly and engaging he is (which is why I love watching his interviews and asked him to write the foreword for Social Media ROI), Guy kind of steals the show.  I never watch 30-minute interviews. EVER. I watched this one.

Check it out. You’ll see what I am talking about:

And while we’re on the subject of books, Enchantment and Social Media ROI make a pretty sweet pairing. Think of it as kind of a right-brain, left-brain combo of win. (The two books complement each other surprisingly well.) But hey, don’t take my word for it. Amazon.com took the liberty of bringing it up all on its own:

See?

To order Social Media ROI, click here. To order Enchantment, click here.

Cheers.

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Why write a 50-paragraph post about the first half of my trip to Brussels when I can instead point you towards other people’s (far less biased) reports and other relevant content? Here you go:

1. From emailblog.eu: Event report – Fusion marketing Experience (Click here).

2. Yoost de Valk earning himself an epic payback:

3. The pre-show speaker interviews (Click here) by Chris Thompkins.

4. Browse the Marketing Experience Magazine (Click here).

More later, when I have a few minutes to catch my breath.

Cheers,

Olivier.

 

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So I will be speaking at Fusion Marketing: Brussels – on 23 March. That’s next week.

If you work in marketing or digital and happen to be in the EU next week, I strongly recommend that you swing by the summit, attend all the sessions and come say hi, because I don’t come through Brussels very often.

Here are 6 facts about Brussels that you may not know:

1. I went to high school in Brussels.

2. The food there is pretty fly.

3. NATO has its HQ there.

4. Brussels is the capital of the European Community.

5. Brussels will be the first international city on the 2011 “Social Media ROI” book tour. (In fact, all attendees get a free copy, which I will be happy to autograph while I am there.)

6. This guy is reportedly from there (unconfirmed):

In other words, it should be a pretty solid event, if only by virtue of the fact that it is being held in Brussels.

Other speakers at #FusionMex:

Dave Chaffey – CEO, Smart Insights

Dela Quist – CEO, Alchemy Worx

Gianfranco Cuzziol – Head of eCRM, EHS 4D Group

Richard Sedley – Client Relationships, Foviance

Kath Pay – Strategic email and digital marketing consultant, DM Inbox

Joost de Valk – Yoast.com

Alfred den Besten – IT and telecom watcher

and my good friend Trey Pennington (whom I see only overseas even though we live five miles from each other).

Click here for the schedule. To register before tickets run out, click here.

I look forward to seeing many of you next week. Cheers!

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Social Media ROI: In stores now. (Click here for a sample chapter)

 

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My professional interest in the social web and social media tends to focus mostly on the possibilities that the medium offers to businesses, universities, non-profits, government agencies, and so on. Most of that deals with positive potential: In the business world, it touches on improving consumer relations, attracting new customers, improving loyalty, yada yada yada. In the communications world, the focus shifts to facilitating education, protecting reputations, avoiding and managing crises, etc. And from a social standpoint, building communities, enhancing collaboration, and political action tend to top off the list.

Wherever I go and whatever project I work on, the most negative aspect of social media I usually ever have to deal with is a bad product review, angry customers, or public outrage over an incident (as with the BP oil spill) or unpopular policy (as with Nestle and its palm oil supply chain). But this weekend, I was introduced to a different kind of negativity on the social web, one that steps beyond the boundaries of consumer indignation and political discord. One that, although unprompted by contemporary injury or injustice, incited people to give voice to a shared xenophobic grievance.

After having spent weeks digging deep into the amazing impact that the social web has had in giving common, often disenfranchised people the power to unite in ways they never could before, impact their own elections, topple dictators, and finally give their voice a long overdue breath of life, running into the complete opposite this weekend felt like someone had just sucker-punched me in the gut.

On Saturday, I started noticing tweets and Facebook updates like these (screenshots):

One collage of Facebook comments in particular found its way to the twitternets. Click here to see it. Patrice Leroux also shared this link (see comments).

#PearlHarbor may have even briefly become a trending topic on Twitter on Saturday (although the notoriously misspelled #PearlHarbour might have beaten it to the punch, which is telling in and of itself). This only hours after a devastating earthquake and tsunami struck Japan and left hundreds, perhaps thousands of innocent people dead.

Typically, I much prefer to focus on all the ways that social media can make the world a better place. For instance, Japan’s early earthquake and tsunami warning system sends texts to citizens’ phones, which is a pretty simple but clever use of SMS technology. That is a great story. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Google helped people in the disaster-struck area let their loved ones know they were all right, and continue to help folks outside of the affected areas locate their missing loved ones. Again, brilliant. Critical real-time information was and is shared via mobile devices and social platforms to help save lives. Google’s Crisis Response project is another example of what can be done with the web to help save lives and rebuild affected areas. Stories like this rock my world. But the CNNs and BBCs of the world are already doing a fine job of covering that angle. What isn’t being touched on a whole lot is the flip side of that coin. The ugly side. So I want to touch on it for a couple of minutes because it too is important.

This little blip of shame deserves its own little moment in the spotlight, if only to remind us that in spite of the wonderful technology we enjoy today, humanity isn’t yet quite as evolved as we would like to think it is. A connection to the internet doesn’t necessarily make someone smarter. Having hundreds of “friends” on Facebook doesn’t necessarily make us more social or human. This #PearlHarbor hashtag incident is a subtle, yet important reminder of what always lurks beneath the surface of human interactions. It may be a mere blip on our collective radar, sure, but a blip on the radar can sometimes turn into something more. Something bigger and uglier and more ominous.

Here’s what’s important to keep in mind: 100% of the social web’s potential is tied to human potential. That potential can be fueled by innovation, altruism, progress, collaboration, and even kindness. It can also be fueled by little more than narcissism, idleness, ego and self-gratification. And sadly, it can be fueled equally by xenophobia, cynicism, hatred, indifference and even cruelty. Tools and platforms like Twitter, blogs and Facebook are blank canvases. We decide what we paint there. The “content” we produce for the social web is a reflection of the world we want to build for ourselves and others. We can build something worthwhile, or we can build something ugly and destructive. We can build something self-serving and predatory, or we can build something beneficial to all. We can use social media to facilitate and promote progress or hinder and weaken it. Through the use of social platforms, we can be a force for good, or a force for cruelty and hatred. The potential for both is exactly the same. We decide, both collectively and individually, where things go.

On a more positive note, the #pearlharbor hastag on twitter quickly rallied thousands upon thousands of outraged social web denizens who reacted with shock and disgust to the horrible racist statements which gave rise to this post. That’s a very good sign.

Moving on…

Here are a few ways you can help already start to help Japan today:

The Red Cross

Save The Children

Global Giving

Google Person-Finder

Google Crisis Response – Japan

UNICEF (Thanks, Ann)

BelongingsFinder.org (Thanks, Eric)

And lastly, this beautiful effort by signalnoise.com:

 

If you have more links to share, feel free to leave them in the comments.

Cheers.

 

Suggested/Additional reading:

Victoria Pynchon for Forbes (Thanks to Jill Elswick for the find)

 

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Very cool promo by Zoetica this week to celebrate the launch of both Social Media ROI and Katie Paine’s “Measure What Matters”:

Please join Zoetica in celebrating the release of two books, Katie Delahaye Paine‘s Measure What Matters and Olivier Blanchard‘s Social Media ROI. Zoetica is giving away five free copies of each book today to the first 10 people who answer the question, “Why will ROI never die?” If you want to win a copy, please leave your answer in the comments section (responses that do not address the question seriously will not win). Congratulations, Katie and Olivier!

Read all of the comments it generated here. Good stuff.

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Great news: “Social Media ROI: Managing and Measuring Social Media Efforts in Your Organization” (Que Biz-Tech / Pearson) released almost two weeks early.

It is available now in the US and Canada on Amazon.com (paperback & Kindle) and BarnesAndNoble.com (paperback and Nook), and should be available in the EU and the rest of the world in a few days. If you enjoy bucking convention, you can also buy it directly from the publisher by clicking here.

The book will soon have its own website with additional content, news and other cool stuff, but for now, feel free to check out its Facebook page for discussions, news, photos, videos (soon) and other goodies: Facebook.com/SocialMediaROI. Feel free to share pictures of your shiny new copies with the rest of us, videos, reviews, etc.  A few of the early entries (Amazon doesn’t waste any time):

From @RickCaffeinated

 

From @Maggielmcg

From John Hoyt

Speaking of reviews, I encourage all of you to post yours on Amazon.com (or even BarnesAndNoble.com). especially if you found the book helpful.

You can also follow discussions about the book and many of its topics by searching for #smROI on Twitter, and check into the book using GetGlue.

I can’t wait to hear from all of you.

Oh, and thanks for Geoff Livingston for being the first to give the book a home on Flickr:

Now go forth and recommend this book to every business owner and manager you know: CEOs, COOs, CMOs, CFOs, Advertising execs, PR managers, Customer Service managers, Sales managers, Corporate Communications, HR, Legal… It will help them all understand how to plug social media into their business (and their clients’ business).

More soon.

Cheers.

 

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