Archive for September, 2009

Snake-oil 2

Part 1: Return on Incompetence

Here’s a flash of obvious: When most of us don’t know how to do something, we typically know that we don’t know how to do it.

Let me illustrate: As much as I would love to be an F-18 pilot, I don’t know how to fly an F-18 (or any aircraft, for that matter). As a result, you don’t see me walking around in a flight suit  pretending that I am an F-18 pilot.

More to the point, you don’t see me advertising my services as an F-18 flight instructor.

For the exact same reason, you don’t see me trying to sell services as an ice-carving, cat wrestling or underwear-modeling instructor. Why? because when most of us don’t know how to do something, we have a) enough sense and personal integrity not to pretend that we do, and b)  enough professional acumen not to pretend that we are qualified to teach it.

Yet this line of logic (and basic sense of professional ethics) seems to escape a disturbingly large group of people who evidently have latched-on to Social Media as an easy meal ticket  – one to be earned, in many cases, on the backs of people and companies who don’t know any better.

To add injury to insult, most of these would-be Social Media “experts” aren’t even good at masking the fact that they have no clue what they are talking about. You would think that they would at the very least grasp the most basic building blocks of social media… like the fact that a Twitter follower, a Facebook fan and a YouTube subscriber are essentially the same thing, but evidently, even that simple of a concept escapes some of these folks. In far too many instances, they don’t seem smart enough to realize how little they understand about a discipline they claim to be experts in.

Yet these are the people who increasingly find themselves advising companies around the US as to how to build, integrate, manage and measure social media programs.

Now, those of us who actually do this for a living and take it seriously can spot these posers a mile away, but how are unsuspecting executives supposed to? To the uninitiated, anyone with a neat sounding social media measurement formula and a whiteboard presentation can sound like they know what they’re talking about. (If you had never seen what gold looks like and a self-proclaimed expert came along with a bag of yellow dust and told you it was gold, why wouldn’t you believe them?)

More often than not, the otherwise innocent combination of inexperience, ambition and lack of professional accountability are to blame. But in far too many cases, an unhealthy blend of raw opportunism and… economic conditions  have given rise to a mob of social media snake oil salesmen. Whatever the causes may be, it worries me to see how quickly both dangerously inexperienced amateurs and deliberate hacks alike have taken over the “social” management business with their special brand of complete nonsense.

Perhaps more troubling: Very few among those of us working hard to build up this discipline are speaking out against bad practices and obnoxious BS from this unscrupulous crowd.

Look, leadership isn’t just about thought leadership. It isn’t just about being pioneers or evangelists or mavens. It certainly isn’t just about getting the accolades and the followers and the invitations to speak at conferences.  Leadership is also about responsibility. And we have a responsibility to keep our community and this field as ethical, professional, and free of BS as we can.

If leaders in this field don’t stand up for its integrity, who will?


Return on Inaction:

The reality is that the hijacking of Social Media by hack jobs isn’t happening in a vacuum: Every instance of an agency, firm or consultant promising results and delivering a goose egg makes it that much less likely that their  clients will put their trust in a social media adviser again, genuine or not. And rightly so.

To outsiders, there is no difference between a Chris Penn (who knows his shiznit) and a Joe Shmoe (who couldn’t find his way out of a paper bag if Twitter drew him a map), and that is a big problem: Anyone with a little bit of SEO savvy can have his/her bogus methodology pop up at the top of Google searches. And if no one calls him/her on the BS, there will be no indication anywhere that what s/he is selling is complete nonsense.

Case in point: How many companies have already fallen for misguided methodologies like these? (I use the term misguided since as far as I can tell, their authors seem to have developed these methods in good faith.)

Social Media ROI Calculator no.1. (Go here for the analysis.)

Social Media ROI Calculator no. 2.

Social Media ROI Calculator no. 3.

Bogus Social Media ROI measurement methodology no. 327.

And then there’s  this conversation on LinkedIn. Count how many of these folks are consultants. Tell me that level of widespread confusion and ignorance about the mechanics of Social Media doesn’t open the door for abuse and nonsense on a large scale.

We can do better.

If you believe that the hacks and misguided amateurs will eventually go away on their own, you’re wrong. Why would they? The money isn’t bad, the opportunities are growing and there is still virtually zero accountability in this line of work. Every other company is looking for a social media expert to teach them how to either develop, integrate, manage or measure social media, yet the vast majority of business execs couldn’t tell a true professional from an agency flunkie with a Facebook account. You do the math.

We’re going to be on the wrong side of that growth curve for while unless we start establishing standards for the industry. And I mean sooner rather than later.

How Not To Measure Social Media – Part 2

Here is Part 1.

Below is another example of social media nonsense passing for expertise. I don’t want to make any assumptions about anyone’s motives in this specific case, so to be fair, it’s probable that whomever put this together genuinely thought that the thinking behind the equation and methodology was sound. There is no reason to think that anyone at Digital Royalty was trying to make a quick buck off unsuspecting clients when they developed this. (My guess is that they mean well.) But the fact remains that the people behind this thing don’t understand either Social Media or program measurement well enough to teach either. And that’s the danger: Regardless of people’s intentions and motives, bad methodology is bad methodology no matter how you look at it. And bad methodology quickly turns into bad business for everyone involved.

But don’t take my word for it: Watch the video and make up your own mind. (Watch carefully because I’ll have questions for you afterwards.)

And here is the “equation” referenced in that video:


If the video doesn’t play for you, go watch it here.

Rather than listing out all of the flaws in this methodology and equation, let me ask a few questions that outline some of my key concerns. You can try to answer them yourselves or go straight to the answer/comment. You choice. (These were questions I asked the author on her blog post. They remain unanswered.)

1) Why do FB fans and Twitter followers fall into the volume column but YouTube subscribers fall into the engagement column?

Twitter followers, Facebook fans & friends and YouTube subscribers fall into the same category. They should be in the same column. (The “reach” column – not featured in this methodology.) Reach is neither hot nor cold. It’s a hard metric.

Demonstrating a lack of understanding about something as basic as this throws up a bright red flag right off the bat.

2) Why do frequency and reach apply to volume but not engagement or conversions? (Warning: This one may hurt your brain, so feel free to skip ahead.)

Assuming that Volume and Engagement are relevant categories/columns, (and that’s a very big if) Frequency and Reach would apply to both.

Let’s take a step back and look at the definitions of Frequency and Reach:

Frequency is a measure of how often something happens. (An activity, a transaction, etc.)

Reach is a measure of how many people you can touch. To use Amy’s own ecosystem terminology, reach is the number of people who live in your ecosystem.

A subset of reach is how many people within that ecosystem you actually touched or engaged with for a particular campaign.

Once you realize that, you start to see how the concept of a volume column is a bit shaky: You would have to include “reach” as an element of the “volume” column even though they are basically two words describing the same thing. See how this makes no sense?

But I digress.

Based on this model, Frequency (of interactions) should also show up in the engagement column: (How often do you engage?) Likewise, Reach would manifest itself in the engagement column in terms of how many people were touched/reached through… engagement.

If a Conversion column exists, then Frequency also applies to it: Frequency of conversions = how often conversions happen. (Or transactions, for that matter.)

Regardless of how flawed your method may be, this is simple, basic, common sense stuff that can be plugged in properly IF you understand it.

The lack of basic understanding of reach and frequency raises another red flag.

3) What does “actual activity and action” mean?

Transactions? Website visits? Who knows? Knowing what you’re talking about matters. Letting other people what you’re talking about matters too. “Actual activity and action” doesn’t mean anything.

Another red flag.

4) The size of your “ecosystem” = Reach. How can reach fall into both the cold and warm columns?

The size of an ecosystem is the definition of reach.  Calling something two different things doesn’t actually make it two different things. (This doesn’t happen when you know what you’re talking about.)

Having the same element appear twice in the same equation is bad math.

The red flags keep popping up.

5) Return on Influence = Adding 3 web analytics values to sentiment x reach (again)? Seriously? That’s the equation?

Before we dive deeper into this, the equation needs more work, starting with the fundamental flaws I already outlined.

Once you’ve revamped the basic elements of the method and equation, you have to then understand how the pieces fit mathematically (assuming they even do). Throwing a bunch of unrelated values together does not constitute serious social media measurement.

6) What unit of measure do you use? If it’s a “return,” what are we talking about? What does the number mean? What is it in reference to?

If the equation is supposed to create an influence index, then it doesn’t need a unit of measure. Just call it a Social Influence Index (SII) or whatever you want, and you’ll be fine. Whatever number the equation spits out is your “score”. Fair enough. There is nothing scientific about it, but you can probably get away with it.

But if you are going to call it “return on X,” you need a unit of measure. In real Return on Investment, you distill the investment in time, human capital and other resources to $$$. The “return” on that investment therefore is calculated in $$$ as well. Money is the common unit of measure.  The ROI equation gives you a ratio of money invested to money earned. The same rules apply here: If this is to be a “return on influence,” what unit of measure is used to calculate that ratio of return?

Without a clear unit of measure, you cannot calculate “return” on something. Basic 101 stuff. Learn it.

7) If “warm” data is “intangible and hard to measure,” why is it part of the equation to begin with?

Either it’s soft data and thus anecdotal or it is hard data and it can be used here. You have to pick one. You can’t claim that “warm” data is intangible/hard to measure and then add it to your “equation”. This is not a gray area.

Data isn’t cold, warm or hot. There’s only reliable data and unreliable data.

8) (Just added) Why does the equation on the board not match the equation in the graphic?

I knew something else about that equation was bugging me, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. Yet it was under my nose the whole time:

In the video, the “cold” half of the equation is interpreted as (Page Views x Visits) / Time Spent

In the graphic, the “cold” half of the equation is interpreted as (Page Views x Visits) + Time Spent

Which is it? Do we divide by Time Spent or do we add Time Spent?

(Thanks to @AnnaObrien for pointing it out.)

Incidentally, Frequency is not defined either in net page views or net unique visits either…

… And most of the KPIs explained early in the video seem to completely vanish…

… but by this point, who cares.

I could go on and on and on, but you get the picture: At first glance, the equation and the methodology look solid to the average person: Clean graphics, columns on a whiteboard, buzzwords we’ve all heard before, the promise of a digital agency backing it up, etc. Because the video and equation has already been posted on a variety of sites that fail to ask basic stink test questions by people who don’t know what flaws to look for, it makes its way to the top of search queries. Before you know it, complete nonsense goes mainstream and passes for real methodology because of three things: Decent packaging, Search, and confirmation of validity by other non-experts who barely skimmed the material.


This is how real Social Media expertise gets hijacked, and how Social Media management – as a discipline – loses credibility in the business world before it even gets a chance to prove its worth.

Last words:

This stuff isn’t just going to go away on its own. It’s great to see some folks in the Social Media management community speak out against this kind of BS, but they are the exception rather than the rule. At some point, the incessant retweeting and arse-kissing has to start making room for more relevant and responsible behavior: Call a cat a cat. When you see BS, don’t just look the other way. Call it out. Ask real questions. Put people to the test. That’s what leaders do. That’s what professionals do. We can’t keep allowing remedial BS to invalidate the real work being done in this space by those of us who actually care about it.

Rant over.

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I get really great comments on a regular basis, but rarely showcase them in my posts for some reason. That changes today as I share with you three discussion threads that caught my eye earlier this week. They are timely, worth bringing forward, and most importantly worth discussing further.

1. On the subject of hiring vs. developing Social Media “managers”

From Jason Blumer:

My question is how companies can “hire” SM positions. That is, how do you hire someone to perform your SM functions for you? It seems the owner is the only one who can truly display the right culture and attitude of the organization to the public.

Do you think that is true?

Can you hire out, delegate or subcontract your SM functions?

My response:

That’s the question, isn’t it.

Ideally, you want to identify individuals inside your organization who fit a certain profile conducive to managing an SM function (monitoring, engagement, promotion, community management, etc.) and then train/develop them.

The training and program build can be done by an outsider while the execution, fine-tuning and “voice” are owned by insiders.

The alternative is to hire people with specific experience on the execution side, and turn them into insiders. Their street cred within the SM community and their resume should speak for themselves. ;)

I don’t recommend outsourcing engagement or community management. Monitoring and measurement are easier to outsource, but that’s as far as I would take it.

From Pauleco, the final word:

I was hired as Web Content Editor (but with lots of webmaster type responsibilities) – within six months I was made Online Community Manager and shifted to blog management and started engaging with social media… our MD writes all his own blog posts and comments, but I do all the management, including managing social media profiles etc.

I am now in the middle of rolling out a social media strategy for the whole company, I do tweet direct and represent the company on facebook etc now that I am fairly comfortable with being ‘on message’ (or is that now that PR/Marketing/Sales/Customer Service and the MD are comfortable with me?) :)

My advice to companies wanting to start engaging in Social Media by recruiting would be to find someone already employed who is savvy and promote them. Ideally – you wouldn’t have just one person doing everything (that isn’t scalable) – but you need one person to develop a strategy and lead a team of ‘normal’ staff to participate.

2. On the subject of compliance-heavy financial services companies and their use of Social Media

From Jay Ehret:

Actually, I did find a business that cannot participate in social media. I met with a financial adviser who deals in securities, and suggested a social media strategy to him. His every marketing activity must be approved by the SEC. He would not be able to create a blog post, post on his Facebook Page, create a YouTube video or Tweet without having it first approved.

I agree with your statement: “The medium in and of itself isn’t what works or doesn’t work.” While almost every business can use social media, it doesn’t mean that every business has to use it. There are many businesses who thrived without advertising or traditional marketing and there scores of businesses who can make it without social media marketing.

My response:

I’ve also sat down with financial advisers and covered that very topic, and we worked it out:

1. WHAT they say is regulated, not WHERE they say it.

2. As long as the corporate office approved the content they produce, all is well. (They have a blog now.) This took some time and lot of meetings, but they got it done.

3. Keyword monitoring using SM channels. They’re doing it now.

And most importantly…

4. Agents now use LinkedIn and Facebook to stay in touch with their clients. They don’t talk business. They just engage with them on a human level. They share photos of their kids, of their pets, of their fishing trips, they invite people to parties and events… They use SM to create and deepen their connections with people, NOT to do business.

So I respectfully disagree, Jay. EVERY organization in EVERY industry can use Social Media. Even tightly regulated ones.

From Dean Piccirillo, the final word:

Olivier’s understanding of the procedures that must be followed is generally correct. I’m in financial services and have been exploring the use of social media. I also have a strong background in compliance having been a Chief Compliance Officer.

Using social media is generally more cumbersome for those in my field as business related communications must be pre-approved, monitored and retained. That being said, we’re used to these procedures.

I use tools like Facebook and Twitter to expand my personal network and make few if any business related posts. Basically, I enjoy it, I manage my time on these platforms, I’m making friends and I assume that eventually something good will come of it from a business standpoint; it always has in the past when I’ve grown my network through traditional methods.

3. And finally, some great advice for companies struggling to figure out how to safely get into Social Media

Kristi Colvin, on the importance of developing internal Social Media training programs:

Spike Jones mentioned Wells Fargo (as an example), and how if they used Twitter they might find tons of people complaining about their company. If that were the case, and there were issues with confidential/financial data or “official” company representation, if I were the management of that company I think I would want to empower my employees to go online as themselves, at the social platforms of their choice, and “listen” (monitor) as you say, for brand mentions/issues/what they’re doing right.

A person who says something about your company, especially if they have a complaint and you can route them in the right direction to help get it fixed, is going to see you/your brand in a whole new light after a friendly, helpful exchange. You don’t have to put the logo on your avatar and the name in your screen name and all that. You can just be there, as a person, interacting with other people and talking about work-related things when appropriate.

Organizations could help themselves tremendously if they instituted social media training on a broad basis and encouraged employees to recognize opportunities and learn how to help customers and prospects online in this casual, real-time information environment. 1000 employees online, vs. 1-3 PR folks or “social media directors” might be even more effective. It doesn’t have to be so “organized” if there are great guidelines in place (ala IBM’s) and employees embrace the new ways to communicate and help people via various online channels. Everyone from financial to legal to defense/military sectors could bring benefit to their companies in this way.

Good stuff. (Told ya.)

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Just because I am still a few months away from the completion of my very own super top secret book project doesn’t mean I can’t start lending my thoughts to a few other companion pieces written by and for pretty smart people. Case in point: Jacob Morgan and Josh Peters’ Twittfaced (due out in October) should be a pretty good guide to Social Media for companies of all sizes and social media practitioners alike. (The foreword and introduction are being written by Brian Solis and Chris Brogan, respectively, and I pop up in the part of the book that covers measurement and ROI, so we’re already off to a decent start.) For the story of how the book came to be, click here.

From Jacob’s blog, here are some more details:

I’m very excited to announce that my colleagues Chris Brogan and Brian Solis are going to be contributing to my new book with Josh Peters; Twittfaced, a book on social media 101 for business.  Chris Brogan is going to write the introduction for the book and Brian Solis is going to write the forward.  Anyone involved in the social media or PR space knows of Chris Brogan and Brian Solis, so it’s very exciting to have them be a part of our book.

As a little bonus I’m also including some Q&A with Olivier Blanchard on social media ROI.

I’ve met Brian many times offline and greatly respect and admire the work he has done and the philosophy he shares on social media.  I’ve only met Chris Brogan once (I think) but I have also come to admire his work and his passion and dedication for educating companies and individuals on the value of social media.  Olivier Blanchard has really spearheaded the whole social media ROI initiative.  I’ve talked about ROI in the past but it’s thanks to Olivier that my passion and interest for ROI has been re-ignited with a vengeance.

Jacob is the Principal of Chess Media Group (new site coming end of Sept), a social business consultancy focused on strategy, creativity, and results.  You can connect with Jacob directly on his social media consulting blog or via twitter, @jacob.  If you would like to pre-order a copy of Twittfaced (visit the site for a chance to win a free copy) which is coming out in the middle of October you can do so via Barnes and Noble.

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I am pretty excited to announce that I will be speaking at the Like Minds Conference on October 16th in Exeter, England. The conference is the brainchild of Scott Gould, Trey Pennington, and Andrew Ellis who… presumably got the idea for this event while holding on to a pint or two. (At least I hope so.)

What I like about Like Minds so far:

1. The conference will focus on two things dear to my heart:

a) Sustainable social media practices (how to develop, manage and integrate social media programs, how to turn customers into brand advocates through social media, how to blend social media into your business mix, etc.), and

b) Best practices for social media measurement (particularly how to define and measure social media ROI).

Already, you can see how this is right up my alley. We’re finally tucking evangelism away and getting to methods and best practices. It’s about time.

2. It’s in Exeter, England.

As much as I love living on this side of the pond, it’s nice to fly back to the other side every once in a while and reconnect with my roots. (Yeah, I need a regular dose of euro living every once in a while, just to make sure all my systems are still properly calibrated.) And given the proximity of the UK to France, I’m guessing I’ll probably take advantage of being in the EU to pay my patria materna a quick visit, stuff my face with croissants and brie, shake my fist at a moped or two, and argue about art and literature with complete strangers.

Not to mention some of the sight-seeing I intend to do in the UK.

On a more serious note, the prospect of speaking at a conference in England is pretty cool, but more importantly the opportunity to learn from social media practitioners in in the UK and EU, compare notes, share stories, etc. is pure gold to me. Sometimes, you kind of have to hop out of the fishbowl a little bit and go see how the other fishies swim. I know I am going to come back with my head abuzz with ideas. (I won’t sleep for weeks.)

3. The roster of speakers.

Aside from moi, this is what it looks like so far:

Andrew Ellis @drewellis

Andrew is a creative director with extensive startup experience, a seasoned innovator, and co-founder of Like Minds. He pioneered Eyetoeye Digital as one of the earliest ‘new media’ agencies in 1993, working with both household brands, and multinationals. His work has received international acclaim, from the iconic slogan T-Shirts for Kathryn Hamnett in the early 80s, to Grammy nominations, and most recently, ‘Orbit’, a documentary-come-musical with extensive CGI of explored universe which is touring the US in 2010. Drew’s accomplisments, past and present, are available in full at his personal blog.

Trey Pennington @treypennington

Trey is leveraging social media to connect with audiences around the world. HubSpot ranks his Facebook profile as the #4 most influential in the world. Since January 2009, Trey has started or helped start ten Social Media Clubs—eight in the southeastern United States, one in the United Kingdom, and one in Australia. His home club now has over 550 members and was, for most of 2009, the second largest Social Media Club in the world. Trey’s book ‘Spitball Marketing’ is being launched at Like Minds. For more information, visit http://www.treypennington.com.

Laura Whitehead @littlelaura

Laura is a web developer and a consultant on social media integration and online community development. Based in South Devon and the founder of Popokatea, she works with awide range of clients including the nonprofit and public sector, and small business enabling them to use innovative methods and online technology to extend their reach, engage with their audience and achieve their goals. Laura was quoted in Fast Company as “the queen of nonprofit technology in the UK.” (Pretty cool.)

Andrew Davies @andjdavies

Andrew is co-founder of idiomag.com, an personalised publishing platform that is at the cutting edge of the digital publishing revolution. He also previously co-founded thruSITES, a London-based social media development agency with clients such as Universal Studios, Sky, ITV and Number 10.

Carl Haggerty @carlhaggerty

Carl is the Enterprise Architect at Devon County Council. He guides social media usage and change in businesses and organizations, creating and installing frameworks and policies for social media and networking. He has a broad background ranging from Sustainability and Community Development, Tourism & Economic Development to Business Administration and Communications. Carl’s blog is at http://carlhaggerty.wordpress.com.

In other words, no fluff. And some new voices, which I like.

4. Meeting a whole new batch of tweeps in the real world, all of whom will have really cool accents.

You can’t beat that.

5. The price of admission.

While some social media conferences charge upwards of $1000 for the privilege of listening to celebrities talk about their twitter adventures, this one made sure to make admission affordable, therefore open to all. I like that. If you book now, You’re only looking at 25 quid. At the door, 35 quid. I have a lot of respect for that.

So if you’re able to make it to Exter on the 16th of October, I encourage you to drop by, share your stories, listen to ours, and join the fun. Find out more here, or just go ahead and book today.

And if you intend to be there, drop me a note. 😉

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It occurred to me while participating in Social Media Club Greenville’s September panel  yesterday that there are still MANY questions and misconceptions in the business world about Social Media. So without wasting any time, let’s cover a few obvious ones here today:

1. Misconception: Social Media only works for some companies.

That’s a lot like saying that the telephone, email or the web will only work for some companies. It’s nonsense.

Will Social Media have varying degrees of impact from one company (or industry, even) to the next? Sure. But we are talking about a lot of variables here, from budget limitations to a basic ability to execute. The medium in and of itself isn’t what works or doesn’t work:

Social Media, as a toolkit, as a set of channels, as a business process even is both industry- and brand-agnostic.

Whether you’re a florist, realtor, attorney, IT distributor, restaurateur, publisher, major global brand or government agency, Social Media can fit perfectly within your organization.

In our panel discussion this morning, a example of the type of company which might not be a good fit for a Social Media program was a bank or other type of company that might not be as popular as an Apple or a BMW. I disagree. Companies with image and public perception challenges should absolutely not shy away from using Social Media. Quite the contrary: They should look to Social Media as a means and an opportunity to address that pain point.

Look at what Comcast and Charter Cable are doing with customer service and engagement on Twitter, for example. These are cable companies! (Nobody likes their cable company.) Customer Service in that industry has been a joke for decades: You have a problem. You call the 1-800 number. 45 minutes and 15 transfers later, you finally realize that the guy on the other end of the line, the guy who hardly speaks English, the guy who has only been working in that call center for six weeks and is now the end of the line in this game of toll-free hot-potato can’t fix your problem any more than the previous 14. Enter @comcastcares (Comcast’s Frank Eliason) and the revolution in customer service he spawned by integrating social media into the company’s biggest public perception pain point: Customer Service. The result: Faster resolution times, for starters. Happier customers as a result. Great PR. And probably some decent cost savings to boot when you add it all together.

Another example: Men’s Health jumping into mobile content. (That’s right, Mobile.) The Social Media universe doesn’t stop with Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Youtube. There’s a lot more to this than the usual four or five social networking apps. 😉

Trust me, if some cable companies and print publishing houses have figure out how to use Social Media to their advantage, any company can. 😉

2. Misconception: By participating in Social Media, we will lose control of our image and/or message.

Really? How?

Will customers suddenly crash your strategy meetings via Seesmic? Will their Facebook updates derail your media buying? Will they somehow use Twitter to intercept and rewrite your press releases? Will they hack Seesmic to replace your next ad campaigns with their own? Will they use MySpace to brainwash your empoyees into acting like jerks?

Of course not.

By participating in Social Media the first thing you will do is open a window, not a door into whatever criticism may or may not exist outside the wire. The first thing you want to do when getting into Social Media is listen, not talk. Forget about the push tactics for a second. Don’t even think about pull tactics either. At first, just listen.

Just listen. And wait. And listen some more. Listen and learn. And then listen some more.

The first thing that happens when you get into Social Media (properly) is not a loss of control, but instead a gain in understanding of how people outside your organization – customers and not – feel about your company. The good and the bad, both are valuable. This is business intelligence. It’s market and situational awareness. It’s data and insight and information. Where is the loss of control in that?

Before it becomes anything else, Social Media is a tremendous listening tool. It’s a learning tool. The more time you spend using it that way upfront, the more time you spend learning how to monitor, measure, separate signal from noise, the easier it will be for you to hold on to the level of “control” over your brand you feel comfortable with.

Learn these channels. Take the time to become comfortable, familiar, then fluent with them. Baby steps, grasshopper. Before you can rock the big surf, you have to learn how to balance yourself on your board. Start at the beginning.

Control is media-agnostic. Learn the channel, learn the landscape, learn how this ecosystem works, and you won’t have to worry about “control.” Social Media is no different from email, trade shows or the water-cooler.

Misconception 3: Social Media is just a fad.

Not unless people stop doing two things: a) talk to each other, and b) give up technology (especially portable technology). No? They aren’t going to do either? Are you sure? Okay, so Social Media probably isn’t going away then. Though I’ll give you this: Social Media will change. It will morph into something a lot less… “media” and a lot more app-based and organic.

In terms of where Social Media will be in 5 years, think less “web” and more “widget”: The growth of mobile, an inceasingly U.I. savvy public and the age of the open API are driving this evolution. Before you know it, “Social” technology will be more about creating increasingly thin, fast and intelligent connective layers than developing massive databases like the ones we now know as Facebook, Twitter and Myspace. (And yes, you should think of them in this way. Peek behind the veil a little if you ever get a chance.)

So don’t worry about Social Media going away anytime soon. Social Media will continue to merge with all other technologies, from your phone to your TV to your car to your fridge to other every day objects, which means it’s here to stay. As a result of a) our need to connect and share and communicate and b) our passion for gadgets, in ten years, the lines between technology and face-to-face interactions will be a lot more blurred than they are today. Social Media will be embedded into everything – hopefully not in an annoying or intrusive way… but you never know.

Back when personal computers started becoming mainstream, I had conversations with business owners who said computers would be a fad. They were wrong.

Back when the web started becoming mainstream and companies began to build websites, I had conversations with business owners who said the web would be a fad. “Why the hell would we ever want to have a website?” was the mentality. They were wrong.

When cell phones started becoming mainstream, I had conversations with business owners who said they would be a fad. They were wrong.

I am sure the same thing was said of the television, and the regular telephone and automobiles and wrist-watches.  Those people were wrong too. This is no different. Get on this train now, before everyone does, and you will have an advantage. Wait, and you won’t. It’s that simple. If the convergence of communications, technology and culture were a fad, I wouldn’t waste my time hanging out here. 😉

Okay, that’s all you get for now. We’ll revisit this soon. Have a great Tuesday, everyone.

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Remembering 9.11.01

Ground Zero Lights_1024

I haven’t forgotten.

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Let’s go over a few things:

1. Social Media is good for you, you know it, and you know why.

2. Social Media alone can’t save your business, but you know that your business can no longer be a market leader without an effective presence in Social Media.

3. Without resources to put behind a social media program or practice, you’re nowhere. It’s kind of like trying to drive  a car without gasoline. Sorry. It isn’t going to happen.

4. Without capital, you can’t put resources behind your Social Media program. So… you have to be able to justify that expenditure. That investment.

5. In order to be able to justify an investment in a Social Media program (from your boss, your client, your peers) you need to understand how to show the value of such a program to their organization.

6. Hits on your website, banner ad clickthroughs, impressions, KPI and whatever other types of measurement your marketing people love to throw at you are nice, they’re important, but they don’t justify a whole lot. They’re a lot like hugs: Everyone knows hugs are nice, but they don’t pay anyone’s salaries and bonuses. You have to take that game a little further.

7. The P&L is not an arcane accounting document. It is where business decisions are put to the test. Every business manager on the planet watches it daily. If you have never been responsible for one, at least get familiar with its mechanics and importance.

8. If you want to justify a budget, a program, a salary, a raise, a bonus, show your boss and your client how your idea will generate more revenue, more dividends or more cost savings. Or how it already has. That will ALWAYS get more priority than schemes to get attention or earn hugs. Money is not an abstract notion. You could get lucky and never be asked to tie your activities to financial impact, but that’s no excuse not to learn how to do it.

9. If you are not able to do this, if you cannot justify the value of a Social Media program, practice, presence or endeavor, the budget you needed to make it happen will go to something else. Like email blasts, efficiency consultants, or that new executive bathroom your boss has really been jonesing for.

10. If you cannot convince your boss or client to invest resources, time and faith in Social Media, they (and you) will get left behind by those of us who can and do. (And I assume you don’t want that.)

11. There are solid measurement and R.O.I. Best Practices and case studies being developed right now. They will pave the way for very, very VERY good things. If #10 (above) resonated with you, you probably want to learn from them so you can apply them to your business. Hence my proposal to SxSW ’10.

12. The nonsense and B.S. need to stop. They really do. For everyone’s sake.

You have a choice: You can continue to ignore the topic of Social Media measurement and R.O.I. Best Practices and pretend that talking about web conversions and the influencer index and brand lift will keep things going (which they won’t), or you can get serious about this stuff, learn how to do it right, and be a hero with every company you work for for the next ten years.

Your choice.

If you want to learn this stuff, if you want to bring this discussion to the table, please vote for my session at SxSW asap. The voting ends on Friday at midnight, so I really need you guys to act now.  Spread the word, show people my latest  R.O.I. presentation if you have to… whatever works. It’s up to you. Know that if the session doesn’t get enough votes and isn’t accepted, I am 100% fine with that… But it would be a shame: The sooner we put the R.O.I. “discussion” to rest, the sooner we establish these best practices once and for all, the sooner we can get back to doing more important work.

If you haven’t voted yet, click here now, and thanks in advance. Pass it on. 😉

(You guys rock, by the way!)

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