Tag Archives: social media marketing

Social Media – Great for Reaching Celebrity Status, Except for Celebrities

Every brand would love to be in the public eye, like celebrities and pop stars alike. Feel the love; feel passion; feel the desire to connect and engage. Now I don’t think it is likely that brands will reach the level of connection of say Lady Gaga with her audience, but certainly social media, when executed correctly, can increase your audience and the passion they have for your brand.

And yet, it is almost ironic that so many stars that have already reached pinnacle admiration from their audience have failed and/or retreated from social media. Just one case in point – James Franco. Last week, Franco told Policito “Social media is over … You heard it here first.” He went on to say “My thought was ‘this is my Twitter. I can do whatever I want.’ But certain companies I work with contacted me about what I was saying.”

So think about this statement for a second and start to assess the difference between being a brand and being an individual while engaging in the social world. The social world demands that we are always on our game. Just one slip up produces a hurt to reputation. While we definitely need to have a person and personality behind social communication and engagement, brands must not be emotional. They must maintain a strong, rational position. Do not undermine the importance on this! If you represent a brand, and you want to reach celebrity status for your brand you will need to follow this guideline.

From the perspective of celebrities, it doesn’t exactly work that way. When everything is going great, celebrities want to show you their world and open up to the public. When things are not going well (and everyone has their hills and valleys) they prefer their privacy and solitude – rightfully so.

But brands do not have this luxury. Now I am not saying that brands should be deceitful and put “lipstick on a pig.” What I am saying is that brands can not hide in hard times. They must come out and face the music and publicly deal in challenging times. Have we not learned from BP and Toyota?

Brands should use social media in both good times and bad times. Social media is an excellent way to deal with mistakes. People don’t like to do this. Brands must! Want to create the best goodwill with your audience? Want to turn a bad situation into something positive? Use your social to fess up to your brand shortcoming – apologize and state the corrective action taken. Acknowledge that you know there is a problem. Listen to your audience. Convey strong and valid proof that it will never happen again.

And hey, when times are great, we all want to get the word spread. How do you do that? You start by creating informative and entertaining content/media. Not sales-ie stuff. Something of value for your audience. This is your owned media. You must have a plan that integrates your owned media with your paid media and on top of that, produces earned media. (See Integrating Owned Media, Earned Media, and Paid Media.)

Last week, in my column “Social Media – Quarterly Review, Q1 – 2011,” I stated that the strength of social media was “the ability to build relationships with your target audience like never before” (as part of my SWOT analysis). I am not sure celebrities really want this. Understandably so, they want their privacy and space.

Brands on the other hand, definitely want this. Once again – people want to know there is a human side to brands’ social efforts. But that personal aspect can not be moody and can never include rants. Think of the personalization of brands’ social endeavors to be carried out by a diplomatic ambassador. Yes, the ambassador(s) can be fun and informal. But they also need to be careful with regards to snarkiness. Remember Kenneth Cole’s botch. Brands must focus on a strategy, plan and execution that build relationships. If they deliver value to those relationships with a humanized rational touch, they can achieve celebrity status. Celebrity status – tons of attention, attraction, and passion from their audience. It takes time – there is no overnight stardom.

Make It Happen,
Social Steve

Footnote – yes there are a number of celebrities using social media well. I would say that those that are successful, approach their individual social media activity more like an individual brand as opposed to their personal side.

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Filed under brand marketing, brand reputation, brands, owned-earned-paid media, social media, social media marketing, Social Steve, socialmedia, SocialSteve, Uncategorized

IP 3.0 in the Digital Age

What is IP? Intellectual Property and Internet Protocol serve as the 1.0 and 2.0 versions of IP. As the world of digital and social media begin to unite, version 3.0 of IP will become Integration and Packaging.

Yes – while I am not a big fan of year beginning predictions, I am guilty of one myself. 2011 – the year that successful companies will provide integrated social media / digital solutions and features to their product/service offering. Agree or disagree? If you are in the later group and disagree, I’ll give one compelling example and one statistic to highlight why …

Example

In 1993, Ty Warner, Inc. introduced what was soon to be a craze – Beanie Babies. These were loveable stuffed animals that not only captured the hearts of young consumers, but even adults were purchasing the stuffed animals looking to build a portfolio on the worth of some rare Beanie Baby offerings. The bubble burst … no surprise … did anyone really think stuffed animals were a sustainable market?

Well in 2005, Ganz was “foolish” enough to try to do so again. They introduced Webkinz. But Webkinz introduced a “secret code” with each little stuffed creature and integrated a digital strategy to their offering. This created an extremely strong engagement between brand and consumer. Webkinz reinvented Beanie Babies by positioning “the stuffed animal that comes alive online in Webkinz World.”

Now if a stuffed animal company can integrate offline and online world’s to produce great customer loyalty that also spawns advocate marketing, I think it is pretty safe to say that just about every product/service offering can be strengthened by a strategic digital presence.

Statistic

Just how important is a digital online presence? Well for the first time ever, the average US online consumer is spending as much time online as he/she does watching TV offline. The ubiquity of anywhere-access will only increase online consumption and it is just a matter of time before time spent online significantly overtakes TV viewing. If the 1950s was the golden age of TV that changed our lives, then execution of IP 3.0 changes the way brands market to, retain, and incite advocate customers.

IP 3.0 Defined

Early in my blogging days, I talked about social media and the need to integrate it into the business operations. One of the first articles I ever wrote was “Before You Start with Social Media.” Six months later, Brian Solis offered some excellent insights into “Social Media Integration” in an article that appeared in Mashable. Social media must be integrated into business operations and I think in this past year, many companies took positive steps in the right direction to start to make this happen. Even though social media is generally accepted as a viable part of business, it is not time to claim success for social media evangelists. Social media needs to be integrated and packaged into the actual product/service offering. This is IP 3.0.

As online and social media lines blur, IP 3.0 is really about integrating and packaging an online strategy that promotes social marketing as part of the product/service definition. When we talk about online, MOBILE online must be included as well.

You want your audience to get emotional with your product/service and this means continually connecting your target audience with your brand – even after the sale. But this continuous connection needs to be meaningful and provide value to your customer. Value that is educational, informative, and/or entertaining. There needs to be a very compelling reason for the target audience to remain engaged with the brand.

IP 3.0 in Execution

The Integration and Packaging of online and social media into a company’s offering is very specific to the product/service, position, and target audience. There is no cookie-cutter approach, but here are attributes you need to set:

- Access points of information. Define how your customers will get and access continued information that is of value to them. Define this in terms of channels that they participate in as opposed to your own contrived “field of dreams” you build. Consider how the audience will connect – mobile access and anywhere, anytime access.
– Identify individual users, power users, and vocal users. Build the strongest relationships with this selected group. Give them special access to your brand and the people behind the brand. Work to convert them to advocates. While some might sarcastically call this marketing with OPM (other people’s money) (such as ex-CMO of Kodak Jeffrey Hazylett refers to) there is a strong sustainable value to the advocates if the brand anoints them as “special” in some recognized manner or gives them added benefits.
– Simplify registration. The biggest turn off is having to fill out online forms to get what you want – even if you really are interested in the content once registered. Use open connect registration. Use API enabled registration from leading social media sites (i.e. Facebook Connect, Twitter). Yes you want to collect data of your users to better market to them, but do this a little bit over time as they develop a deeper relationship with your brand. Make it simple as can be in the beginning.
– Plan sharing. Make sure there are multiple, easy ways for your brand and content to be shared. Think about placement of social connect buttons (or widgets) so that users can share with their friends in the various platforms they are members of (Facebook like, Twitter, FriendFeed, blog platforms, flickr, YouTube, Google Buzz, Digg, StumbleUpon, etc.). Start by looking at a list on ShareThis.com or AddThis.com.
– Bookmark capabilities. Make it easy for users to bookmark (delicious, reddit, etc.) your online presence and return to specific URLs. Once again, check out ShareThis and AddThis.

There are a couple of other things you should consider:

- Monitor what is being said. There are no shortage of tools that allow you to capture mentions of your brand (or competition) online. There are free services such as Google Alerts, and SocialMention, and robust platforms such as Radian6 and Sysomos to do the work. (Check out the exhaustive social monitoring list.) Have a set policy on responding as you see required. Understand that you want good news to keep traveling and bad news to be nipped in the butt. (I previously wrote some “listening and responding” guidance in another article here.)
– Timing. Recognize timing is of the essence. News and information are available immediately. Be known for delivering timely information.

Winning Examples

I am sure everyone has an opinion on companies doing it right and wrong. I think the enhanced product definition that Webkinz integrated and packaged in is about as good as it gets. If you had young kids or nieces/nephews a few years ago, I am sure you are aware of their success.

Two other great examples are Starbucks and Ford.

In 2011, I am positive we will see a number of great examples where social media is integrated and packaged into a product/service definition. The most important thing is to leverage a traditional go-to-market strategy that examines target audience, competition, defines position, and carves out your unique value. But to do so with complete understanding of the new customer environment … how they get information, share information, and develop relationships with brands. Do so and make digital and social media part of your product/service definition and marketing mix from the start – not an after thought. This, my friends is IP 3.0 and 2011 is the year of IP 3.0.

Make It Happen
Social Steve

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Filed under brand marketing, brands, marketing, marketing plan, social media, social media marketing, Social Steve, socialmedia, SocialSteve, Uncategorized

Social Steve – Social Media 2010 Wrap Up

As the year comes to a close, we see Mark Zuckerberg selected as Time’s Man of the Year. This did not come without controversy. Other names were mentioned including another front runner Julian Assange (WikiLeaks). Yes, I think Zuckerberg deserves it for several reasons. First because of the way Facebook has changed the world. Secondly, how many people had a movie made about them (even if it is most fictitious). And finally he set a great example by joining The Giving Pledge and donating half of his wealth to charity.

But from my perspective, I really don’t care. What matters to me is that 2010 was the year for social media. I have been involved in this industry since 2007, and without doubt, this is the year it took off. In 2010, I have witnessed the change from debate over social media value to mass acceptance. Now the discussions are more about figuring out how to use social media, and looking at social media shaping world events. Not so long ago, we witnessed how broadcast media redefined exposure of news with 24 x 7 coverage. Now social media provides a 24 hour open communication platform for these issues to be broadcasted, shared, and discussed – sometimes even in countries where it has been difficult for people’s voices to be heard.

So yes, 2010 is the year of social media and I have a few observations about the past and expectations on the future.

The End of the Social Media Expert

I am happy to report that I think we have finally seen the end of self professed social media experts. Most proclaimed social media experts were bombarded with comments and insults doubting their knowledge and being labeled as scam artists or snake oil sales people. This is a good thing because I don’t think there are any experts. Social media is emerging, growing, and changing and how can a sector witnessing such change have any experts. What are they experts of? Something that morphs and is not quite what it was six months ago.

In 2010, I went to a number of social media conferences. But I will tell you, there was only one where I got bang for the buck. I heard the same thing in most of them and to be honest, I could get the same information by continuing to do my daily perusal of information on the web and newsletters I receive. Yes, it was good to meet people and network, but as far as learning about social media success, much more came from active participation running strategy and execution for a number of brands.

So still … there is much to be learned for me and all of you.

How Social Media Strategy and Execution Come Together

When asked about running successful social media endeavors, I always answer the same way – get in the water, get wet, and swim. If you want to learn how to use a social platform, find a kid. If you want to learn how a platform can help your business, YOU need to get involved or place this in the hands of someone responsible for both your business strategy and execution.

I think we’ll see greater executive ownership of social strategy, plan, and execution in 2011. Up until now, many business owners and stakeholders have been frightened by the new little social media beast and simply handed it off to sharp, young, web-savvy individuals that lack business experience. The right mix of a combination of business expertise and creative social media intelligence will prove to be most valuable going forward.

4 Key Social Plays

Everyone involved and writing about social media will have their list of emerging trends or key takeaways for 2010. For me, I notice a couple things taking off and other things that started that did not blossom to the extent required to yield true success.

1) Video
Let’s start with the easy one – video. Video consumption continues massive growth. Approximately 70% of global online consumers watch online video. Many companies augmented or replaced TV ads with viral videos. So think about video production for your brand. Something entertaining, compelling, quirky … think about interactive possibilities and how sharing can be promoted. But a word to the wise – “It’s not viral unless it is.” (@JayBaer)

2) Social Media Listening
Listening tools became big with many technology companies providing solutions to generate statistics and report on who is saying what about your brand. (See “A Wiki of Social Media Monitoring Solutions.”) Nice start, but things need to get better – a) with the technology to generate meaningful, accurate, vetted information on brands, and b) organizational commitment to listening to what is being said and proactively using this information for product/service road mapping, capturing advocates and catering to them, and responding to customer service issues. I have personally witnessed the blurring of the lines between PR and customer support. (See my story “’People Have the Power’ – a Social Media Story.”)

3) Social Media Measurement
There is an old saying, “that which is not measured does not get done.” You must measure social media against objectives. This means you must have social media objectives and attributes to measure. (You might want to check out “Defining Social Media Success“ and “Measuring the Value of Social Media.” Measurement is still confusing to so many, but it really should not be. First, what is the objective of social media? Awareness and lead generation. More and deeper relationships. Does anyone think these are not important things for their brand? If you agree, how do you measure these things? Don’t be stuck on ROI debates. Look at parameters that drive these KPIs. Check the two suggested articles.

4) Location Based Services (LBS)
Facebook growth is not a surprise. Twitter continues to emerge as an important platform. But LBS (foursquare, gowalla, SCVNGR, Facebook Places) are still more hype than power. So many are missing a major opportunity here. How could you not want to track an audience and as I have suggested in the past – seed where you want your traffic to go. In 2010, I’ve heard way too many people say “I don’t want people to know everywhere I go.” Works for some, not for others. I really could care less. But brands showing up at places and communicating this to their audience is the golden opportunity so many are not seizing. Think about LBS this way and tie a marketing program to it from this perspective.

The Year of Mobile

The over used cliché – “the year of mobile.” I think I’ve heard this for the past 10 years. But you know what. I think it is justified. The definition of mobile continues to change. It is about providing people the convenience and capabilities while they are on the run – everywhere. First, mobile was just about talking. Then unified messaging emerged and we had mobile texting and email. Now technology should provide us all the conveniences we can get online, plus. Look at smart phones today. Embedded in the device are a telephone, email, camera, application platform, social platforms, GPS, and other technologies. Solution providers need to look beyond these amazing technologies and define use cases that deliver increased value. It really needs to be about the integration of white spaces between the technologies. So yes, 2010 was the year in mobile and I think 2011, 2012, etc will also be the year of mobile. Strap on your seatbelt and enjoy the ride.

2011 Outlook

Many will have their predictions for 2011. I’m going to keep it simple and merely suggest that in 2011 the social media focus needs to be on content and publishing, and IP (integration and publishing).

1) Content and Publishing
At the end of the day you must have compelling content and healthy stream of it. But Content is not King, Conversation around content is King. (Always loved this quote I picked up from @johnhutson.) Brands need to have content – something that starts the conversation. So marketing departments of brands begin to feel more like a media company. They have two choices – partner with some form of content company or produce their own content (need the right resources to do so.) As we begin to see this evolution, publishing becomes cumbersome and a solution is needed to help manage the content and its distribution. We will see more need of this given the ramifications of stuff like Open Graph and the need to produce content to multiple social channels. As we saw in 2010 that listening and measurement tools were important technologies that need to be part of the social media, we will see that in 2011, there will be a great reliance on technology providers to have social media publishing and management tools. (I can tell you that this is very important to my efforts.)

2) IP (Integration and Packaging)
Yes, IP has been very important for the past number of years – Intellectual Property, Internet Protocol. But I am talking about another kind of IP – integration and packaging. As I mentioned in a handful of past articles, social media needs to be completely integrated into all other business functions and not just a last minute add on – “oh we need a social element” as I have seen so many times. It should be part of the product/service definition, part of the marketing communication, part of customer service. Social media should be part of the packaging of your product or service. When you design your offering, you should think about how the product will be shared, talked about, word of mouth referencing and bake that into the actual design and user experience. I think we will see a significant number of winning case studies where brands do integrate and package social media into their offering and these efforts will yield winning, measurable results.

For me, 2010 has been very much about evangelizing social media and its value. 2011 will be more about marketing as a whole and leveraging the power of social media.

In closing, I want to say it has been truly exciting connecting with a number of you. I appreciate your shout outs, comments, and interests. Let me know your perspective on the past year. Have a fabulous holiday and a grand New Year. Onward to 2011 …

Make It Happen,
Social Steve

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Filed under brand communication, brand marketing, customer relations, Facebook, location based service, marketing, marketing plan, measuring social media, quarterly review, social media, social media marketing, Social Steve, socialmedia, SocialSteve, Uncategorized, Word of Mouth Marketing

Top 3 Social Media Issues Defused

I’ve got some quick hits for you today … the three top issues that I see in social media today that need to be overcome.

Social Media FUD

Social Media FUD – Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt. Let’s take them one by one.

Fear – most of the fear of social media is generated by a belief that a brand loses control of their brand position and reputation. Well, you know what? It is happening independent of your effort in social media. People are talking about your brand without your involvement. So you might as well get engaged and at least influence what is being said and respond as appropriate.

Uncertainty – stems from the fact that there can not be a precise formula or procedure that defines social media success. But for those of us that have worked years on marketing endeavors, has that ever been the case?

Doubt – is synonymous with ROI in the case of social media. Everyone doubts the ROI. I love how Charlene Li addresses this issue … “What’s the ROI of a handshake? Or think of a lunch you recently had with a colleague or direct report, where you invested time and money to develop a deeper relationship with them. … some things in a relationship can be measured and managed, but many other things cannot.“ (From her book, Open Leadership, p. 76)

Bottom line: Be bolder and get over the FUD. Know your audience and engage. Build more and stronger relationships.

The Social Media Bubble Burst

There will be a social media bubble burst. I firmly believe this. It reminds me of the late 90’s and the Internet demise. Investors are throwing money at social whizzes (more technical whiz than business whiz) with expectations of hitting the next Facebook. Look at the craziness of current Groupon valuation by Google.

But the bubble burst will be on social media solution providers. Not those using social media. There are numerous technologists that are attempting to get in the game with their offerings. This past year I have looked at procuring different types of social media platforms (listening and monitoring tool, community platform, and publishing platform). I can tell you there are tons of companies in this space. Perform your due diligence carefully. Some will be around, many will fail.

Bottom line: Social media as a business practice is here to stay. Get involved in social media now or your brand will be left behind. And by the way, yes, there were no shortage of Internet companies that went bust in the 90s. But did the Internet go away? No, it is as vibrant as ever and has changed with the times. Expect the same for social media.

(If you want more info on the eminent social media bubble burst, I strongly suggest you read the New York Times article “A Silicon Bubble Shows Signs Of Reinflating” and “Invest In The Mess” by a brilliant VC Fred Wilson.)

Social Media Integration

Social media is not some stand alone thing. You can not bring in a sharp digital native to run it and take care of it. (Important part, but far from the total solution.) Simply put, social media must be part of the product/service design from the start. When you are defining your winning offering to take to market, define how that product/service is going to be shared with others. How will you engage with your target market? How will you create, reward, and retain advocates that will be an important part of your continuous marketing? How will customer service/support and social media intersect? These are questions that need to be answered by people with product management, marketing, product marketing, and customer service experience and skills. While they may not be social experts, their collaboration with your social media managers is imperative.

Bottom line: While social media may be managed by someone with applicable experience and title, it is something that everyone who is part of bringing a product or service to market needs to be aware of. The collaborative team must define how social media will be leveraged and used as an imperative channel for product/service success.

Wrap Up

In my experience, these are the three top issues that need to be overcome. It started with social media FUD. The next issue that is going to get more and more press is the looming social media bubble burst. And then from an execution perspective, a majority of people still do not know how to work social media into their organization and go-to-market initiatives.

All you need is some rationalization to address these issues head on in your organization. Need some help? Feel free to leave a comment and we’ll connect.

Make It Happen!
Social Steve

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Filed under brand communication, brand marketing, brand reputation, change management, marketing, social media, social media marketing, social media organization, Social Steve, socialmedia, SocialSteve, Uncategorized

Where “Audience” Fits in Social Media

Hey, I love music and when I think of a great audience, I think of a Bruce Springsteen or Arcade Fire concert. Set your sights high – don’t you want to make that kind of a connection?

For those of you that have followed my blog, you know I often talk about the social media A-Path – Attention, Attraction, Affinity, AUDIENCE, and Advocate. (See “Using the Social Media “A-path” to Capture Ultimate Customers” and “How You Can Execute Social Media Successfully” for more information.) I think it is worthwhile to drill into what it means to have a brand audience.

Let’s start with the basics. Your target audience is really a target market segment. A target market segment is a set of prospects and customers with common needs, wants and preferences (requirements and buyer values) who reference each other when making buying decisions. YOUR audience is a subset of the target audience. It would be excellent if you capture the entire target audience, but that is unlikely.

Your audience is that group that continually comes back to your brand to hear what you have to say and engage with you and your brand. And it is not just to communicate with you. If you go back to the definition of target market segment remember that this group “references each other when making buying decisions.” So you don’t want your audience only to converse with you, but communicate among each other as well. All under the umbrella of your brand. And today, this is what we call a community.

You see “Audience” is a much richer experience than “Affinity.” Affinity means individuals like you, value what you have to offer, but “Audience” means they are “signing up” with you. As I previously mentioned in the article “How You Can Execute Social Media Successfully,” audience members show some type of investment. They provide equity of sorts and in social space – personal information is equity. It usually starts with a login name and password or could be as simple as an email address.

So now let’s relate audience and community. There are different types of community and they have different assets. No one community is right for all brands. You must state your objectives of the community and implement the appropriate community. BUT remember one thing – a community is not about your brand – it is about the people that are the members. You may draw people to your community because of your brand, but ultimately, you must deliver value to the members, give them freedom and control to involve the community as they see fit. To quote Mitch Joel, “The community decides when it’s a community… you don’t.” Yes, you set up the platform and people may start to come, but really the community environment and functionality are maintained by the members.

There are three basic types of communities in a social context.

The first, and maybe the most widely used, is a Facebook fan page – now called a “like” page. Facebook users like your brand and become a member. This means that your wall postings show up on their news feed. If a given Facebook user comments on your brand or writes a status on the like page wall, it shows up on the Facebook users’ friends news feed. This is extremely useful to produce sharing and viral content. But Facebook like pages have a significant liability. Facebook holds all the data on users of your like page and you have virtually no data on them. It is very difficult to engage with the users on your like page beyond the Facebook environment. From an “A-Path Audience” perspective, Facebook like pages are very good for CPG (consumer package goods) such as Coca-Cola and Pepsi, but pretty poor for B2B plays where greater audience-brand connection is required. For B2B, Facebook is a good starting place for “A-Path Attention and Attraction” but you want to go beyond that.

The next type of community is a “group” within a social network platform such as “LinkedIn.” (There are certainly other platforms where you set up a group, but I’ll use LinkedIn as an example here.) You can set up a group and use the LinkedIn platform as the channel for your brand community. There is some sharing and viral aspect here as one can see their connections groups and posting/comments to the group on a LinkedIn page. Here, you also have a little more data on the members than with Facebook. It most cases you have the individuals email address and this should be the start of your social CRM database.

The third type of community is building your own social network. This takes the greatest investment and on-going support requirements. The value here is that you have all the data on your audience. This environment makes sense for organizations that are content rich and plan to produces continuous content. Content by itself is not enough. You also need to concentrate on engagement. You must have a community manager that is responsible for brand monitoring, and engages, responds, and is accessible to the community members. The functionality and design of the brand community is imperative and is a topic that requires much more than I’ll go into in this post. (I am actually working on community strategies, implementations, and successful execution in my “day job.”)

I will offer up a few points that you must consider when planning your brand’s audience platform(s).

1) Recognize that a Facebook community is very different than most other communities from a “friend” perspective. In Facebook, most of the users are friends with their connections. They know each other from childhood, college, or later in life. They connect with acquaintances, if not friends. The same is not true in a LinkedIn “group” or brand developed community. People join these communities because of common interest and usually not based upon acquaintances. This means that for active participation and overall community success, the functionality, UI (user interface), marketing and incentives of the community need to be designed very different.
2) Monetization: For non-CPG environments, I often ask this question. If you had 100K Facebook fans or 100K members of your own community, where do you think you can monetize the users more easily? It is a rhetorical question.
3) The most important aspect of audience and community is planning. Know your target audience. Know your objectives. Make community platform decisions based on this. Have a plan and resource allocations in place to ensure continuous brand investment in your community.
4) Look to influence your community, not control it. Allow a strong sense of democracy and not a dictatorship. Otherwise the public will revolt.

I have just scratched the surface on the topic of audience and community. There is so much hard work that needs to go into this to generate success. This is not a free social media thing. But these are the fundamentals to set you on a positive path.

Please share your community experiences (positive and negative) here on this blog. Thanks!

Make It Happen!
Social Steve

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Filed under brand communication, brand marketing, brand reputation, brands, community, Facebook, LinkedIn, social media, social media marketing, social network, Social Steve, socialmedia, SocialSteve, Uncategorized

The Most Important Brand (You) and Social Media

What would you say to the entire world? How do you want to be perceived? What would you like your epitaph to be? Do you actually think of this as you tweet, update your status, and post?

While the news is saturated with stories of young teens sexting, texting, and posting scary stuff, it is not just a juvenile issue. Whether you accept it or not, you are a brand now. And social media communicates your brand more so than a resume/CV will ever display. You are building a portfolio of information that sets your brand reputation. The hell with “Big Brother” watching, it is all out there … unless YOU control it.

So I’ll share with you my brand, Social Steve …

When I first set out using Twitter, WordPress, and LinkedIn, I was working on a start-up venture that delivered a unique way to monetize social networks – an alternative to existing advertisement models. I wanted to attract potential investors and partners without being blatant about it. I would post about challenges with digital advertisement and hint that there were excellent alternatives. After some period of time, a couple of companies contacted me and were interested in having me help them out with their social media initiatives.

My social network monetization start-up did not move forward, but my social media consulting sprung. At this point, I wanted to continue to grab the attention of potential businesses looking for some guidance and after building a relationship (very important to do first) would ultimately yield some paid engagements. This caused a slight change in the brand, Social Steve. I provided information, tips, and guidance on the intersection of marketing and social media. My goal, establish a reputation as someone with strong subject matter knowledge and experience.

At the same time, it is important to make sure that your target audience sees a person behind the brand. You must humanize the brand – make the real you come out. I decided that I needed to add some of the personal side of me to the Social Steve brand. The areas of my life that I decided would be best to humanize the Social Steve brand were my two loves – my family and music. From time to time, I tweet or post about activities I’m doing with my family and music I am listening to.

I am no longer a consultant and now work at Hachette Filipacchi Media (ELLE, Woman’s Day, ELLE Decor, Car and Driver, Road & Track, Cycle World, Premiere.com) heading up social media. While I am employed full time and I am not currently looking for a consulting contract or new position, the likelihood is that HFM is not the last place I will work at in my life. For me, it is important to keep the Social Steve brand alive. No agenda other than to spread useful information about marketing and social media. But you never know. I may be interested in something else at some time. I continue to build my portfolio and reputation. It will likely matter in the future.

You’ll notice that I did not mention Facebook as one of the social channels I use. I do actively use Facebook, but not for professional reasons or my brand Social Steve. Here is my litmus test for determining who I connect with – if I want you to see pictures of me, my wife, and my kids in our bathing suits on the beach, I’ll connect via Facebook. Hey, this even eliminates “friends” at work. Early in my social media days, I did accept some professional connections and I do regret it now. I no longer do. This is my conscious decision.

I provided a brief layout of my choices. By no means are there any specific rules that are correct. These are personal decisions, but the point is that you should set your own predetermined “brand position” and select the appropriate social distribution channels that are right for you.

Often, when I worked with companies in my consulting business, I would have them write out a positioning statement. The positioning statement template looks like this:

• For …………………… [target customer]
• Who …………………. [key qualifier - form]
• Our product is a ……. [product category]
• That provides ………. [key benefit]
• Unlike ……………….. [main competitor]
• Our product ………… [key point of differentiation]

Now I am not saying that you should fill in this template or that it is exactly applicable for personal brands, but look at it and give it some thought as it pertains to you the brand.
How do you want to be perceived and what differentiates you. Set this in you mind if not written down.

Something else to think about. I’ve interviewed a number of candidates for open positions and hired a few in the past year or so. Do you know how much I find out about people by just searching online? I remember the days when you went on an interview and you would research the company and find out about them. While this is still true, the reverse is more telling. The hiring manager can filter you in or out because YOU have left a trail. Does this trace shed you in good light and communicate your desired brand reputation?

Back to your use of social channels … remember, what you communicate should either reinforce your “personal position” or humanize you the brand. Both are extremely important and there should be a good balance of both. But also remember that when you convey the human side of you, your communiqué should never jeopardize your position and how you want to be perceived.

Have you thought about this and are you executing appropriately?

Make It Happen!
Social Steve

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A Snapshot of Social Media – 4th Quarter, 2010

One thing is perfectly clear. There are NO social media experts! It is impossible. The social media industry is young and evolving and I expect there to be continued great advances. How can there be an expert of an area that still is going through so much evolution. Don’t get me wrong. I am extremely optimistic about the power of social media and the extreme importance it will play as a staple element within ALL successful businesses.

So let’s take a snapshot in time (4Q, 2010) and take a look at “The State of Social Media.” Kinda feels like “The State of the Union.” Ms Speaker of the House – “The State of Social Media shows great promise. …”

While I am not a social media expert, I am a social media activist and continuous student. I have been involved in social media since 2008 – first with a social network start up business, then as a social media consultant, and now I lead social media endeavors at Hachette Filipacchi Media (ELLE, Woman’s Day, Car and Driver, ELLE Decor, Road & Track, Cycle World, and Premiere.com). In the past few weeks, I attended four seminars/conferences/summits (OMMA Global – New York, OPA Lunch and Learn with Facebook, eConsultancy Peer Summit, and AdWeek Social Media Strategies Conference). This is the bases for my perspective on the state of social media. Thus, without further ado, I’d like to suggest some consideration points for companies and their social media activities ….

Successful Brands Take Chances and Try Things

At the Peer Summit, the main concern I heard was getting the C-Level Suite to understand the importance of social media. CxOs have trepidation. Thus, they are holding back and missing some great opportunities. How original was the Old Spice campaign? You don’t think this was the first time that a promotion of this nature was presented to a corporation, do you? Kudos to Proctor and Gamble for taking it on.

Any given social media program is not a guarantee of success. Frankly, you have to try things and measure results. This is what P&G did. And you know what the kiss of death is? … Being asked “Who else is doing this?” This shows just a total lack of creativity and really a shortcoming of desire to stand out in a crowd where there is so much competition.

This is the exact problem that Blockbuster faced. Why the demise of Blockbuster? “… because of what you could call the ‘internal constituency’ problem: the company was full of people who had been there when bricks-and-mortar stores were hugely profitable, and who couldn’t believe that those days were gone for good.” (Quote taken from an article in The New Yorker, titled “The Next Level.”) Rest on your laurels and don’t address the changing tide.

This is the same exact challenge for social media in so many companies. CxOs – if I may be so bold … Social media is here. It is not a fad or hype. It is not perfect. (Have any of your marketing or customer service efforts ever been perfect?) Get on it; get involved; try things; learn; measure; and start now or you will be another Blockbuster or CompUSA.

You Must Be a Great Listener

It starts with listening. This was a common topic at many of the forums I attended. Listening is hard. Everyone wants to be in the action, but in order to have a solid foundation for action, businesses need to listen first. While this may slow the process somewhat, the likelihood for success is far greater. If you want to get a deeper understanding of the importance of listening, check out, “Social Media Conversation: I Know You’re Talking, But Are You Listening?” Want more, observe how Ford listened to “customer feedback on design and engineering issues (for) the (Ford) Fiesta … This was particularly important given that Ford … introduc(ed) this version of the Fiesta—a European car—into the U.S. market for the first time.”

Be Human – Converse and Have a Personality

If media is an important channel for your business, how can “social” media not be paramount? I love how Nick Bilton, of The New York Times R&D Lab and author of their Bits Blog and new book I Live in the Future & Here’s How It Works, says that “conversation is the most important part of the future of media.” And a conversation comes from a person. Social media is a people thing, not a corporate thing. Let the personality of the company AND the personalities of the people behind the company come out. Find that right intersection of the brand voice and social voice of your communicators. I think Jimmy Wales, Founder of Wikipedia and Wikia, said it best – “humanize communities to increase trust.”

Measure

Social media measurement continues to be a main topic of discussion. Surely not perfected yet. But I like the three categories Adam Lavelle (Chief Strategy Officer of iCrossing) suggests for “measuring social media: awareness, action, advocacy.” They are the right groupings that should be considered, but the actual specific data items for these categories will vary for each company. I always emphasize that you want to measure engagement and relationships and I make some suggestions of how to do this in the article, “Measuring the Value of Social Media.” You need to connect the dots. How does what you are doing relate to brand awareness, brand perception, lead generation, or creating advocates.

Integrate

Social media is not this stand alone thing. It should be completely integrated into every part of the product/service definition and marketing. This is so often forgotten. You know how many times I have heard and seen the social team being pulled in at the 12th hour. It always comes across as, “Oh yeah, we need a social element.”

I’ve been in marketing for over 20 years and I have never heard it put quite as elegant as when Cam Balzer, VP – Marketing for Threadless (a very cool community based T-shirt company), said “marketing is the result of an awesome product.” How spot on. You can’t BS a mediocre product with marketing and this is certainly magnified even more with social media. Everything needs to be authentic and if you are using social media as a marketing tool, you better be real. It will be obvious if you’re not and you’ll be called out.

Many great companies turn to their audience for input on their product or service. Ford has done it. I am not sure any company does this to the extent of Threadless. I am not suggesting you need to go that far, but I am saying that social should be integrated into your product/service definition. I have led focus groups and advisory councils at a number of companies, and let me reassure you, social media is far superior for valuable customer input than the contrived alternatives.

Social media needs to be integrated into every step of product, program, marketing, and customer service plan.

Social is the new SEO

If you got on the bandwagon of SEO, why the question of social media? Adam Ostrow, Mashable’s Editor-in-Chief thinks “optimizing for social is so much more important than optimizing for search.” I not only whole-heartedly agree, but I captured this exact sentiment over one year ago when I proclaimed, “Social Media – Should Make Companies Rethink SEO.” As social media matures, we will find out about the stuff we want from our network and trust their input more than turning to search.

Wrap Up

Social media will continue to evolve and change so I question anyone that proclaims that they are an expert of something still taking shape. But at this time, I think there is a greater importance looking at companies’ use of social media. Businesses must change their conservative nature or they will be left the way of the dinosaur. They must be willing to take on some risk. What they need to learn is not to be afraid to fail on something. Don’t get stuck in your comfortable way (hello Blockbuster). Be creative. Be able to laugh at yourself. Bring in your audience for their comments and input. (Ford and Proctor and Gamble).

In this article, I have listed some areas that MUST be addressed. In my previous article “How You Can Execute Social Media Successfully,” I gave you a foundation and ideas for a social media planning. It is time to move forward. “The State of Social Media” is not matter of assessing social media, but rather how companies are using social media and if they are willing to try something new and different. (You can’t repeat something that was done before.)

Make It Happen!
Social Steve

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