Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The evil twin dilemma

I was looking through Twitter posts this morning, as I am wont to do, and I saw a post from an account labeled BPGlobal. The post was something along the lines of, "Just spilled salad dressing in my lap. Not sure how to clean it up."

I was pretty much stopped in my tracks. And I guess that's the point.

Later today, as serendipity would have it, I saw a post by Outspoken Media's Lisa Barone regarding that exact account (though sadly not that exact post. You can't win 'em all).

In fact, the BPGlobal account is a satire of a thing. All of the posts are sardonic.

A lot of weird things can happen in the world of Social Media. I remember reading about a woman who posted as an Exxon customer service representative for about a year till someone realized she had no real affiliation with the company. That was a beneficial account. In the case of BP, this is an evil twin on the loose.

The question Barone asks is the question I would ask too. Why isn't BP doing anything about this, or why didn't they act on it sooner? And that raises a debate. What do you do when a phantom account springs up on Twitter or Facebook or somewhere else?

Barone's suggestion to BP is to link up to the phantom account, which actually is run by people selling t-shirts to raise money for the clean-up. That would be a great way to help clean up the company's image in addition to creating plain ole good PR.

Be careful not to slap fans in the face

Sometimes, the risk in Social Media is the exact opposite of what BP is experiencing now, and more along the lines of what Exxon experienced with their excellent "customer service representative." Sometimes, especially on Facebook, where I suppose fan pages can still be created at least as of now, people create pages to support a specific brand or company. One of the most famous examples of this is the page that 2 fans created for Coke. Now, some companies approach these fan pages and say, "Hey, I need you guys to shut this down. We're going to create our own corporate page now." And you can't really argue with that. You want to be able to tie in your page to what's going on across your brand and marketing campaign. However, if you ask 2 "fans" to cease and desist, you are not only running the risk of upsetting them, but you could also upset all of the people they had already driven to the fan page.

In the case of Coke, the company did an excellent job of incorporating what the 2 fans had done while making it clear that theirs was not an "official" page. This likely increased Coke's "street cred" a great deal, and it kept an active fan page active.

The take-away

Whether they're out there to build you up or tear you down, there may be twin Social Media accounts out there. Part of the research that needs to happen when preparing to launch a Social Media campaign is determining on a corporate scale how to deal with either scenario. It's a new kind of marketing and brand diplomacy. Can you make it work for you? Or will that bearded evil twin undo all of the good that you have done?

Monday, May 24, 2010

So many flip-flops I feel like I'm at the beach

A few weeks ago, during and directly following the 2010 F8 conference, Facebook announced some pretty astounding changes that created a rush of excitement across the internet. Some of that excitement was happy and positive and some of it, like that coming from this particular Blog URL, was a bit on the angry side of excited. Maybe even apoplectic, to reference Hawthorne. I, among others, was not pleased as punch about my friends being able to share my cute little button nose with anyone who might wander upon the wonder of Pandora (.com, not the world of Avatar). More than that, I was disappointed that people on Facebook, like random family members and people I've been friends with since I was in nursery school, were not alerted about all of the privacy changes going on.

There were a lot of open letters, diagrams on how Facebook privacy has shifted, blogs telling people like me to kind of suck it up, and more. From Mark Zuckerberg and the rules of Facebook, there was mostly silence.

Then last weekend, the news hit that only pages with 10,000 or more fans (likers?) would be able to have customized pages. The outrage that poured out from the realms of business and developers was too much to bear. Facebook flip-flopped. "Oops...that was a bad idea. We might do it again, but not right now, k?"

I thought to myself at the time that if Facebook was so willing to "reconsider" or pull the plug on this action, why do it in the first place?

Now, today, Zuckerberg is finally making the rounds, announcing that Facebook is working on ways to make sure people have granular control in a bit more of a simple, less rocket science kind of way.

It might be that I'm just cranky because I stayed up too late watching Lost, but this kind of frustrates me. I'll be honest.

Stick to your guns

It's true that I've done a lot of complaining about Facebook lately, but I have to say that I kind of gave those folks a grudging respect. Showing people who visit my thumbs up on a story is not a high priority for me, nor is sharing my friends' information. But Facebook thought that this was the battlefield of the next revolution, and they seemed to be standing their ground even in the face of a fair amount of pressure.

But now, weeks later, the sand castle is being taken out to sea. The wall is being knocked down. And other metaphors. What happened to changing the way the world uses the internet? What happened to just plain changing the world?

That Facebook launches ideas without careful consideration and then reneges on anything that seems particularly itchy is not the best business practice to follow. Now, I realize that Mark Zuckerberg does not really need any of my advice right now. I can appreciate that I am just one of 400,000,000 people suckling at the nutritious well of friendship and content that is Facebook. All of that aside, I would respect Facebook more if instead of simply flip-flopping they took the time to ease concerns but say, "No, this is our course. We really believe this is the right way to go. How can we make this work for you?" Barring that, responding more swiftly might make the flip-flopping seem more reactive rather than a begrudging, late reaction to a lot of angry customers.

Image credit:

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Integrated Thinking

I was thinking about the advice that a lot of marketing experts give regarding one of the big questions in Social Media world. "How do I generate content?"

I have always been inclined to write about things, for as long as I can remember. I write about things and then wonder if anyone will read it or what those readers might think about it.

For other people who are not inclined to write, however, generating content for all of this Social Media "stuff" can be extremely intimidating. The questions start coming, creating something akin to a mental Great Wall of China. "How can I do this? "Do I need to hire someone to do this?" "Who can come up with all of that content and also make it useful?"

As Shakespeare might say, "Yep, that's the question."

I have a tidbit of advice that helps me. It's not about integrated marketing. I call it integrated thinking. In general, integrated thinking follows the same pathways as integrated marketing, but before fingers touch keyboard, the pathways must be built and lined in your brain, in how you think.

I see and I respond

One effective way to integrate your thinking is to look at once source and use that as an inspiration to create content elsewhere. Blog expert Denise Wakeman notes, as do other experts, that sometimes a blog post can come from a question you receive from a customer. You are put on the spot having to generate content for that one person, although you might not think of that as content while in the process. The next time you receive a question from a customer, ask him or her for permission to talk about that topic in depth. If you think it's a really important issue and if it is possible without too much hassle, videotape an interview with that customer and your response. Moreover, as you are answering your customer's question, ask him or her to keep you posted on how your answer affected or changed their results. Not only will this give your content legs, but it will also pave the way for a future testimonial or case study. But all of this needs to occur in your head first. The actions will follow.

Another way to integrate your thinking in order to generate content is to simply review what the hot topics are in places you might be visiting anyway. Do you visit a blog that often makes you think afterwards? Instead of just absorbing those thoughts into the ether surrounding your desk, write those thoughts down. If you can link or mention that person's blog, you are also potentially building a relationship that will create more back-and-forth exchanges in the future.

It's about efficiency

It might seem like doing all of this thinking on the front end would or could get really darned time consuming. For busy business people, this is a real negative. However, integrated thinking can actually save time in several different ways. Take the following scenario as an example.

Your company has decided to make a real concerted effort to build the most comprehensive and updated website the company has ever had. This requires taking careful looks at your product lines, your past marketing efforts, consideration of keywords. A lot of effort!

Once the website is done, you want to of course generate buzz about it. You want to drive traffic to it. So, what you might find yourself doing is creating a campaign where each channel is being built from the ground up, just like your site was. What are my keywords for LinkedIn or Facebook again? What main points do I want to incorporate into my lit pieces? What points do I want to get across to my customers as I encourage them to visit my site?

Why start from the ground up? 

With integrated thinking, working on the website will by definition create content that could last your company for 18 months beyond the launch of the new site. How is that possible?

Record your objectives as you plan out your site. Record the site map and the conversations that occur. What facets of the site are you building because you think it will make your customers' lives easier? Keep these bullet points saved. When it comes time to write a press release or any other marketing effort aimed at driving traffic, just pull out those bullet points and tell your customers, "This is what we did for you."

As you determine your company's keywords, do a quick search on Social Media sites you think you might want to use in the future. Are those words coming up? Do your competitors show up when you search for those words? Begin the research while your site is still under construction so that when the site launches, so too can your Social Media campaign.

As you generate content for your products, keep those key copy points. Make sure that those same keywords and major selling points turn up in future catalogs, brochures, sell sheets, and more.

When you approach everything you do with a mind to integrating those actions into other parts of your marketing efforts, the actual implementation becomes far less challenging and far less time-consuming. A blog with 50 posts ready to go should practically write itself when launching a site or returning from a big sales meeting. You just need to train your mind to think ahead and broadly. You need to think integrated and you will be integrated. It starts with the brain and flows out from there.

Image by Artem Chernyshevych.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Can Social Media Really Have a Meltdown?

I saw an article this week raising the question about what kind of crisis could bring Social Media in general or a Social Networking site in particular to its knees. It's an interesting question, but my "blink" answer was that I'm not sure Social Media can really have a crisis at this point.

What makes Social Media so indestructible? I think it's the people who use it. Consider recent events that
have occurred.
     • The big Facebook Open Graph thing
     • The Facebook announcement that only pages with 10,000 or more fans would be able to create a
     customized landing page (they later reneged on this)
     • Credit and debit card numbers from Blippy published to Google

And the list goes on.

It would seem like any one of these events would be enough to give people pause, and for some people, it has been. But the sheer numbers involved when talking about Social Media, and the nature of a lot of the folks using Social Media, make me feel like Social Media may well nigh be indestructible.

To illustrate this point, a short time ago one of my contacts on Facebook made a post indicating that by signing up for an external site account, you could get a Facebook credit for one of the games. To me, this indicates that you would have to enter a credit card number somewhere in there. Given that exposing my profile picture makes me weak in the knees, doing something like this fills me with a dread that I can't verbalize. But clearly, when considering the entire Social Media universe, I am in the minority.

If people are not turned off by losing the ability to control what information gets published, if people are not frightened off by spammy posts and worms and the publication of credit card numbers and ID theft and telling the universe the names of their children along with where those children may or may not be at any given point, I can't really image what could happen that would make people pause.

It kind of reminds me of one of the early scenes from the movie Dumb and Dumber. The bad guys want to trash the apartment that Lloyd and Harry live in. The apartment is already disgusting, so the bad guys reflect on whether further trashing the apartment would really send a message. I kind of feel like that when it comes to Social Media. There are already plenty of risks. What would send a negative message at this point? Interested in your thoughts!

Image by Mac Pale.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Is it me?

I'm not going to begin this post by saying, "Maybe I'm old fashioned" because I KNOW that I am. I enjoy knitting and crocheting, I enjoy talking to people in person (with full sentences even), and I hate texting. So, I get that.

However, I do believe that one part of my old fashioned perspective would be really good for folks during these trying technological times. It's called etiquette. Common courtesy. Manners. Stuff like that. I'm about to put good manners on the endangered species list along with the grey wolf and the California Condor. But there is still hope. First, here's a little quiz for you.

If you see that someone has mentioned you in a Tweet, do you acknowledge said tweet or tweeter with your own tweet?

Do you respond to an email as soon as you get it? Within an hour? Within a day? Do you check your email and understand that people are asking you to respond?

Do you respond to voicemails? Ever?

In like a firehose, out like a drizzle

I think that our problem is that we have too much incoming information with no real way to prioritize it. We are getting mentioned, replied to, and retweeted on Twitter. We are getting tagged, commented on, and mentioned on Facebook. We are getting emails, text messages, voicemails, LinkedIn messages, blog comments, and who knows what else. Oh, and then that pesky work gets in the way.

The problem is that every tidbit of that stuff is someone trying to reach out to you. Maybe it's a friend, maybe it's a prospect, maybe it's an existing client. Maybe it's a telemarketer. You don't really know until you actually go through all of that stuff. You don't get an automatic "this is a high priority tweet" message, after all. Though that would kind of be nice.

The danger in all of this is that nobody really cares if you're overloaded. That's your problem. They want information from you, whether it's a quote for your consultation services or whether it's a confirmation that you made reservations for dinner. If you don't respond, the chances are very good that that tweeter or Facebooker or emailer or caller is going to feel, well, ignored.

You are Trackable

The other weapon defeating good manners is that people can now see what you are doing instead of responding to them. I think business people need to be especially cognizant of this. Let's say, for example, that you go to a website to get technical support of a customized kind. You see a form. Great. People love forms. They love forms because forms mean they are getting connected right to the top, right?

Now, let's say that you fill out such a form and you are refreshing your email every few minutes to get the helpful note you need. You wait, wait wait. Nothing. So you do a little research and find that the person you are waiting on is on Twitter. Let's say that person has Foursquare and they've just announced that they have checked in at "John Doe's Get Drunkfast Bar." Not only are you going to realize that you are not a priority, but you may also wonder why the person is checking into the  bar at 9 AM. This may or may not build your confidence in that person.

If the roles are reversed, consider where your customers might find you? There are times when I send an email, don't get a response, and then see that someone has reached gold ribbon status in Farmville. I understand that growing and harvesting cherries is a furtherance to most professions, but good manners might dictate that you should get your replies out before your farm work. Unless you're a REAL farmer.

Realistic Expectations Are Important

Now I'm not a total dictator when it comes to replying and responding. We're all busy, and we do have all of this communication stuff coming at us like never before. Because of that, however, I think it is reasonable to express some realistic guidelines with people to whom you want to maintain a positive relationship. If you tend to go get drunkfast in the mornings, note on your form that you are most likely to respond in the afternoon or evening hours. Don't say that you will respond in 24 hours if you can't. If you need to work in a harvest of virtual grapes every four hours, leave yourself six hours to respond to emails and voicemails. And if you're up to your eyeballs, take five seconds to text or email someone and say, "Got your message. Can't reply now but will soon."

Am I crazy AND old fashioned? What do you think?

Image credit:

Saturday, May 15, 2010

But we're here to help you!

Many long years ago, I had a friend who was really struggling in life. I had tried to stand by this friend ever since I learned that they were dealing with the continuing weight of a major family tragedy. I balanced all of my reactions to this friend knowing that everything was tinged with that sadness and melancholy. I was supportive, I tried to stand up for this friend during arguments and what-not. But as this friend traveled further and further down the path of drug-induced paranoia and increased depression, they began to take words that I was offering as a friend as me lording over them somehow. They accused me of being too judgmental, a common cry among those suffering with substance abuse and other mental problems.

I was shocked, of course. I was just trying to be helpful. I was just trying to be a friend. But once my friend got the idea that I had different motives, my battle was lost.
I say this because I fear that companies and those in the marketing business could head for a similar face-off, and it worries me. I say this because while marketing has become increasingly more complex, so too have industries like manufacturing, exporting, really anything you can think of. I'm worried that at some point, marketers are going to forget that we are talking to people who are not immersed in our reality every day. Even more frightening - we could lose sight of what companies who need marketing advice are dealing with on a day-to-day basis.

This idea first occurred to me several months ago when I attended a Social Media conference. A person was talking about the value of LinkedIn and how it can work for any kind of business, no matter what. A lot of our clients, like many other companies, have vast and complicated sales networks, and it occurred to me that a site like LinkedIn could potentially be really complicated for a company that uses several different reps, firms, or distributors. I raised my hand and asked whether a company might get into trouble if they connect with one firm but not another, or if they give a positive recommendation for one rep but not all reps. The person I was talking to had no idea how to answer my question and didn't really understand the core of what I was asking. And I admit, I was taken aback a bit.

Now, one could argue that a person can't be a master of all trades. If you want to be an expert in something, that means other things are going to have to be a lower priority. I get that. But here's my concern. Us marketers are going around tweeting and posting about everything from converting leads to sales to Facebook to Twitter to Foursquare. We are talking about campaign integration, we are talking about how print is not dead, and we are talking about how mobile marketing will not be the death of Social Media.
Who are we talking to?

To a person who is in middle management at a company, who may wear the hat of marketing director, sales director, and general office manager, the underlying sensation is that all of this marketing stuff sounds really great and important. It may also sound really expensive, not just monetarily but also in terms of time. And if we're not careful, as marketers, if we are not careful about keeping in touch with who actually needs this advice, if we are not careful about who actually is going to have to implement all of these great ideas that we have, the companies that need us are going to hesitate before calling on us. We are going to seem like we are just putting our hands in their pockets for reasons that we have not made clear. "Just trust me" is not going to cut it.

I'm not saying that those of us in the world of marketing should stop what we're doing and catch up on the basics of every single industry out there. But when we're talking about how Facebook is great for business, we should perhaps take pause and say, "Except if you're in this kind of business. In that case this might be better." Our profession is to help companies sell what they make or offer, and with the world economy fluctuating more than the ocean's tide, just that primary goal is endlessly complicated. Let's reach out and say, "Let's talk about you. Let's talk about how you can make sure that your sales force knows that you value everyone equally while you are expanding your use of Social Media. Let's talk about why print might still be the best option for you. Let's talk about why all of this talk about Foursquare is really not going to affect you right now."

Marketers talk a lot about honesty. I think we still have it. I think we still have integrity. But the companies who need all of this reading we're doing don't have time to look at webinar after webinar, article after article. They need to know why they should pay money for this or why they should invest time in that. And we should be able to answer those questions as experts in our business and as caring consultants to theirs.

Image by Charlotte Na.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Mowing the grass in the rain

Around where I work, there is a crew that mows the grass throughout the Summer. When I say "throughout the Summer," I mean that they have specifically scheduled days on which they perform their duties. They perform those duties whether it is hailing, sunny, warm, cold, rainy, or droughty. There could be nothing but dirt left and they would still probably come to mow the grass just because it is what they have always done, it's what they've been told to do, and it seems to work.

I mention this because I think sometimes companies get into ruts with their marketing. Maybe marketers get in ruts with their recommendations, too.

Every Year is a Winding Road

Beginning in about July or so, and really throughout the year, we start formulating ideas that will evolve into the backbones of our proposed marketing plans for our clients. It would be easy to say, "Well, you did six print ads in this publication last year and it didn't seem to hurt anything. Let's do that again!" But that is not really the best approach. Maybe it never was, but it certainly is not now. We've noticed that due to time constraints and a multitude of other responsibilities, companies who handle their own marketing often fall into these kinds of thought patterns. It's easy to manage, it does some good. What more could you ask for?
In fact, though, a lot can happen in a year. Publications can launch and fail. Websites can launch and fail. Heck, really anything can launch or fail. Sometimes the same thing does both in the span of a year. It's a lot to keep track of. There are so many details to monitor, and now that the BPA has started to audit websites in addition to print publications, there's going to be even more to get our arms around.

If you don't approach a marketing plan from a fresh perspective, you can end up mowing grass that is already dead. You can end up trying to seed a parking lot while there are plant beds all ready and waiting just a few yards away. Increasingly, tightly scheduled, "perfect" repeatable plans can be deadly. A company cannot possibly pursue everything there is to pursue now over a year-long period. A company that has always relied on print can start dabbling with online advertising. A company that has done nothing but collateral could look at updating their website. A company that has sworn off print could look at a really innovative direct mail campaign. That's right -- using paper. Just repeating what has been done "since I started" or "for as long as this company has been in business" is not just a boring approach to the new world, but it also is dangerous. It will make you look lazy. It will make you look like you are behind the times. And that's not a good place to be.

So before you decide that you are going to mow the grass every Wednesday and Friday no matter what the elements tell you to do, take a step back and actually look at the yard you have. Does it really need to be mowed today? Maybe it's time to try something new. You could always go back to mowing next week.

Image by octavian napoleon.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Editorial Calendars aren't just for print anymore

It's always nice when you find out that something you've been thinking about and even talking about has crossed the mind of an expert. For example, if you put together an experimental recipe only to find out that a very similar recipe just helped someone win Iron Chef, that would be a great feeling.

My moment of joy is equally intense though slightly less delicious. For several months, I have been thinking about the intersection between Social Media and editorial calendars. One of the most common flags that arise when you mention Social Media is the fear that there is just not enough content or not enough time to create that content. Having begun my professional career as a B2B media buyer, the idea of the editorial calendar crossed my mind. Yes, even for Twitter.

How would this work?

Granted, a lot of the action you see on Twitter and Facebook is interaction. It's responding, retweeting, and all that stuff. If you follow Chris Brogan's rules about blogging, you should have about 1 of your own posts for every 10-12 replies or retweets. But still, that can mean 2-3 tweets/day. And if there isn't blistering hot news about you, your brand, or your company, what can you say? That's where the idea of the editorial calendar comes in. Like a publisher's editorial calendar, it doesn't have to be 100% pinned down, but you can have some ideas. "In May we're going to that trade show, so let's tweet to drive traffic and interest." Get the topic ready and the tweets and updates and blog posts will come. If you plan ahead, your mind starts working on these ideas. There is your content.

So what other brilliant person had thought of this already?

I was perusing YouTube for some of Denise Wakeman's blog videos, and I found this interview with Michael Stelzner.

You guessed it, Denise, Blog Squad queen, mentions putting together an editorial calendar for blogging.

The really powerful thing about putting together an editorial calendar for your Social Media campaign is that this can assist you in building a truly integrated campaign. What print ads or online ads are you going to be using in June? Can some of that messaging be built upon for a blog post or a Facebook update? You probably have more content than you realize. It just needs to be thought of in different ways.

If you've tried something like this before, let me know how it worked for you! I have tried it myself and found that it immediately made posting a far less cumbersome and stressful process. Hey, that's something I always am shooting for!

Image by Jan Willem Geertsma.

Monday, May 10, 2010

What's so funny about proofing, editing, and proofing again?

 I was watching a really impressive webinar today. Very good points that I haven't heard anyone make, at least in my sphere of knowledge and experience. Indeed, I was so impressed with this person that I decided to click to their website to learn some more. From there, I was taken to the site for one of this person's books, which I was considering buying on the spot.

What stunned me, and the reason that I am blogging right now instead of buying a book on Amazon, is that in glancing at the first few lines of copy on the site, I saw two major flubs.

Now, we all make mistakes. I mean, everyone except me. (ha ha) But it really seems like a lot of people are either not cognizant of this fact or they just don't care. This is a sad thing, because to me, a poorly constructed sentence, a misspelled word, or something else along those lines not only bespeaks the potential for not having a grasp of English (pet peeve), but it also tells me that this person doesn't care enough to give things a once-over.

I kind of get laughed at sometimes at my place of employ because I insist on proofreading everything. Thoroughly. My rule: if a page is touched, even if it's just a minor correction, you proof the whole page. Why? Making a single change can push a word down to the next line, which in turn can push the copy into the footer area of a brochure or website. If you don't proofread and really look carefully, you can end up with a product that looks sloppy. It will look like you didn't want to take the time to do things right.

I'm not going to lie to you. Proofreading can be boring. Torturous even. If you are proofreading an e-commerce site or a sales brochure with lots and lots of useful tables and charts, you might feel like you need regular injections of pixie sticks right into your ole veins. But these are steps that have to be taken. I can't tell you how many times proofreading has resulted in us asking questions that really made our clients analyze what they were presenting. "Did you mean to say pack here, or should it say bulk pack?" "Should this be 20 inches or 20 feet?" Little strokes of the keyboard, but boy what a difference.

I did not end up buying this presenter's book. I was completely turned off by the website I visited. Would there be typos in the book as well? I can't be sure. Now, I am more of a stickler than a lot of people, it's true, but let me ask you one question. Would you take advice from a psychologist that kept crying? Would you go to a doctor who couldn't say "surgery" correctly? Similarly, I find it hard to take advice about marketing and my profession from someone who has major typos on the homepage of a representative website. It just doesn't work for me. Does it work for you?

Image by ilker.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Why not discuss a revolution in ROI?

 A couple of days ago, Jay Baer, who is one of my favorite social media gurus, wrote a blog called "Are you Slow Enough to Succeed in Social Media?" The article said something that I've been thinking about for a long time. Namely, Social Media is the hot new toy that everyone wants a piece of, it's revolutionary, and EVERYBODY has to have it...but we're not really 100% sure how it's all going to shake down just yet. 

What you can learn from Spring

As I'm writing, it's about 37 degrees outside and it's raining. Not exactly what normally comes to mind when you think May, but it's definitely the time when gardeners are really ready to get outside and get dirt under their fingernails. The thing that you learn from gardening is that you have to be patient beyond the boundaries of what life normally requires. You plant seeds and it might be a whole year till you see anything. You could have a plant for 20 years and it might not bloom till the 21st year. Despite the fact that you might not have asparagus or green beans or a beautiful hedge of roses on your first try, you keep watering and fertilizing and making sure the plant is getting enough light. You do this because you know that eventually it's bound to pay off.

As per Baer's blog, this is how companies really should be looking at Social Media. But it's not how a lot of companies are looking at social media.

You say you want a revolution...

So everyone is talking about how we're in this marketing and media revolution, but it strikes me that even though everyone agrees on this, we are still asking about ROI in the same way that we did for print or banner ads. It seems like there isn't a whole lot of conversation regarding the fact that a revolutionary new movement in media just might require us to think about ROI very differently.

If a company has everything together, it can be fairly easy to calculate the ROI for a print or online ad. Bring the people that see your ad to a specific page with a call to action, nurture that lead, convert to customer. Well, it looks a lot easier on screen, but really, that process is feasible.

In Social Media, it simply does not work that way. First of all, what you are investing, most of the time, is not money. It's time. It's content. Now you could say that time is money and I suppose that would be fair, but you're probably not paying for a "full page, 4-color profile" on Facebook or Twitter, right? So right away, the phrase "return on investment" needs to be examined more carefully. Return on what investment?

The other thing though, getting back to Baer's blog, is that Social Media is not a 1 + 1 = 2 kind of formula. It's about building relationships, becoming a trusted source, building the case for your brand through reliability and credibility -- it's taking the time to be human via as many digital sites as possible. 

I've got news for you -- "leads" from Facebook and Twitter and LinkedIn are not going to be people who click to a landing page and fill out a sample request form. Leads are people you've been talking to for six months who suddenly say, "What was that you were saying about such and such? Cuz I need help with that now."

If you tell a boss that the projected ROI for your Social Media campaign is one strong lead over a six-month period, btw, you'll probably not get a real big thumbs-up reaction.

I don't know what the new ROI should be, but I think we need to catch it up to what we're talking about elsewhere. If you're completely changing how you relate to customers, how you relay your messaging and how you get out your content, your ROI has to change too. We're trying to use an abacus to do rocket science right now, I think. And it's not gonna work.

Image by Robert Proksa.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Linking the Tactics, Using the Buffalo

About 3 years ago, all of the talk was about "integrated marketing." Maintain a common aesthetic across all of your marketing channels to increase the strength of your brand.

Last year, all of the talk was about Social Media. It was a new frontier (relatively), and if there was one thing we all wanted to see last year, it was something new.

This year, "the talk" is all over the place. Is mobile marketing the new darling? Is it going to defeat Social Media? Is Google going to take over the world or is Facebook going to beat it to the punch? Is print dead or just on vacation?

Maybe it's the pacifist in me, but I don't think marketing is going to be about just one thing ever again. I think the companies that are really going to soar are going to be the ones who do everything and do everything well.

Chris Brogan wrote a post today where he used the phrase "Buffalo Content Maker." The idea is that generating content for one purpose is not the most efficient way to go about things. If you have a public speaker come in to talk to your company, per Brogan's example, why not videotape it, post it to YouTube, link back to your website, and become a resource? In Brogan's own case, blog posts are becoming books, presentations, tweets, and more.

These are all great ideas, but they are predicated upon the fact that your key emphasis is the online world, particularly the Social Media world. I would like to see someone using a buffalo that is made of new media and yes, the horror, traditional media.

How can you do this?

Let's jump off from a similar place to where Brogan started. Let's say one of your customers has invited you to do a product demo at their facility. You pool your resources and get your talk ready. With you is someone to videotape the session.

When you get back, you do a little editing and post the video to YouTube. Ask your customer if you can include any questions and things they might have brought up that were good points.

Put together a little news release that you send out to the industry and post to your website. Great product demo now available. Link to the YouTube video. It's okay not to link to your site. If they like what they see, they'll link to your site from YouTube -- a boost for SEO.

Let's say you have a trade show coming up. Burn the video to CD, design some nice face art, and you have a give-away for the show that people won't just throw on the floor (CDs seem more precious than sheets of paper or fliers, I've noticed). If you're really feeling wild, create a direct mail piece in which the CD of the video can be inserted. Invite people to view the CD and bring their questions to your booth.

This is just one example, and not a full example, of how Social Media and the ever-changing online world can actually enrich rather than over-power tactics in which companies were engaged but a few years ago. Social Media doesn't have to defeat traditional media and mobile marketing doesn't have to defeat Social Media. Everything can be linked together to create a single, giant, buffalo-like chain. Use it up. The possibilities are endless.

Image by Antonio Jiménez Alonso.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

I want to hear what you think!

So I have a lot of my own opinions about the new Facebook (obviously). But I thought that it would be interesting to see who agrees, who disagrees, and why.

The question is whether you like the new Facebook model, including the "Open Graph" capability to link to external sites and interests now linking as pages.

Yes, Love it!

No, Hate it!


What is Facebook?

I'm looking forward to hearing your thoughts!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

I'm a little iffy on this new Facebook

A long time ago...maybe, say, 3-4 weeks ago, back in the good ole days, a company could create a "fan page" on Facebook and advertise that page based on people's interests.

After the 2010 F8 Conference, "fans" became "likers." It didn't exactly have the same ring to it, but essentially, a company's relationship with Facebook remained the same. Be engaging, get people to like you, build brand.

A few days after all of those changes, Facebook launched the other side of the new "Open Graph" model. Now, a person's interests, schools, and places of employment are links to pages. TechCrunch has a pretty good summary of these changes.

Although my friends represent only a small portion of the people on Facebook, and I am fully aware of that, I have yet to hear a person, friend or not, say that they are really happy about these changes on a personal level. The main beef is that Facebook isn't giving you a choice. You either link to pages or your interests are deleted. Seems a little dictatorial.

The problem, on the business side of things, seems to be a many-armed beast, if you ask me. These new pages are inspiring a lot of people to delete their interests all together. Many of my friends noted that the people they are connected to probably are aware of what they are interested in anyway. I myself haven't really looked at my own interests in a couple of years. If tons of people start deleting their interests rather than link to these new pages, the capability of running targeted ad campaigns to promote company pages is going to be highly hindered.

Another issue which I haven't seen a whole lot of talk about: Facebook just became the newest SEO battle. Companies should now position themselves to target keywords that might be interests but might not be 100% pertinent to their business. To me, this will thin out the value of "likers" on a company page. If they are linking to you because they like bananas and you are an ice cream manufacturer, that's kind of okay but kind of not. I also wonder if companies who may or may not have created their page with a strategy in mind are keeping up on their page demographics. It's an easy enough thing to monitor, but now it will require more time to successfully target Facebookers, and time is a commodity not a lot of people have in droves.

I know that a lot of Social Media gurus are really excited by these changes, but I have yet to be impressed. The possible negative ramifications for company pages are being predominantly ignored, I think. I am also not impressed that Facebook is building their new "community pages" based on imported data from Wikipedia. Why not comb peoples' info and get experts on the topic to participate? It might not be any more credible than Wikipedia, but it would be for Facebookers by Facebookers.

I'm sitting on the sidelines and I'm not getting up to leave just yet, but I'm not getting up to applaud just yet either. Convince me I'm wrong!

Monday, May 3, 2010

Revisiting the Past

In 2006, I wrote an article based on the confluence of Library Science and Marketing that had occurred in my life. American Libraries honored me by publishing the article in their September 2006 issue. I think the article is still relevant now, five years later. Maybe more relevant, as libraries continue to lose money and those with MLIS degrees struggle to find a place to use their particular skills. Here's the text of the article. I'd love to hear what you think about it.

The for-profit world needs us and has the cash to pay our worth
The summer before my senior year in college was a momentous one because I concocted a plan for the rest of my life. I would begin by earning some advanced degrees--a master's in library science and another in history, specifically. Afterwards, I would find myself working at a small academic library as a reference librarian with an emphasis in the humanities. There, I would bring home a comfortable $35,000-$40,000 salary. Naturally, I'd meet my husband during my tenure, and would retire into a blissful post-employment phase during which I would pass time collecting seashells and writing the Great American Novel. It seemed like a flawless plan, all told.
Five years later, with two master's degrees in hand, I figured that finding my dream job would be easy. By the time I was ready to apply for that job, however, the field of librarianship had changed. Library employers now tend to require five years of managerial experience or community outreach. As a new graduate, these were qualifications I did not have. I was not alone in facing these changes in the employment market. In the September 15, 2004, Library Journal, Michael Rogers reported that many new MLS graduates "unabashedly accuse LIS instructors of lying about job prospects."
The myth, as it turned out, was that there would be a one-to-one replacement for library positions left open through retirement and other departures. The truth is, however, that once a librarian retires, his or her job is often combined with another job--or completely eliminated.
What caused these drastic changes? Funding--namely, the post-September 11, 2001, rerouting of channels through which money traveled to community and state levels. Once the federal government began asking local and state officials to divert money to new priorities such as Homeland Security, the fates of libraries, museums, and universities were automatically compromised.
Even as libraries were readjusting to the post-9/11 reality of less funding and fewer job opportunities, Silicon Valley was experiencing exponential growth. After surviving the dot-com boom and bust of the 1990s, companies like Google and Yahoo were evolving into the behemoths that we know today. Google began to change the way people thought about the Web. Instead of merely heading towards perfecting users' search experience, Google, Yahoo, Overture, MSN, and AskJeeves were also heading towards perfecting niche marketing to users based on their search patterns.
Oddly enough, this series of events has proven more relevant to me than I ever could have predicted. I have been in the business world as a media buyer for three years now, and it seems like this was my destiny all along. The skills that I am using most are those I attained while pursuing my MLS. Indeed, I would go so far as to argue that the world of libraries and the world of business are on a crash course of convergence. The old, reliable image of a librarian with her hair in a bun, glasses on her nose, and a shushing finger to her mouth may give way to an image of a librarian wearing a power suit, providing consultation or other services in meeting rooms around the world.
The question, of course, is what kinds of consultation or other contributions a librarian could offer in those meeting rooms. To answer that question, I will explore how user services and technical services--two main categories of library work--can translate into marketing expertise and client relations that are key to business success. In doing so, I will show why it might be time for librarians to don pinstripe suits.
Customer satisfaction, by another name
User services can be summarized basically as providing the information patrons need. A reference librarian receives requests for assistance in finding almost every type of data, and a good reference librarian will show a patron how she found that data and what her search strategies were, as opposed to simply providing the answer. If this type of reference session is what first comes to mind when you think of libraries or librarians, the connection between user services and business may not be so easy to see.
To build that mental bridge, consider one of Google's many maxims: "To organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful." The problem is that the more accessible information becomes, the harder it is to find exactly what you need. In the business world, time is always short and the need for information is always great. In such a climate, a user services librarian who has been trained to find and disseminate data in the most efficient way possible is invaluable.
A media-buying agency is an example of the type of firm in which a librarian's training can be extremely useful. In order to stay ahead of the curve and offer new marketing suggestions to clients, the agency must remain informed about the latest publishing innovations. In reality, media planning has become a parallel to the reference desk dialogue. The only real difference is that the end goal has become successful marketing rather than securing an answer to a research question.
A reference librarian trained to keep up-to-date on resources in print and online is already capable of providing this kind of information. She also knows how best to present that data and support her suggestions.
User services skills also have very practical applications. With a readily available knowledge of information resources, a businesswoman with an MLS can efficiently research whether there is a market for a potential new product or how best to pitch a proposal to a prospective client. Researching these subjects can mean increasing profits for an existing client, or packaging a powerful marketing proposal for a new prospect. In either case, good research in the business world often translates to increased profits.
The keyword to a consumer's heart
A second area of responsibility for which librarians are trained is technical services. In the past, technical services in a library context has covered everything from cataloging and processing material to acting as webmaster. More recently, technical services librarians have also increased their interaction with the organization of information on the internet and how to access that information. How can these skills prove useful in a business setting?
The bottom line is that technical services librarians know how people search, how information is organized on the Web, and how to connect searchers with the information they seek. These skills are essential, for example, in designing an online advertising campaign (as I have facilitated for my firm). The key to success is to make sure the advertiser's message appears in front of the target audience, and that the ad delivers what that audience wants. It is no secret that if a customer's efforts do not result in instant gratification, he or she may revert to other resources or even such traditional tools as print indexes. An MLS-holder can offer insight into what keywords are likely to lead searchers to an advertiser's ad--the goal of signing up with the fee-based Google AdWords service. In an era of paid search, cutting down on a potential client's frustration can mean big clicks for an advertiser, and high credibility for a marketing or advertising firm. In this environment, an MLS is as valuable as an MBA.
Google AdWords is not the only area in which a person with a library science background could prove useful in a business setting. Increasingly, SEO (search engine optimization) and SEM (search engine marketing) are becoming integral parts of the services that an advertising or marketing firm offers. After all, if a corporate website is not seen, the company cannot succeed in today's business world. Both services are contingent upon an understanding of how people search and how search engines work. A technical services librarian's knowledge of search engines and keywords can mean the difference between a company's success and failure. As such, there are few types of information more valuable in the business world.
In the end, search engines, libraries, and marketing firms have the same goal: Get the patron, consumer, or searcher exactly the information he or she wants. In all cases, it is the person with a master's in library science--the information professional--who can ensure that these goals are achieved. With training in search patterns, and information organization and access, librarians remain a largely untapped source of expertise, assistance, and knowledge.
Google cofounder Larry Page told author John Battelle that the search engine of the future would be like "a reference librarian with complete mastery of the entire corpus of human knowledge" (The Search: How Google and Its Rivals Rewrote the Rules of Business and Transformed Our Culture, New York: Portfolio, 2005). If Page is right, businesses, libraries, and searchers at home are going to need help sifting through all of that data. Librarians will be needed more than ever, whether they keep their hair in buns or decide to don those pinstripe power suits.