Is Social Media Overrated?

Posted on July 10, 2011. Filed under: Social Media | Tags: , , , , , , |

Participants at Fast Company’s recent Innovation Uncensored conference were asked “What’s the most overrated trend in business today?” Guess what tops the list.

It’s social media.

These very same folks were also asked “What is the most underrated trend in business today?” Now take a stab at what tops that list.

It’s social media.

If you work in social media on a daily basis, as I do, it’s easy to see why there is such a wide discrepancy within the business community about the value of social media. There’s much confusion and hyperbole about social media.

It’s not a silver bullet. And it’s not a passing fad.

Beware of Shiny Object Syndrome

I frequently talk to people who want advice on how to leverage social media for their organization. I’ll ask basic questions, the answers to which are important to know prior to creating a social media strategy. These questions include: What do you want to use social media for and why? Who are you trying to reach using social media? How do your customers use social media?

Oftentimes, responses to these questions are pretty flimsy. For instance, when asked “Why do you want to use social media?” people will say things like:

a) Everyone else is doing it

b) Our competitors use social media so we need to use it, too

c) My boss told me we need to start doing social media

d) I keep reading and hearing about social media, so it must be something we need to get into

Not one of those reasons speaks to any substantive purpose. And yes, I really have heard all of the above. Many times.

Just being there is not enough

Like any business program, to see success through social media, you need a plan of action. You must establish goals and objectives, create strategies and tactics, and follow through on what you set out to do.

There is no auto-pilot mode in social media. Simply populating your Facebook page or Twitter stream with links to press releases or stories that appear about your company in the news isn’t social.

One of the key things you’ll want to do with social media is provide meaningful content that resonates and ultimately motivates people to respond and take action. You also want to engage with fans and followers on your own social media sites as well as on other sites that relate to your industry in general, and to your business, in particular.

Fail to actively engage on social media and you won’t get much back in return. This can cause you to think social media is overrated, but really it’s just that you’re doing it wrong.

Don’t let lack of knowledge hold you back

Now, perhaps you have put thought into what you want to accomplish through social media, but you don’t know how to reach those objectives. Fair enough. We’re still in the early stages of the social media continuum — you’ve got time to learn and try things out to see what works best for your purposes.

There are lots of books about social media. A few that I have found to be most valuable are: Content Rules, by Ann Handley and C.C. Chapman, Real-Time Marketing and PR, by David Meerman Scott and The Facebook Era, by Clara Shih.

The real test is in the follow-through

Once you have an idea of how to use social media, then it’s time to get out there and do it. You won’t always hit the bullseye. It takes time to discover what ultimately works for your needs. Even then, what works best will change over time. This is an evolving medium.

Still, when properly executed you’ll find social media is neither an overrated or underrated trend in business. It’s one more tool to help grow your business.

– Deni Kasrel

What do YOU think? Is social media overrated? Please share your thoughts.

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Talkin’ About Hearsay: A New Social Media Management Platform

Posted on March 20, 2011. Filed under: Social Media | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , |

While doing research for her bestselling book, The Facebook Era, Clara Shih talked to lots of companies about how they were using social networks. Somewhere along the line Clara realized all the insights and direct connections she was making presented the perfect opportunity to start a business.

Necessity is the mother of invention

Hearsay Co. LogoClara saw there was a big unmet need for corporate-local companies, which are enterprises with many local branches and representatives, such as franchisees and agents. These companies want to maintain a strong corporate brand while also giving reps freedom to do what’s best for their local customer base. But when your reps have their own Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn accounts it’s tough to manage messaging, not to mention compliance with company guidelines and industry regulations.

So Clara left her job at Salesforce (where she was working while writing The Facebook Era) and teamed up with several savvy digital technology pros to start a company, Hearsay, which recently launched Hearsay Social, a tool that enables corporate-local companies to centrally oversee social media activity for all of its branches and reps.

Interview with Clara Shih, CEO of Hearsay Corp.

Clara gave me look at the Hearsay Social platform. It includes tools for social media compliance, content, workflow and analytics. I was truly impressed by the platform’s functionality and user-friendly dashboard — you don’t need technical know-how to figure it out.

While taking the tour of the platform Clara and I had nice long chat. Here are excerpts from our conversation.

Your management team has got a lot of depth. How did you put it together?

Silicon Valley has so much incredible talent. Being here and having worked at companies like Google and Salesforce gave all of us a terrific network. My co-founder Steve [Garrity] and I were classmates at Stanford in undergrad and graduate school.

After leaving school we always knew we wanted to start a company together but when we graduated we weren’t ready quite yet. We didn’t have a good idea. So he worked at Fortify Software, which is an enterprise security company, and then at Microsoft, where he worked on mobile. I went to Google and Salesforce, and when it came time to start my company he was one of the first people I called, because he’s incredibly smart and has a very good vision for how technologies change.

You designed Hearsay for a specific market. Why did you choose it, and how did you cater your product to that market?

The whole point of Hearsay is to focus on corporate-local. We looked at the Fortune 1000 and there’s a huge number of companies that fit this model, which is everything from banking, insurance and real estate, to restaurant and retail franchises and direct-selling organizations like Avon or Mary Kay. Our focus has allowed us to go very deep and be very comprehensive in the solution that we provide.

We were very thoughtful about how we architected the solution. We realize, at the end of the day, the most important thing to our target audience is visibility. When you’re a corporate organization you might have franchisees and local stores feeding pages and profiles every day that you might not know about. So number one, how does corporate have visibility? And from there, how does corporate manage brand compliance?

The third thing is, as a counterbalance to the need for brand guidelines compliance, how do you empower your local reps to express a unique and authentic voice? Knowing that’s what makes social media powerful. We know cookie-cutter messages don’t work.

So we built a content workflow system where corporate marketing can come in and feed content or suggest content and campaigns into the field, and then these small business owners, these franchisees, can choose which messages and campaigns they think will resonate with the local audience, personalize it in their own words and be able to do a one-click post out to Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

Diagram showing how Hearsay Social platfrom enables one-click distribution to multiple social networksHow does it go all across the company system?

Basically, corporate will suggest a piece of content through our portal and then the local reps can receive those suggestions, either by email, and you can enable a one-click post from that email, or, they can log into their own portal which many people like to do because it’s a community of other franchisees in their network.

How does the company determine how well the suggested content is received?

You can see a content library of all that you’ve sent out to the field and can sort by categories, all of which are custom definable.

You can write a post and choose what region you want it to go too, and choose where it goes; to Facebook or Twitter or LinkedIn. You can tag it as a corporate suggestion and it will go to a local user who will see that message, along with a link. The local user can personalize the message and then just click the link. Corporate can then see what gets a response.

Can you give me an example of real world usage?

State Farm has 18,000 agents across the country and last year they came to us [while we were in beta] and said, we realize a lot of our agents are getting on these social network sites, which is a good thing. The reason State Farm is so successful is our agents are good social networkers, and we know that these websites makes them effective. But there are challenges we need to solve. From a federal regulations standpoint there are compliance issues, so how do we protect these small business owners, these franchisees, from legal liabilities?

With insurance and banking, there’s an industry guideline called FINRA, which requires all messages to be archived in case of a subpoena down the road. That’s the motivation behind archiving. Facebook and Twitter don’t provide archiving. We do and in fact we’ve partnered with Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn to be able to provide the archiving. We’re the only company that has access to LinkedIn’s private message API. We’re the only company that can provide this.

And then another challenge State Farm had was small business owners find it very easy to create a Facebook page or Twitter profile but then it’s hard to maintain. As a business owner or a franchisee you’re busy enough running the day-to-day operations. You don’t have time to spend hours figuring out what to say on social media…That’s why we built this content workflow system, so the agents didn’t have to spend hours coming up with good content. Corporate marketing could do it, and it would only take an agent a couple of minutes to add it to their social networks.

A look at the Hearsay Social dashboard, compliance sectionWith the compliance part, say I’m a company that’s highly distributed. How do I manage monitoring all my rep’s posts? It would be overwhelming to keep track of every tweet and every Facebook post.

We only show when there’s a compliance infraction. We sat down with a lot of corporations that did feel overwhelmed and they didn’t feel like they needed to read every message.

Does the item show up because it’s been flagged through keywords?

Yes. They can specify what the keywords are. And we have ones that we recommend for our financial services customers, because you’re not allowed to talk about securities in a public forum. They can also choose from our standard set of filters, like for profanity.

Do you think companies that have been holding off on mounting social media campaigns due to concerns about compliance issues may now engage in social media with more confidence because of your platform?

There’s that. But there is the reality that needs to be acknowledged; which is, the corporate level may not be comfortable going out on social media, but their employees don’t feel the same way. It’s very easy to find agents and employees that are on Facebook and have LinkedIn profiles who are talking to clients and are out of compliance. That’s been a real wake-up call for these organizations.

How do your analytics help a business know what action to take once they view the metrics?

Our customers are very focused on two things. One is agent engagement and the other one is fan or follower engagement. So what they’ll typically look for is when there are spikes in agent activity. That’s usually when corporate makes a content suggestion. The agents post it and then there’s a slight lag on the fan and follower side as measured by likes, comments and retweets… The content that you put out there, you want it to be interactive and engaging. If people aren’t sharing or responding, that means it’s not resonating for some reason. Our customers use this real-time feedback to continually refine their content and campaigns.

So they can correlate response and make the connection.

Yeah… I wondered for a long time why there are so many corporate local organizations. Why are so many of these small businesses that are part of a larger corporate entity? Instead of being a McDonald’s franchisee or a Dunkin’ Doughnuts franchisee, why don’t they just start their own burger or donut place? We thought about this a lot at Hearsay and the reason is brands are extremely powerful. And not only that, a lot of small business owners, don’t know branding and packaging and operations and sales. Being part of a franchise, you get a lot of support in the offline world. So if you’re a McDonald’s franchises, every quarter you get new marketing collateral. But when it comes to the online world, there hasn’t been that same level of support. And social media in particular has been the Wild West for these small business owners. They’re left to their own devices. They’ve had no choice but to create their own Facebook page and figure out how it all works. So one way you can look at Hearsay Social is, we’re providing that level of infrastructure and local support that chains and franchisees have always had in the physical world — we’re providing the analog in social media.

Now hear about it direct from Hearsay (the company video)

Related Posts

Recommended Reading: The Facebook Era

How Social Networks Are Changing How We Do Business

Clara Shih On Ambient Intimacy and Appvertising

What do you think of Hearsay Social?  How do you see it fitting into corporate social media programs? Comments welcome.

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How Long Does It Take To Tell Your Story?

Posted on November 23, 2010. Filed under: Marketing and Public Relations | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Hand holding stopwatchGood marketing is like good storytelling.

Truly effective marketing hits on emotional touchpoints that make us believe what you have to say, enough so that we’re persuaded to buy what you’ve got for sale. We need to see ourselves in your story.

It’s no accident we have the expression, “I don’t buy that story for one minute.”

How much story can you tell in 15-seconds?

How long should your brand story be?

This thought came to mind when I was chatting last week with Glenn Holsten. Glenn is an independent filmmaker who is well known for his documentaries, but he also does commercial work.  We were catching up prior to the world premier screening of his film Seductive Subversion: Women Pop Artists 1958-1968 and somehow got on the subject of social media. Glenn said he had a client who wanted a 15-second video to use for social media. “How can I tell in story in 15 seconds?” he asked.

I mentioned the tale, perhaps an urban legend but nonetheless oft-cited, about how Ernest Hemingway won a bet by writing a story that was only six words long.  I’ll now share this story, in it’s entirely:

For sale: Baby shoes, never worn.

Glenn agreed that’s one heck of a short story, and he assured me he’ll whip up that 15-second spot his client wants for social media. Meanwhile, I’m intrigued by the fact that his client perceives the need to create a 15-second video, simply because it’s for social media.

Is there an ideal story length? Does the media matter?

I’ve seen two and half-hour movies that seem to fly by and watched three-minute videos that feel like they take forever.

TV commercials are usually 30 or 60 seconds long. Much of that’s due to the cost of buying time on television. There is no equivalent cost with social media.

Regardless of your expense, whatever the length of a marketing message, there’s a cost to your audience in terms of time and mindshare. Even 15 seconds of wasted time can be annoying.

YouTube is a social media channel and YouTube has in excess of 100 million videos, pretty much all of which are longer than 15 seconds. The fact that a video may also be a form of advertising doesn’t matter. If the content is worth watching, you can exceed the 30-60 second convention.

Screen shot from Blendtec Will It Blend, iPhone videoPrime examples here are the Will It Blend? spots featuring Tom Dickson, who rose to online stardom thanks to a series of videos where he proved the power of his Blendtec blender by using it to pulverize all sorts of objects, including an an iPhone, a Bic lighter, golf balls, a bag of marbles and a crowbar. Nearly all of the Will It Blend videos are between one to two minutes long and they’re super popular — the iPhone video has in excess of 9 million views. Blendtec also promotes its videos through a Facebook page , which has a more than 56,000 fans, and through Twitter.

The evolution of storytelling… to be continued

You might say your story should be as long as is required to tell what needs to be told while also holding the viewer’s interest. That’s true, and also highly subjective.

There’s no hard and fast rule here. Still, it’s interesting to consider how much social media, and the way in which we consume it – via mobile phone, desktop computer, computer tablet or TV –  influences the art of brand storytelling.

Open question: Is there a difference in our attention span toward marketing messages when we receive these messages via social media, as opposed to a company’s website?

Could be. I wouldn’t be surprised to see research down the line on this very topic. Time will tell.

What do YOU think? Is there an ideal length for a branded video that’s distributed through social media? Please share your thoughts.

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Clara Shih On Ambient Intimacy and Appvertising

Posted on October 5, 2010. Filed under: Best practices, Social Media | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Book Cover_The Facebook Era by Clara ShihIf you want to know how tapping into social networks can help your business, then touch base with Clara Shih. After all, she wrote The Facebook Era: Tapping Online Social Networks to Market, Sell, and Innovate (2nd Edition), which is chock full of case studies and practical information for creating strategies and tactics to help you succeed in the new world of social business.

I recently enjoyed a conversation with Clara. My prior post, How Social Networks Are Changing How We Do Business, features Part 1 of our conversation, and here’s Part 2, where we get into things like ambient intimacy, appvertising and how Clara wisely decided not to go with the book title originally suggested by her publisher.

Interview with Clara Shih, author of The Facebook Era, Part 2:

Much your book talks about how businesses can use social networks to gain more information about customers or prospects, and their connections. But it can also work in the other direction. Customers may use social networks to decide whether they want to do business with you. They may want you or your business to have a referral or a seal of approval from someone they know.

Clara: Yeah, I see it going in that direction. It happens to me all the time, with people that haven’t bought my book, they’ll go to my page and they’ll see two of their friends are already a fan of the page and it helps them make up their mind… It’s really interesting.

That’s the most important thing to keep in mind for understanding social media. Because once you get this then everything else is easy. All the tactics you can pick up, and they’re changing all the time because Facebook and Twitter are always changing. But this is a fundamental paradigm shift that’s changing and creating these new business practices.

If you were to encapsulate the paradigm shift how you describe it?

Clara: It’s the idea of ambient intimacy. People sharing more about themselves than they ever have before. There are implications for business development, marketing and targeted advertising.

One of big challenges many businesses have with social media is that it’s 24/7, but most businesses don’t operate 24/7. So they run up against issues with time resource allocation and providing an adequate response. Do you have suggestions to help a business manage its social media presence?

Clara: Well the first thing to consider is that people are talking about your company 24/7 whether or not you’re on social media or not. So better to be there and to be monitoring than be in blissful ignorance.

Beyond that I think in terms of setting the expectation of timeliness. And I’ve seen this — companies will have something on their Twitter or Facebook page that says, if we don’t get back to you in 72 hours or whatever the timeframe is — put out what to expect, so everyone is on the same page.

You hear a lot about how in social media you can’t do the hard sell, you have to do the soft sell. But people know why you’re on there — your purpose is ultimately to sell, if you’re a business.

Clara: It is ultimately to sell. And that’s OK if you acknowledge it. But it’s also to show that you care about people.

Right you can vicariously create tighter connections. Still, a customer can always write an email if they want to get in touch with a company  Yet there’s something different about expressing yourself through social media.

Clara: It’s very subtle psychological things — like seeing your profile picture next to a comment you made on a businesses page… it makes you feel important. Like you have a voice. And I think people really resonate with that and people are drawn to that. Because you feel heard. Your comment is public. People can link back to your profile and possibly interact with you and like or comment on your comment.

In your book you talk about appvertising. I don’t know how many companies are aware of it, or the benefits. Would you mind giving a brief overview how companies can be smart with it?

Clara: Sure. Appvertising came about when Facebook started opening their platform to other developers to create applications on Facebook. And the idea is that with traditional advertising you get only that split second to interact with the audience. People basically see your ad and they decide to click or they don’t.

With Facebook apps, instead of giving people a onetime offer, you’re engaging them with a game or some sort of other application that they would want to come back to again and again. You can brand those games. You can sponsor applications, or you can build your own applications that really touch upon your core business and be able to deepen your relationship with a customer and engage with a customer over a longer period of time than you would with traditional advertising.

How do you do it so you’re not just creating a commercial that just happens to be a game? Even though that is essentially what appvertising is.

Clara: The key part is the branding is more subtle. One of my favorite examples is, there’s a General Mills brand called Cacadian Farms, where they promote organic foods. If you play Farmville you can buy blueberry seeds from Cascadian Farms that are all organic, non-genetically modified blueberries. That’s a fun way to engage; people are getting exposed to the Cascadian brand, and it’s good for the players because it’s good for their farm.

Still, companies must be careful about what apps they’re in and how they choose to be in that space, right?

Clara: It’s very important to find out with the apps, are they really reaching the core audience that they want to reach? There was a big controversy about a year back where Offerpal partnered with Netflix. The idea was if you were playing Texas HoldEm inside of Facebook you could throw out an offer for a 30-day trial to Netflix in exchange for chips. They got a ton of response because that’s a really popular application and people wanted the virtual chips. The problem was the end-value to Netflix was ultimately very low, because these people all cancelled within a few days. They weren’t interested in Netflix; they just wanted the chips.

As an advertiser and as a business you really have to think about are you achieving the goal that you want to achieve? How much will this interest last? Is it a short-term win or is it really a long-term gain where you can acquire these users?

OK, last question: Why call your book The Facebook Era; even the first edition is about a lot more than just Facebook.

Clara: I’ll tell you something funny; my publisher wanted me to call it the MySpace Era, because at the time MySpace was significantly bigger. I just thought there was something about Facebook that was different.  It was really the first social network that encouraged us and supported us in reflecting and extending our real world networks, versus trying to replace those real-world relationships. There’s something that’s just much more lasting and more inherently valuable about basing it on true identity and true relationships.

And we continue to call it The Facebook Era because Facebook is still the largest and fastest growing social network, not only here in the U.S., but worldwide… I believe that no matter where you are in the world you want to be connected, and often times that includes people in your county and beyond, and that’s the deal with Facebook.

Thanks, Clara

Many thanks to Clara for being so generous with her time and thoughts. She gives us plenty to ponder.

Now, if you want to get social with Clara, visit the Facebook Era’s Facebook page, or  follow her on Twitter at @clarashih

– Deni Kasrel

Related post

Recommended Reading: The Facebook Era

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How Social Networks Are Changing How We Do Business

Posted on September 28, 2010. Filed under: Business Strategy, Social Media | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Clara Shih, author of The Facebook Era

When Clara Shih set out to write a second edition of her bestselling book, The Facebook Era, she had her hands full trying to keep up with all the changes happening in the social media sphere, especially among the big three: Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. So much so, Clara had to change the publish date of the new book just to keep current.

The Facebook Era: Tapping Online Social Networks to Market, Sell, and Innovate (2nd Edition) is finally here, and it’s well worth the wait.

Clara did more than just touch-up the first edition: She added case studies, new chapters and a bunch of guest-written expert opinion sidebars.

All About Using Social Networks for Business

It’s all geared to helping businesses and entrepreneurs learn how to tap into social networks to market, sell and innovate.

Clara has plenty of first-hand knowledge in this regard — she created the first business application on Facebook (Faceconnector), which integrates Facebook with Salesforce.com.  More recently, Clara started Hearsay Labs, a provider of social customer relationship management software.

I enjoyed both Facebook Era editions (yes, I read the second one cover to cover, too). And so it was a pleasure to have the opportunity to chat with Clara, to talk about her new book as well as the social media landscape in general.

Interview with Clara Shih, author of The Facebook Era: Part 1

We had a nice long conversation, enough that it makes for a nice two-parter on this blog.

Here in Part 1 we discuss how Facebook and other networks are altering fundamental social norms.

You used social media to help determine some of the content of the book. Can you elaborate on how that process worked out?

Clara: The innovation in social media is happening from the bottom up. It’s happening in the groundswell from these grassroots initiatives that people are taking for their organization and their companies and in their personal lives. I really wanted to source these ideas and these best practices directly from the innovators in the space. And so I used my Twitter handle and my Facebook page as well as my personal Facebook profile to ask people what their ideas were. What were the things they were living and experiencing themselves? And I had a phenomenal response. A lot of the best material in the book came from people that I interacted with on Facebook and Twitter.

Are these people you knew?

Clara: What does it mean to know someone these days? I mean, many of them I’ve never met — they’ve connected with me and they’re following me on Twitter and vice versa and now I feel like I do have a relationship.

The idea of what is a “friend” changes a lot in these contemporary times.

Clara: That’s really at the heart of everything that I write about. I mean, yes, there are a lot of business implications, but at the heart of it is human relationships and how we interact with each other and connect with each other. How we connect with our customers. And that drives all the business use cases and opportunities.

One of the reasons I was so enthusiastic about your first edition is that you really delved into a human part, the sociology, the social ethos — whatever you want to call it — and then applying that to social networks and the new social norms, as you refer to them in your second edition. You explain it so clearly. So how important is it understand these social norms when, as a business, you’re engaging in this context?

Clara: I think it’s the most important thing you can do.  Understanding human behavior and how your customers and clients think. What makes them happy? That’s really the key to success for any business. Regardless of what product or service you may have.

In the last 13 years the internet gave us tremendous efficiency between buyers and sellers and giving everyone access to information. But as Jim McCann [founder of 1-800-Flowers.com] writes about in the forward to this book, the efficiency came at a great price. Oftentimes what we sacrificed was human connection. The feeling that customers had that they were actually special and valued by your company.

The great thing about social networks is the idea that we can regain some of that connection, without losing any of the efficiency. We can still connect to large groups of people. We can still market to and prospect to large group of people. But because there’s more information about people and relationships and connections we can still have that bond and invest in that customer loyalty.

Right, and on the flip side, it humanizes a business, too. Companies can seem like monoliths, even if they’re small, if you don’t have any communication with what appears to be a real person.

Clara: Exactly. And there’s nothing like putting a human face around a big company. Especially if it’s one that people don’t traditionally find very sexy. That just changes the whole set of interactions. We’ve seen great examples like Frank [Eliason] at Comcast, to show someone who really cares and be the face of a large institutional brand.

So whether you’re working externally with your customers, or internally with your employees, it’s human nature to want to connect with people and facilitating that process makes way for better business.

In your book you talk about how seemingly non-important details —  for instance someone says they play soccer — can end up making a difference between how people interact with one another and possibly be a factor in how a business deal happens.

Clara: People are always looking for common ground. Especially when you meet someone new. You’re trying to figure out if this person is trustworthy and whether you want to do business with them. Whatever business you’re in, people always prefer to do business with people they know and like. And they refuse to do business with people they don’t trust. And so to the extent that Facebook can help you see similar interests, hobbies, and friends. That carries a lot of weight in being able to establish trust.

Right, but five years ago people didn’t have that ability and yet business still occurred. Do you think that it will change, such that it will be incumbent on someone to be participating in this way, even with business people, on this level? How do you see it evolving?

Clara: I think we’re seeing it already. Because before five years ago, it was 15 years ago where we didn’t have the internet. And certainly before there was online a lot of business got done for a long time… and we see these technology cycles: first the mainframe, then the personal computer, then the internet and now the social web, where it doesn’t happen all at once, but certainly for many industries, it can give you a huge leg up to understand this new communication and technology paradigm and use it as an additional way to get customer connection and loyalty.

Stay tuned for Part 2

There’s more, folks: My next post will be Part 2 of our conversation about The Facebook Era.

Meanwhile, if you want to social network with Clara, why not visit the Facebook Era’s Facebook page, or  follow her on Twitter at @clarashih

Related posts on this blog

Recommended Reading: The Facebook Era

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Social Media Marketing GPS: A Creative Social Media Guide

Posted on June 8, 2010. Filed under: Marketing and Public Relations | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Toby Bloomberg's ebook, Social Media Marketing GPS, is specially formatted for e-readers

Twitter is a powerful publishing platform. But when messages are limited to 140 characters it has its limits, right?

Well, less than you might think — if you’re as resourceful as Toby Bloomberg. She recently published an ebook based on interviews conducted via Twitter.

A guide to social media, one tweet at a time

As Toby explains in the introduction to her free ebook, titled Social Media Marketing GPS:

“The goal was to create a comprehensive body of knowledge that could serve as a roadmap (GPS) for developing a strategic social media plan. My thoughts were if this could be accomplished in a series of 140 character tweets it might help ease the apprehension for people new to social media, while at the same time, providing a review and offering some interesting ideas for those more experienced.”

Toby admits the whole thing was conceived as an experiment.

Based on the result, I’d say it’s a success. Social Media Marketing GPS is a shining example of the power of communication conveyed through social media.

Featuring advice from 40 marketing pros

The book features tweets from 40 professional marketers, all of whom are avid practitioners of social media.

Some handle social media for corporations or agencies, while others are solopreneurs. Contributors include Paul Chaney, Mack Collier, Roxanne Darling, Ann Handley, Beth Harte, Neville Hobson, Tim Jackson, John Maley, Scott Monty, B.L. Ochman, Connie Reece, David Meerman Scott and Liz Strauss.

Certain of those names are well known; still, I like that Toby didn’t simply turn to the uber-darling “usual suspects” of social media to create her book.

Not that there’s anything wrong with superstar power. It’s just nice to hear from others who are in the trenches, blogging, vlogging, podcasting, Facebooking, Tweeting, branding, and otherwise successfully engaged in social media marketing.

That, of course, is part of the beauty of social media: It helps level the playing field for who has a voice (and impact) in the marketplace.

Big ideas presented in bite-size nuggets

Each chapter of Social Media Marketing GPS features useful ideas and opinions regarding social media strategies and tactics. Topics covers tools and platforms, ethics, metrics, branding, blogger relations and more — all presented in bite-size nuggets.

In a way its presentation strikes me as being akin to how you might use a yellow marker when reading, to highlight essential details. Only in this instance, the content is strictly the highlights.

Toby is the consummate conversationalist

Toby — who, in case you did not know, is a popular blogger and marketing maven in her own right —  serves as ringleader, instigating interviews with a leadoff question. She embellishes each chapter with concise introductions and summaries of key concepts, and then closes out with questions to consider when creating a social media marketing plan.

These questions also invite you to think about each topic — on your own — which enables Toby to create a kind of conversation between the ebook and its readers.

Of course, if anyone knows how to generate stimulating conversation — virtual or otherwise — it’s Toby. She does it all the time on Diva Marketing Talks, her podcast series featuring chats with experts about all things social media. Those familiar with the series may note a considerable overlap between her guests on Diva Marketing Talks and the individuals featured in Social Media Marketing GPS.

Useful to both new and experienced marketers

Meanwhile, Toby does succeed in her goal of creating a book of value to both newbies and those experienced in social media. Wherever you may fall on that spectrum, I recommend you give it a read.

And by the way, if you happen to have an e-reader, the book is specially formatted for this handy gadget.

– Deni Kasrel

Have you read Social Media Marketing GPS? What do you think of it? Comments welcome.

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Nestle Facebook Lesson In Social Media Disengagement

Posted on April 22, 2010. Filed under: Best practices, Social Media | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , |

The two-way street of social media offers a more personable way to engage with audiences than traditional marketing avenues.

People can leave comments on your blog, Facebook fan page or Twitter account and you can respond in kind.

It’s a great way to build brand affinity. Consumers have a voice in your online space. This sends a message their opinion matters. You gain valuable feedback, too.

However, beware — the street can be pocked with potholes.

Watch for road hazards on the two-way street of social media

Case in point: Nestle’s recent kerfluffle on Facebook.

The genesis of this fiasco began when the environmental awareness group Greenpeace called Nestle out for obtaining palm oil from “companies that are trashing Indonesian rainforests, threatening the livelihoods of local people and pushing orangutans towards extinction.” Greenpeace created a video and website campaign to denounce Nestle. The campaign featured a disparaging version of the logo for Nestle’s Kit Kat candy bar with the word “Killer” on it.

The Killer logo and others equally offensive to the company started circulating in cyberspace, prompting Nestle to post not once, but twice, a statement on its Facebook page that they were not going to stand for anyone messing with their stuff.

How NOT to moderate a Facebook page

Nestle soon found itself in one fine mess. Facebook fans took Nestle to task, telling the company they were free to do as they pleased. Here’s the start of the thread to the post:

That’s not even the half of it. Comments came pouring in, fast and furious, a few in favor of Nestle’s stance, but the vast majority taking up verbal arms against the arrogance of the Nestle spokesperson who basically flipped the bird to Facebook fans.

I suspect it goes without saying this is not a good thing to do on a platform that is open to the entire world. Indeed, the spat got picked up by media outlets across the globe.

You can’t control what others say about your brand (and this is not new)

Clearly Nestle missed the memo about how you can’t control what people say about you, and, if you need to respond to negative comments, it’s best to do so in a way that does not alienate or otherwise insult people.

Now lest you think this phenomenon of consumers being able to mess with your brand arose from the openness of social media, rest assured, word of mouth, good or bad, has been around as long as we humans have been talking to one another. There’s also a long history for alteration of corporate logos  — MAD magazine loves to do this sort of thing, and you’ve likely seen t-shirts with spoof versions of popular logos, too.

Social media just makes the whole thing a lot more public and a lot more viral.

What can you learn from this?

This is one for the books: Count on the incident being used in case studies about how not to engage in social media. You’d be hard-pressed to find a better example of how to do it wrong.

Meanwhile, there are lessons to be learned here. Such as:

Make sure you understand the ways of social media before you engage in this space. There are lots of do’s and don’ts and if you need some learnin’ here I suggest reading either The New Community Rules, by Tamar Weinberg, or Six Pixels of Separation, by Mitch Joel.

Make sure the person you assign to handle social media tasks knows how to properly interact with the public. Good manners and knowledge of how to appropriately respond to comments of all kinds is imperative.

Be prepared for negative feedback. No matter how wonderful you are, someone somewhere can have a bone to pick. Realize it may wind up in your social space.

If a crises does arise, be quick to put out the fire. Admit your mea culpa.

Don’t let one bad experience sour you on social media. See what you can learn and do it better the next time.

– Deni Kasrel

What do YOU think? Comments welcome.

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What’s So Special About Twestival?

Posted on March 22, 2010. Filed under: Social Media, Twitter | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , |

Philadelphia Twestival logo

The 2010 Twestival is nearly here.

With this year’s Twestival, on March 25, cities around the world join in a collective effort to raise money on behalf of Concern Worldwide, an organization that works to improve life circumstances for impoverished people. Funds collected through Twestival will help support Concern Worldwide’s education projects.

The Twestival event in the city where I reside — Philadelphia — is being organized by Gloria Bell and Melissa Thiessen. They cooked up a scavenger hunt as part of the local festivities.

Gloria recently shared her thoughts on the festival as well as the role of social media as a fundraising tool. Here are excerpts from our conversation:

Interview with Philadelphia Twestival co-organizer, Gloria Bell

What made you decide to have a scavenger hunt? Because it’s fun? Is that part of the point?

Gloria: The idea is to do something to get people who talk to one another online to meet face to face. Most Twestivals plan a party event of some kind. We thought about how much fun it would be to have everyone wander around Old City [a historic area of Philadelphia]. The idea came from PodCamp. They had one and everybody had such a great time, we thought, let’s do it again.

How will the scavenger hunt happen?

Gloria: Everyone will gather at National Mechanics [a bar/restaurant] and then break up into teams. They’ll be given clue sheets that have riddles, questions and locations where you have to go out and get the answer… For each clue, you have to tweet back the answer or TwitPix the photo to the Philadelphia Twestival account. The organizing team adds up the points and decides who is the winner, and they get their choice of prizes. Then we raffle off the other prizes…. We put a call out on Twitter and most of the prizes came from that.

You’re making Twitter an integral part of the actual event. How else does Twestival connect to Twitter and other social media?

Gloria: It’s all organized and promoted, not one hundred percent through Twitter, but primarily through Twitter. We have a Facebook page and we do email blasts, but the primary portion of the event — planning, organizing, rallying of volunteers, soliciting of sponsors and donations — is all done through Twitter.

It seems Twitter helps build the excitement and really turns it into an event. Why do you think that happens?

Gloria: I think it speaks to the power of social media in general. To be able to so quickly and so far, spread the word about something. To motivate people. To get them enthused. It gives us the power to reach people so much quicker than we otherwise would be able to.

I agree. I’ve given to causes I’ve seen on Twitter. I’m not entirely sure why. Maybe it’s the instant nature of it. I’ve given to people I don’t even know. Someone I’m a Twitter pal with says, “This is my friend and they need help.” Also, there’s a lot of fundraising going on for all kinds of things…  Why is Twitter such a magnet for people who want to do good things?

Gloria: Part of it is the nature of the medium itself. The people who are involved with Twitter are already into building relationships. Even though they may not be the direct relationships that most of us think of, it’s like, if someone’s your friend they’re my friend too.

That’s how we build our following on Twitter. We connect with people with whom we have common interests and then we connect with people they know. I think the same thing can be said for the power of charity. It’s the same connection.

This makes sense. Still, there’s a lot of things to give to. Yet if it’s on Twitter somehow it can be more powerful. Maybe it’s the reach?

Gloria: The reach is part of it. Can I reach almost 4,000 people in my normal day-to-day life? No. Can I reach 4,000 people instantly with a single [Twitter] message? Yes. I can. The immediacy of it is a huge draw. The fact that I can give to this cause, right now, in this limited attention span lifestyle we have.

Here’s a perfect example: I got a mailer from Planned Parenthood yesterday and it’s on my desk. It will be there when I get around to looking at it. I am going to send Planned Parenthood money. But it’s not the same as having instant gratification. And that’s what happens online. It’s that instant of “yes we know we’ve made a difference” feeling.

There’s still time for YOU to make a difference

Thanks Gloria, for sharing such thoughtful insights. You’ve been working hard to ensure the Philadelphia Twestival is a big success. Here’s hoping our city raises a nice pot of money.

And readers, there’s still time for you to get involved with this global movement for social good.  Head to the Twestival website to find out what’s happening in your area.

– Deni Kasrel

What are your thoughts on Twestival and using social media for social good? Comments welcome.

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Interview with David Meerman Scott, Author Of The New Rules Of Marketing & PR

Posted on March 3, 2010. Filed under: Books, Marketing and Public Relations | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

The web makes it easy for companies to communicate directly with consumers. A good thing, so long as you know how to work that angle.

Yet for a while, there weren’t any best practices on how to do it.

Then along came David Meerman Scott — veteran marketer, popular blogger, and author of The New Rules of Marketing & PR.

Overflowing with sage advice on how to leverage the web with new-style press releases, blogs, podcasts and other emerging media, the book became a bestseller.

New tools mean even more new rules

In the three years since that first edition social media exploded. Prompting Meerman to write a revised version, The New Rules of Marketing and PR: How to Use Social Media, Blogs, News Releases, Online Video, and Viral Marketing to Reach Buyers Directly, 2nd Edition, covering even more tools, plus a fresh batch of case studies.

I thought it would be nice to have Meerman share some pearls of wisdom with readers of this blog. He was kind enough to agree and we enjoyed a lively phone chat. Here are excerpts from our conversation:

Interview with David Meerman Scott: Author of The New Rules of Marketing & PR

It seems one of the things you’re getting at with The New Rules is you have to understand how people find things, and be aware of what they do online, period. Then you fit your marketing and PR into that. But if you don’t get how the web works, you’re lost. Is that accurate?

David: The technology is a solvable problem. But the aspect that you can’t get wrong or you won’t succeed, has to do with the way that we have traditionally talked up our company, which is to hype our products and services. In the 4 P’s of marketing — one of the fundamental tenets of marketing — the first “P” is product. But people don’t really care about products and services, what they care about are themselves.

What happens is, a company will say, “Oh, I’ve got to start a Twitter feed,” or a blog, or whatever. And the first thing they do is exactly what they’re doing already to market their company. They build a blog and the blog is about their products.

There are some products that you can do that for. If you’re Apple and you start a blog about the iPhone, that can work. But for 99.9% of the companies out there, talking about your products won’t work. What you need to do is understand your buyers really well. Understand what their problems are and then create something interesting on the web that will appeal to them and that will help them solve problems. That’s the part that most people get wrong. You have to understand your buyer’s persona.

You pay a fair amount of attention to search, search engine optimization and search engine marketing. Yet that’s an area a lot of PR people resist, because SEO strategy may not follow AP style.

David: Right. There is a lot of truth in that. Fundamentally, every person on the planet who has an internet connection is using search. And the last number I heard is two billion people are connected to the web. So being visible in search engines is critically important.

But one of the things I like to point out is search engine marketing, at its core, is about creating the content that people want to find. And that’s exactly what we’ve been talking about. It’s understanding your buyers really well and creating content that allows them to solve problems in the words and phrases they would use.

That’s more important in my mind than worrying about the nuances of meta tags and where the text should be placed. Granted those are important, but in my experience a lot of search engine experts will focus way too much on those technology aspects of search and not that much on understanding that people are trying to reach amazing stuff that will then be indexed by search engines.

A lot of those highly search engine optimized pages that you see in the rankings at the top of the page; excuse my language, but they suck. They’re poorly written and the images are no good. Then conversely, you come across something and you go, “Wow, look at this. It’s exactly what I’m looking for.” In my mind, that’s what search engine marketing is. It’s creating amazing content that makes people go “Holy cow, that’s great.” That’s not really about the technology; it’s about the information.

Let’s talk about your suggestion to create an online media room — but for buyers rather than just the press. From my own experience this is a tough sell with many PR people. You can explain how when a release is on the web anyone can see it, and although they understand this as a concept, they can’t make the shift. So what is your most persuasive pitch for this one?

David: I think the biggest stumbling block is that many public relations people who I know mistake the superset of public relations with the subset of media relations.

In other words, public relations is really just about reaching your public and there’s tons of different ways to do that. Going through the media is not the only way.

But I think what a lot of public relations people want is for the world to be the way is way 20 years ago, They just want to be able to have lunch with reporters and send out press releases. It’s just a nice comfortable little world and the web is kinda screwing things up.

I think if our job is to reach our publics, it’s essential to understand there’s multiple ways to do so.

For example you hit on the online media room. When they first came out about 15 years ago it was basically an online version of a press kit… and well, guess what? It’s not just going to the media. Everyone can look at that stuff. So are you only interested in 200 journalists, or are you interested in 200,000 potential customers? And I think, without being rude, if you think your job is to only reach 200 journalists, then you shouldn’t have a role in the website. Let other people get on with the work of the media room.

I do think this job of media relations is still a critical job… that will be their specialty. But I hope people start to realize it’s not the only way.

You write about how the media itself has changed. When you consider bloggers, for instance. Yet you’re surprised when at speaking engagements and you ask PR and marketing pros if they write or read blogs, only a small percentage are doing so. You’d think at this stage more people would realize we’ve gotten past the point where it’s just the cranky blogger out there.

David: The other point that’s critical to know is that when a journalist is working on a story guess where they go? They go to Google, They go to your website. And if you have a blog, a journalist is more likely to read that then your press release.

I think it’s important to recognize the way journalists are doing their research is changing because of the web as well.

I can’t tell you, in my own case, how many times I’ve gotten amazing placement in a magazine, newspaper or radio, because somebody went to Google and typed in the phrase viral marketing. My content comes up on the first page. It’s number four or five, and I’ll get the call. Or they’ll type in online media room, and I’ll get the call. That’s not because I sent out a press release. It’s not because I hired an agency to pitch the media. It’s because the journalist went to Google and found me.

You believe people should experiment with marketing. Nowadays you can do that with video, because the costs are so much lower than in the past.

David: That’s part of it. The other part is a failure isn’t visible. If you do a TV commercial and it’s terrible, lots of people will see it. If you post a video on YouTube and its terrible few people will see it. No one will spread it. So it’s not, “Oh they failed, look at that” You know, you just quietly delete it.

You also suggest experimenting on a company website. I think there’s a hurdle there. People think they can’t put something up if they’re not sure if it will work.

David: They’re coming at that statement with the print mentality. It has to be perfect before it goes to print. Because if you print it and there’s a mistake, you have to throw the entire thing away and start over again. But the web is iterative. You can constantly tweak and change it.

–  Deni Kasrel

So what do YOU think of Meerman’s thoughts on the new world order of marketing and PR? Have you read his book, too? What’s your take on it? Please share. Comments welcome.

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Should Social Media Sites Monitor Their Platform To Prevent Crime?

Posted on February 18, 2010. Filed under: Commentary, Social Media | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , |

When teenagers create a mob and then wreck havoc on city streets who is to blame?

If the messages to congregate are sent via Twitter and Facebook, does that mean those sites are responsible in some way?

We’ll soon find out, if politicos in Philadelphia, Pa. have anything to say about it.

Two City Council members, James Kenney and Frank DiCicco, are hopping mad at social media, because they believe it fueled a Center City melee.

A ruckus likely organized through social media

This past Tuesday approximately 150 teens gathered at an urban shopping mall. They damaged a department store then took to the streets. The throng fought amongst themselves, tossed snowballs at cars and pedestrians, and knocked down startled bystanders.

Police rushed to the scene but were initially overwhelmed. Eventually the cops arrested more than a dozen participants who were reportedly charged with disorderly conduct and rioting.

Kenney and DiCiccio have asked the City Council president to sue social media sites, if it is determined they were the means used to organize the dust-up. Kenney is quoted in the Philadelphia Inquirer as having said: “This is urban terrorism. If they’re using those sites to conduct this thuggery, then I want to find out if it’s true, and I want to get the appropriate legal action to get them to warn us.”

Should social media sites intervene to prevent crime?

By all accounts the incident sounds scary. Had I been there, I’m sure I would have been terrified.

But I would not blame social media for the brawl.

Think about it: when thieves use phones to coordinate a heist, is the phone company complicit in the caper? What if the crooks use text messages, or email; does that make it any different?

Is the conveyance through which a crime is planned responsible for prevention of the crime?

I’m no legal eagle, but I don’t see how.

How do you monitor an entire social media platform?

You can argue that Twitter is an open platform where messages enter a public stream that anyone can see. It’s possible to watch the stream and perhaps figure out when people are up to no good.

Maybe so. But who should do the monitoring? Do these council guys expect Twitter, which according to pingdom processes in excess of 40 million tweets on a daily basis, to baby-sit and make reports on the stream? The notion is far-fetched.

Same goes for Facebook, where an estimated 175 million users log on per day, and which has privacy features that can prevent posts from going fully public.

Meanwhile, do we even want social media sites to monitor and make judgments on what we’re posting? Who’s to say if a message harbors criminal intent?

If I write a tweet that says “My neighbor makes so much noise I just want to kill him” should I get reported? The expression “I just want to kill him” is a common expression of anger or blowing off steam.

What if the perpetrators use a code? Suppose the kids who created havoc in Philly had just sent a message that read “Let’s all meet on 8th street.” Based on those words you can’t tell they intend to go on a rampage.

I just don’t see how you can expect the sites to keep a watch over all the content.

Big Twitter is watching?

I understand why the Councilmen are incensed about the melee. It was an outrageous event.

Even so, demanding social media sites do routine surveillance work is spooky.

– Deni Kasrel

What do YOU think? Should social media sites monitor and report activity that runs across their transoms? Anyone know the legalities here? Please share your thoughts.

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