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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Recommended Reading: Real-Time Marketing & PR

Posted on December 13, 2010. Filed under: Books, Marketing and Public Relations | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Real-Time Marketing & PR - book coverYou know how they say time is money? Well, these days it’s your reputation, too.

With an always-on 24/7 internet, if you’re in the news in a negative way, you must respond immediately.

There’s little time to plod though a carefully measured crises communications plan while a story races across the web — where videos go viral and Twitter unleashes a torrent of messages in mere seconds.

It’s time for your marketing and PR to get real

If that thought puts you on edge, or you doubt it’s true, then you could be in for a rude awakening. Or, you can get up to speed by reading Real-Time Marketing and PR, the latest book by marketing maven, A-list blogger, David Meerman Scott.

Just as he did in his groundbreaking The New Rules of Marketing and PR, Scott’s new book helps you see how certain long-held practices are not merely obsolete, but dangerous to your livelihood.

How NOT to engage in real-time PR

Anyone with access to the web can publish content. This so-easy-anyone-can-do-it circumstance sets up a scenario where, Scott says, “consumers set the pace. Left to their own devices, they imagine all sorts of things. They take unpredictable initiatives.”

One example of an imaginative consumer initiative is seen in a tale Scott recounts about Dave Carroll, a musician whose guitar got busted up by United Airlines baggage carriers. Carroll tried to get United to own up to the misdeed, but the company wouldn’t budge. So Carroll took to the web, with a video he created called United Breaks Guitars. The video went viral, news outlets and the blogosphere jumped on the story and Carroll’s plight attracted international attention.

United took a huge public relations hit, all because it would not properly respond to one customer.

Scott gives a blow-by-blow run-down of how the whole thing played out. He fills in all kinds of side details and breaks down the trajectory of the various ways the story shot across the mediaverse.

Monitoring, mobile, and real-time guidelines

United got it wrong, however the book also provides ample examples of companies that got it right by thoughtfully engaging in real-time communications. Time and again, Scott reinforces how paying attention pays off.

photo of girl holding hand to her earOf course, you can’t react in real-time unless you readily know what’s being said. For that to happen you must monitor and analyze media outlets all across the web. With so many venues, in both traditional and ever-increasing new media spheres, this can be daunting. Scott clues you in on how to turn it into a manageable task and offers a handy list of free tools such as Google Alerts, Blogpulse, Technorati and Twingly, and service providers like Attentio, Brandwatch, Cision, Radian6, Sysomos and Visible Technologies.

There’s advice for how to leverage the fastest growing real-time market: mobile, where location-based services such as Foursquare, Layar, and Mobile Spinach enable you to provide customers with instant gratification exactly where and when they want it.

There are tips on how to engage on Twitter (the big-time in real-time), ideas for how to integrate real-time tactics into your sales and customer service efforts,  plus an in-depth section on how to develop effective real-time communications policies—also known as social media guidelines.

An insider tells it like it is

All of this comes from a guy who spent most of his career in the online news business. This is an insider, telling it like it is, in lively, and sometimes good-humored, fashion.

It’s all downright practical. When delving into how to responsibly respond to online stories and social chatter about your company, Scott says: “Some people are plain crazy, and you don’t want to get dragged into dialogue with a psycho.”

Even in the real-time world, you must exercise good judgment. Scott’s book provides plenty of ideas for how your good judgment can help grow your business. Now.

– Deni Kasrel

Comments anyone? Please share your thoughts.

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The Real Job Of A Manager? Waiting For Something To Happen.

Posted on February 4, 2010. Filed under: Business Strategy | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , |

This is a guest post by one of my social media friends, Jarie Bolander, who recently published a book: FRUSTRATION FREE TECHNICAL MANAGEMENT: Proven Techniques to Thrive as a Manager. This tidy tome offers techniques using the POEMS (Personal, Organizational, Emotional, Managerial and Sustaining) process.  Jarie’s advice is applicable to communications managers—including the following intriguing thought…

Waiting for something to happen does not mean doing nothing

Most managers fill their day with productive work. They usually don’t connect the dots that their real job is to wait for something to happen. That’s right. Wait for something to happen. This is a foreign concept to most managers since they got to where they are by doing something. Waiting around for something to happen does not mean you are doing nothing. Quite the contrary. While you wait, you think about what could go wrong, monitor your environment and think about your strategy. You do tasks that need to get done but that can be dropped quickly. Monitoring your surroundings will allow you to anticipate the barriers your group will face and eliminate them. Monitoring also prepares you for the inventable crisis. This is particularly important in our hyper-connected word where communications travel as fast as electrons, bad and good news can’t be controlled and trends are created and destroyed within days.

Be Ready To Jump In

A crisis is unplanned and random. You will never know when a crisis will strike so you must be prepared to drop everything and jump in to help solve it. If your day is booked solid, then how can you deal with these random crises? This can be a major challenge for managers since waiting is not something they easily do. They got to where they are by doing. In some respects, managers tend to think that the only valuable work is something that produces a tangible result. This is true for their team but not necessarily for them. As a manager, your other job is to think about your strategy and how to deploy your resources, crisis or not.

Practical Advice

So I know this sounds like a hard thing to do but if you manage people, your best bet is to wait around for the next crisis while you think about your groups overall strategy. Doing that takes discipline and some planning. In reality, it’s about being available for your people so that you can assist them when things go wrong and thinking more longer term so you can guide your groups overall strategy. In order to achieve this, consider doing the following:

  • Take Yourself Out of the Critical Path: If you are tempted to do actual work, then at least do work that’s not in the critical path. If you are in the critical path, then when a crisis hits, it becomes a double crisis since your critical path tasks slip as well. Doing work in the critical path also dulls your forward thinking mind because you are solely focused on getting the task done and not on thinking about the longer view.
  • Delegate, Delegate, Delegate: One way to have more free time is to delegate to your staff. This is a great way to not only free yourself up but also allows you to stay about the fray so you can have some perspective. Staying above the fray will allow you to think more about how your strategies are taking shape. This is critical to a well-formed, overall strategic plan.
  • Schedule Thinking Time: On your calendar, create pockets of time to think. Preferably, hour or so chunks of time with no interruptions. These blocks of time will allow you to have a consistent time for reflection and to ponder longer-term strategies. With reflection, you will be able to handle the inventible crisis while still keeping your strategic vision in focus.
  • Train Others: The best way to free up your time is to train others to do tasks you need done. Of course, there are some tasks that you should only do but the more mundane or repetitive tasks, train someone else to do. Mangers should be involved in doing some things but in general, it’s best to have plenty of free time to ponder the deluge of data that is flung your way.
  • Ask What’s Going On: Don’t just bury your head in your own work. Ask your team what’s going on. Doing this will connect you with the action and make it easier for you to ponder what challenges your team might face. The people on the front line also see what is really happening. This data is invaluable to collect and filter because it shows whether or not your strategic vision is taking shape.

It’s About Your Staff, Not You

Having your day mostly free also allows you to be available for your staff when they need you. Since the performance of your staff is how you are judged, you need to ensure their success by always being available to them. Having a jam-packed schedule does not say you are busy but rather it says you are unavailable. This seems trivial but is a powerful tool to effectively manage people. Being free to help shows that you know what is important – your staff’s success. The other part of your job is to set your group or companies strategic focus. Being too busy to think about how best to implement your strategy will prevent it from happening. This gets compounded when a crisis hits. Your team’s ability to react to a crisis will be directly proportional to the amount of time you have spent thinking and communicating your group’s strategy for success.

Jarie’s Bio

Jarie Bolander is an engineer by training and an entrepreneur by nature. He is currently VP of R&D at Tagent, a company working on breakthrough technology that will help reduce medical errors. Jarie also blogs about innovation, management and entrepreneurship at The Daily MBA and has recently published his first book, FRUSTRATION FREE TECHNICAL MANAGEMENT: Proven Techniques to Thrive as a Manager.

Thanks to Jarie for sharing his ideas with us. If you want to know more about how he thinks, buy Jarie’s book or follow him on Twitter @thedailymba.

It it really a good idea for managers to wait for something to happen? Do you have a story to share that applies here? Comments welcome?

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The State of Social Media Marketing

Posted on January 4, 2010. Filed under: Communications Strategy, Marketing and Public Relations, Social Media | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

With so many social media tools and tactics to choose from how do you know what’s best to promote your brand?

You’re not looking to simply follow the hype, right?

Better to go with well-researched data regarding the reality of the many social media options. Learn about true-life success stories (and failures, to avoid making those same mistakes). Figure out what fits your situation and use that information as a guide.

Ah, but where to begin?

Well, for starters, there’s a new report by MarketingProfs called The State of Social Media Marketing. Based on survey results from 5,000+ professionals, it covers a lot of ground, to include budgets, benchmarks, metrics, trends and most/least effective strategies. The 242-page report comes chock full of graphs and charts. It’ll keep you busy for a nice while.

Meantime, I asked Tim McAtee, MarketingProf’s director of research, to provide a little peek under the covers. He most graciously obliged with this illuminating Q&A interview, which hits on a number of key areas addressed in the report.

There are plenty of marketing surveys out there, yet you claim yours is different and is more nuanced. Can you elaborate?

Tim: There are three big differences:

  1. We have a much bigger sample than other studies, which means aggregate trends are more likely to be accurate, and there are enough respondents to look at really specific smaller cuts of the data and still have projectable findings.
  2. We acknowledge that there is a difference in voice when it comes to social media—the voice of “the corporation”, “the worker”, and “the person”.  We all put on different hats at different times and use social technology very differently depending on which of these voices we’re using at the time.  It’s really important to acknowledge that and to structure survey questions to allow for that difference to be shown in the data.
  3. Because social media is a very human endeavor, we tried to think about it in very human terms.  For example, we looked at personality types and corporate culture to see if there was correlation between these and social media usage and success (there was).  Also, instead of just asking about social media budgets, we asked about time-spent with social media.

Can you explain the methodology – how was the survey conducted?

Tim: The core of the study is a survey sampling our base of 300,000+ MarketingProfs members.  Most studies go out trying to find social media users, then ask them about usage.  This creates an imbalance in the data from the start.  It’s all numerator, no denominator.  We survey as many marketers as possible regardless of social media use to get a better sense of who is not using social media, and why, in addition to who is.  Out of the 5,140 marketers we asked, about 70% are using social media for work purposes.  In addition to this survey data, we pull in outside panel data to look at consumer usage of media and technology.  For this study, we turned to ComScore for up-to-date numbers on usage of a variety of social websites and tools both in the US and globally.

You surveyed the relationship between corporate culture and social media success — what did you find to be the most and least ideal type of culture for social media support and success?

Tim: The one consistently negatively correlating corporate culture across all types of success metrics was “prefers to maintain the status quo”.  On the positive side, a willingness to have “honest internal dialogue about marketing successes and failures” was often key.  However, it’s not quite that simple.  Companies with nothing to hide did well with more open marketing tactics like unrestricted employee blogging, while highly secretive companies did well with more controlled tactics like PR and managed communities.  In other words, companies should be fitting the right tactics to their culture, not revamping their culture to keep up with irrelevant tactics.

What about B2B vs. B2C – what are the major differences as to how these two market sectors are approaching social media? Why do you think this is so?

Tim: I think the difference is really just one of reach and target audience size.  Consumer-facing companies tend to favor direct communication with large numbers of people, while business-facing companies focus more on the quality of a short list of contacts.  The tactics you use to promote building the size of your lists vs. nurturing a small list are very different.  The one thing both do well is to use social media to listen.

Spending for social media is growing. Where do you see the biggest increase – what aspect is getting the most attention expense-wise?

Tim: Expense-wise, the biggest cost has to be employee time.  After that, probably analytics.  Automating the listening and customer-service aspects of social media is key to scaling up corporate usage of these platforms.

What did you find out about the true cost of social media?

Tim: There’s kind of a gray-market of social media work going on.  60% of marketers using social media at work for work purposes aren’t actually paid to do so—it’s not “technically” part of their job.  I think the true cost of social media is hidden.

Are companies now creating new roles specific to social media, or is it still more an add-on to other responsibilities?

Tim: It’s more of an add-on responsibility at present.  Who does what depends largely on role.  CEOs are often staying late to blog and tweet and generally maintain the thought-leadership aspects of social media, while PR people and customer service people are suddenly trying to handle complaints on Twitter, blogs, Facebook, etc.  Ideally, companies should be creating roles and guidelines regarding who does what when it comes to social media to ensure that strategic goals are being met and employee time is spent wisely.  In other words, the CEO shouldn’t be handling complaints on Twitter, and some junior PR person probably shouldn’t be blogging on behalf of the corporation.

If it’s more an add-on, does that short-change social media efforts?  Or is this indicative of how social media needs to be integrated into marketing, as opposed to being seen as something separate?

Tim: All media is becoming social.  It’s inextricable.  Smart people need to figure out how to make the best of it.  The hard part will be sorting the signal from the noise.  That’s why it’s so important to have analytical systems in place.  Are three crazy people complaining about your product on Twitter or is this a groundswell you need to pay attention to before it develops into a mass-media news story that does lasting damage?  Should you route information coming from consumers to your R&D department, your customer service department, or your PR department?  As these new channels open up, companies need to adapt their existing internal communication systems to handle input from unexpected sources.

You have a section devoted to “Most and Least Effective Social Media Tactics and Strategies” – can you give a top level overview of these findings?

Tim: Listening works very well, broadcasting often doesn’t.  Targeting niche groups with highly relevant information is much easier and effective when you know who you’re talking to.

I loved the question: “What are some commonly used but counterproductive social media tactics.” Can you offer some insight about the most telling responses?

Tim: Counter-productive tactics mostly have to do with using social media platforms like broadcast platforms. Dialogue is a lot more work than monologue and most marketers aren’t prepared for that. They present their broadcast message which either falls on deaf ears because no one cares, or people do care, respond, and the marketer is suddenly swamped with thousands of responses they can’t handle.

A section of the report covers the topic: “Do Social Media Workers Think Differently? Differences found in the values and personalities of social media workers.” That one sounds fascinating. When you say differently, how do you mean– different from what? And then, what did you find out about how social media workers’ personalities and other characteristics may differ from other marketers (or maybe they’re the same, after all).

Tim: We looked at Meyers-Briggs types and values statements, then compared them to social media usage to see where differences arise.  We found that there were more similarities than differences, but that those most involved in social media professionally do indeed over-index on very specific personality traits, such as the desire to mix their work and personal lives.  Based on some spikes in the data, Intuitive Extroverts that are not perfectionists, but will “roll with the punches” seem to be the best fit for social media marketing, especially when they are already doing a job that involves a lot of writing.

Did any of the results surprise you? Anything that stood out and made you think “wow” now that’s really something?

Tim: What surprised me the most was how complicated the results were.  There are really few trends that apply to all types of people or all types of companies.  The learning curve for figuring out how to incorporate and take advantage of social media at the corporate level is much steeper than I expected.

If you had to narrow it down to two big takeaways from this report, what would they be?

Tim:

  1. Social media seems inevitable, so every company needs to be adapting their current business operations to factor in these channels of communication, including paying people to work them.
  2. Figuring out your social media strategy is far more important than immediately enacting a bunch of social media marketing tactics.  Don’t listen to anyone advocating one-size-fits-all social media tactics, with the exception of using social channels to listen—everyone can benefit from that.  Instead, map tactics back to an over-arching strategy that makes sense for your company and your customers.

-Deni Kasrel

How do YOU see the state of social media marketing? Does it fit what you read about here, or is it different? Please share your thoughts and experience.

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The Boob Trial

Posted on December 2, 2009. Filed under: Blogs/Blogging | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Guest post by: Steve Hartkopf | Read his blog

If you blog, then you know that generating traffic takes constant promotion, especially in the beginning.  My blog readership is up nicely this year and it isn’t an accident — I work hard.

I believe bloggers earn every one of their readers. That said, I’m always searching for new ways to attract more readers. This post is about how that very common goal led me down an unexpected path.

The path between my pragmatic readership goal and what I’m now calling, The Boob Trial, requires some background.

Sex sells

It’s no surprise, especially to those of you who have teenage boys, that words associated with sex and the female anatomy are highly (Highly!) searched on the Internet. I mixed those two facts and, whammo, The Boob Trial was born.

Joanna Krupa is a famous bikini model and recent contestant on Dancing With The Stars, which is where I was introduced to her. When she was (unjustly) eliminated last week, she handled it with maturity and poise. Her fans, however, did not. They sent emails and posted comments about Joanna’s treatment, they acted like boobs. I took the liberty of naming them, Joanna Krupa’s boobs. My November, 23 blog, “Bloggers, Don’t Act Like Joanna Krupa’s Boobs,” was written to coach my fellow bloggers using Joanna as an example.

I just wanted them to redirect their energies and stop whining about how hard it is to find an audience. If you’re a great writer it may be “unfair” that you can’t generate an audience. Who knows? But whining is not the cure or the solution to your problem. The solution, as it is in most of life, is hard work. OK, so I had a little fun with boobs. Hey, you know what I mean.

The boob test

Good tests have limited variables so I abandoned my usual promotional activities and only posted a few Tweets.  I do a lot more promoting for most of my blog entries, but this was my version of a Mammogram, a boob test. The results were probably predictable but hilarious, nonetheless.

To determine the impact of boobs I needed some numbers, so I calculated my average pageviews, bounce rates and visitor duration for the prior three months and they became my baseline, my average day. Here are the results:

  • “Boobs” increased my pageviews 331%. 331%!
  • My bounce rate, which refers to the number of people who view one page and leave, went up 340%. That’s bad because it means virtually none of my new visitors stuck around to peruse my site. One and done, baby.
  • The average length of time spent on my site is about 4:00 minutes but I’ve had visitors hang around for a half an hour. Not Monday. The average visit was under 30 seconds. Apparently my new visitors aren’t big readers. No pics, no sticks.

More than meets the eye?

I’m always very grateful when anyone takes the time to read my blog, leave a comment or send an email. So I want all my loyal readers to know that I don’t ever plan on using such tactics again.

However, if it weren’t for my little experiment, would Deni have asked me to write a guest blog? So maybe suspending my better judgment wasn’t a bad idea? Maybe there’s more here than meets the eye? I wonder what Heidi Klum is up to?

Steve Hartkopf, is the founder and managing partner of Aligned Marketing, LLC a marketing consulting and technology solutions provider. Steve’s insights and clear communication cut through the noise to increase sales, improve profitability and lower costs.

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