Previous month:
July 2009
Next month:
September 2009

August 2009

espn's twitter fumble: the real value of influencers

Yesterday, ESPN sent a memo to all employees telling them not to tweet or participate in social about sports without permission, as ESPN is building a system to push content simultaneously to both Facebook and Twitter.  I understand ESPN's desire for quality control and respect ninety percent of this policy.  But the message not to participate as an individual on your own, was the wrong one (this post focuses on value to ESPN, I know there is a moral argument for work/life rights, I'm not addressing it here).  This was the strategic wrong move for two reasons. 

 A) Their employees are having conversations and not pushing messages.  Unless ESPN's system powers conversations, they are talking apples and oranges.  ESPN needs to build a system or policies and guidelines, not walls.  Use your employee influence.  Let them build it, then SELL IT!

B) ESPN is a network.  In social, ESPN's influencers have far more value as conversational influencers than as traditional content sources.

There are three components common to all social influencers that drive attention and engagement:

  1. Personality
  2. Content/Engagement
  3. Destination (their earned audience on a given platform)

While I am sure that @ESPN feeds on Twitter could draw a large audience,this audience wouldn't be as intimate or meaningful as that of a conversational influencer.  As an advertiser, I would want to buy into BOTH @ESPN's push message stream and an influencer engagement.

So listen up ESPN.  Sports fans love your tickers and streams, but they also have a close connection with your on-air and in-print personalities.  Use them wisely.

(If you work with ESPN and would like to discuss how to build a cooperative strategy with your employees, please feel free to email me.  My address is in the sidebar on the right.)

the paradox of social commodities

    • Social Commodity Standards enable scale but challenge innovation.
    • Commodities are possibly the most scaled standards.
    • Creativity and flexibility within a commodity are difficult, often near impossible.
    • Social success often relies on creativity and flexibility.

    Can there be a successful social commodity? 

    4 Types of Social Commodities Available Today

      1. Personalities - Federated Media will bring some of the world's best, brightest and most popular personalities to the right brands in the right environments.  Federated has found a commodity in the influencer.  Creativity comes from the partnership between the influencer and the supporting brand.  In this case, the commodity is fairly customized with the only common standard being the pool of influencers Federated works with.
        • This isn't really much a commodity.
      2. Leads - More than a few PR firms have pitched either my team or my clients with lists of influencers with whom they have "close, ongoing relationships".  With rare exception, I don't believe this is a viable, real or honest, nor is a database a guarantee of coverage.
        • This may be a commodity, but its value is debatable.
      3. Media & Experiences - one can purchase media, or a brand experience in most social environments.  Creativity here lies in how you message/design as well as how you use the tools and technologies available.  While there is stronger creative flexibility, most people are in social environments for social reasons, and are not interested in your media, and have limited interest in your brand experience unless it is very close to who they are and how they socialize.
        • While these may be somewhat commoditized, success comes from positioning and creativity.  This hardly scratches the surface of the world of possibilities, but it's a commodity!
      4. Paid Promotions - IZEA is trying to build a platform for Paid Promotions, bringing lots of discussion and controversy to the industry.  But can paid promotions present a viable commodity?  I'm really not sure.

    Every social site and network is facing this challenge.  Monetization will not just be about banners, nor will it be about one-off integrations with brands.  Standards are needed to drive economies scale.  But how can one find social value and unique creativity in a standard commodity-based offering?

    This is the paradox of social commodities.

    Sponsored Tweets isn't the end of the world as we know it

    Sponsored-Tweets-logo A few weeks back I got a Direct Message inviting me to check out Sponsored Tweets, and I had many of the same doubts and reservations any smart marketer would have.  Last week, Ted Murphy took a handful of us on a walking tour of the platform and I must say, it's not the devil and it is a giant leap forward past IZEA's traditional product offerings. 

    However, if you don't believe in sponsored conversations or posts, you will not like this platform.  I personally believe in the Mutual Social Contract Theory, and believe that each tactic may have it's place in a marketing toolkit, assuming it is performed ethically and with full and clear disclosure.  This is a highly controversial area and not the subject of this post.

    What Is Sponsored Tweets?

    Sponsored Tweets is a platform that allows brands and marketers to pitch sponsored messaging opportunities to tweeters of all levels of influence.  While advertisers can control the sponsored tweet either by writing the initial tweet or reviewing user created sponsored tweets, the tweeter always has the right not to post.  The premise behind Sponsored Tweets walks the fine line between advertising, sponsorship and PR while respecting the tweeter fairly nicely. 

    How It Works

    Advertisers have a pretty decent dashboard for managing campaigns, placing bids on individual tweeters and choosing whether or not to accept the tweeter's message (assuming they don't mandate a generic message).  The system includes decent profile information on the tweeter so the marketer knows who they are bidding on and what their approximate value is to the advertiser. 

    There is also a separate option to work with both individual and publisher tweeters with larger followings in a less "long tail" platform. For more details on the dashboard, check out Mashable's coverage or the Sponsored Tweets site.

    The only real shortcoming of the platform is that advertisers cannot yet track subsequent conversations generated by your tweeters.


    With that being said, there are a few things this platform is not.  This platform is not:

    • THE Twitter Advertiser Solution
    • Suitable for most healthcare or financial brand messaging
    • A stand-alone social marketing solution
    • A substitute for good social marketing strategy
    • A substitute for influencer outreach

    However, if used strategically this platform may be good for:

    • Sparking a conversation
    • Getting a message out fast
    • Getting on certain power-users radars
    • Becoming an instant trending topic (you had better have a good follow up story to close the loop if you're running with a gimmick)
    • Getting your link out into the twitterverse
    • Generating buzz about something brand new

    With that said, brands should consider the following best practices:

    • Whenever possible, let the tweeter write the message
    • Give yourself or your agency time to read personal messages
    • Consider the potential to re-use these personal messages in ad copy
    • The more creative your message, the more it will stand out. Be short and pithy.
    • If you are in including a URL, keep it short. Let your URL tell your story.
    • If you don't have a Twitter account, consider using your Sponsored Tweets promo to introduce yourself to the world.
    • Include your Twitter account (if you have one) in this promotion.  Follow up on sponsored messages with a thank you. 
    • Sponsorship is around the conversation.  Your strongest success will come from the advocacy you foster within the conversation.  Don't substitute marketing with a gimmick.  Get into the pool and play.  Have a conversation.  Build relationships.  Don't just buy it, earn it.

    why we read, why we trust

    Why we read why we trust

    IZEA makes noise, and that is (by and large) good for a company that sells noise.

    There's nothing wrong with a gimmick.  But gimmicks aren't a substitute for strategic marketing.  And bad gimmicks are bad for everyone.

    There is a reason that we read, that we subscribe and that we engage with social personalities.  They entertain, they inform and most importantly, we as brands, readers and marketers know what to expect.  These expectations for an unwritten social contract.

    Advertising and sponsored messages have a place as advertising and sponsored messages.  Promotions have a place as promotions, and social personalities have the right to do as they please.  However, anything that compromises the integrity of the social interaction weakens the unwritten social contract that bonds the social personality with their audience.

    This does no good for the social personality, their audience or the offending/support brand.  And any social personality who seriously violates this contract has limited integrity, limited trust and limited value to brands. 

    There is a lot of good that can come from a good relationship between social personalities and marketers, but only so long as it doesn't compromise the integrity of the unwritten social contract.

    Use your gimmicks as gimmicks.  Don't forget the marketing.

    Reblog this post [with Zemanta]