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September 2011

New Years, New Hopes, New Dreams

2898960550_972bc1e1eb_b As we prepare for Rosh Hashanah - the Jewish New Year, I usually take a moment to look back on the past year and share my hopes and dreams for the coming year.  It has been a wild 12 months, and I would like to thank Gd, my wife, children, family, friends and colleagues for all of the wonderful support and blessings I have been privileged to receive.

At this juncture last year:

  • My wife and I were learning to play man-to-man defense as our newborn son Ovadya reintroduced us to sleepless nights and endlessly pooped diapers.
  • We had no idea how we were going to find the time to cook and prepare for the Jewish holiday season with our newborn celebrating his newfound ability to scream our three year old "celebrating" his new competition brother.
  • We had set our sites on aliyah to Israel and were just beginning to plan for the move.  I vividly recall my wife telling me "There is some paperwork we have to go through."  Some was an understatement.
  • I was celebrating the launch of my first scaled social customer service and social commerce platforms, and was beginning to craft the framework for what would become my first whitepaper.

The year we're facing a very different set of challenges:

  • We are still learning our way around Israeli society.  How do you say overnight pull-ups in Hebrew?   Or better yet, in Russian?  That supermarket stock boy seemed to have less command of Hebrew than we did.
  • I'm learning the ropes in a very exciting and new position (more to come on that soon).
  • We are trying to figure out how we're going to find the time and space to cook and prepare for the upcoming holidays with our new kitchen under construction. (Answer: don't sleep!)
  • First time home ownership in a brand new country and culture is... interesting.

Looking back on this past year, I couldn't be happier with the changes in my personal life, my family life and my career.  While life certainly hasn't gotten much easier or simpler, we have learned a number of valuable life lessons and grown with the challenges.

Throughout this journey, the greatest lesson I have learned is that life is as wonderful or difficult as you choose to make it.  Sure, the economy isn't great.  And budgets in almost every field are being cut.  And some of my close and very talented friends are out of a job.  Everyone is being asked to do more with less.  Cliche as it sounds, I have begun to realize that happiness is not found in materialism and satisfaction is not found by reaching a pinnacle of perfection.  Happiness can only be found in the journey itself.

As we set out on another year, I would like to wish all of you a year of health and happiness, joy and love, inspiration and faith.  Shannah Tovah and Happy New Year!

Influencers Are Bad Social Indicators

Here's the great paradox of social media:

  1. Great insights and effective communications create social celebrity.
  2. The larger ones audience and the more advanced ones engagement with many popular social platforms, the less "regular" their engagement in social media.
  3. As these thought leader's engagement with social media becomes increasingly irregular, their perspectives becomes less relevant to the masses.
  4. Platforms rarely take off and reach the masses without first attracting early adopter praise.

Early-adopter thought leaders are hardly in a position to determine the utility or predict the success of social platforms because they don't interact with these environments like regular people do.

There is a grain of truth to the running joke that Robert Scoble breaks social media.  This isn't because Scoble is evil (he isn't).  It's simply because Scoble dives into new platforms headfirst, exploring and explaining the latest and greatest.  Scoble's legions of fans accompany him to the newest platform, often overwhelming the platform design and capacity.  This does not represent the "normal" or "intended" user experience, it's an anomaly brought about by celebrity.

I greatly value the perspective of thought leaders.  I'm addicted to TechMeme and read ReadWriteWeb, TechCrunch and AllThingsD (among others) on a daily basis.  I listen to half a dozen industry podcasts (This Is My Next, TWiT, TWiG, For Immediate Release and others) religiously.  These platforms and their contributors are brilliant.  And there is a clear trend emerging.  

Thought leaders are increasingly looking at their own, advanced social networking as the norm.  This colors the perspective of their listeners and by extension the broader industry .  The mainstream perspective is colored by the early adopted point of view.  However, these markets have very different needs.  Most "regular" people aren't concerned about the Facebook Timeline or Google+ as a blogging substitute because most "regular" people have no interest in blogging.  The same goes for cross-platform functionality (ex FriendFeed), advanced privacy filtering, data portability and advanced data privacy settings: most regular people simply don't care.

Regular people use social media to keep in touch with friends both real and virtual.  They want an easy solution that simply works.  They expect their private information to remain private.  That's all.

Do not judge a platform designed for the masses by the expert reviews.  Judge it by the way your parents and neighbors would use it.  Ask that teeen in your life what they think.  The less informed and advanced have a great deal to offer the rest of.  I can't wait for the day when TechCrunch creates an advisory panel of technology impaired moms.  They are our future.

Did Facebook Devalue Fans and Likes?

Like Unlike Liking or as many still call it, fan-ing a brand is rarely an endorsement.  It's a relationship.  Much like the symmetrical nature of Facebook interpersonal relationships where both parties must agree to the relationship, Liking a page before commenting lends a degree of value and meaning to the relationship.

Unfortunately for marketers, Facebook has sent the message loud and clear: brand relationships are not as valued as human relationships.  This was the right move for Facebook as a platform and I believe this is a positive move for the platform overall.  But does it punish advertisers?  Consider the following changes:

  • Photos on brand walls do not display in the new large format.  
    • Implication: I'm fairly confident that this is a short-term inconsistency that will be updated as part of a broader brand page update.  Marketers invest quite a bit in their Facebook solutions and these solutions are often disrupted by platform updates.  Bundling updates and giving major brand and page management partners plenty of advanced notice has become the standard practice.
  • Likes of brand content in Facebook may not generate a wall post.  This one is a shocker.  I hope that this is another layer of relevancy filtering an not a full "off" switch as David implies.  A better filter solutions would go a step beyond the relevancy filtering Facebook added they introduced the Most Recent and Top News filters.  A full off-switch however, would serve to limit the value of the Like action.  The content Like button had historically (a) generated social visibility/virality among the Likers friends and (b) served as a relevancy indicator for Facebook's Top News filter.  A full off-switch solution would limit the value of a Like to serving only as a relevancy indicator.  It sounds like Facebook is going with a full off-switch solution.
    • Implication: While lower social visibility is not a good thing for brand marketers, this doesn't change the way we manage and message to our communities.  Community managers still need to write content that drives fans to Like and comment.  As I noted before, historical social engagement helps Facebook determine the relevancy of the message to the fan and impacts the primacy it is given on the user's wall.  As Facebook only shows your brand page updates to people who engage and interact with your messaging, driving that interaction is as essential as ever.

      As Craig Daitch points out, this also puts increased  importance on an outside-in content strategy.  Content shared into Facebook from third party sites using Facebook's social plug-ins will continue to post to the wall.  Which begs the question - should brands cross-post their blog content into Notes on Facebook or embed social plug-ins on their blogs?  
    • Analysis: Three years ago a full "off switch" measure would have seriously hurt marketer interest in Facebook.  Social visibility and the network effect were key components to the pitch I and countless others made to justify large investments in platforms like Facebook.  At this point however, virtually every major marketer and countless smaller marketers are already on Facebook and actively investing in Facebook's virtuous circle by creating content and experiences fans will hopefully value.

      As the number of marketers on the platform grew, Facebook noted the obvious trend - marketers created more noise than signal.  This is disruptive to the user experience.  This situation is quite similar to a couple of years back when Facebook had to minimize the social visibility of in-app actions (remember FarmVille?) in order to preserve the value of their platform to their users.  

      A full off-switch solution will open a greater sales avenue for the Sponsored Stories ad unit.  Brands who want the inherent endorsement that is a socially visible action can buy an ad unit that highlights this action.  I do not believe that ad-sales drove this change.

      What is good for Facebook and their users is generally good for marketers looking to engage with those users.  Even with a core marketering tool removed, a better user experience is good for marketers in the long run.
  • Brand page visitors can comment on a page without liking it.
    • Implications and Analysis below

By allowing non-Likes to comment on a brand page, Facebook just changed the community management dynamic.  And the impact to marketers is going to be significant.

The Crises Scenario

I have worked with many major corporate brands as they went through crises or suffered from repeated poor customer service mini-disasters.  In a truly unique social anomoly, brands experiencing a crisis generally see their subscription numbers rise (this is true of both Facebook and Twitter but rarely blogs).  This forces the brand into the spotlight, placing increased importance on not only their participation but their response to the crisis.  The more that people Liked the brand in order to berate them, the larger the platform the brand had to respond.  Savvy crises managers used this platform appropriately, sharing public and scaled responses that addressed the overall issues while maintaining a strategic level of participation (over-communications fuels the fire).

By removing the Like barrier to commenting, Facebook removed a powerful tool that brands used to engage their communities in times of crises - the wall post.  In the new dynamic, brands can no longer broadcast their responses to the many interested parties - those who have Liked and therefor subscribed to the brand updates.  

This encourages pile-on behavior.  In one recent crisis, a client had dozens of people repeating a negative story that turned out not to be true.  The brand posted to their Facebook page and blog, clarifying that this story was not true.  Whereas prior to this post about 90% of the posts maintained that this story was true, following this post about 90% of the community self policed by sharing the brand response with negative commenters.  Without the broader reach that the Like-gated commenting dynamic provided to the brand, the brand response would not have been as effective.

Overall Impact

Moving beyond the crises scenario, these change suggests that brands are going to have to earn their attention rather than buying fans through media and promotions.  Brands will begin to operate like "everyone's friend" where anyone can comment on their wall.  This pushes brands to enhance their organic growth through strong community management and conversational participation.  Change is never easy, but this is a change smart marketers will learn to appreciate.

Implications for Marketers

  • Brands must continue to invest in creating content that is relevant to their community AND builds interest in the brand lifestyle.  Brands must think beyond advertorial and easy community response posts (what is your favorite movie?) and create lifestyle content that is likely to resonate with the interests of the community lifestyle.  This should increase the post's organic visibility even with the new updates.
  • Crises management strategy hasn't really changed.  That said:
    • It is essential that brands cultivate an active and positive community before a crisis occurs.  These advocates will likely assist in community self-policing as well as sharing your broadcast responses with new complainers.
    • Crises may last longer than they have in the past.  The efficacy of the brand response has been limited, so it is reasonable to expect that the crisis may take longer to whither and die.
  • Brand marketers must demonstrate value-oriented analytics beyond the fan count.  New metrics such as "first time commenters" will help demonstrate the value generated by the brand investment in Facebook.


With all due respect to David and the team at All Facebook, Facebook is not punishing advertisers.  They are changing the rules of the game in the interest of advancing their own platform.  What's good for Facebook and their users is generally good for marketers investing in the success of this platform.  We've long known that this was a dynamic and changing environment.  Complain all you want, but as a social marketer your success will be driven by your ability go with the flow.  

If you want stability, go into radio.  

Facebook's New Design: Windows into our future

Facebook's new page design will engineer a modified Facebook user experience.  While these changes may seem random to many novice users, Facebook is in fact subtly re-engineering the way we interact with their platform.

That said, few of these changes seem final or complete.  I have a good feeling that these are first steps towards a greatly evolved Facebook experience, over time.  Consider the recent changes below:

  • Asymmetrical Social Experiences - Whereas most Twitter users were public and anyone could "follow" anyone else, Facebook was built on a mutually agreed upon (aka symmetrical) relationship (what normal people call friending).  This fundamental component in many ways defined the way the platform and user interaction experience.  "Subscribing" to public figures changes this dynamic and mixes social with less-social content.  

    To me, it feels almost out of place to see Subscription  content in the main content area.  When I Like or Fan a brand page, brands generally speak in a common social langage.  Much of the subscription content I've seen is an odd mix of Twitter style updates, or very personal messages (such as pictures with friends) that aren't relevant to me as a subcriber because I don't relate to that aspect of their lives.  I'm not sure if this is a product of my inexperience with the new platform, celebrity unfamiliarity with this new dynamic, or a Facebook design flaw.
  • Richer Media - Larger pictures and interactive areas in the newsfeed is a natural evolution of the platform.  People are sharing increasing amounts of media.  As a social object, media generates conversational interaction.  And our screens continue to grow larger with increasing resolutions, making larger media viewing more accessible to more people.  Good job Facebook.  Now (and I know I'm a geek here), I would like to see public image search and Creative Commons licensing ala Flickr.

  • Non-Linear Social Content - whereas Google Plus puts the most recently content interacted with content on top, Facebook and Twitter generally followed a historically linear navigation scheme.  Top Stories is a natural evolution of the stream/wall (this was already on brand pages), though it does not quite feel "in line" with my previous Facebook experiences.
  • Dynamic Activity Bar - the right hand navigation area is a mixed blessing.  I don't really care about what most of my friends do.  Facebook knows this, and this is why they gave us Top Stories.  Putting all of this activity into the right hand sidebar doesn't do much to enhance my Facebook experience.
  • New Friends Bar - the lower right hand bar displays which of your friends are available for chat.  Whereas in the past this had been a fixed, seemingly random list of my friends, the new bar allows me to scroll through the list to see which of my friends are online.  This is convenient and well thought out.

  • Right Hand Bar Overall -  The right hand bar really bugs for a couple of reasons.  Firstly, it is not consistent with Facebook's design scheme.  There have been and otherwise continue to be core design elements to all Facebook pages, such as the title bar.  All content sits in it's own neatly defined area within this overall design scheme.  The right hand bar breaks these basic design elements and looks like a legacy element thrown into a new design scheme (or more likely, an element from a new design scheme plopped on top of an old one).  The bar looks and feels like an overlay, one I would like to be able to minimize.

    My second gripe with the right hand bar is the dual scrolling functionality.  I can now scroll vertically in three different areas - in the status bar (by mousing over and clicking), in the friend bar (by mousing over the clicking) and in my browser (by moving my mouse a smidge and clicking).  This is simply poor design.

    UPDATE (9/22/11): It looks like this is part of a broader page redesign, including a "floating" top line navigation bar.
  • Smart Lists - What took so long?  Facebook had the data, I wish this would have been available sooner.  It's a great feature.  I want to see it get better.  It is not easy enough to merge smart lists with my legacy lists and create the lists that matter most to me.  For example, in my legacy lists I had some people from my old job in a "friends" list and some people in a "restricted" list based on how close I was to them.  Facebook now has them sorted into Brooklyn and Digitas.  Just because someone that I worked with lives in Brooklyn and/or works at Digitas does not in anyway define the closeness of our relationship.

With these changes, Facebook is moving in a number of interesting directions.  That said, this latest update feels like the start of a number of great concepts without the optimal realization of these great ideas.  I'm sure this will get iteratively better over the coming months.

  1. Facebook is recognizing that there are different roles and relationships formed around public versus private conversations.  
  2. Facebook is recognizing that celebrity, punditry, and brand marketing do not all fit in the same environment.  
  3. Facebook is recognizing that social noise is both entertaining and overwhelming. They are giving us two ways to navigate this dichotomy.
  4. Facebook is giving us better control over our friend lists - recognizing that not all friends are created equal.
  5. Facebook is hinting at a new more "industrial" design scheme that may prove more useful or relevant to a new overall Facebook experience.  


    An expansion on the industrial design theme shown in the right hand nav bar will look great in Windows Phone 7 or Windows 8.  Whether by luck or by design, this will serve as a test of what will one day become Metro-ready Tiles.  Facebook has already unbundled their services on iOS.  This is going to be the next step in distributing the Facebook experience to Windows and possibly other computing platforms.

Facebook @ Scale Part 1: Page Architecture and Social Management

Facebook Marketing Facebook marketing at scale presents a number of unique challenges.  Over this five part series, we will explore each of the primary challenges facing major marketers on an evolving platform.

Let's say you are the social marketing manager for a major Consumer Packaged Goods brand.  Within your organization:

  • There are five overall product families. 
  • Within each product family you have multiple brands.  
  • Within each brand you have multiple sub-brands.  
  • Many of your sub-brands are further divided into specialty product lines. 

70% of your overall target audience are mothers.  However, different brands speak to different groups of mothers or different parts of a mother's life.  Should you create a single page for all moms?  Should you segment by your product line?  By target market?  By consumer facing brand name?   


Your convenience snack line generally targets mothers shopping for 6-11 year old children, whereas the beverage division speaks to mothers looking to treat themselves to something special.  Your microwavable breakfast brand targets lower income mothers, while your haircare products targets mothers with a good deal of disposable income.  

Will these mothers value one another as a community?  Will your marketing organization go for a unified solution?  Should each of the brands receive it's own Facebook page?  What about the many secondary audiences?  How about the many other common-interests that may join your fans - should you segment by related interest (ex children, cleaning, guilty pleasures)?

Best Practices Common Practices 

There is no accepted market norm or best practice for brand page information architecture.  There are four overall approaches: Centralized, Decentralized, Hub and Spoke, and Tabs As Pages.

  1. Centralized Pages feature multiple brands or sub-brands on a single page.
  2. Decentralized Pages feature individual pages for each sub-brand.  
  3. Hub and Spoke solutions deploy a centralized page segmented by a shared commonality (target, affinity or interest) alongside navigation to decentalized pages.  For example, Kraft has a central CRM/recipe page in Kraft Foods that links out to product pages.
  4. Tabs As Pages is a growing trend whereby brands feature tabs in place of pages.  Tabs can feature identical content and near-synchronized converations across pages.  This provides brands with a horizontal compliment to vertical information archictecture schemes.  For example, a "recipes" application could easily live across all Kraft managed Facebook pages, providing a unified environment for home cooking enthusiasts across brands, products and audiences.


  • Centralized Solution: there is value in building a scaled community.  A central community streamlines operations, enables richer ad targeting and provides a greater total engaged audience who will in-turn feed off of one other's energy and enthusiasm.
  • Decentralized Solution: allow flexibility in brand tone and messaging - which often varries greatley between brands.  While most moms share similar affinities (their children), the social-cultural divide between different types of moms doesn't lend itself to one-size-fits all community building
  • Hub and Spoke Solution: The Hub and Spoke system requires additional investment in resources, as well as alignment across social managers.  When dealing with dozens of individual pages, coordination and collabortion becomes manpower exhaustive.
  • Tabs As Pages: Tabs are not pages.  A few developers (such as Vitrue) offer the ability to push/target wall posts at only fans/likes who have Liked a tab.  Managing an editorial/wall post calendar segmented by Tabs Liked adds a layer of complexity to an already complex channel.  Overall, the tab environment is very different from a complete Facebook page.  That said, this approach is a nice compliment to a strategic page infrastructure.

Key Page Architecture Considerations

When considering the right solutions for your brand, consider each of the following:

  • What is your current Facebook brand footprint?
  • Who manages each of these pages?
  • Who are your targeted audience demographics? Where do they overlap?
  • What interests do your many audiences have in common?  
  • Are your desired brand voices similar or at least complimentary in a single page framework?
  • What are your available resources - human, financial, creative and technical?
  • What are your geographic considerations?
  • What is your internal management infrastructure?
  • How collaborative is your cross-product or cross-division culture?
  • How do product teams report on success?
  • How does your organization manage cross-product investment?

The Challenges of Legacy

Look at any of the major CPG marketers on Facebook.  Look at their many brands and sub-brands.  You will notice something remarkable.  There is rarely a single page architecture scheme being used.  This is no fault of the organization, their agency or their leadership.  It is the responsibility of the social manager to take these lemons and make the best damned lemonade possible.  Much of the time, there isn't yet a single manager or team directing the lemonade making, resulting in both a metaphor that has been stretched too thin, as well as an inconsistent product.

Social marketing and by extension, marketing on Facebook started largely as grassroots phenomenon.  Pages were often started by junior brand managers, interns, niche agencies, or even fans.  With the exception of certain rare circumstances (ex brand squatters), Facebook generally does not allow brands to migrate fans.  Pages can never be renamed.  When it comes to page infrastructure, the best approach I can recommend is to do the best with what you've got.  Phase out pages from campaigns and products that are long dead.  When there is a significant fan base, consider broadcasting a series of messages telling your fans that this page will be closed, but you look forward to seeing them at _____ (the appropriate new page).  As an industry, we're still building on accidental or at best, incidental foundations.  Random page names and all.

The Challenges of Evolving Platforms

Social gained increased prominence within the corporation and across the communications industry before the solutions providers or platforms had all of the right answers.  Brand Page functionality has and continues to evolve.  Techniques, technologies, policies and best practices have and continue to evolve.

This near-constant change challenges not only investment in an unknown future, but makes yesterday's planning look like yesterday's solutions.  If you wait until Facebook is done evolving, you'll be out of a job and your competition will have a significant lead.  Plan for agility.

The Challenges of Growth

A strategic social manager needs to be both firm and agile in planning for growth and scale.  While it is important that you develop a process and guidelines for adding new tabs and pages, it is important to remain nimble.  I recommend considering each of the following:

  • Education and Alignment: As your organization grows, it is essential that you become an educator and a facilitator.  Teach your organization about social and share your social mission statement/brand value statement.  Give them the tools to advocate for you and let them know what you would like of them.  Embrace your more junior advocates and recruit senior support.  Sell social and sell yourself.  Prepare for the likely questions - how can I get involed?  What can I do for my team?  
  • Executive Decisions: Remember that not everyone will agree with you or appreciate the well defined strategy you have set up.  A senior stakeholder from another side of the business may bring in another agency or solution without consulting you.  They may make the decision to add a new Facebook page without consulting you.  They may not appreciated the many points that go into getting it right.  Carefully consider where to stick your ground and when to go with the flow.  This is particularly important in the case of crises management.
  • Talent: Many social managers started as community managers.  Being a community manager at scale is unlike being a community manager for a small, intimate community.  Performance analytics and media are also somewhat different at scale.  Recruiting, training and managing the right talent demands not only a working knowledge of the platform, but strong marketing management chops.
  • Internal Management: As you become more successful in your position, it is entirely possible that senior management will place increased importance on social performance.  If you are young, it is entirely possible that you will be assigned  to work under an older manager who has less social experience.  This may feel like one step back.  Make it your two steps forward.
  • Process and Policy: As your efforts scale, it is essential that you define everything from your brand guidelines through editorial calendar process.  Don't expect everyone to know every aspect of your business.  Expect some bumps along the way.  

The Bottom Line

There are four constants in social marketing.  

  1. Not everyone will like you or your brand.
  2. You don't know what tomorrow will bring or what Facebook will change.
  3. Not everyone will appreciate the complexities of social marketing.
  4. The world is yours for the taking.

Now figure out what you're going to do about it.

Stop Fooling Yourself, Unplug

You, me and everyone else in the room knows that when you are answering emails on your mobile you aren't really present. Your kids know it. Your co-workers know it. Your clients know it. Your spouse knows it. You know it. I've come to terms with this in my own life.

But I recently had a deeper insight. When I am always plugged-in to a device, I am not really present in my own life. I don't enjoy my life as much when I live in the half-present. Not only does constant connectivity lessen my enjoyment of life, it distracts me from achieving the creative goals I set out for myself. The brain needs mindless time to reflect. This is why we come up with our best ideas in the shower.

I guarantee that if there were a tv screen in the shower, we would draw less inspiration from the shower experience. Who knows what major works of art, creativity and innovation would be lost.

Constant connectivity doesn't mean that you or I should always be digitally connected. Take for example, the interuptive mobile call. You're out with friends or a spouse, and your phone rings. 99% of the time it won't be urgent. By answering the call (as almost everyone does), you remove yourself from the present at the prospect of connecting to something greater.

Here's my big insight: connecting to something greater will rarely come by leaving ones present surroundings.

I tried this over the past couple of days. I drive just over an hour to and from work each day, totalling well over 2 hours of driving time. In the past, I listened to podcasts, newscasts, audiobooks, took conference calls, ate more than I should have etc. But for the past two days I dedicated one direction of my drive to silence. Meaningless silence. This gave me the mental space to take stock of my life situation, notice trends at work and at home I hadn't properly considered, and made my efforts both at work and at home far more productive.

Try it. This sunday when you're doing those meaningless chores, turn off the radio, iPhone and all the other backgroud noise. Just be. It works.

Inspired by the video below:


5 Challenges of Facebook Marketing at Scale

Slide1 The Facebook Brand Page is a brilliant platform.  While many are familiar with page fundamentals when operating a single page, operating Facebook marketing efforts at scale is a uniquely challenging endeavour.  

Below are the top five challenges facing marketers of scale on Facebook as a platform.  Over the next week, I will address each of these challenges and detail many of the common workarounds.

  1. Product/Brand/Sub-brand Infrastructure: Large brands (particularly consumer brands) often have multiple consumer brands and sub-brands.  These brands often target either diverse  and often overlapping audiences within a single parent brand or product group.  How many communities should you create?  What should the page infrastructure look like?
  2. Global/Local: Should every region get it's own page?  Or should your centralize your page, target your wall posts and offer language and/or geographic filtering on tabs?  Both solutions have trade-offs.
  3. Customer service is a real humdinger.  Without a "DM" or private message option, all conversations utilizing native functionality must take place in public.  It is the marketersresponsibility to maintain the safety of their fans, even when fans do not appreciate their own privacy.
  4. Social contracts and digital culture differ widely from region to region, as well as across demographics in the same geographic locale.  This impacts everything from the style of brand posts through the header imagery and even the manner in which community managers engage with their constituency.  Early global social brand guidelines neglect to address the communal norms that drive social success.
  5. CRM is a beast.  Most marketers have grown to accept that the strongest measurable value offered by Facebook is in the value of the sustained relationship built therein.  In other words, Facebook'slong term value is as a modified CRM channel.  The success of a digital CRM channel should be measured based on data and insight into the individual member of the community (the fan/liker) as a part of the traditional CRM scoring solution.  This insight can deliver an enhanced aggregate community-value score that overlays social enthusiasm with customer activity.  Most major corporations struggle with multiple and overlapping databases.  Integrating social into a strong database infrastructure is going to require a serious investment.
+1 - Change is a constant in the world of Facebook Marketing.  Whether it's terms of service, features or functionality, or minor update to the API, small changes can demand an incredible amount of change, on the fly and as scale.  This won't be a dedicated challenge, but a theme I will try to address throughout this series.

These are my top 5 (+1) challenges of Facebook marketing at scale, and I will address each of these six challenges, outline potential solutions and share a few live case studies on this blog over the coming few weeks.  If you have any additional challenges that you would like to add to this list, please leave a comment below.

AOL and HP need to invest in some curtains (as do you)

When you live in a glass house, it's imperative that you buy a good set of curtains.

In a digital era of unprecedented access and over-hyped transparency, even the venerable Apple privacy "gestapo" struggles to maintain their legendary firewall of secrecy.  
Some say it's the tequila, so let's call this The Tequila Principle.  

2411086102_953e268e93_z The Tequila Principle is as follows:

the more demand/importance a market places on a given set of information, the more likely it is to land in their hands.

This becomes particularly true when many brands center consumer marketing value proposition around modern digital culture fluency and it's rebel offspring, social media.  Social media is a double edged sword - while transparency and effective, timely communications may open doors for a marketing department, this dynamic is becomes particularly challenging when strategy and reality demand a moment of silence and introspection prior to communications.

In other words, the digital dynamic rarely offers a moment to think before you speak.  Any time spent thinking will be time the market will spend speculating.  Finding the balance between thinking and timely doing can be incredibly difficult, particularly while under considerable market pressure.

Take for example, a crises.  In the first days of crises:

  • Senior management is likely debating the real issues, with significant political pressures and big players very present in the room. While this is happening, 
  • the PR team struggles to begin planning for multiple eventual outcomes AND managing limited statement/non-statements to the press.  While this is going on, 
  • community managers fail to meet their community expectations by not addressing the pressing issue of the day - the crises.  As community managers are often young and inexperienced, this can be a particularly challenging workforce to manage.  While the community is demanding answers, 
  • the socially empowered workforce will likely remeber their social media training, as well as the key principles imparted to them - the power of transparency, the importance of honesty etc.  Even in the event of the top down memo declaring crises topics unsuitable for discussion, the community will continue to demand answers, and changes are someone will break the code of silence.  There is a strong likelihood that they've been all but trained to do so.  In my experience, despite social leadership statements to the contrary, few scales workforces truly understand and appreciate the application of the most up-to-date social policy.
  • And if you happen to be in the media space, your commentators (especially bloggers) are likely doing what they do best, commenting on all of the above.  If you don't, your community will surely leave you, right?  (note: I don't believe this to be true.)

The pressure to rectify and clarify is incredible.  The echo chambers of 24/7 news coverage and digital/social media increase this pressure by a significant multiple. Public opinion has never been as visible as it was before, with CNN broadcasting tweets and televisions in every lobby.  In my experience, hourly Radian 6 reports in panicked hands cause more harm than good.

As a result, some companies (most recently AOL and HP) over-communicate.  The PR team leaves a vague or poorly worded, hastily written statement just to "get it out there".  More junior and internal communications leads do their best to interpret the brief talking points they have been given by their bosses, but much of the message is lost in translation and personal perspectives color the messaging.

When this happens, official, unofficial and highly personal data and perspectives leak.  Chaos ensues. 

When the corporation's internal discussions, considerations, political battles and resulting confusion become transparent to outside world, the public's eyes are blown open.  The general public isn't used to seeing how the sausage is made.  I'm sure that HP has had a good deal of internal dialogue over the years regarding the possibility of selling off their consumer technology division.  In the past, these conversations stayed locked behind closed doors, doing little damage to HP.  Case in point, I just purchased an HP just as this was beginning to hit the news!

HP's rush to communicate in this most recent crises, was likely dictated by incredibly strong political and market pressures,.  Having been through many a crises myself, I have seen far too many marketing communications professionals lose sight of the big picture, forgetting basic rules of communications management in the face of massive pressure.  

In the early stages of a crises, the public needs to know that you are there, but they do not know everything.  It's often better to let them know that you are contacting your management for an answer or better yet, investigating the issue for them, than to have to come back and change your story 6 hours later.  Take the time to get it as right as you can.  Think of this as erecting temporary curtains in your glass house.

In HP's case, poor communications and repeated revisions of these communications over a two week period caused massive untold damage to both their consumer market segment brand and it's resale value.  HP lost an untold fortune due to poor communications.

The same can be said for AOL and Mike Arrington.  AOL management should have learned from  Arrington and Josh Topolsky's dust up seven months ago that bloggers have big personalities and may interpersonal internal political battles into the public sphere.  AOL should have set a accepted code of conduct with Arrington a long time ago, erecting their own curtains.  


With a sea of change disrupting seemingly every market, management has long taken a "we'll cross that bridge when we come to it" approach towards modern communications infrastructure.  Over the past few weeks, this approach has born massive untold damage to two massive organizations.  

The wait and see approach is no longer acceptable. It's time to get your house in order.  And for Gds sake, buy some curtains.  I don't need to or want to see you looking like that first thing in the morning.