finding value in your shiny objects

Social Beyond Singular Campaigns

Social currency for a brand can grow in two ways: slow and steady or slingshot

The slow and steady growth is more likely sustainable, but as most campaign metrics (and marketing metrics) utilize a traditional purchase funnel, slow and steady efforts often fail to hit key "awareness" benchmarks.

Slingshot tactics are far more gimmick-heavy and generally reach scale quickly, but they generally go dark a couple of weeks later.  These are campaigns in every sense of the word.  Give out a few free Macbook Pros on Twitter and watch your follower counts soar.  Give away seven free iPhones and watch your brand become a trending topic.  Create that incredibly creative Facebook application or visualization of the conversation, and hold up your scaled short-term engagement as your success.

But is Slingshot-value real social value?  It this where most brand will play in the space?

Probably.  As dirty as it sounds, Slingshot Marketing is going to be much of what we see in social over the coming few months.  The strategic vision, budgets and dedication to doing social right just aren't yet there.  Yet.  But with the inclusion of some basic marketing know-how, your slingshot shiny objects can be of value.

Here are a few basic principles:

  • Build ongoing social support into all activation budgets.  If you can't perform customer support triage, it will be very difficult to inspire a new consumer perspective towards the brand.  This doesn't need to be expensive, but it does require some training and strategic setup. 
  • Build for an ups and downs, not starts and stops.  Your brand doesn't need to be inspiring new conversation everyday, but it does need to be present, real, relevant and responsive to the conversation 365 days a year.
  • Slingshot Marketing/shiny objects should speak to your core brand value.  Don't give away an iPhone when you are selling a low-tech pair of socks.  Connect your shiny objects to the brand value prop.  Make your promotions speak to your messaging.
  • Invest in personalities and relationships.  Always have a twitter account available for following, and a brand page on Facebook where people who engage with the application can gather for current engagements and future activation.
  • Level set with key stakeholders that this is a shiny object, not a full social strategy. 
  • Setup your measurement, learning process and KPIs in advance. 
  • Listen to the conversation.  You just may find a few advocates and opportunities.
  • Setup a follow up lessons-learned session before you start.
  • Always bring ideas for a more strategic plan as a next step.  Neither you, nor your clients will find continued success in gimmicks in place of real marketing.

setting the record straight: Techcrunch - the community

People on a bridge
Networks Vs Communities

A network is a connection.
A community is built on top of a network.

A network does not require activity.
A community is active, built by and of people.

Where do blogs fit in?

A blog is a publication in a social context.

Communities are built around shared affinities.
Shared affinities are discovered via front-facing social objects that draw like-interested individuals. 

When thousands of active readers converge on a blog, engaging in threaded commenting and lengthy discussion - is this a blog or a community? 

Blogging has evolved.  There are now three categories.  And a fourth is just around the corner.

3 Primary Categories of Blogging

  1. Social Journalism - NY Times blogs - professionally authored and published, the social arm of a traditional media property
  2. Community Blogging - blogging as part of a conversation, a broader community. 
  3. Broadcast Blogging - traditional publishing in a blog setting.

While the technology suggests that TechCrunch is a blog, it is only a matter of time until the next category emerges.

4. Content/Community Blogging - creating social objects as conversation pieces to inspire an active community.

A blog on a community page may currently serve this purpose.  But a community function on a blog (similar to Mashable's Community) changes the blog dynamic.

Disqus and Typepad Connect bring threaded conversations to blog comments.  But I'm waiting for the technology that connects comments and commenters, enabling deep, structured conversational engagement in the comments.  I'm waiting for the community in the comments. 

Blogs are no longer one size fits all.  Comments are no longer one size fits all.  It's time we recognized them as such.

Inspired by a tweet from Andrew Weissman. Kudos to Howard Lindzon for sharing via retweet.

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influence in the fishbowl, a twitter story?

Fishbowl Once upon a time, on a small undiscovered island in the mid pacific ocean, one caveman grunted at another caveman.  Soon a few cavemen joined together and started grunting at each other, but every time that the first caveman grunted, everyone else paid attention.

To this small group of cavemen, the first grunter was the most influential caveman in the world.  He yielded lots of social influence.  But while everyone respected him, they served the man with the biggest knife.  Thus was life in their fishbowl.

Little did they know, just a few hundred miles away, deep undersea tubes were carrying fiber optic cables around the world, enabling the spread of information at blinding speed.  And to many of the homes and offices connected to this network, Seth Godin was the most influential man in the world.  But while Seth was the man they looked up to, they generally followed the directions given by their bosses and clients.  Because bosses and clients pay the bills.  Such is often life in the digital fishbowl.

And while all of those connected homes and offices were admiring their influence and this little world they had created, the world continued to spin all around them.  Millions more watched American Idol, oblivious to both the cavemen and Seth Godin.  Still millions more suffered the fear, genocide and oppression of life in a third world country, nearly all of them oblivious to the cavemen, Seth Godin, American Idol and even Twitter!  Is all of life a fishbowl?

Was the first caveman a successful communicator?  Is Seth any less so?  Is Ryan Seacrest?

Communications success is not one size fits all.  Success is about your results based on your goals.  Life is not about your followers, your "twinfluence" or your reach.  Life is about the journey, those we encounter along the way and the meaning of those encounters.  But in today's multi-platform world, we cannot measure influence by a single platform alone.

To suggest that one is influential on twitter is almost as absurd as to suggest that my friend is influential on her cell phone.  On her cell phone, she has hundreds of contacts.  And thousands of people have her in their cell phone contact lists.  And whenever she calls they generally pick up the phone.  Does this make her linfluential?

So the next time you hear someone speak about the latest twitter influence grader, blog metric or ratings numbers, ask yourself: is this the measure of my success, or a rough representation of someone else's?  Does the temperature of the water in my fishbowl determine the traffic intensity on the local highway?  Is my influence real

Isn't influence relative?

microsoft songsmith - this isn't a joke?

Logo_songsmithWhen I first caught the video below, I thought it was a joke.

To my horror, it isn't.

A quick Google Search (irony?) reveals that this is in fact, legit.  Microsoft has created a program that allows you to sing a tune into your computer, and Songsmith will automatically generate an early 90s midi style accompaniment.  While I applaud the technology, which must involve some fairly robust pattern recognition, pitch approximation and auto-accompaniment capabilities, I wonder who the intended audience is.

  • Is this is meant for the Wii/Guitar Hero crowd, who is looking for simple, intuitive access to rich experiences? 
  • Is this a free sample of what will become a far more robust home-musician offering from Microsoft? 
  • Or is this a free giveaway of a simple tool, intended only for branding purposes (with minimal thought to utility)?

facts don't inspire

Facts inform.

Optimism Inspiration comes from an emotional place.  Sure, it needs some grounding in reality in order to feel authentic, but inspiration often needs little more than basic substantiation.

This is where the 24 hour news networks run into trouble.  Facts do no inspire, do not drive ongoing viewership.  Emotional perspectives are far more effective.  And so they often become instruments of perspective rather than reports of the news.

This is where Israel runs into trouble.  There looks to be little room to argue the facts or present historical context when a soundbite or image pulls at your heartstrings.

This where brands need to rethink their value proposition in the months ahead.  Pragmatists may see short-term wins as "value brand" in a down economy, but where will they be once we can afford to spend emotionally?  Once we aspire for more?  For greater? Once we resume spending emotionally?

To that point, how will Obama keep his sunny outlook and inspirational cheer for change and hope while dealing with the pragmatic reality of the presidency?

When real messages find themselves face to face with emotional nonsensical drivers like the Pepsi rebranding video below, what chance does stark reality have without an emotional driver supporting the message?

Kudos to Joanna Pena-Bickley for sharing the Pepsi message and inspiring me to pull this post out of the hopper.

Future Visions: Hulu

Hulu's been out for a while.  And while I was at first skeptical, I now regularly enjoy their offering.

But what's next for Hulu? 

  • Will their growth be in a broader library or in added functionality?
  • Will new platforms like Tivo or downloadable content drive increased value?

They've got us watching.  They occasionally have us interacting.  But is this really all they could, or should be doing to grow their business?

  • Isn't there a massive ad opportunity in a Hulu desktop utility with a program guide?
  • Wouldn't a distribution partnership with Microsoft delivering free ad supported downloads drive real equity for a next gen Zune?
  • Wouldn't a section containing all of their advertiser spots, fully embeddable, drive added value to advertisers?  Allowing them to utilize Hulu to launch "viral" video campaigns?

Sure, you need to the content to drive the eyeballs.  But please Hulu, don't forget about breaking the technology mold.  You did it once.  The market will demand that you do it again.  Or someone else will.

the innovation "tradition"

InnovationsThe tradition upon which America was founded was one of change, of overthrowing tradition, of reinventing the norm.


Nothing is written in stone.

The tradition of innovation, of change, is one of constant evolution.

There are no rules. There are best practices at current.  But there are no rules written in stone.

The first movers, the early adopters and the revolutionaries face the challenge of putting their necks out on the line.  Some will be crowned as visionaries.  Others will be dismissed as crazies.

Never say no just because of convention.  The tradition of the web is one of breaking with convention.

Don't close your doors to opportunity just because it hasn't been done. 

Think rationally, think strategically, and act accordingly.

Embrace the tradition of breaking with tradition.

Inspired by Mack Collier's post over at Marketing Profs.

photo credit here

social media isn't socialism

Lenon Listen up.

Your blog matters to you.  Hopefully it matters to your readers.  And your readers may have voices of their own.

However, your blog is not the NY Times.  Just because you blog doesn't put you on par with with Newsweek.  You may not be a reporter, you're an opinionated individual, possibly a member of a community.

You have incredible potential.  You may have incredible passion.  But the world doesn't turn by your opinion alone.

Social media isn't socialism.

Just because we share doesn't mean that everything we write is free for all to share.  Just because you credit a source doesn't give you the moral/ethical/legal right to re-purpose it Check the licensing terms on a blog, video, photo, or any other piece of social content before you share it.

Social media isn't socialism.

Few corporations can afford to share all of their secrets, tactics, strategies and finances.  Some things belong behind the firewall.  A business has a right to secrecy.  They do not have a right to mislead, misrepresent, misinform or otherwise lie.

Social media isn't socialism.

You can complain on twitter.  You can rant on your blog.  You can protest in your own little corner.  And as long as you are being truthful (and you're willing to pay for a lawyer to back up your rights to do so), you are probably fine.  But the party you are protesting has every right to ignore you.  And you have every right to build a movement.  But until there is a firm business case for driving engagement, many businesses will choose to ignore you. 

Social media isn't socialism.

This is the market reality.  And this is OK. 

Our market dynamic is evolving.  People have expectations.  Brands have expectations.  And one day, we will meet somewhere in the middle.  In the meantime, use your voice.  Use your mind.  Think honestly and earnestly.  Think about brand sincerity, authenticity.  Think about your brand as a mix of community perception, user perception and brand broadcast messaging. 

Because as important as you are as a blogger, you are not the be-all and end-all.  We are.

Inspired by Peter Kim on twitter. For Peter's thoughts on this meme, check out his original blog post here. note: I've had this post in the hopper for about 5 months. I would credit Peter with the phrase "Social Media isn't Socialism" across all instances had I not already written most of this post. I am however, crediting his tweet as inspiration to dust off this post and finally publish.

photo credit here