Monday, January 25, 2010

Finding the value of social media conferences

Classroom at the Old Site
Image via Wikipedia
The Social Media for Business in Arizona -- SMAZ for short -- has concluded. Once again, it was a great event. And yes, my presentation on measuring the ROI of social media will be up on Slideshare soon.

As the day was winding down yesterday, I was asking various attendees -- many of which I had met for the first time at the event -- their opinions on the day. Their answers were universally positive, even though each person took away something different. In an interesting twist, I was asked by one of those people what I learned that day.

That was an interesting question. While many new to the social and digital marketing scene walked away with their brains overflowing with information... this isn't my first rodeo. I speak at a variety of events, including this one. I knew many of the speakers and am intimately familiar with the topics on which they presented. I've been doing social media marketing for more than a few years, so was there anything I could learn?

Duh. That's an obvious and great big yes!

What did I learn? The same thing I almost always learn from events like this: that there are plenty of things I'm not doing as well as I could be. Things that I advise clients and compatriots on all the time, but neglect to do myself. There are a lot of moving parts to figuring out the right digital business strategy for a client. All too often, I neglect to fully implement the tactics that support those strategies for myself.

So for me, events like SMAZ provide me plenty of notes with "You know this, dumbass" in parenthesis behind them. And that's why I'll keep going to events like this: I sure could use that constant reminder to keep toiling away and to keep doing better.

Your turn...

What is your takeaway on this idea? Do you got to events as "the expert", or do you find ways to learn something along the way?

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Speaking at SMAZ II

On Monday, I'll be presenting at the Social Media AZ conference in Tempe. I've attended a fair share of social media conferences -- this one is a bit different. It focuses on the business side of social media.

That's an important distinction. While many of us "get it" right away, lots of people -- not just business owners, but people -- still don't get the point of social media. I know a few of these people, and their hesitation always comes down to the cost/benefit equation. They're looking for the upside of spending all that time being... social. You can answer that question -- where's the upside? -- a few different ways. With SMAZ II, those answers will be focused in on the business case.

I'm leading a Social Media 101 talk simultaneous with registration. Hopefully the newbies will show up early, get registered fast and drop by to ask their questions in a safe environment. If the last SMAZ is any indication, there will be lots of people new to or confused by social media in attendance. I like helping them take their first steps. This is similar to what I do before each Social Media Club Phoenix meeting.

Then I finish off the day by talking about the ROI of social media. That's real ROI. Not some new made-up term that your CFO scoffs at while looking for your replacement. That should be fun.

While the advanced tickets are gone, they will be live streaming the event for those who can't attend. The access fee is a simple donation, and all proceeds go to charity. Sign up to watch live here.

And for those going, I'll see you there!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010


You've all heard the phrase "tilting at windmills". It refers to the tale of Don Quixote, a fictional knight that -- among other things -- confused ordinary windmills for ferocious giants. The resulting "battle" with such a creature is rather one-sided and of little consequence to the windmill. When we say someone is tilting at windmills, we mean to say that they are wasting their time on a pointless battle that can't be won.

In reality, most of us wouldn't go charging into battle against a ferocious giant armed with nothing but a sword and trusty steed. Most of us would seek to avoid drawing the beast's attention. That's a much safer path than drawing the ire of the beast. Nor would we fight against a windmill. What would be the point, right? Slam on the shingles all day with your sharp iron stick, and that sucker isn't going to budge.

But what if that perception isn't reality? What if the windmill you see isn't real? What if that seemingly insurmountable challenge is a trick of your imagination?

This happens in business all the time. It's happening in my business today more than I care to think. Hence this blog post. I need a term to describe these people who see obstacles where none are. For those who assume that the effort to fix what is obviously broken is greater than the reward... when a much simpler solution exists.

Enter my friend Encaffeinated ONE. He proffered this gem:

fauxcrastination: \ˈfō-ˈkras-tə-ˈnā-shən\ noun
: putting up false roadblocks
: imagining challenges where none exist*

I love it. Now where did I put that sword... and my horse!

* - Late addition courtesy of Matt Selznick

Monday, January 11, 2010

My future can beat up your present

In the great rush to take advantage of all the new possibilities the web offers, we often fail to reach beyond the familiar. Our "strategic thinking" looks more replicative than revolutionary. Consider how many of these failed technologies you've seen:

  • A "virtual counter person" greeting visitors of a retail site.
    Web visitors do not want the same experience as they have in store. At least, not in that way. That helpful avatar either isn't or is dipping into the uncanny valley. And it's not that "the technology just isn't there yet". It's that people don't want to interact with your site that way.

  • Online magazine forces you to "turn pages" just like an offline magazine.
    Do you know why we turn pages of physical magazines? Because we have to. Not because we want to. You'd be better off putting a screen and a keyboard on a magazine. Oh wait.

  • Business card-shaped CDs.
    Granted, it's been almost a decade since I've seen these. Maybe they're all dead now. The concept was silly, but they sold like hotcakes. Now if we can just kill off physical business cards all together.

The best inventions are transformative. They make use of new technological advances to advance something, often times convenience. There's that pesky arrow again.

There are good reasons why:
  • printers aren't powered by armies of miniaturized scribes hyped-up on coffee,
  • planes don't flap their wings,
  • submarines don't swim like whales, and
  • robots WON'T (trust me on this) walk like humans in the future.

But sometimes silly is good. The current implementation of virtual worlds are pretty terrible. They'll stay terrible as long as avatars are controlled by mouse and keyboard strokes. But some good stuff can -- and does -- come out. But for now, silly.

Augmented reality is also rather whimsical. Putting virtual furniture around your living room is a lark. It's also a far cry from how your room will really look when pixels are replaced by upholstery. But the exploration of the technology will certainly lead to some breakthroughs. It's just got to get out of my webcam and into my life.

But I'm not giving up on these new ideas. You shouldn't either. Nor should you be afraid to play with emerging technologies. But be skeptical of those gizmos that promise to make the digital space "just like the real world". To steal a line from a squirrel, that trick never works.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Worthwhile vs worth-less marketing tactics

Emarketer is talking about what works and what doesn't work for marketers using Facebook & Twitter. The article is based on a survey of marketers, and we all know how much I loathe survey data. This one is no exception.

Let's look at these so-called "tactics" listed and find out if they truly are successful. Success implies meeting or exceeding a goal that somehow benefits the company. Do these all? Nope. And I'll tell you why. Let's look at the reported tactics on Facebook first.

Worth-less Facebook marketing tactics
  • Created a survey of fans
    Think of your Facebook fans as your most loyal customers. Will someone who hates or is lukewarm about your brand going to become your fan? Then consider those who'll take the time to fill out your survey even more fanatical. Whatever you are asking, it has suddenly become "tell us how much you love us". What are you, six? There's almost zero value in that information.

  • Friending recent customers with corporate Facebook profile.
    That's against Facebook's terms of service. People can be come friends of other people. Companies and entities can't become friends of a person. Granted, many companies break these terms of service all the time. But until the ToS are modified, this tactic has to be considered inappropriate behavior.

  • Creating a Facebook application around a brand
    Creation without usage is worthless. Usage without purpose is even more worthless. There are great opportunities to leverage apps, but only if they drive some business goal. "Getting people to use my app" is rarely a valid goal.

  • Driving traffic to corporate materials with status updates
    If your corporate materials are boring, who cares? And is are they really worth leaving the Facebook ecosystem to see? Stop trying to get everyone to click through to your site. Start re-purposing -- re-crafting as necessary -- those materials so they are consumable in situ. Engagement doesn't mean "steal them away".

Worthwhile Facebook marketing tactics
  • Used Facebook user data to profile your customers demos or interests
    Smart, but limited as pointed out in the survey comment. And only useful if the data you mine helps to inform your real tactics to drive a business goal.

  • Buy targeted CPC ads on Facebook
    I've gone from cold to lukewarm on this one. Facebook offers some amazingly deep targeting info. Yet the goal of all the campaigns I've seen has been to either get a click or get a fan. That's missing the point, and campaigns with those success metrics will -- and do -- fail.

Before you get too caught up on the two I think are worthwhile, remember the caveats. Now, how do the reported success stories on Twitter fare?

Worth-less Twitter marketing tactics
  • Create in-person event using only Twitter invites
    I fail to see how a false sense of elitism helps your business. There may be short-term gains here, but companies who expand to other tools -- and even beyond the social sphere -- will do better. Anything else smacks of a gimmick.

  • Driving traffic by linking to marketing web pages
    Most marketing web pages suck. You're smart enough to be on Twitter. Be smart enough to realize that we don't want your same worthless drivel when we hit your website. See the next item for ideas on how to stop making terrible marketing web pages.

  • Provocative text to drive link clicks
    On the surface, this is a good idea. The 140-character restriction of Twitter causes marketers to carefully chose their words, dropping much of the superfluous bullshit. I've lumped it here because you should be doing this everywhere! Stop being boring. Hire a fantastic copywriter. Or empower your people to be witty and creative. Burn all your whitepapers! Then re-write them in a style that doesn't make people's eyes bleed, turn them landscape and start spreading them around.

  • Invite Twitter users by positive brand tweets to do...?
    Granted, I don't know what they were suggesting in the survey, as the info was truncated in the eMarketer slide. But be careful trying to thank everyone who tweets a positive experience. You should strive to provide a positive experience for every customer and hope that they all share that. Instead, showcase the fantastic reviews and shares. And do more than just follow the people that made them on Twitter, OK? That's valuable stuff you should be sharing through many different channels.

  • Increased Twitter followers by traditional media mention
    This isn't a tactic. It's a positive side effect. And one that is becoming assumed. If you get mentioned in the media, some of those readers will turn to Twitter (and Facebook and other digital media sites) for info. So be there. But I'm skeptical of the need to try and get traditional media to reference your Twitter account.

Worthwhile Twitter marketing tactics
  • Monitor Twitter for PR problems
    This remains one of the top reasons companies should use Twitter as an incredibly smart tactic. it's not always easy to do, and knowing what to do after is even more difficult. If you're not doing it; start.

  • Contacting Twitter users tweeting negatively about the brand
    And contact them publicly, right back on Twitter. It shows you care and that you are paying attention. I'm assuming you're contacting them to try and put things right. Remember, sometimes you can't. Acknowledge that when it happens and move on

  • Timing tweets to maximize views
    Twitter -- and other social sites -- shouldn't be an afterthought. Don't just dump all the updates you want when you finally get around to it. Figure out when your audience is likely to be ready to receive your message and send it then. There are tweet scheduling tools to help with this.

  • Driving sales by linking to promotional web pages
    I almost put this in the worthless pile. But good deals transcend crappy marketing-speak, so it stays in the good pile. A healthy percentage of people on Twitter follow brands precisely so they can be alerted to deals, offers and promotions. Don't only tweet about these, but they can certainly help your bottom line -- if worthwhile and done correctly.

It's good to share what is working and what isn't working. This is brand new stuff for most of us, and guides are good to have. But without knowing the measurement of that success, you're still spinning your wheels.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Participate or die

"If you don't participate and take an interest, you'll always be outcompeted by those who do."

I stole that line from Cory Doctorow's Makers. Great book. You should get it.

It may not seem that there is much insight in that phrase. After all... it seems pretty obvious. But if you'll reflect on it a moment, I think you'll find many areas that you have consciously chosen to ignore. The older we get -- OK, the older I get -- the more likely we are to fall into the trap.

When is the last time you paid attention to your Facebook account? You probably missed that the "News Feed" on your home page doesn't include all of your friends. Nope. It only includes the most active ones. The same goes for everyone else's profiles. Are you active enough to show up to them?

Google's been dropping relevant and real-time results from the social sphere in their search results pages. I've said before that social will become one of those things that business simply can't afford to ignore. Google made it a reality faster than even I thought.

It's a wake-up call to you experts, too. Sure, you've got plenty of business supporting your outdated language or platform. But for how long? Switching costs are dropping. Data will only get more portable. Are you going the way of the cobbler?

And being outcompeted isn't necessarily about real competition. It's about being informed, having experiences and not worrying that you'll wake up one day and find the world around you has changed. I'm OK with getting old. I just don't want to be outdated.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

It's OK to make money with social media

If your company gets involved in social media this year, will you make money from it? If not... don't bother.

Yes, I realize that your customers want you to get involved with social media. Many of them would also like you to give away free beer, but you probably don't do that.

Yes, it's true that your customers are having conversations about you that you aren't aware of. But do you think that didn't happen before social media? Please.

Yes, your competition may have hundreds of people engaging with them in the social sphere. But are they doing anything truly remarkable, or are they just chatting? More importantly, are those people buying more stuff because of those conversations?

You won't succeed at social media on accident. And success probably isn't measured by mentions and followers. Success for your business is measured in dollars, not sentiment. In sales, not conversations.

Social media playtime is over. Business just getting involved today don't have the luxury of figuring it out as you go along. It's time to stand on the shoulders of those who've come before. Time to learn from the mistakes of others. And to extend on the wins many have made.

Three questions to think of:
  1. Is your social media crew up to the challenge? The right crew will have a blend of business acumen and real-world social media skills. Balance is important.
  2. Does your agency talk in the language of your business? The only metrics that matter are the ones you care about.
  3. Are you demanding return and payoff from your digital marketing efforts? If it costs money, it should return more money. Period.

Your answer to all of those should be an emphatic yes. If not, put those responsible on notice.