Tag Archives: Get Real

In the Social Media Barnyard

After several years of holding social media conferences, publishing books and unleashing thousands of social media consultants on the world, we are an industry that does not command respect as a business discipline.  73% of CEO’s think marketers lack business credibility, and most CMOs are sadly under-prepared to leverage social media as a platform.   In the past 5 years, hundreds of millions of consumers have shifted a significant amount of their time to social media-based activities.  And yet business leaders don’t see how that will affect their bottom line, or what they should do about it.

Here’s why.  This what the social media industry looks like to people outside of the bubble:

social media buzzwords and the focus on personal branding are undermining the credibility of the social media industry.

The rooster and the hens get social.

1. The Hens:  too many words, not enough action.

I attended a conference this week that included a panel on social commerce.  Of the five people involved in the panel, only one panelist had any idea what social commerce actually means, and how it’s different from e-commerce or social marketing in general.  (Hint:  friends + shopping cart.)

Of course we need new words to describe new things and new behaviors.  But we need to stop swarming the latest shiny new thing or chattering about the latest buzzword without really taking the trouble to understand it in context.

More importantly, we need to understand that some of the words and behaviors we’re describing are not really all that new.  There have always been “influencers.”   It’s just that today, you can be an influencer without owning a printing press, an org chart or an army.

So don’t just pull a Klout score.  Do the hard work.  If anyone can be a potential influencer, how does that create new opportunities for your business?  How does it change the way you define customer segments? What is the impact on how you approach PR or customer service?  This is not easy, but it’s fun and exciting and it needs to be done if we as an industry are ever going to have any influence.

2. The Rooster and the Battle of the Brands

In an important article published in Forbes this week, Jennifer Leggio recalls a time when “there was true community” on Twitter — before lists, scoring and influence models — and when “businesses would demonstrate an earnestness and candor that endeared customers to the brands.”  Of course the market had to mature and evolve.  But why have we lost that sense of wonder and delight and unlimited possibilities?  And where along the way did we fail to gain respect for the importance of what we were doing?  When did it stop being real?

Jennifer’s Forbes article is titled “The Battle for Social Media Authenticity,” and it’s the first time I’ve seen a general business publication question the rise of personal brands, “those who have branded themselves as part of their business.”  She interviews Geoff Livingston and Brian Solis;  Geoff believes that “the pursuit of personal branding has severely tarnished social media as a whole.”

Yes, companies are made up of people.  Social media restores the ability for customers to feel they are dealing with real people, even when they are interacting with large multi-national brands, as Maddie Grant and Jamie Notter describe in their terrific new book.  Do this right, and it builds loyalty, turns your customers into your best sales people, and increases revenue.

But where we go wrong is when we mistake the personal brand for the brand of the product or service that the customer is buying.  Yes, it’s cool that I can get on Quora and compare hip hop one-liners with Foursquare founder Dennis Crowley.  But the fact that Crowley is cool or “authentic” is not what has created 14 million Foursquare users.  The fact that he’s smart, creative, hard-working and a good leader of people are a heck more relevant.  And when I check in, it’s with the Foursquare brand, not with someone’s personal brand.

And what in the name of Old Macdonald are we trying to accomplish by going to conferences to hear from a Celebrity CMO?  How is any CEO or customer in their right mind going to take that seriously?

Out of the Barnyard

The social media revolution is going to happen in spite of the buzzwords and the gurus.  After all, our customers are the ones who are really in charge, and they’re charging full speed ahead.

But if we become a little more thoughtful about it, we can be far better prepared to take advantage of it and guide our companies or clients through the changes that are happening.  Don’t use a buzzword when you can use a plain, simple word instead.  Question popular concepts (influence, engagement, ROI) until you’ve formed your own understanding of what they mean and how they relate to your business and your customers.  Don’t use an infographic where a simple chart will do.  Read the case studies and the research.  Spend time with the people who are actually making realtime business happen, not just the people who are writing the books or giving the keynotes.

Most importantly, don’t be intimidated by the big words or the famous names.  They’re just the roosters and hens in your barnyard.  It’s your business, and you know far more about your customers and how to use social media to create real business benefits than they do.

Enough with the “social.” It’s time to get real.

We have news for you.  People want to be friends with people.   They don’t want to be friends with brands.  Not even yours.

Your customers want you to do what you’re in business to do:  create value.  That’s not about being “social” or having “conversations.”

It’s about listening, identifying an opportunity, and then finding a way to create real-life, realtime value for that particular customer.

You see, what’s really new and different about today’s consumer is that they are willing to share information about themselves.  They will tell you where they are, what they’re doing and what they need.  If you’re paying attention, that’s worth gold.

That’s what’s so effective about Pretzel Crisps‘ realtime “social sampling” program.  Their team  monitors Twitter conversations to identify customers who are “in need of a snack.”  @PretzelCrisps then reaches out and offers to deliver a free product sample, often with a follow-up to the recipients to share  feedback and start conversations about the brand.

According to Jason Harty, the brand’s director of field and interactive marketing,  Pretzel Crisps has built up more than 4.2 million earned media impressions since the launch of the social sampling strategy  in July 2010. Pretzel Crisps has given away about 3,600 units of free samples to consumers, “but the impact of the social samples is twice that of any event samples or product seeding” strategy, Harty told MediaPost.

Sales have increased 87% in the 4 weeks prior compared with the previous year since the social campaign began. That’s real, bottom-line value, based on a marketing strategy that leverages social information to create a realtime connection to the product you’re selling.  By the way, Jason Harty will be speaking at our #RLTM NY event on June 6.  (Got your tickets yet?)

Every moment of the day, customers are now sharing actionable information about what they’re doing, what they like and where they are.  And the more they share, the more likely they are to be a valuable customer, and a customer that can influence their friends, too.  Radio Shack found that Foursquare users spend 3.5x more than regular customers.   By checking in on Foursquare, customers automatically tell you not only their physical location, but also how frequently they have visited your store, creating an opportunity to tailor your offering to them, in realtime.  And yes, RadioShack’s Adrian Parker will be at the Realtime Conference in New York, too.

B2B examples are out there, too, along with some ground-breaking government and tons of amazing non-profit Realtimers. Sometimes it’s as simple as making information available to your stakeholders in the right time and place, so they can get it when you’ve got their attention, as New York City is doing by putting QR codes on its building permits.

It used to be that your marketing efforts had to find a way to INTERRUPT what the customer was doing (reading a magazine, watching a movie) and then convince them to pay attention to your message.  Good luck with that these days.

But today,  customers are TELLING YOU when they’re in the mood.  But only if you’re listening, and have a plan for how you’re going to deliver some real value for them.

If you’re ready to get real, please join us on June 6 at BB King’s Times Square for Realtime NY 11, the only conference that’s serious about doing business on the social, mobile and realtime web.  We’re filling up fast, so please register now for a day of hard-core case studies, tools and best practices to create and measure realtime business value.  See you there!