Tuesday, November 30

Considering Interventions: Help Friends Kick The Traffic Habit

Porsche hits one million fans on Facebook
It's always easy to tell when your communication team's traffic habit has turned into a chronic addiction. The most common symptom is unabashed boasting — companies that celebrate milestones by issuing releases that they've reached a magical benchmark that consists of people who can't afford to buy their product or are well outside their intent for communication.

Don't laugh. Addiction — defined by psychoactive substances which cross the blood-brain barrier once ingested, temporarily altering the chemical milieu of the brain — can happen to anybody, even some of the most respectable brands. And when it happens, the best thing people can do is host an intervention.

Porsche Needs An Intervention.

"Although we are witness to passionate customers and fans every day, it is neat to set another Porsche milestone by growing to over 1,000,000 strong on Facebook," said Josh Cherfoli, online relationship and marketing manager for Porsche Cars North America. "It's an excellent opportunity to help us connect with our fanbase, and we thank them all for sharing our passion."

That was the quote pulled from an actual news release boasting that more than one million people worldwide have shown their love and support for Porsche by, ahem, liking it on Facebook. They even have a reward program for fans willing to give up their friends list, along with all of its demographics.

"As part of the continued celebration, fans can sign-up via Facebook to have their name inscribed on a special Porsche model. This vehicle will then be displayed as part of a unique exhibit at the Porsche Museum in Stuttgart, Germany," says the release.

And, despite this being such a coup for Porsche, it still doesn't trust social media. Photos of new and historical Porsches are only available to accredited journalists on the Porsche Press Database. Whatever that means.

Obviously, Porsche is drunk on traffic, likes, follows, and friendz. On the news that Porsche reached one million, the fans celebrated by mentioning things like "That bloated SUV shouldn't be in the same photo as that beautiful machine," "hello you will join my group sex and sport," "2011 Cayenne S is 'ridiculous'... test drive one if you can," and "My mom told me about this webpage that lets you test a Macbook Air and keep it at no cost!" Ah, isn't one million fans love grand?

As food for thought, you might contrast all that excitement with another fan group for the manufacturer abandoned Infiniti G20 with 1.5 million posts or on its Facebook page. It's not supported by Infiniti or Nissan (as far as I know), but fans there talk about stuff like "how hard is it to take out a G20 trans auto...," "join us for a toys and tots G20 donation drive," and "looking for a GTIR ECU for a decent price trying to give life to my G20." See the difference?

Sure, G20 net hasn't broken one thousand on Facebook, but it's very clear where the real fan love is at, which is a shame because Porsche was one of my favorite childhood car fantasies in the 1980s. Tears even welled up in my eyes when that poor Porsche 928 landed in the lake. But not today. Porsche needs an intervention.

Monday, November 29

Banking On Friends: Why Bulk Is Going Bust

Spam
Experian Marketing Services' CheetahMail recently released an analysis that ought to wake up bulk promotion supporters, especially those relying on email as a means to deliver messages. The analysis pinpoints just how significantly emails from trusted sources outperform other marketing campaigns, even when the offer is the same or inferior.

• Friends-and-family emails had 43 percent higher open rates and 29 percent higher click rates compared to bulk promotions.
• Friends-and-family email transaction rates were 85 percent higher and 2.5 times higher against bulk promotions.
• Friends-and-family emails generate higher sales per email than bulk promotions and much higher referral rates.
• Friends-and-family emails with links to social networks had higher referral rates than direct-to-offer links.

Bulk Promotions Are Slowly Going Bust.

Before every social media expert nods in agreement, it might be important to point out that the trust measurements are changing in 2011. While the current trend is to trust people with significantly higher frequencies, the public is already beginning to slowly shift away from "brand ambassadors" who are attempting to supplant the blind bulk promotions.

Friends might trust friends who share links to social networks, but when "friendz" share simply to make pennies on the dollar or because they are enamored with a brand, then any established trust will begin to evaporate. In fact, many people have already filtered the top tier of abusive sharers — that one uncle who has nothing better to do than pass along chain emails and conspiracy memos. They were the first to go and certainly not the last.

Only Careful Sharing Will Increase Trust.

While most "influence" measures are built on a formula of little more than "volume times frequency times mass," those score-trumping trends, especially when linked to rewards for the sharer, will eventually crash. Ergo, while we all appreciate friends who share a new music discovery or review site, people are less inclined to "like" pages and "follow" brands because their second cousin likes to win contests and perks.

The trust evaporation factor may even happen faster as those once engaged are pelted by direct promos because they wanted to help a friend win a T-shirt or some other lowbrow novelty. Smart marketers already know this and have adjusted to accordingly. And those that don't? Many are already crumbling, including some who are nothing more than consultants.

Sunday, November 28

Planning For Purpose: Fresh Content Project


When you take a good hard look at the communication landscape today, the fundamental missing ingredient for most companies is a strategic communication plan. After all, if more companies were operating with a communication plan, it seems highly unlikely they would use algorithms to shortcut influence selection, invest more time into "viral" results instead of outcomes, or continue to use the punch list of collateral materials that defined most communication plans three decades ago.

But yet, they do. Companies will only advertise in the Yellow Pages because that is the only place they find clients (probably because that is the only place they advertise), fall prey to online algorithm schemes (foregoing homework for scorekeeping), and dumping quality content in favor of gimmicks meant to fool spiders into directing people toward their content. All of it is largely symptomatic of operating without a plan, which is why these five fresh picks might make you think beyond the quick fixes.

Best Fresh Content In Review, Week of November 8


Five Things PR And Marketing Should Break Free From In 2011.
Three of the five suggestions from Priya Ramesh, not surprisingly, are printed: Yellow Pages, newsletters, and brochures. She has a point. The digital editions of such communication devices are more engaging and less wasteful, which is why she concludes that traditional press releases and meetings without purpose could go too. While I might argue that some of these seemingly dated communication vehicles sometimes have a time and place, the real takeaway from Ramesh is to reconsider the company's communication. The days when every company must have this, that, or the other thing are long gone.

Klout Versus Reality.
The most popular "influence" measurement device online is Klout despite the shortcomings of the service. It continues to receive praise and accolades from a handful of people intent on elevating their "activity" scores on Twitter (and optionally, Facebook). Klout has also done a masterful job at marketing, sucking companies into offering "rewards" across the server. According to Klout, it measures actionable items. However, the service mostly measures frequency. The more time you spend on the service, the more "influence" you supposedly have. Geoff Livingston offers up a host of other problems.

Destined To Obscurity.
Ike Pigott calls it partly right. Too much of the Web is based on little more than vanity measures and spiders. Quality has very little to do with what becomes popular on the net. Sure, sometimes quality bubbles to the surface, but the primary reasons to communicate — to inform, persuade, teach, and inspire — are often trumped by searches and reciprocal sharing (networks of people who share whatever people who share their stuff share). And, as more people embrace the content creation of crap, quality tends to be buried at the bottom. It was the very reason we started this project.

• Why Social Media Marketing For Foreign Languages Is Vital.
Guest writer Christian Arno shares an interesting study that suggests 83 percent of marketers are planning to increase their spending on social media, but only 26 percent plan to run campaigns in more than one country. The survey is shocking when you think about it, given that the Internet is has a population that far exceeds the reach of one country. While proximity marketing can be smart, planning to attract people from other countries can be smarter. Or, at least, removing some of the barriers. You cannot establish a presence online without thinking outside the imaginary boundaries that separate people.

• Humanizing Business & Brands: Your Ambassador Ecosystem.
There was plenty of push back related to a post by David Armano, given the abundance of name dropping and plug for his company's trust barometer gizmo. But if you look past all that, the models make sense in that they aim to provide a framework for the communication operations of a company. In many cases, companies don't have to adopt one or the other, but it does seem to me that companies ought to be taking more care in mapping out their communication models as part of their communication plans. Of course, we all know that most companies have no communication plan, but we can dream.

Thursday, November 25

Being Thankful: Happy Thanksgiving

Hand Turkey“Don't waste yourself in rejection, nor bark against the bad, but chant the beauty of the good.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

I used this quote a couple years ago as the lead in lesson for my son around Thanksgiving. And in some small way, it made an impact on his life.

The more things change, the more they remain the same. We're both still thankful for many of the items that made that list and those that came after. But this year is different. Rather than be grateful for the abundance of things, I'm happy with one.

The hand turkey.

The first hand turkey on record supposedly dates back to 13,000 B.C. It was included among the paintings discovered in Lascaux. Of course, North American turkeys are not the same as the turkey fowl in Europe, but it's still interesting to think ancient people used the same artistic technique employed primarily by artists, ages 4-6, today. (The above hand turkey was made by my daughter, age 4.)

Hers reminds me how much hand turkeys are like people. We're basically the same, with subtle differences that make us unique and interesting and worth getting to know. Some hand turkeys are fat and others thin. Some are plain and others fancy. Some are embellished like my daughter's creation, breaking away from tradition. And others are familiar, resembling something we might have drawn years ago. See for yourself.

They are all different, but we can't really say one is better than the others. They are all equally creative within the confines of their sameness. And it kind of makes me wonder sometimes why we can't see people much the same way. All those differences of opinion are nothing more than embellishments on the same design. We might celebrate them instead of fretting about them.

You know, like hand turkeys. Happy Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 24

Dumbing Down: TSA Policies Are Not A Privacy Issue

Pistole
It may take some time, but the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and Department Of Homeland Security will eventually lose the argument they have chosen, and their failed public relations program is only part of the reason. The real problem is they have chosen the wrong argument in what seems to be an attempt to dumb down complaints.

“We are constantly evaluating and adapting our security measures, and as we have said from the beginning, we are seeking to strike the right balance between privacy and security,” John Pistole said in a statement.

Except, it's not a privacy issue. It's a liberty issue.

"The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized." — The Fourth Amendment (Amendment IV), United States Constitution

Currently, no matter how you frame it (even claiming that certain transportation methods are privileges, as if), TSA policies are a direct infringement on the fourth amendment. And, even the TSA argument, that 75 to 80 percent of the public supported these measures, we might remember the U.S. Constitution was not written to protect a democratic majority, but the minority.

Heck, I've seen polls over the years that suggest better than half of all Americans would vote to have their homes searched without warrants too (based on the pretense they have nothing to hide). And a certain percentage are in favor of installing videos everywhere to help quell their irrational fears. But that doesn't make it right, just, or even remotely American as Henry Blodget seems to pretend.

The most recent TSA policies, those that were inspired by timing (and despite a bill that barred their use as primary scanners) along with pat-downs, are a threat not to our privacy but to our liberty to travel freely in the United States. Unchecked, you could argue such tactics for anyplace where people congregate (don't laugh). And if that continues to happen, unless Americans speak out against early infringements, we may as well declare the very people we are protecting ourselves from the victors.

"They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety." — Benjamin Franklin

I ought to make it clear, I'm not necessarily a fan of TSA security officer bashing in general, especially after my recent experience with air travel. Not every airport is staffed by overzealous or authoritative agents. Most are decent, respectful people, with the difference between departing from Las Vegas and departing from Providence like night and day.

Granted, one airport is significantly busier than the other. However, the professionalism, demeanor, organization, and courtesy of the agents in Rhode Island was light years ahead of Las Vegas, where it is made abundantly clear that the security check points are to screen for terrorists with every citizen and visitor being a suspect. Management in Las Vegas ought to take note.

Our representatives might take note too. The hypocrisy is deafening. The laughter is disheartening, conjuring images of being subjects as opposed to citizens once again.

The brewing public relations nightmare is a point of contact problem.

In response to the backlash of a situation that the TSA created, Pistole has resorted to begging citizens against opting out of full image scanners and pat downs, especially during Thanksgiving. It wouldn't be fair, he argues, to make it a hassle for those trying to make it home during the holidays, as if the opt-outers are somehow responsible for the decisions the TSA made.

I'm sure many colonists were put off when their tea was tossed into the Boston Harbor too. That's the way it goes sometimes.

The only solution to fix the continued erosion of TSA's reputation is to reverse some invasive policies and, most importantly, understand that for the majority of air traveling Americans, the point of contact — security check points — IS the public relations program. Every TSA security officer IS also a public relations agent. No amount of communication can change this fact; even TSA's mission statement demands it.

The TSA is operating out of alignment with its mission.

"The Transportation Security Administration protects the Nation’s transportation systems to ensure freedom of movement for people and commerce." — TSA Mission Statement

While some people consider the horror stories related to pat-down searches, each infraction need not be excused away as accidental lapses in service. They are in direct violation of the agency's own code of conduct to "respect and care for others and protect the information we handle."

The point is that the administration is causing its own problems, which stems in part from Pistole operating off the TSA mission statement with his own, as provided for in his bio, to "grow as a risk-based, intelligence-driven counterterrorism agency dedicated to protecting our transportation systems."

His approach seems to have nothing to do with respect and care for others or to ensure freedom of movement for people. But, without meaning to disparage his otherwise respectable career, individual visions do not trump an agency's mission. If the TSA truly wants to be on the same side as the public, it will change its policies, adopt less invasive procedures that have resulted in better outcomes elsewhere in the world, and remind officers that their employers are the people in front of them.

Full body imaging is only the beginning, says the TSA website.

Don't expect it to happen soon. The TSA has outlined exactly how aggressive it will become in the near future. In developing what one of my colleagues calls the theater of checkpoint security, the TSA states it has deployed more than 900 X-ray systems and 450 imaging scanners, plans to add biometric identification systems (fingerprints and iris scans), and expand operations to include not only subways and other transportation, but "important facilities" as well. Think about that for a minute. Or two.

Then consider that these videos will become more frequent and the responses less defensive. According to the response, the father removed the shirt of his son to expedite a search, but what remains unclear is why removing the shirt might have expedited it.

All this, and it's still safer to board a plane (1:10.46 MILLION) than to drive a car (1:84). I'm slating the issue as a case study.

Tuesday, November 23

Challenging SM Experts: It's A Numbers Game?

CrowdChris Kieff is a pretty bright guy. In his interview about Ripple6, he mentions how he helps companies realize their marketing and business goals through social media. Smart stuff in one line.

Less likable was his recent thinking about social media experts and his reaction to the criticism and praise revolving around them. The primary reason is because it feeds the delusion that social media is a numbers game.

Social media is not a numbers game. At least, it won't be forever.

Ike Pigott once framed it up as it relates to duality and juxtaposition. It was one of my favorite posts that he wrote this year, but the discrepancy goes deeper.

Social media for business is less about getting numbers and more about finding the right numbers. The potential reach is not the entire online population but rather a fraction of the entire population, plus about 5 to 10 percent and minus competitor loyalists. And, at the same time, you have to maintain one-on-one relationships with whatever numbers there might be.

In other words, some companies can thrive with the tiniest of online networks. Others will die despite massive popular appeal.

It has been this way for hundreds and thousands of years. And I suspect it will be this way for hundreds and thousands more. Popularity is no indication of talent or expertise or sustainability. It's often an indication of someone resonating with the status quo, before someone else with an innovative idea topples them off the top with a better way or better gauge or better whatever.

Wilde. Shakespeare. Ford. Beethoven. Cervenka. Warhol. Einstein. Tesla. Lennon. Jobs. Hurley. Lombardi. Socrates. While many of us know these names as influential, none of them seemed all that influential before their influence had already made an impact. And mentioning this could be important to the conversation given that the most influential "social media expert" (if there is such a thing) could very well likely be someone who has 100 Twitter followers today, or, more than likely, hasn't even been born yet.

Companies might keep this in mind while they attempt to overlay metrics onto their decision-making process. While metrics can certainly help us get the job done, they can be equally misleading. While Kieff has a point that it is fair to expect that a so-called social media expert might be expected to participate in the platforms they profess to know, basing decisions on scoring dismisses the varied unseen approaches to this space.

There are plenty of communicators who keep their Facebook pages mostly personal. There are plenty of communicators who invest more personal time on other channels than Twitter. There are plenty of people who never bothered to join a ranking list or algorithm. And so on and so forth. Not to mention, simply participating in all of them doesn't make you an expert, even if it may give you a better understanding.

Searching for someone who understands social media.

Such a decision never starts with a short list of vendors based on nothing more than modern trophies. It starts with understanding the objectives of your business and then finding someone who can help you realize those marketing and business goals using social media or, perhaps, a much broader perspective, making social media a portion of your overall communication strategy.

Sure, I know nobody likes hearing that the answer isn't some short list of criteria. But if anybody wants to be honest, there really isn't any magic formula. If you want a sustainable social media program, all you really need are the people who will match what your company can offer to the people who are already looking for it.

Some of the most prominent and most successful social media programs today did not start with a social media expert (and some did). That alone makes the compelling case that it's not a numbers game. It's about results.

A few related posts you might find enjoyable.

Down With the Teflon Revolutionaries.
• 9 Points On Why I’m Not a Social Media Expert.
Let’s “De-Friend” All Self-Proclaimed Social Media Experts!

Monday, November 22

Challenging Retail: Post-Recession Consumers Want More

Changing RetailAccording to a new study released by Leo Burnett's marketing services division, post-recession Americans will be high maintenance, promiscuous, and much more demanding. They want innovative and engaging experiences. They want to identify with the companies that make the products they buy. And retailers have more work to do before they can meet these new expectations.

"The recession has forever changed people's mindset about shopping," said Dr. Alan Treadgold, head of retail strategy at Leo Burnett Worldwide. "People have developed new rules for retailers. As a result, retailers must understand the changed role they play in people's lives and meet their expectations to maintain customer loyalty."

Highlights From The Study Released By Leo Burnett.

1. Technology Doesn't Replace Experience. While retailers see in-store technologies as a better way to connect with their customers, customers prefer a human connection (especially when they visit a store). In fact, the study suggests that an over reliance on technology can damage an already fragile relationship.

2. Shoppers Are Promiscuous. With increasing frequency, shoppers will shop around. Loyalty is becoming one of the hardest earned assets of a retailer. More than ever before, the retailers who earn loyalty will have a greater understanding of the expectations they set and their ability to deliver on their expectations.

3. Price Is Only An Invitation. Consumers are no longer willing to trade quality, innovation, and a positive experience for a low price. The low price gimmicks and discounts may introduce them to a product or service, but it will not keep them coming back.

4. Break The Rules. Customers are not satisfied with the status quo. When two stores compete for their attention, they will almost always choose the one that breaks out of category conventions and delivers a unique experience.

5. Some Basics Are Expected. If the basics — customer appeal, retention, and, profitability — aren't right, the customer will automatically pass you by. They no longer have patience for retailers who don't meet the most basic expectations, including such things are long checkout lines or unfriendly and hurried staff.

Leo Burnett has made the white paper, Reimagining The Retail Store: The Shopper's Perspective, available online at the Leo Lens. The comprehensive study provides some interesting insights beneficial for online and offline retailers.

Sunday, November 21

Receiving Messages: Fresh Content Project

Fresh Content ProjectIf I could underscore anything I said while teaching a social media class at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, it would be that communication always comes back to people. I don't mean this in the puffy "let's all hold hands" sort of way. I mean it in the sense that the more you think about the person or people receiving a message, the more successful you will be.

Consider the the following five posts within this context and you might pull something more from them. All of them directly or indirectly tie back into the human portion of the storytelling and communication equation. It's never enough to rely on numbers or blast out a message. You always have to consider how and who is receiving the message, keeping in mind that you are talking to people and not lists or data fields.

Best Fresh Content In Review, Week of November 1


Designing the Customer Experience..
Valeria Maltoni takes a hard look at the customer experience, online and offline. The questions are exactly the ones any communicator ought be asking. How can we make something a positive experience? What can we do to make sure consumers come back time and time over? Where do we need data to help deliver the experience? She also rightly cautions against looking toward customer complaints alone. They only represent customers that care enough about a brand to say something.

• Why Facebook And Twitter Are Not Replacing Blogging.
Danny Brown takes a hard look at the numbers recently shared in a study by Technorati. The study, not surprisingly, is skewed, mostly because Technorati isn't as relevant today as it once was and the sampling size of the audience it spoke to suggests a significantly higher margin of error than most professionals would feel comfortable with. The bottom line is that social networks have made a significant change in the way blogs function, but they have not even come close to replacing them. Case in point, of all the links shared on social networks, as much as 80 percent are blogs or content used for blogs.

• 15 List Post Ideas When You Get Writer’s Block.
Tristan Higbee offers up 15 post ideas that can help any blogger struggling with writer's block or can sometimes save a communicator from looking too deep into any number of topics when they don't have time. While it is largely a tactical solution, the underlying idea has merit in its presentation. Higbee had written this post a guest, but you can find his blog, BloggingBookshelf, if you would like to add him to your list. The work seems largely tactical (and sometimes gamey), but the content can still be useful.

A Brief Tale Of An Unsolicited, Off-Topic, Embargoed Pitch.
I am not a fan of embargoes (use them at your own risk), but the story Shel Holtz weaves within his post goes a long way in helping novice communicators understand how to effectively work with embargoed material. First and foremost, any embargo agreement is best arranged prior to the release of the material. At the same time, he provides some perspective about blasting out releases to bloggers. More often than not, media lists do more damage then they are worth. It always pays to know to whom you are sending any communication and why.

• An Interview With Musician Kevin Connolly On Storytelling.
One of the first tips I tell any student in a writing class, regardless of style, is that they can learn by looking well beyond their professional niche. Ted Page does this by interviewing Kevin Connolly on the subject of storytelling. While they discuss why some elements of song storytelling are different, you might be surprised to discover that many are actually the same. You need a hook, you have limited time (or space), and you want people to have a physical or emotional reaction to it. When you read the entire interview (twice if you are smart enough to), you'll find much more worthwhile communication advice than your average communication post.

Saturday, November 20

Unteaching Social Media: Communication First

social mediaThe first time I taught a class on social media, students were relatively unconvinced that it would have any impact on communication-related fields such as public relations, advertising, and marketing. They laughed. No one laughs now.

There real irony, however, is that nowadays, I spend less time teaching social media and more time teaching communication, even in classes related to social media. The reason I've adopted a different approach is simple enough. When people talk about social media today, they rely heavily on arbitrary measures like the number of friends, followers, and site traffic.

All of that matters, but none of it really matters. Volume isn't a suitable measure for a successful social media program. The ability of the program to achieve its intent is the only viable measure. Maybe some of the material in this deck will illustrate that.


The above deck is a supplemental teaching tool for Integrating Social Media Into A Communication Strategy for the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. The intent of this deck is to provide students with a reference to material presented in class two weeks ago.

Some of this deck might seem basic for people already working in the field. If this is the case, the more interesting material might be the one environment concept, advertising model, and contradictory expectations that the public had about engaging companies in social media. A few might also find it valuable to consider that social media is the only communication environment that allows for simultaneous one-on-one, one-to-some, and one-to-many communication.

Friday, November 19

Raising Psychology: Affluence Advertising

luxury buyer
Earlier in November, the American Affluence Research Center advised luxury marketers to focus on the wealthiest one percent of the market and ignore the rest. According to an article by Luxury Daily, it based its decision on a completed study that surveyed the wealthiest 10 percent of American households.

"Luxury brands and luxury marketers should be focused on the wealthiest one percent because they are the least likely to be cutting back and are the most knowledgeable about the price points and brands that are true high-end luxury," Ron Kurtz, president of the American Affluence Research Center, Atlanta, told the magazine.

The logic is that luxury marketers need to focus on the audience that is least likely to be cutting back. They are also the most likely to be knowledgeable about the price points and brands that are at the highest end of luxury. However, while the advice might seem sound, it misses one key component of the luxury marker — obtainability.

Sometimes added value isn't the only commodity; exclusivity and identity resonate.

There are several ways to market a luxury product or service. Demonstrating value is one way, but exclusivity and identity are important. An average income household might invest in a green innovation that is generally considered a luxury item because it is an extension of their values.

And, equally likely, consumers are willing to splurge on luxury items for special occasions because, despite financial constraints, the act of purchasing the item or its rarity makes it appear more valuable. In the deepest corners of the recession, consumers were splurging while they were on vacation for very significant reasons.

In addition, the perception of a general product on any particular day can elevate its value. For example, Porsche is often associated with wealth. Cadillac used to be associated with wealth, but as it became more readily accessible to the general public, it lost some stature as a luxury purchase.

This might make an interesting topic for expanded discussion, even without all the evidence that is contrary to the advice of the American Affluence Research Center. Its research seems right, but the conclusions it draws would only drive more marketers into an extremely competitive and small market. Don't be foolish. Instead, take more time to get to know your customers.

Thursday, November 18

Advertising Turnaround: Young Adults Trust Advertising

Advertising Trust
Everybody is always down on advertising as not to be trusted. There are countless studies that suggest so. That is, until recently.

A study released a few weeks ago by Adweek Media/Harris Poll shows that advertising isn't as untrusting as some might say. In fact, it may even be starting to lead in authenticity, with more people trusting advertisements than social media outlets.

Those surveyed said they trust that advertising is sometimes honest in its claims (65 percent) and just over one in ten say that they never trust that advertising is honest in its claims (13 percent). Still, advertising has some ground to make up.

Among the key differences between those who trust advertising and those who don't is age. Nine in ten young adults aged 18-34 say they trust that advertising is honest in its claims at least sometimes (90 percent). Conversely, only 81 percent of those ages 55+ agree while one in five ages 55+ say that they never trust that advertising is honest (18 percent).

Even more interesting, few people want advertising to be regulated. Forty-eight percent said that advertising doesn't need additional regulation. And 23 percent say that the industry is capable of regulating itself. While interesting, it is not surprising. Government is among the least trusted organizations nowadays.

But still, what is changing about advertising?

If you want an explanation as to why advertising has suddenly started gaining ground, there are two primary reasons to consider. First, consumers have become exceptionally vigilant in pointing out problem companies that lie to consumers. Any company making false claims today, with the exception of those that need advanced expertise like medical, are brought to light by consumers who don't want to bury those companies as much as they want them to change.

And second, which can be tied back the USC Marshall study cited a few days ago, people see brands as extensions of themselves. They want their favorite products, services, and companies to do well. And sometimes, when those companies make mistakes and then are willing to make good on their original promises, consumers are ready to forgive them.

Wednesday, November 17

Neglecting Public Relations: How ACORN Fell

Fallen Acorn
In comparison to other news coverage in the past two years, the declaration of bankruptcy by ACORN, which used to be the largest grassroots community organization of low- and moderate-income people with over 400,000 member families, has been virtually inaudible. After 40 years as a grassroots advocacy organization, the board members voted to close its last chapter on Nov. 2.

The timing could not have been worse, unless it wanted to go out in a whimper. The release was sent out on Election Day.

According to an end of an era post by CEO Bertha Lewis, the reasons were the barrage of unmitigated accusations and extremists increasing their radicalism. I propose something else killed ACORN.

If you live by the sword, you will die by the sword.

Extreme publicity, the very assets that became the advocacy group's weapon of choice, was responsible for its undoing.

In its early beginnings, it could be argued that ACORN was needed as a counterbalance. And, for the decade it focused significant effort on investigating complaints against companies accused of predatory lending practices, it did some tremendous good by supporting the enactment of strict state laws against predatory practices, organizing against foreclosure rescue scams, and steering borrowers toward loan counseling.

Ten years or so ago, it even became a valuable resource for me when one bank attempted bait-and-switch practices, using 9-11 as an excuse to jack up interest rates just prior to closing a second mortgage. The information ACORN provided was critical in writing a brief to various members of Congress, providing early documentation and a case study on predatory refinance and second mortgage schemes. Since, the bank in question (but not all), has moved away from such practices.

However, as ACORN expanded its goals to become a much more far-reaching organization through aggressive demonstrations that aimed to draw negative publicity against issues as opposed to evidence, some of its activities became a hotbed of controversy. In 2003, it was criticized for union busting within its own organization. And in recent years, there were allegations of voter fraud, embezzlement, and unprofessional conduct.

In addition, it became more and more politicized in its support and increasingly walled in its approach to public relations, adopting a posture not unlike some of the more unjust companies it would rally against. Whereas the organization was effective in causing change with extreme publicity, its credibility continually eroded until the federal government had no choice but to distance itself and private donors could no longer support it.

The difference between publicity and public relations could not be more clear.

Crain's New York Business was one of the few publications to mention the bankruptcy as more than a mention. Had the organization invested as much time in crisis communication and public relations while keeping its own values in order, it may have survived some of the various controversies. Publicity does not enhance credibility.

Likewise, it could have remained an advocacy group as opposed to becoming an activist group. Perhaps the various ACORN spinoffs that are now being founded, leaving the debt-ridden organization behind, will do better to understand the difference. Any time an organization begins to focus on feeding the organization as opposed to its original mission to support a specific cause, it is time to close the doors.

Tuesday, November 16

Seeing Better: How Flipboard Enhances Twitter

Flipboard
As of a few days ago, Twitter had every right to boast about its 175 million registered users, up from 145 million in early September and 105 million in April. According to Ronny Kerr, Twitter could be seeing as many as 15 million new members each and every month (minus 1 million for people with multiple accounts).

What is interesting about the Kerr post is that he points out that Twitter has seen three major growth spurts in the last couple years and each can be directly assigned to individually significant site developments. What does he claim they are?

The first was in mid-2009, a direct result of widespread media coverage of the site because of Ashton Kutcher. The next surge was in its smart phone offerings, with the launch of official iPhone, Android, and BlackBerry apps, that new registrations would flow like a flood again. And the newest surge, he says, has to do with site design.

I don't think so. The new two-column platform detracts from the user experience, squishing the conversation to one side. It seems more likely the influx of new people is related to the adoption of companies, organizations, and promotion by media.

The reason could be that the entire interface is flawed, something that never occurred to me until viewing Twitter on Flipboard.

How Flipboard, despite some shortcomings, is intuitive.

Legal questions aside, while Flipboard is not suited to dialogue between people (beyond a one comment quip), it does help sort the valuable content from the chaff because it ports in the first few graphs of any link. And, after experimenting with it for a few days, it saves me considerable time and adds value for two reasons.

• Flipboard allows me to immediately see what is behind any link, beyond the 140-character pitch.
• Flipboard helps me find valuable content without relying on other factors like trust and frequency.

In other words, it levels the playing field for everyone I have weaker relationships with while vetting the content being shared by people I have stronger relationships with. And, it does this effectively enough that unless Flipboard disappears, there is no better way to consume content (noting that as I already mentioned, you cannot engage in a two-way dialogue).

The concept was originally developed as an alternative to the various applications that some publications are putting out, but some of the real value comes from social network streams like Facebook and Twitter. Interestingly enough, the Facebook experience on Flipboard is neutral because Facebook never adopted the truncated communication model.

Sure, it would be even better if you could import one blog or feed or web address as opposed to a Twitter stream, but Flipboard works well enough for now. Likewise, if little chat bubbles could accompany the one-time comment option (much like Echo Phone allows), it would change from a content delivery option to a dialogue option.

But more importantly, and the point of this post, it really demonstrates the inherent weakness of Twitter's communication model. As an interface, I've become more fond of Fried Eggs and Facebook for this reason. Both encourage shorter communication without the lockdown on those occasions when you want a longer dialogue.

Don't get me wrong. I still value Twitter because of my connections there. Or, perhaps, I ought to say I value my connections so much, I'm willing to put up with Twitter. However, long term, I wonder how Twitter will fare unless it can develop interfaces that break away from its original, ever more confining quip of 140 characters or less. How about you?

Monday, November 15

Antiplanning And Disaster: A Real Communication Weakness

Social Media Blind
Two weeks ago, Valeria Maltoni shared insights that ought to make some businesses nervous. A new study from Smart Brief reveals that as many as 86 percent of all people don't know that planning is the first step toward effective communication.

Even more concerning was the size of the study. Smart Brief did not survey a handful of people online. Instead, it surveyed 6,000 business people to uncover eight themes as they pertain to social media. However, the most compelling portion of the study suggested that business people, communicators especially, are all but abandoning communication planning.

What are businesses doing instead of planning communication?

In relation to communication, it seems that advertisers, marketers, and public relations firms are adopting tools but leaving tried and true strategies behind. Instead of drafting strategic communication plans, they are picking social networks and technologies that are currently popular and then adopting a string of "tactical" components to inflate the meaningless measurements.

Ergo, the only "outcome" is to drive more traffic and attract more followers. The approach can be likened to yelling on a street corner or, in some cases, right in the middle of the road, blocking traffic. In fact, yelling on the street corner might even be more effective, considering most agencies don't even bother to check the ZIP codes or business proximity before they put on the costumes.

Is it any wonder most firms lack social media confidence?

Maltoni's post goes on to reveal that while many firms are selling social media services, only 14.2 percent of businesses find their social media strategies to be very effective and only 7.3 percent consider them “revenue generating.” While I might argue that not all social media campaign need to place revenue as a top-tier primary outcome, the very notion that companies are paying for services with no measurable merits is concerning.

The reason there is no confidence in social media has nothing to do with the value of social media. What it has to do with is that social media is being implemented as a line-item service without any real consideration for the overall communication plan. Why not? Well, from what I read here, it's because no communication plan exists.

Sunday, November 14

Smacking Freshness: Fresh Content Project

Fresh Content Project
Sometimes as communicators and marketers and developers, we see topics we don't want to see. Twitter doesn't read about its shortcomings. Marketers don't want to give things away for free (unless there is high consistent conversation). Social media experts don't want to discover they weren't as good as they thought they were in 18 months. And the list goes on.

This is a great opportunity to toss that thinking out the window. The truth is: marketers and communicators ought to be happy about every valid criticism. It provides you an opportunity to change rather than keeping your head buried in the sand, believing in your own bubble. Sure, you can for awhile. But sooner or later someone holds a mid-term election and you're out of office.

Best Fresh Content In Review, Week of October 25


Twitter Issues New Guidelines For The Tweet Trademark..
Audrey Watters provides a rundown on the new rules associated with the Twitter trademark. While we later discovered that many of the rules are relatively the same, it could cause real problems with developers like Tweetdeck, Twitpic, and other services that effectively showed Twitter how to do its job better. More worrisome is that Twitter has entered a protectionism posture, which makes some people wonder what the new management is thinking.

• Capturing the Value of What You Create.
Valeria Maltoni nails something that many marketers are still struggling with as a concept. The reason you want to provide free content is because the exchange rate comes with visibility. I might also add it includes credibility too. Sometimes when you put ideas out for the public to consider, it might surprise them to find out how right you are about a certain idea. Other times, they might tell you when you are wrong. And even that can be equally valuable. I might not be keen on the content is king saying, but there is no doubt that good content is the commodity online.

• When Will the Social Media Losers Emerge?
At first blush, I didn't like Jay Baer's link bait headline or the cliche picture. But trust played a role in continuing to read past it all. He nails it in his first sentence. "Today," he writes. "Social media is like a soccer league for seven-year-olds: everyone gets a trophy." It's easy. You start a social media program and zip ... sooner or later you find a few hundred people who want to listen. But what about when everyone in your industry starts a social media program? Consumers don't have time for everyone.

Pretty. Functional. Frail. My Macbook Air Hinges Fail..
At a glance, Louis Gray's write-up on the MacBook Air might seem like another unhappy consumer story. But it popped up as a fresh pick for a very different reason. It's a great example of why social media works. He can run down a list of problems, research other perspectives, and make a case for change. A few years ago, he would only have one option. He could write the company. Or, he could call the media and hope enough other people had the same problem for them to consider covering it. Instead, we get a concerned loyalist who just wants to see the hinges improved.

• Survey: 86 Percent of All People Don't Know the Plan Comes First.
This post by Valeria Maltoni was compelling enough to include as a fresh pick and write a secondary, repurposed post as well. It represents the spirit of why I started this experiment in the first place. It might not be the most most popular post of the day, but it does represent what industry insiders need to hear. She didn't say it, but I will. While you might not have the budget to produce an entire report for your employer or client, communication without planning is throwing money out the window. And, if you receive compensation for wasting cash, you really are not much better than a con. Planning comes first.

Friday, November 12

Branding Runs Deep: USC Marshall Cracks Connections

Branding Breakthrough Study
Although one recent Edleman study (cited earlier this week) argues that purpose is more powerful than a brand, another study recently conducted by the Marshall School of Business (USC) suggests the opposite. A well constructed brand relationship can run so deep that consumers will experience separation anxiety if they are forced to buy a competing brand.

In fact, the new study suggests that a bond between a product and a consumer can be so strong, they will be willing to sacrifice time, money, energy, and reputation to maintain their attachment. The reasoning fits well within the conversation presented last week, proving that brand attachment isn't consumption based but rather the consumer seeing the brand as an extension of themselves.

The power behind the study is that it is not a survey.

Social media has made it all too easy to do spontaneous crowd sourcing. And while I maintain that information is useful, it does not always mean it is accurate. People lie, even when they don't mean to.

So, when the Edleman survey asks whether people will give up a brand if another brand is willing to do more good, their sensibilities take a holiday and say "yes." The reality is that most would not, with exception to extreme cases where the brand has done something that makes it impossible to identify it as an extension of themselves.

Without relying on what people say, the USC study indicates that traditional measurements such as brand attitude and strength do not adequately explain consumers' intense loyalties to the brands they love. Specifically, consumers fall in love with brands because they literally capture their hearts and minds. The entire study is available at USC Marshall.

Reflecting back on the Edleman study, it seems more likely that as people see brands as an extension of themselves they want those brands to share the same values. And lately, people are more interested in doing good. And that is a very good thing.

Thursday, November 11

Honoring Veterans Day: Every Day

Arlington
Every year, the United States honors all of its men and women who have served in the Armed Forces. And every year, we feel it is especially important to share this space in their honor even as the real work often takes place somewhere else.

Last year, my team was especially grateful to work on a campaign that honored our servicemen and women. Many of those programs that benefited our veterans can still use your help today. Please consider making a donation.

However, I might add that even when I am not working on campaigns or writing speeches or serving our state or sharing a moment of silence, I often pause to think about the brave men and women who serve our country. After all, their patriotism, love of country, and willingness to serve and sacrifice for the common good never rests. Ours need not either.


In addition to honoring our servicemen and women and supporting organizations that provide them with services, we might also reflect on commitment as an example of selflessness in our country and the original intent of November 11. All around the world today, many other countries are celebrating November 11 as Armistice Day or Remembrance Day, as this date commemorates the Armistice that ended World War I.

In most countries, the celebration is marked with poppies. The significance being that poppies bloomed across some of the worst battlefields of Flanders in World War I. Their red color remains a symbol for the bloodshed of warfare. A small number of people also wear white poppies as a symbol of peace. We might hope.

Wednesday, November 10

Integrating PR: How Media Relations Has Changed

media relations for restaurantsA few days ago, one of the local restaurants we work with was reviewed by the area's most critical reviewer at the largest area daily. The review was a pleasant surprise. While the general manager sends out news releases from time to time, he hadn't lately.

There was no release. There was no pitch. Instead, what prompted the reviewer to visit was the consistent stream of direct-to-public communication across the restaurant's social media program. There was no other communication, which made me think about how media relations has changed.

Traditional Media Relations For Restaurants.

A public relations firm would prepare all the necessary content for the restaurant, sometimes in the form of a media kit. And then, depending on the retainer, it would either pitch or send press releases to area dailies to secure a review. Sometimes it would over communicate the need, especially if it counted column inches as justification for the retainer.

Eventually, the reviewer (hopefully not aggravated by the constant contact), would visit the restaurant on one unspoken condition. Once they entered the restaurant, all claims of being influenced by the relationship were off. Only the quality of the food, decor, and service would remain.

If the restaurant was having a good day, the review would be positive and the public relations firm would claim credit. If the restaurant was having a bad day, the review would be negative and the public relations firm would wash its hand of responsibility while counting those negative impressions as having the same value as positive impressions.

Regardless of the positive or negative nature of the review, the public relations firm would also be charged with making sure all the background information and necessary photos were delivered (unless the reviewer took pictures and/or arranged a photographer after the fact). And, once the review ran (assuming it was positive), everybody — meaning the firm and the restaurant owners — would throw up their hands in celebratory delight.

And that is where it ends, with exception to public relations professionals finding new ways to convince the reviewer to come back. After all, most restaurants are not going to be reviewed every week (or even written about weekly, despite any news they might think up).

Modern Media Relations For Restaurants.

Today, things can work much differently. A restaurant (possibly with the support of someone who knows social media) can publish direct-to-public communication about any variety of topics related to its cuisine. This is significantly different than press releases and pitches because none of the communication is wasted. All of it goes somewhere.

In addition, these various messages not only reach potential patrons but also provide a direct opportunity for them to engage representatives of the restaurant. And, with almost certainty, some of these people might be journalists (assuming the the social media communicator is savvy enough to connect with them).

There is no pitch. There is no release. It's just a steady stream of positive and valuable communication. There is no pressure on the reviewers. They just read what they want when they want and promptly ignore the rest. Until, one day, they decide to visit.

They review the restaurant, either positively or negatively, based on performance. All the photos and background content are at their fingertips via the Internet. They save time and the publication saves money. No one has to follow up to ask how it went. Everyone will know soon enough when the review is published, and if it isn't published, no one will even notice.

Afterward, there may be an internal celebration. However, the celebration isn't where the communication ends. It's where the communication begins. Because the restaurant has a social media program, it can either explain why a review was bad (if they choose to) or share it with customers that already have a positive relationship with them.

They can also publicly semi-thank the reviewer, simply by being unafraid to share whatever they want. It's the best gift you can give a journalist; they don't want bribes as much as a chance to be read. But even more importantly, they would appreciate a little more attention to what they have written as opposed to when they might write something again.

Some Media Relations Is Built On A Weak Link.

While this does not hold true for all public relations firms (some are good), it does hold true for many. The relationships they claim to have are weaker than most would admit.

While the press release might not be dead (especially as it pertains to news that is not yet public), the dynamic has changed. Journalists, much like anybody, prefer to discover news as opposed to having it pushed at them. And the public, especially those who are engaged, are genuinely happy when restaurants can validate fan experiences with a critical review.

Tuesday, November 9

Teaching: How Social Media Changed Everything

social media changed everything
Some people are still scratching their heads. Social media changed everything, but they are not quite sure how. Since I began teaching social media as part of communication, I've relied on one simple equation: you have to think of social media as its own environment.

People who are engaged in social media already know it's true. However, for those who don't understand this, it still seems like a foreign idea. They tend to frame up the online experience as a "virtual world" as opposed to "real life." Even my colleagues in social media are prone to stumble. They keep lists of people they met in "real life" as opposed to those they only know online.

It's a mistake. And the reason is simple enough. The environment has changed. And last Friday, I was able to illustrate the point with an example that turned the light on for many participants. It also demonstrates why traditional media is still hemorrhaging subscribers, mostly because many of them are among those who see the Internet as another broadcast channel.

Traditional Media Broadcast Messages Into An Environment.
Sometimes you have to review the past to better explain the present. So, among the slides in my deck, I presented an oversimplified communication model representing the past.

simplified broadcast media model
A person (broadcaster) used an expensive technology to transmit messages to a less expensive technology so other people could consume the communication in the environment of their choosing. They might read the paper at the breakfast table, listen to the radio in their car, or watch television on the couch.

Distribution was also limited. Generally speaking, the only way to receive that communication was to not only own but to be actively using a specific reception device. As long as the television was on, they could receive your message. As long as they opened the paper, they received the message. As long as they turned on the radio, they received the message.

But even more important to consider, this message was part of their greater environment. And, once they receive the communication, they might share or discuss that information with people within direct proximity to their environment — the people in their households, friends at the local pub, or maybe around the water cooler.

Social Media Broadcasts Messages Into An Environment.

Social media, on the other hand, dramatically changed the model. While two people still needed devices to broadcast and receive messages, they no longer were disproportionate in their capabilities. Every device that connects to the online environment is equally capable of broadcasting and receiving. That changed the model, and it changed it in more ways than one.

simplified social media model
A person (broadcaster) can now use one inexpensive technology to transmit all forms of media to other people who have the same technology, while simultaneously allowing one-on-one communication with any number of people that message reaches.

The potential for one-on-one communication changed the dynamic of the communication because it allowed for engagement, enabling other people to respond to the message in whatever form they wished. The physical environment no longer mattered because the engagement effectively made the "virtual world" the only environment that mattered.

At the same time, a percentage of people who were originally communication consumers became communicator broadcasters, which empowered them to rebroadcast messages, repurpose messages, and critique messages as they felt fit. Some might rebroadcast within the same environment while others (traditional media) would also rebroadcast the original or adapted messages across traditional mediums.

Convergence Will Solidify The Change.

Five years ago, I used to receive plenty of push back on convergence — the day when broadcast would be indistinguishable from the Internet. I rarely receive much push back anymore. The average American spends 32.7 hours per week online, up from 9 hours per week in 2006.

It's happening all around us. I can pick up an iPad and watch programming without even having to plug in to a hardwired location, read my email, create original content, or put it on a larger screen. At the same time, digital is being rapidly integrated into everything from television sets to game consoles. And, as technology continues to converge, you can readily expect the various communication disciplines to converse right along with them.

Eventually, the only difference between one device and another will be the size of the screen and, perhaps, the number of people in any given environment. The reason this is important is because many people talk about social media being a one-to-one communication tool. But it really isn't. Social media is a one-to-many, one-to-niche, one-to-one communication tool at the same time. And that is where communication practitioners need to adjust their thinking.

Monday, November 8

Shifting Responsibility: Purpose-Driven Brands Over Government

Corporate GivingA new study by Edelman shows a significant shift in public expectation as it relates to philanthropy. People are less interested in the government tackling social issues and are more interested in purpose-driven companies becoming better corporate citizens.

Specifically, 87 percent of Americans believe business needs to place equal weight on society's interests as well as business interests. Eighty percent feel corporations are in a uniquely powerful position to make a positive impact for good causes. And nearly two-thirds would like corporations to integrate philanthropy into their daily operations (beyond giving money).

"Cause-related marketing, as we know it, is dead," said Carol Cone, managing director, brand & corporate citizenship, Edelman. "Americans are seeking deeper involvement in social issues and expect brands and companies to provide various means of engagement. We call this the rise of the 'citizen consumer.'"

Is There Really A Rise Of The Citizen Consumer?

Some parts of the study bear this out. Consumers' expectation of government to do the most for good causes has declined dramatically since 2009, while their expectation of "people like me" has jumped. Only 30 percent of U.S. consumers now believe that the government should be doing the most to support good causes, down 11 points from 2009.

There is a reason for this. More than ever before, consumers have come to realize that when government tackles social causes, it must seek funding, which eventually is charged back to the consumer in the form of debt or taxes. As a philanthropic pillar, government is one of the least effective components for social good, because the return on taxpayer investments is diminished compared to corporate grants, individual donations, and direct support.

For example, the amount of one taxpayer dollar is significantly diminished (as much as 80 percent) by the time it reaches a participant when compared to a direct one dollar donation (only about 20 percent, depending on the nonprofit). In addition, people want to be directly involved in giving, with 3 percent believing that "people like me" should be doing the most, up 8 percent from last year. They want the companies who they identify with to do good too.

Where the study falls short is in placing too much emphasis on a study that suggests 47 percent of Americans rank purpose as significantly more important than design/innovation or brand loyalty as a purchase trigger when quality and price are the same. The reason is that if quality and price are the same, then there is no innovation.

The reality is that Americans want two things from companies. They want innovative products and services that do no harm. And they want companies, especially those with hefty profit margins, to do more good.

What they don't want are companies that employ cause marketing as smokescreens, notably the concept of greenwashing. What they do want, which most cannot articulate, are companies that follow a Marc Benioff model. He believes the best charity models include investing one percent of a company's profits into grants and donations, one percent of its time into volunteer efforts, and one percent of its time into equity (e.g., foundations).

The model makes sense. When companies invest in the communities in which they operate, they strengthen the community in which they operate, which eventually leads to more prospects willing to purchase their products (assuming the products have value). Even more importantly, as the study points out, people want to work with companies to get the job done (much more than they want the government involved).

Additional Highlights From The Edleman 2010 Good Purpose Study.


• 79 percent of Americans find it acceptable for brands to support good causes and make money at the same time.
• 75 percent of Americans believe that projects that protect and sustain the environment can help grow the economy.
• 67 percent of Americans support legislation requiring environmental standards even if it negatively impacts profits.
• 62 percent of Americans would pay slightly more for a product (like a beverage) if that money went to good causes.
• 34 percent of Americans would prefer to receive a donation to a good cause as a gift than a friend-picked gift.

The takeaway on this last set of numbers is very telling. People are basically saying that they want companies to become more involved and will reward those companies for doing so. However, if companies do not become involved, then the public is willing to force legislation that will require them to do so.

This study might suggest something else too. As long as companies are not abusing their support of good causes, customers want to know they are involved. While it used to be some strategic philanthropic thinking was to hide donations (rather than boasting), consumers really want companies to speak up and help set an example. Now that's something to think about.

Sunday, November 7

Focusing On Social, Not Media: Fresh Content Project

Fresh Content ProjectEvery time communicators talk about social media, they tend to talk about social media. In reality, we are really talking about one portion of a communication plan. The reason is simple enough. Social media still seems new and that is where people want to focus.

Keep that in mind when you read these five fresh picks. If you do, you'll have a better understanding of why Malcolm Gladwell was right, why public relations professionals ought to have been clipping content beyond client mentions all along, why mass data collection never seems to match a single customer, and why you are only pretending that B2B and B2C are different. When it comes to people, people are people.

Best Fresh Content In Review, Week of October 25


Gladwell Is Right. The Revolution Will Not Be Tweeted.
While there were plenty of people who took exception to Malcolm Gladwell's comment that the revolution will not be "Tweeted," Jason Falls takes the time to point out why he might be right. Falls says the primary reason is that the argument was meant to add some reality to the over-inflated sense of importance we give social networks. And, in this case, he is right. Social media does not happen in a vacuum. Unless your communication takes a physical or tangible form, it just doesn't matter.

• Curating Information as Content Strategy.
"Content, which is anything that informs, educates, or entertains online, is your business digital body language," writes Valeria Maltoni. And the importance could not be underscored enough. In a related study, we recently found that that 46 percent of the time, people are looking for topics of specific interest, 39 percent of the time for information, and 37 percent for multimedia, and 55 percent for news. Content consumption IS the primary activity online, despite why people join a social network. Think about that. And then find out from Maltoni why curation is important.

• Marketers, It’s Time To Rethink Target Market Segmentation.
Beth Harte tackles the various graphics — demographics, firmograhics, pyschographics, sociographics, and enthnographics — that marketers look at every day. When you add CRM systems and social media monitoring tools, there is a ton of data that can be pulled and pooled and analyzed. But instead of relying on that data alone, she suggests that marketers pay more attention to audience research analysis. And she is right. The best way to understand your audience is to connect with them and engage them on a regular basis. Besides, sometimes when you ask two questions, you discover different answers.

• The Pre-Holiday Internet Marketing Checklist.
Ian Lurie shares 20 things you could be doing right now, before the holidays, that you probably are not. He touches on almost every aspect of online marketing: scrubbing the house e-mail, fixing the Facebook page, improving site performance, doing SEO homework, fixing broken links, and so on and so forth. It's stuff many content creators never think about (guilty here, but not for clients). But even more importantly than running the list, Lurie specifies some of the stuff that people neglect and makes you want to get busy with it.

Destroying the 7 Myths of B2B Social Media.
Jay Baer pinpoints some of the myths of B2B marketing in a slideshare presentation that makes sense. Among them: he includes the idea that B2B customers do not use social media, that it's not worth the trouble, and that it seems like a B2C world. Although not included in his slides, almost 90 percent of B2B decision makers are already interacting with personal and professional connections. The question B2B companies might ask themselves is if their prospects are not talking to them online, then who are they taking to?

Friday, November 5

Consuming Research: What If Popular Identified A Market Opportunity?

consumption
"We overdo pretty much everything," Gayle Bessenoff, who teaches psychology, told the Hartford Courant. "There's something about the American Dream that leads to overdoing everything."

It's one of several stories focused in "The Psychology of Overconsumption." The idea came out of research for another class, when Bessenoff noted the increased attention on hoarding and addiction. And she believes the American dream might have something to do with it. She's partly right, claiming the American dream originated as religious freedom, and suggests it is now fruitless.

In actuality, the American dream was first defined by James Truslow Adams in 1931. He said America was a place where citizens of every rank can achieve a "better, richer, and happier life." You can find the idea in the Declaration of Independence. It says that "all men are created equal" with inalienable rights such as "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."

The American dream Bessenoff is talking about today, is a misunderstanding. That American dream came about in the 1950s when certain items became commonplace as part of the American experience — a suburban home, lawn, car, and television. Basically, the public as a whole decided you could not have happiness without those things.

As the years moved forward, the quest for the new definition of the American dream became a compulsion and entitlement as opposed to something earned. We've added a lot more to the list too — a computer, smart phone, game console, certain services, certain assurances, etc.

More central, it seems to me, is her argument that people identify with not what they do (equally bad) but what they own (like a toothbrush).

How Does It Apply To Marketing And Communication?

If we oversimplify, marketing often comes in one of two forms. Innovate and create demand. Or, out position as a preferred choice. Both hope to establish a brand relationship that people identify with, as it generally solidifies consumer loyalty.

If Bessenoff is mostly right, then she is saying that people allow their things to identify them as much as they identify with their things. But I don't think that is right, except in some cases that I won't get into here.

Most people seem to buy something because it best meets the values or characteristics that they possess, like a hybrid car. Innovation tends to come out of these values too, which is why there is an increased focus on public transportation. And that is why what she is doing might be important to marketing. It helps clarify the thrust. People buy things (besides essentials) because it best meets their values and characteristics.

That seems like a very different class than overconsumption, although I agree with her that some brands are trying to hijack "happiness" into every can, cup, or cardboard box. Overconsumption is something else entirely, and I wish more marketers would pay attention to it. It's because the experience of purchasing the product (or consuming the product) is providing more happiness than the product.

That is something to think about. It could underpin which products or services are inherently weak, giving someone an opportunity to better innovate. Or perhaps, even more importantly, help us understand why popular tends to be less satisfying.

Thursday, November 4

Advertising Negatives: Does It Still Work?

negative advertising
Now that the dust is settling after the midterm elections, it might be safer to consider the advent of negative advertising and whether or not it still works. The answer might be in the middle, with Americans clearly losing their appetite for it.

It's not exclusive to political advertisements. Companies employ them from time to time too, just with less frequency. Chevron clearly has in its campaign to claim that it is different from most energy companies. However, there might be some unintended consequences based on what it says.

What does it say? Oil companies make huge profits. Last year, Chevron made a lot of money. Where does it go? Oil companies should put their money to good use. All that sticks, but not the solution. Let's take a look...


The rest of the message is quickly lost to overlapping and less convicted dialogue, until Chevron is fully branded to the opening negative message. Did you see it? We make huge profits ... Chevron. We should put our money to good use ... Chevron. The economy is bad ... Chevron. It's the kind of strategy that lends itself to all sorts of interpretations, including those with colorful language.


Advertisers need to learn that people tend to associate negative messages with the source as much as the subject. The same can be said about political advertisements that are overtly negative, with some exceptions. But if it will help you to give yourself pause, always consider that negative messages generally stick to the source.

Some candidates learned this the hard way last night, except in Nevada. Front groups still seem to pull the wool over the eyes of Nevada voters. More than $1.7 million in negative ads was lobbied against one candidate from one front group, for example. But since the ad was funded by a front group, the opposing candidate wasn't considered the source.

Of course, both candidates did enter into the mudslinging on their own too. The reason was simple enough. Both of their respective teams knew they could no longer gain likability so they sought only to increase each other's unlikability. Now, neither of them are very well liked. Mission accomplished.

As much as I hate to admit it, negative ads do work, especially in politics. However, they tend to work best if they aren't too personal, too unbelievable (with the exception of humor), or too attached to the source as opposed to the subject. Looking back at the Chevron ad, you can easily see they miss on all three. The spoof, however, hits all three.

Wednesday, November 3

Checking It: Five Lessons To Save Your Social Media Program

Brand Worship
Tucked inside a new study from Cone, a strategy and communication company, communication professionals will find some very worthwhile information if they read between the lines. And I do mean read between the lines.

The raw data never tells the whole story. You need a seasoned analyst to help you put the pieces together. And, this newest study demonstrates how important that can be.

An inexperienced communicator would look at this study and deduce customers like frequent engagement, plenty of coupons, interaction on more than one network, and are interested in everything the brand has to share on any given day. But we see the study differently, especially when we put the numbers from various parts to consider very different findings.

1. Incentive Offers Can Cost You Customers.

Finding. 77 percent of consumers say a free product, free service, coupon or discount will attract them to follow or like a new brand. However, in another section of the study, 58 percent of those consumers say that if a brand over communicates or starts to spam them (over saturating content or offers), then they are likely to stop following the brand.

Analysis. Everybody likes a promotion or contest from a brand they support. However, blasting daily discounts eventually erodes the offering, literally driving more people away than those offers might attract. Brands have to balance their tactical approach, keeping incentives in line with relevant content.

2. Consumers Can't Tell The Difference Between Blogs And Websites.

Finding. According to the study, 63 percent of Americans say that they interact with companies via their Websites and only 13 percent interact with or read a company blog, which scored lower than email, social networks, mobile devices, or message boards.

Analysis. The vast majority of links shared on social networks (content that consumers value) direct consumers to new information, articles, or posts. Whatever you call this content, almost all of it is delivered as a blog. In fact, more companies are beginning to replace their Websites with blogs to capitalize on a continuous stream of new content because there is very little reason to visit a static Website.

3. Social Networking Is A High Risk/Reward Medium.

Finding. 46 percent of consumers say that they expect companies to be able to solve their problems and provide customer support via social networks and/or other online engagement tools. 58 percent also say that when brands act irresponsibly toward "me" or other customers, they will stop following it.

Analysis. While many online interactions "feel" like customer service issues, brands must never lose sight of the fact that every interaction, especially with a customer having a problem, is a potential crisis communication situation. Where social media differs from customer service is two-fold. First, consumers are calling in on their own; they bring a percentage of their friends along for the ride. Second, the problem or concern is being addressed in public; the company must always remember it might as well be answering customer questions on a broadcast channel.

4. Engagement Is In The Eye Of The Beholder.

Finding. 28 percent of customers following a brand want the company to develop new ways to engage them online and 36 percent expect communication. However, 53 percent will drop the brand if the information they share isn't relevant enough and 36 percent will drop a brand that doesn't respond or refresh its content.

Analysis. People are different and, generally, behave online much like they do in real life. Think of it like your average high school classroom. Some students want to raise their hands and answer every question. Some students never want to be called on, even if they know the answer. Some leave the class and share information with friends. Some love the lessons, but share them with no one. And so on and so forth. Brands that build in adaptability to their engagement models will be best suited to hit the middle mark.

5. Real-Time Measurements Can Be Misleading.

Finding. Customers vary the number of times that they actively connect with brands. 33 percent visit once or twice a week (not daily), but the greater balance of the visitors only visit between a few times a year or a few times a month. 14 percent never visit again, even if they keep the connection open.

Analysis. The perspectives of a content creator and the consumer is significantly different. Content creators are engaged with their project on a daily basis. Most consumers are not, which changes the experience. For example, consumers are not likely to see each new item on a return visit but three or four or more new items, each time they return. So that post that didn't "seem" to have significant traction on the day it was posted could become your most popular a month from now.

Another quick tip related to experience: Online representatives must always remember that even if they have answered one question 100 times, the consumer is still asking that question for the first time. And no, they aren't searching your stream to see if you answered it already.

Social media seems like a simple communication tactic and many of my colleagues (myself included) tend to speak about it in simple terms. However, the reality is that social media is exceedingly complex because the people you hope to reach are complex. Sure, some experts will always make the case that there is a herd-like sociology pattern to be found, but don't count on it.

You can find the five-page 2010 Consumer New Media Study on Cone's Website. There is a data form to fill out, but you can limit the contact information to a name and email.
 

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