Wednesday, April 30

Content Marketing Isn't Always About Content Creation

Given the number of public relations firms with their feet in social media and digital marketing, one would think more organizations could demonstrate content creation restraint. They don't.

Content creation continues to be the focus of most digital marketing and public relations campaigns and it's starting to backfire. There is so much being produced nowadays that some people are rightly asking how much is too much?

A few seem to think we've already crossed that threshold. Maybe so. The deluge is so huge that the quality of the content doesn't seem to matter as much anymore. The mantra of most programs can be summed up as: Create as much low value content as possible with tightly written link-bait headlines that can be distributed via incessant automation systems in order to inflate website traffic as evidence of causation for unspecified and erroneously labeled key performance indicators.

Sound familiar? It ought too. The vast majority of organizations approach content marking on measurable clicks (a.k.a. actions and conversions) that are overtly and painfully rewarded by online measurement systems. Entire books have been written about it. Frequency breeds familiarly, they say.

Too much frequency also breeds contempt. 

The real problem with more and more marketing programs is that content has become akin to being a house guest in someone else's online experience. Worse, this house guest has become so narcessistic that they act like they own the place just because they invested in a shiny new suit.

Sure, an organization might own the space where it publishes, but it doesn't own the stream most people subscribe to. They turned to digital mediums to escape interruption rather than be pummeled by them.

Unless more organizations wake up, it's very likely that the remedy for bad journalism and content shock is more and more of it until it becomes too expensive and ultimately people tune it out. It is an inevitable outcome, which is the same one that once caused direct mail houses to surrender 20 percent conversion rates for less than 2 percent between the 1970s and 2000s. They just sent more mail.

The alternative is to modify the content mix.

While some organizations are better suited to it than others, modifying content creation with content participation remains one of the most viable solutions. Rather than organizations expressing themselves with content creation, they can invite consumers or small business owners to contribute some of it.

The National Park Foundation, along with several partner agencies, is currently managing one such campaign. Outdoorsmen and amateur photographers provide photos and the foundation supplies the community and distribution.

Last year, nearly 20,000 photos were submitted between May and December. Winning images received cash prizes, outdoor gear, hotel packages, and an annual Federal Recreation Lands Pass.

Sure, Share The Experience is packaged as an annual contest that invites people to explore the nation’s federal lands and share their experiences with photography but it's more than that. While the prizes provide a gratitude-based incentive, they seem secondary to the primary participatory engagement.

At the same time, the photographs submitted by real people demonstrate the benefits of a federal parks program much more effectively than if these partner agencies produced and promoted 54 photographs every day. It's also more cost-effective than attempting to cover some 500 million acres of federal lands with professional photographers and park professionals alone.

Content participation is more structured than a crowdsourced contest.

A few years ago, we conceived a similar approach to developing content for early cause marketing campaigns, independent film releases, and startup social media programs. In essence, as long as the program structure guides participants (as opposed to runaway hashtag efforts, content participation efforts can have a dramatic and positive impact on exciting professional content creation programs.

Just keep in mind that running a "contest" on its own isn't enough. Effective campaigns are designed to place participants and stakeholders on equal footing. And any resulting exposure of a well-executed campaign will likely be a by-product of achieving larger objectives. In this case, it enriches the parks program, safeguards our national heritage, and inspires the next generation of parks enthusiasts.

What about your organization? What can you do to transform the "us and them" vernacular into a more collaborative "we" program? And if it isn't considering participatory efforts online and off, then maybe it's time to see how many counted clicks are destined to become disenfranchised customers or adversaries.

The kayaking photo above was submitted to Share The Experience by Courtney Kotewa. She was in northern Michigan near Essexville when she took the winning shot.

Wednesday, April 23

Fame Is Fun But A Shallow Substitute For Real Recognition

Richard R. Becker
It takes much less than 72 hours of fame to appreciate the folly in it. I had my fill after two hours.

It's true. For 72 hours in Grand Canyon National Park, everybody knew me. Not everyone exactly, but enough people that I could have passed Geoff Livingston's Safeway Test. Some would smile and nod at me with wide-eyed identification. Others immediately approached me with compliments or quips. And a few of them even acted like long lost friends, striking up a conversation.

It wasn't incessant, but surprisingly frequent. And when it did happen, there was enough exuberance in these random exchanges that some onlookers couldn't help but wonder who was that guy.

How 10 minutes of fun turned into 72 hours of fame, maybe longer.

Who was that guy? Those in the know, knew. In total, those in the know included about 600 people who filled the bleachers in front of the railroad tracks at the Grand Depot Hotel in Williams, Arizona. All of them, like me, were there to see a shootout before departing to the Grand Canyon.

Having the foresight to know the show would be packed, my family and I even arrived early to get good seats. But what we didn't know is that the cowboys would pass over every audience volunteer with their hand up and pick me to participate in a card game prior to their shootout.

As the story played out, I was transformed into the "rich" tourist playing for an unknown stake in a card game with three brothers who had lost everything they had the night before (along with their mother, who was still sitting in jail). I played along, drawing up some dusty high school and college theater experience to lend expression to my mostly non-speaking part.

Rich Becker in a gunfightWhen the cards were all dealt out, I found myself sporting aces over kings. My hand easily beat two of the three brothers who had been dealt in, but not the third. He conspicuously won with five aces.

Accusations of cheating followed, with a younger brother getting the drop on the older brother by plugging him in the back. That might have been the end of it had the sheriff not shown up. My heroes quickly changed their tune to avoid jail time and fingered me as the most likely villain in the story.

According to the new account, I not only cheated but also gunned their brother down in cold blood. The sheriff didn't buy it for several reasons. I wasn't holding the alleged murder weapon. I was walking around in "underwear" and a purse. And that purse, duly noted, didn't match my shoes. Long story short, I didn't measure up to same rugged toughness as the company I kept. I was asked to sit back down. Sigh.

The verdict stung almost as much as being gunned down so I took my seat. The sheriff stood his ground on his own. Then there was a shootout. Bang, bang, bang. Cowboys dropped. We took some photos. It was done. Except, it wasn't done.

Why the prospect of fame is full of empty calories, never fulfilling. 

Almost immediately upon boarding the train, another family recognized me as the guy from the shootout. A few hours later, while overlooking the Grand Canyon, someone came up to mention what a good sport I had been. Another couple, walking by, pointed out my shoes still didn't match my purse.

Grand Canyon DepotIt went on like this for the next 72 hours. People would call me everything from "the five aces guy" (I wasn't) to a "no good dirty cheater who got those boys killed" (I wasn't). It was fun, but also odd in that some people seem to expect more from me than a laugh, a thank you, or other pleasantries. After a few encounters, the novelty wore off and some left me feeling empty or even awkward.

Don't get me wrong. I wouldn't trade the experience for the world. While I never seek it out, I have been picked (or seen family members picked) more often than not. It makes trips like this memorable.

The first time it happened, years ago, I was pulled up on a stage, strapped to chair, and surrounded by scantily clad women singing Hanky Panky. Another time, I joined friends to compete in a bed race down the main drag of Oatman, Arizona. A few weeks ago, I ran across a baseball field dressed as a Girl Scout cookie with my daughter. But unlike those times, something was different this time.

The intimacy of the show, the proximity to the audience, and the percentage of time on stage made me part of the show and, by default, part of the vacation experience of an audience and their photo albums. And as such, I became known not for who I am but for a part a played for about 10 minutes.

This is significantly different from teaching or speaking or receiving an award or writing an article, where being recognized is the result of recognition. This was akin to fame as in the condition of being known and talked about by many people but necessarily for any achievement. It's the difference between Miley Cyrus being known for a wrecking ball video but not as a singer. Call it set dressing.

Recognition will fill you up, even if no one knows you on sight.

Shoot out in Williams, Ariz.Conversely, no one in the Grand Canyon knew I was simultaneously being recognized by a colleague I respect nor that an article I wrote was picked up by an online publisher. And therein lies the irony of this observation.

No one will likely recognize me on the streets for either the recognition nor the article, but both have considerably more value from a perspective of reputation. Never mind that no one will recognize me on the street as the result of either. Even if they did, it wouldn't mean much.

Fame is fun but not a substitute. And if you need some help applying my meaning to public relations or social media, sum it up as being careful what you wish for. For many people, fame is nothing more than a flash in the pan before they return to being anonymous. Reputation, on the other hand, can last a lifetime. Ergo, the shootout was a load of fun and I would do it all again. But the fame that followed afterward, while novel, I could do without.

A few more words. My hat is off to the cowboys of Grand Depot Hotel in Williams, Arizona. They add  something extra to the entire experience like nowhere else. Let them rob you on the return. A full review will follow on Liquid [Hip] Travel.

Wednesday, April 16

Will The Next America Express A Culture Shift?

There are two interesting demographic anomalies being played out in the United States right now. And the reason they are interesting is that they aren't anomalies. They could be called corrections.

The first demographic transformation is that the Baby Boomer bubble will be largely played out by 2060. In its place will be a rectangle, with each age demographic being almost equally represented.

The second transformation is racial. Of the two transformations, this is the one that some people make a big deal about. "White" will become a minority by 2060, making the country a plurality.

Marketers are testing the waters of the Next America. 

There were three commercials that expressed the demographic changes taking place in America during the Super Bowl. They includes Coke, Chevy, and Cheerios. Of the three, Cheerios won with its portrayal of a blended family because the expression didn't draw attention to itself.

Conversely, Chevy flashed a brief image of a family with same-sex partners, which demonstrated acceptance more than the demographic changes ahead. Coke did something else. In attempting to celebrate the cultural diversity of the nation, it conveyed it by singing the nation anthem in seven languages.

Because of the political rhetoric that followed the advertisement, most marketers missed the lesson that tempers what Pew Research calls The Next America. The Cheerios advertisement makes the demographic nod to blended families, which is estimated to reach as much as 20 percent by 2060.

Coke was much more blatant because it expressed multiculturalism over assimilation, an ideal that doesn't always sit well with all Americans (regardless of ethnicity and political viewpoints) because it breaks down the melting pot concept of America. While most families retain some identity from their ancestral heritage, they also assimilate to some degree. It has pretty much always been this way.

History suggests demographic changes eventually even out. 

When most people consider American demographics, they tend to think of the United States as English dominant. They mostly do so because the founding fathers were English subjects.

Those demographics changed a long time ago. English hasn't been a dominant ancestry in the United States for almost a century. Dominant ancestral lines today are German (15 percent), followed by Irish (11 percent) and African (9 percent). Assimilation creates the illusion of an English country.

Sure, there is no doubt that mass German immigration (and mass Irish immigration before that) led to some cultural shifts in the country. But, by in large, mass emigrations were absorbed and people eventually self- identified with being American first. Ergo, German didn't supplant English as the official language. Other than adopting Octoberfest as a national celebration, not that much changed.

While some people will be quick to claim that mass German immigration (or any other mass immigration) doesn't resemble the same tensions we face a century later, history suggests otherwise. If anything, the alarmist anti-German sentiment was much more pronounced than any anti-anything sentiment we see today. Even President Woodrow Wilson condemned "hyphenated Americans."

The point is that the so-called demographic makeover that America is seeing today neglects that America has seen several demographic makeovers before, with most immigrant families becoming something much different within the short span of three generations or less. Everyone changes.

The ethnic and racial flames of today are too easily fanned. 

Americans tend to politicize everything these days, ethnic and racial tensions included. While some researchers, including Pew, seem to expect a showdown of sorts, it seems more likely any sweeping changes will be a whimper. The truth is that most ethnic and racial tensions are sadly superficial.

Please don't misunderstand me. I don't mean that racism doesn't exist in America. It does. All I mean is by in large, ethnic and racial lines in this country are based on self-identification and skin color.

Case in point, the last presidential election featured two candidates who come from blended families, yet many people insist as seeing Barack Obama as black and Mitt Romney as white. Why? The only explanation is skin color and self-identification.

They aren't alone either. One of the best panels provided by Pew Research's The Next America features eight celebrities who come from blended families. They include Derek Jeter, Cameron Diaz, Halle Berry, Bruno Mars,  Apolo Ohno, Norah Jones, Selena Gomez and Tiger Woods. Self- identification and skin color tend to be the rule there too. So we might considered getting over it.

The big challenges ahead will be as big as we think. 

If anything has changed in the last forty years or so, it is that some people have become very adept at convincing Americans to create artificial divisions, especially among ethnic and racial lines. Marketers have to resist the urge to fall for it and see how it plays out. It won't be what is imagined.

Most of the changes taking place in the United States will be largely regional and not comprehensive. And even in those areas where "white" becomes a minority it won't necessarily mean much. California, New Mexico, and Texas all have pluralities today (with non-Hispanic whites at less than 50 percent) and it's still difficult to find three states with so little in common from a socio-political perspective.

And to that point, marketers are supposed to be sensitive to cultural values and beliefs by engaging in fair and balanced communication activities that foster and encourage mutual understanding. In other words, smart marketers create messages for existing markets as opposed to predictive ones.

While some people believe that companies, political parties, churches, and police forces need to prepare for what they call sweeping demographic changes, the truth is that nobody knows what exactly those changes will be unless they build assumptions based on pre-existing stereotypes. I cannot think of a worse idea.

There is no question that the nation is changing (as it has for decades), but these changes aren't going to adhere to whatever limited schism we can think up today. On the contrary, there are an increasing number of regions in the United States that have abandoned ethnic and racial identification all together, making one of the fastest-growing segments of the population unwilling to subscribe to hyphens.

When you ask them, they say they are Americans. Nothing more. Nothing less. And it's probably refreshing to the rest of the world because most places don't see hyphens either. They see nations.

Wednesday, April 9

NASA Continues To Emerge As A Social Media Savvy Agency

Although some people rightfully question whether or not the United States space program is significant without a self-sufficient means to send astronauts into outer space or return to the moon, NASA continues to take the lead in several areas of innovation, including its policy of proactive communication.

The space agency is steadily becoming a leader in education and conservation by means of its television webcasts, website content, and social media assets. Its ability to effectively use modern communication tools as a means for inspiration and awareness for under-covered scientific events is admirable, especially for Earth-bound observations such as the upcoming lunar eclipse.

NASA will provide full coverage of the lunar eclipse.

On Tuesday, April 15, NASA will broadcast live coverage of the lunar eclipse, beginning between 1 a.m. and 2 a.m. (EDT) and ending when the moon will enter the Earth's full shadow (or umbra) at approximately 3:45 a.m. on the East Coast (and 12:45 a.m. on the West Coast). The event is significant because the United States is in a prime orbital position to view the eclipse.

Depending on local weather conditions, anyone awake to witness the event will have a spectacular view looking into the sky as the moon's appearance changes from bright orange to blood red to dark brown and perhaps gray. Assisting NASA in its coverage is anyone who wants to participate.

The agency has invited anyone who is interested to share their images of the eclipsed moon on Instagram and the NASA Flickr group. Currently, the agency has hundreds of pictures of previous lunar eclipses along with educational illustrations and models. It will also cover the event on its television channel and share multiple telescopic views from around the United States.


Some additional plans made by the social media team include live conversations (including question and answer sessions) on Twitter, Google+, Facebook, and Instagram. Use the hashtag #eclipse to easily source the conversation. The agency also planned to host a Reddit Ask Me Anything (AMA) on Monday, April 14 at 2 p.m. with astronomers from the agency's Marshall Space Flight Center.

Live lunar eclipse resources are also available on a dedicated webpage. In addition to the photos, the educational webpage includes an animated simulation of what the eclipse might look like from the surface of the moon. This particular eclipse is receiving additional attention because the United States will not be able to witness a full lunar eclipse in its entirety again until 2019.

Sizing up the social media program at NASA.

NASA continues to be diligent in covering a broad spectrum of missions, programs, and projects. It largely succeeds in making its findings prolific across most major social networks, adapting the content to suit the specific best practice models of each platform.

It also earns high marks in making its resources readily available so individuals can join in the conversation. As a public agency, many of its photos, images, and artwork are in the public domain (provided the resources aren't used for commercial purposes).

Where the program is still in its infancy is in categorizing its content to engage specific interest groups as well as space generalists and agency loyalists. Specifically, while the agency does a relatively fine job categorizing its website assets by mission, program, and project, its social media efforts tend to feel exceedingly expansive.

The net impact to its outreach is that it still relies on traditional media to set the awareness agenda. People are more likely to hear about the lunar eclipse and, perhaps, less likely to learn about the NADA Cassini Images that may reveal the birth of a new Saturn moon. If the small icy object that formed within the rings of Saturn is a new moon, then NADA will have effectively witnessed something that could help explain the formation of our own moon.

What do you think? How effective has NASA been in adopting social media tools as part of its greater outreach efforts? What could it do better?

Tuesday, April 1

Pay It Forward With A Social Media Endowment Today!

Most of us understand that social media is not a fad. It's the biggest social shift the world has seen since the Industrial Revolution. About 96 percent of Millennials have already joined a social network.

They aren't alone. About 73 percent of every generation is active on social networks. One out of every three couples who married last year met via social media (and are less likely to split up). One out of every six higher education students are enrolled in an online curriculum. Eight in ten companies use LinkedIn as a resource tool to find employees (and 98 percent use some social media).

Social media has become so important and so dominant in our culture and around the world, that an ever-increasing number of social scoring sites quantify, measure, and rate how we perform online. These scores are so important that you cannot leave social media to chance and still come out on top.

Everyone needs professional online help but they often learn it too late.

There is only one problem. By the time someone really needs to boost their social media presence, it's already too late. So they don't get hired. They don't make the grade. They don't even stay married.

It's time to face facts. There isn't anything anybody can do help you improve your social media status.  You are not a celebrity. You are not a marketer. You have no social skills. And even if you did, you would probably blow it anyway. But even if you are a total loser, we have some pretty happy news.

Even if you are a loser at social media, your kids don't have to be losers too.

You can make sure your children aren't subjected to the same social shame you have to live with today by investing in a social media endowment policy for tomorrow. It is the very first cradle-to-grave service ever offered and we're proud to be on the cutting edge of this exciting new program.

What is a social media endowment? A social media endowment works like any other financial endowment, except the money you invest is earmarked to be invested in the social media development of your children from cradle to grave (and, technically, even longer than that). Most social media planning starts from conception and carries forward to the next generation with a post-mortem plan.

Why an endowment instead of a typical service retainer? Service retainers are great, but they can also deplete disposable income and we don't want to do that. An endowment works better because the investment holds its principal in perpetuity, paying out only a small portion for the services that are needed. When the program is complete (at death), some money can be paid out to a benefactor too.

How are allocations slated over the life of the endowment? While every social media endowment is different, we generally plan to allocate $100 per month times the age of the child, allowing it to cumulate when they need it most — applying for colleges and finding post-graduate employment. All other interest is reinvested until the principal reaches a peak operating balance. At that time, the service is capped at 50 percent of the monthly interest with allowance for events, circumstances and contingencies.

What special events do you plan for as part of the program? Obviously, there are times in everyone's life that deserve special attention— birth, first birthday, first day of school, etc. To ensure these magical moments receive fresh attention, we draw down additional funds to ensure their birth announcement (for example) trends on Pinterest or that the optional live birth video is a hit on YouTube, making your child an instant celebrity that people know they should be watching!

Can highlighting their biggest life moments really matter? Perhaps the best explanation is an example. As reported by CNN, some people already offer this service for weddings. But this concept is so much bigger because we will be in your child's corner from day one to make their dreams come true and trend at the same time. Best of all, as an endowment, it's already paid in full. As long as the endowment meets the minimum requirements, everything is covered. So, in sum, heck yeah it does!

How does a social media endowment really help? The only difference between your child and the kid who got his picture on the front page of the news for a science project is exposure. By sharing select posts, pictures, and videos early on, they create a legacy of achievement whether they were any good at something or not. The simple truth is that winning people over before your child is good at something will lead to an amateur following that will swear the child is good at it.

Are there money making opportunities for my child? As your child grows his or her social scores and fan base, the sky is the limit in terms of endorsement deals, sponsorships and spokesperson opportunities. Many children who are enrolled in the social media endowment program are already on track to become famous, giving their socially challenged parents a second chance at fame by becoming their child's manager. The perks alone will blow your mind!

The time to act is now! Imagine how great their lives will be if everything they do trends on the most popular social networks! Facebook. Streamed. Twitter. Chirped. Pinterest. Pinned. Google+. Added. The point is that as experts, we will migrate your child's success onto whatever social network is popular in the future. It's easily guaranteed because the program operating capital is guaranteed.

The bottom line. With a social media endowment, your child will be entitled to the best of everything online — from a trending birth announcement to the highest influencer scores in whatever interests they might have — long before their peers even have permission to open an account. They will be first, firmly entrenched, and positioned to make their dreams come true while receiving endorsements from companies that know exposure is everything just like the social stars you envy today.

For endowment options, please inquire after reading the disclaimer.* Based on historical averages, a $1 million endowment made today will cover $500,000 worth of social media exposure while growing the principal to $1.8 million in 10 years. Initial endowments of $50,000 or more are also manageable to reach your goals!

*For more great social media tips in the tradition of April Fools! please see The Mushup StrategyBronx Zoo InfluencerSME: 14.0Clout Bellies, How To Write A Social Media Book, or almost anything labeled satire. Have a great day! And a special thanks to Benson Hendrix for inspiration!
 

Blog Archive

Google+ Followers

by Rich Becker Copyright © 2010 Designed by Bie Blogger Template