Thursday, August 9

Rolodexing Disaster: Facebook

Ever since Robert Scoble declared Facebook the new Rolodex, everybody has been giving it ample attention. Forget the “bright shining object” syndrome that seems to have overtaken social media; when Scoble talks about Facebook and the end of e-mail, it reads like social opium with no thought necessary.

Well, he’s wrong. Facebook will never be the new Rolodex and e-mail is here to stay. Why’s that? Two words: Harry Joiner.

Joiner is a leading e-commerce recruiter who writes the popular Marketing Headhunter blog. He used the Facebook UI to “slurp up” contacts in his Gmail address book (all 4,600 names) and then sent them all Facebook invitations (much like similar platforms). He was banned for it without warning.

Plenty of people have weighed in while I’ve danced around the issue for a few days. Marketing Headhunter has captured most of those comments right here. So, there isn’t much more to rehash, except one thing.

Since Joiner is not allowed on Facebook, what good is Facebook to me if he happens to be in my Rolodex, electronic or otherwise?

Do I keep a second Rolodex just for Joiner and anyone else who happens to be banned without warning? Or what if I trust Facebook to be my new Rolodex and they decide to ban me? All my contacts will be lost, gone, stolen away?

Look, there really isn’t anything wrong with trying out the newest shiny object in social media. (I only do it out of self-defense because some clients have questions after Scoble and company make outrageous claims.) However, all of this reminds me of the stock market in the 1980s. Every stock seemed hot because the economy was hot. A few years later, we quickly learned that not all hot stocks had value. Neither do all bright shiny objects.

Maybe it’s time for boiler room shiny object brokers to have a reality check before they cause a bust.

The truth is that most (not all) social media folks only talk up the services they excel at because it makes them feel good to be on the leading edge of something, anything, and everything. It is not prudent to trust one online service application with all your contact information nor is it prudent to attempt to gain a foothold in all them all. Most people (even business people who aren’t ignorant or whatever social media experts call them) are still learning their way around e-mail and Google let alone knowing anything about social media beyond MySpace teacher scandals. And, as much as Scoble has something to lend, sometimes he cannot see the forest for his focus is on the trees.

As for Facebook, there is nothing wrong with it when it works as a social network in the fast-growing bubble of all social networks. But it seems to me that there is something wrong with it in its terms of service, enforcement policy, and its inability to see that it has created a minor crisis that will continue to grow as more members are banned without reasonable explanation. My Rolodex? I think not. Another tool? Maybe.

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Wednesday, August 8

Driving Brand: McDonald's Corporation

It seems Coca-Cola has some proven company in breaking through the brand clutter. McDonald's, with more than 30,000 local restaurants serving 52 million people in more than 100 countries each day, has struck the neuroscience nerve.

Carrots, milk, and apple juice all taste better to preschoolers, ages 3-5, when they are wrapped in packaging that sports one of the most familiar brands in the world. At least that is what they found in San Mateo County, Calif. when 63 children were given the same foods. The only difference was the wrapper.

The impact is amazing, but it is the age at which this brand embeds itself that is extraordinary (and perhaps a little bit frightening). The research appeared in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine and funded by Stanford and the Robert Wood Foundation and it was picked up by the Associated Press yesterday.

In a prior experiment, the researchers demonstrated that even a single exposure to a television advertisement affected preschool children's brand preferences. This study found that the frequency of eating at McDonald's was not the only influencer. The number of television sets in the household also played a factor.

This doesn’t surprise me. All of us, but children in particular, respond to visual and audio stimulus as if it were real whether we admit it or not. In other words, what we see on television has an equal chance to impact our decisions on a subconscious, if not conscious, level (assuming the writers and producers know what they are doing).

Founder Ray Kroc knew what he was doing. He not only raised the bar on the principles of quick service standardization, but also forever linked the idea (if not the practice) of quality, cleanliness, service, and value to McDonald’s name.

“If you work just for money, you'll never make it, but if you love what you're doing and you always put the customer first, success will be yours.” — Ray Kroc

Although some may argue not all local franchise owners measure up to Kroc’s vision, it doesn’t matter. McDonald's spends more than $1 billion dollars in advertising per year. That’s a whole lot of positive impressions.

Fun fact: Our first regional television script was written for McDonald’s in the early 1990s. It was part of a regional campaign to determine which of the “Arch” burgers would be introduced nationwide. While the “Arch Deluxe” won, the “California Deluxe” beat out Big Macs in some markets. McDonald’s has one of the strictest shot standards in the quick service industry; no one is allowed to actually “eat and chew” food on camera.

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Tuesday, August 7

Serving Diversity: From Mauler To Social Media

While this analogy of social media to the restaurant industry is not the first step to develop a social media mix as an extension of your business strategy, it does illustrate something that public relations professionals, marketing experts, and so-called celebrity A-list bloggers sometimes forget. As a whole, the blogosphere isn’t all that different from the restaurant industry. There are different strokes for different folks. The model of success for one might not work for another.

Yesterday, I shared some wisdom from two Mobile five-star restaurants. You might have noticed that neither of them said anything silly like you have to have duck on the menu. So today, I thought it would be fun to share some insights from another favorite celebrity chef of mine; someone who knows something about diversity and shares something in common with me.

Gustav Mauler has owned successful several restaurants (I’ve reviewed a few over the years). Currently, he operates Spiedini, Sazio, and Gustav’s Cigar Bar, each of them a little different. When he received a Las Vegas Chamber Community Achievement Award in 2002 (an honor we share), I asked him for five quick keys for success.

Gustav Mauler’s Five Keys For Success

1. Love your profession.
2. Cater to your guests — continually improve systems to consistently exceed the customer’s expectations.
3. Run your business with integrity.
4. Share your talents through education.
5. Give back to the community.

He didn’t say open a cigar bar or why gorgonzola works with spinach salad a little better than parmesan. Some of the fine bloggers at BlogCatalog seem to get it. I asked them what kind of restaurant is your blog and their answers are as diverse as you might expect. You can see them all in the discussion string (highly recommend), but here are a few highlights with their descriptors up front:

• A tea room (Thrift Shop Romantic.)
• A basement coffee shop (Tetsujin’s Blog.)
• A pet-friendly eatery (Pet Friendly Travel.)
• A roadside diner (Agents Don’t Do Housework.)
• A Norwegian “special bite” (Chiamimi.)
• A Willy Wonka chocolate factory (Eavesdrop Writer.)
• A local café (Apathetic Lemming of the North.)
• An ice cream parlor (Daisy The Curly Cat.)

There are many more choices for sure. But what about the public? Are people only interested in celebrity chefs or quick service twits? Let’s find out. Vote for the broadest social media dining styles that represent where you’re likely to go most often. You can pick multiple choices, but only vote once.


Feel free to add your own dining “descriptor” and (include the html text only as results vary) in the comments. I’ll revisit this issue sometime next week (after the poll closes). Sure, this is hardly scientific, but I have a few theories in the works.

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Monday, August 6

Dining Out: Recipes For Social Media Success

After eating a late lunch at Claim Jumper yesterday, neither my son nor I felt all that well. As a former dining reviewer, it wasn’t hard for me to figure out that the food had waited too long on the hot plate before service; the same experience two other guests complained about before departing in a huff.

Social media can make you feel the same way sometimes. Undercooked entrees, poor service, or unrestrained comments leave you wondering why you dropped by to sample the menu (if there is one).

After following a link to Robert Scoble talking about the death of blogging (hat tip to Geoff Livingston’s take on content vs. contacts at BlogStraightTalk), I felt like I did after eating at Claim Jumper.

Sure, I like Scoble’s blog, but lately he seems to be serving up a different dish than what attracted me to begin with. And he hasn't been all that kind to some patrons either. As a “celebrity chef” of blogging, he might know better.

Rather than berate the point, maybe it would be more useful to remind everyone that like restaurants, there are several different culinary styles to social media. Whether you want it served up like fast food (social networks), hole-in-the-wall (undiscovered C-listers), established favorites (B-listers) or something gourmet (A-listers, while they are A-listers anyway), you can always find what you are looking for (and some days you want one more than the other).

But regardless of what kind of blog you have (ancient wisdom, tech and trendy, or fast and frenzied), the best bloggers, no matter what list they are supposedly on, always underpin what they have with some common sense. I could list a hundred or so who do it right. But rather than do that, I’ll share what Julian Serrano, executive chef at Picasso (Bellagio Hotel and Casino), and David Renna, then general manager at Renoir (The Mirage Hotel and Casino) shared with me when their experiences became the first Las Vegas restaurants to earn Mobil Travel Guide’s prestigious five star rating.

Julian Serrano, Picasso (2000)
1. Everyone must work hard and work together as a team. Everyone must think the same.
2. Everything must work together—the service, décor, and location—in order to give guests the best gastronomic experience possible.
3. You must have the best quality produce and products available. Nothing less will do.
4. Make each guest feel special and important.
5. You must provide good service, good food, and a good overall dining experience.

David Renna, Renoir (2000)
1. Surround yourself and your staff with the most talented people available.
2. You must have commitment from every member of the staff, whether it be the chef, waiter, steward or manager.
3. While it can often be a difficult and expensive task, producing the finest ingredients and wines from around the world makes a tremendous difference in the overall presentation and experience.
4. Service must be professional, and above all, personalized.
5. Every evening, every table, every guests. Create a seamless and hopefully flawless dining experience.

Now that is five-star dining (no wonder why I sometimes miss the assignments). And, not surprisingly, it also happens to be the recipe for social media success — surround yourself with talented contacts, make sure everything is working together, always provide the freshest ingredients, infuse some original content and ideas from around the world, and personalize the experience for guests as much as possible.

It seems to work. So much so that just like most restaurants, the ability to stay on top wth five stars (regardless of seating capacity) has a lot to do with serving substance over flash in the pan.

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Saturday, August 4

Going Viral: From Soflow To Jericho


BusinessLine recently published “Why Viral Marketing Fails" that represents some business backtracking on the concept of consumer marketing. It was reposted by Charles Cook as "the lights were going out" on the Adrants' Solfow forum.

Of course, Soflow wasn’t really closing as much as it was morphing into Wis.dm. but the viral “closing” campaign seems to have been more successful for other networks than Soflow. Competing networks quickly offered up they were sad to see it go but were happy to accept its refugees. This left Soflow inc.’s new platform with fewer members than if it had not mismanaged its message with the hope of going viral.

But can the misfire really be pinned to the concept of viral marketing? Is it really true that most consumer marketing campaigns are destined to end up with a whimper? BuisinessLine seems to think so as the article questions everything from the name “viral marketing” to the very “ethics” of it. Yawn.

Any time viral marketing (though “consumer marketing” does sound better) fails, the failure can be traced back to a flawed strategy more easlly than a flawed concept. You see, the best consumer marketing — the kind that Hotmail originally used to become a success story — cannot be “forced” upon an unsuspecting public. For marketers, the simplest solution is to have a plan B in the event the viral plan A doesn't work.

Even better, if you’re lucky, consumers might kick off a viral campaign and all the company needs to do is nurture it. The question isn't how this happens as much as how it is happening. One of the best consumer success stories currently in progress is the once cancelled, now resurrected television series Jericho.

CBS never asked for a consumer campaign; the consumers did it on their own. The long and growing list of consumer marketing credits now include: Shaun OMac’s BlogTalkRadio show, fan-generated Web sites like Jericho Lives; forums like Jericho Rally Point; and Radio Free Jericho; an upcoming J-Con convention; fan groups like Jericho Coalition; and blogs like Jericho On CBS, The Jericho Bulletin, and Jericho Monster.

Jericho Monster, hosted by Jane S., demonstrates why consumer marketing works: it has a strategy driven by common sense. Without mapping it out like a communication consultant or marketing guru, her blog(s) have an unwritten work plan. Here’s a thumbnail of what she is doing (based on observation and not any formalized plan):

Objectives
Introduce non-viewers to the show.
Educate fans how to do the same.
Increase viewers for Season 2.
Tactics
Launch multiple interlinked blogs.
Make connections across the Web.
Expand the content to increase interest.
Early Results
Growing presence beyond Jericho fans.
Increased blog traffic driven to Jericho site.
Expanded content that caters to diverse interests.

It’s smart. And it demonstrates the best of consumer marketing. Through it all, CBS and Junction Entertainment have been increasing their efforts to assist the fans without attempting to “control” them or the proliferation of their content. On the contrary, they have taken to praising it (the image above, framed by a CBS Jericho widget border, is one of several created by Jericho fan Rubber Poultry), linking to various blogs and forums, and offering widgets fans to add anywhere they like online.

At this rate, Jericho stands to have a sensational return for its short-run seven episodes next season. And if it proves successful, it seems very likely that it will be on the verge of a complete renewal.

There isn’t any mad marketing genius behind what is becoming a viral phenomenon — just fans with a sense of passion and purpose. That’s true for all consumer marketing. It’s less about gimmick and more about allowing something to catch consumer interest. And, if that doesn’t work, you might be best served to have a plan B.

There are thirteen days left to enter Copywrite, Ink.'s contribution to consumer-generated Jericho buzz:. The free “Expanded Universe Short Story Competition” entry deadline is Aug. 17.

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Friday, August 3

Balancing Acts: Social Media Measures


A few days ago, Lee Odden had a similar idea. Although I have a different conclusion, Odden’s piece is a must read for anyone hoping to understand a little more about combined ranking systems.

My decision to take a look at them began the day after I posted about Ad Age’s acquisition of Todd And’s Power 150. Jane S. (Jericho Saved) left a comment, asking “Is Todd’s considered to be more reliable than BlogPulse? Is BP even reliable?”

Other than BlogPulse being a better topic measure and Todd's being a better niche industry blog ranker, maybe the best answer is that most social media measures provide insight, but these insights are often misleading. Here is the oversimplified truth behind some of them:

Google PageRank relies on the uniquely democratic nature of the Web by using its vast link structure as an indicator of an individual page's value (the more links, the higher the page relevance). Importance: it provides an indication of how many other pages are sourcing "searched" information from that page to determine its search rank. Triviality: sometimes you don’t have to be first to be relevant (and not everyone searches on Google). (Bonus: Mac users can get a free dashboard widget at Apple.)

Alexa Traffic Rank is based on the usage of millions of Alexa toolbar users. It is the most common gauge to determine traffic. Importance: it provides an excellent snapshot to see which direction your Web site is moving from a broad perspective. Triviality: traffic doesn’t necessarily mean you are getting the right traffic. (Bonus: Terence Chang recently offered some tips about Alexa.)

Bloglines is a free online service for searching, subscribing, creating and sharing news feeds, blogs, and Web content. Importance: the more subscribers and bookmarkers, the more likely these subscribers will visit your blog. Triviality: There are many subscription services, which is why some people are now pushing FeedBurner as a better measure. However, keep in mind that some subscribers are likely to add a blog to multiple readers, which means the measure is likely less than. (Bonus: ProBlogger asks if full feeds increases subscription rates.)

Technorati tracks 94.9 million blogs and over 250 million pieces of tagged social media. Its authority system, which is one of the most criticized (for some reason), ranks blogs based on links from other blogs in the last 180 days. Importance: the authority rank indicates how many other social media participants consider your post relevant enough to comment about it on their blogs. Triviality: Meemes and other link lists can artificially inflate ranking. (Bonus: Make Money Online shares one strategy.)

Digg and other news aggregators allow user submitted content to be voted on by a community. Importance: a post that gets "dugg" by hundreds of members will most certainly increase traffic. Triviality: member alliances can increase diggs on content with little substance. (Bonus: Digerati Marketing recently posted some Digg tactics.)

Social Networks can include any number of places, ranging from BlogCatalog.com to Facebook to Linkedin to (if we’re being honest) Twitter. Almost all of them (including Technorati, which has "favorites") have some sort of “connection” mechanism. Importance: friends can mean the difference between exposure and no exposure. Triviality: it’s relatively easy to make friends and connections. (Bonus: If you ask, 90 percent of those asked will add you, unless you are a troll.)

Content/Frequency/Comments is another measure that has been around for a while. It was recently re-popularized by Edelman’s complex Social Media Index. Importance: the frequency of posting and number of comments all contribute to increased traffic. Triviality: posting too frequently buries good content and comments can all too easily be inflated. (Bonus: Here are the top ten tips that have been around a long time.)

Conclusion. Everybody likes the rankings, traffic, comments, diggs, and, well, whatever (yeah, me too). They create conversation, attract attention, and demonstrate momentum even when social media pundits weight the numbers toward those areas they excel (and we all know they do) or attempt to game the system.

At best, it seems to me that it is these measures and the gaming of them that slows social media from becoming more mainstream (as it makes the average business owner skeptical of blogs). At worst, it detracts from what communication people are supposed to focus on: the company's overall strategy and the true measures of success (like market share, sales, etc.).

Put plainly, Seth Godin doesn’t have a successful blog because he ranks 8,311 on Alexa or 13 on Technorati. Godin has a successful blog because his online brand is consistent with who he wants to be perceived as and, more importantly, he sells a lot of books (The Dip, released May 10, is still #447 on Amazon).

In sum, the best measures of success come from achieving results that are derived out of a sound business strategy. Certainly, any of these measures can help provide a performance snapshot (assuming you avoid the temptation to game them), but the active pursuit of them won't do much more than distract from what really matters.

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