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.

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