Some is good, some is bad
And the joke is rather sad
That it’s all just a little bit of history repeating"
As part of my post-Thanksgiving holiday return to the city, I spent 7 hours driving through 3 states, taking assorted friends and family members to their homes. 7 hours worth of driving can give a person ample time for reflection. 7 hours worth of Christmas music on the radio can give a person a nasty migraine. But at about the 5 hour mark of my odyssey, something became remarkably clear. Every year, it's practically a requirement for recording artists to release Christmas songs, sung and orchestrated with numbing sameness. Even Dylan, with his aural version of 40-grit sandpaper, delivers the traditional songs in traditional versions. But hidden within the Christmas music oeuvre, there exists a small collection of wonderful songs, familiar to the ear, yet modified to reflect the unique essence of the singer. Something people in marketing would call "brand identity". And in a monthlong Christmas music marathon, these are the songs we'll remember.
"In August 2009, 276.9 million people used email across the U.S. as well as several European countries, Australia and Brazil....up 21% from 229 million in August 2009. But the number of users on social-networking and other community sites jumped 31% to 301.5 million people."The good news is that more and more organizations are taking notice and rolling out their own social media initiatives, or making preparations to do so. However, what many of them are failing to acknowledge is that social media isn't a one-size-fits-all channel. As your organization begins to put together a plan for social media, consider these five questions. The answers can help ensure your initiative will meet your goals strategically and cost effectively.
- The answers you come up with for questions 1-3
- What your objectives are
- How your social media executions will integrate with, augment, or replace your website
- How much budget, time and/or staff you can commit
"He not busy being born is busy dying."
"It's Alright Ma (I'm Only Bleeding)"
Few people would argue that advertising is going through troubled times and that some sort of metamorphoses is necessary for its survival. The specifics of that change, and how it might be successfully implemented, is a reasonable topic for debate. But only the most entrenched and myopic insider would argue to defend the current model of an industry as broken as advertising.
That, however is what seemed to be happening in the pages of Ad Age last week. Jeff Goodby, co-chairman and creative director of an ad agency, Goodby Silverstein, has taken umbrage at the central thesis of a new book by Bob Garfield, a radio and print journalist, but most famous for being a snarky ad critic for Ad Age. The book, "The Chaos Scenario," posits something that most people reading this (hi mom) probably already know - there is an "historic reordering of media, marketing and commerce triggered by the revolution in digital technology."
Goodby, exhibiting a stunning obliviousness to the seismic shifts happening in how the world communicates and consumes media, published a rebuttal to Garfield: "Sorry, Bob, Adworld's Not Dying." Goodby pooh-poohs the idea that the almighty :30 broadcast ad is one cough away from flatlining. To be fair, he's not totally blinkered - he admits that the ad and media world are looking a little thin and pale these days. But his prescription for a cure is at best, dodgy, at worst, deluded. He claims salvation is just a matter of pasting advertising's outdated business model onto the Internet and creating "advertising that people like." He goes on to say:
"...I firmly believe we don't want to be advertised to in private, with nothing to discuss around the water cooler. We like the social interaction of enjoying or hating these ham-fisted corporate efforts together,"Now there's a revealing choice of words. Is "discussion around the water cooler" really a useful measurement of ad effectiveness? Because if I were a brand and the choice for my ad dollars was A). Produce fodder for water cooler conversation, or B.) Create an open communication channel and ongoing dialog with customers who pro-actively seek out my messaging, I'd have to go with the dialog.
Ashton, Oprah, Dominos, and Susan. Names that have one important thing in common - they were all involved in seminal social media events. I don't know if last week was the tipping point for the phenomenon we call social media, or not, but it sure felt like it to me.
Gaga over a middle-aged, plump, frizzy-haired goddess.
On Saturday, April 11th, the by now galactically famous episode of "Britain's Got Talent" aired in the UK and the glorious Susan Boyle entranced an audience of skeptics with a voice of extraordinary beauty. The official YouTube posting of the performance appeared almost immediately and garnered over 800,000 viewings in 24 hours. By Wednesday, the video had been viewed 5.6 million times and, as of today, the video reports over 32 million views. According to an article in Mashable, however, tracking company, Visible Measures, that tracks over 150 video sharing sites, counted 93.2 million views on Sunday and predicted that number would hit over 100 million today. Although the press covered the YouTube frenzy, it was e-mail, Twitter, and Facebook that spread the word, person to person. The kinds of information that are typically spread in this way, like jokes, urban legends, apocryphal stories, and corporate blunders, have never quite hit the numbers necessary show the footdraggers that we are no longer operating in beta - social media has launched. But after witnessing how quickly the world can coalesce into a massive and powerful communication organism, only the staunchest Luddite can deny the shift. And they do so at their own peril.
Ummm, make mine without cheese.
And peril is exactly what Dominos Pizza found itself in last Monday when two astoundingly stupid Dominos employees posted a video on YouTube showing one of them stuffing cheese up his nose before he used it to garnish a pizza, among other health code violations. That evening, Tim McIntyre, a Dominos spokesperson, was alerted to the video by someone who'd seen it online. When company executives learned about the video the next day, they made a fatefully disastrous decision to do nothing in the hopes of not fueling the fire. With no presence or experience in social media, they were sadly unaware that information is no longer controlled by corporations or by the press. Technology has set it free, put it in the hands of the public, and it dances to its own tune these days. There are new rules for corporate communication, and the rules say the conversation is happening, with or without you. If you don't proactively own it, someone else will. On Wednesday, with its reputation damaged and perception of quality in negative numbers, Dominos opened a Twitter account and posted a video on YouTube of it's CEO, Patrick Doyle, offering a heartfelt apology. It's a start, but when Mr. McIntyre was quoted in a NY Times article the next day saying, “Well, we were doing and saying things, but they weren’t being covered in Twitter,” I suspect there's still a bit of a learning curve. Social media isn't broadcast. If the company isn't using it to monitor and participate in conversations, they're missing the point.
Dude, where's your tweeps?
Late Thursday night, Ashton Kutcher became the first person on the planet to snag one million followers on Twitter, beating out his rival, CNN, by only a few hours and a couple of thousand followers. And what does that have to do with anything? Well, look at it this way: A 31-year old college drop-out actor, famous for producing a show about pulling pranks on celebs has succeeded in aggregating a willing listening audience of 1 million people, while the MBA suits at Dominos, who launched their Twitter account with the obtuse name of dpzinfo, have managed, in the midst of the most press they've ever had, to only round up 1,333 followers. And Oprah? She opened her Twitter account on Friday. As of today, 3 days later, she has 424,986 followers.
And now, on an entirely personal note, a message to Susan Boyle: My dear, you sing for all of the underestimated, ignored, written-off women of the world. Your voice is an instrument played with unimaginable grace and purity. But what moves me to tears is you, as you stand there, sloughing off 47 years of being invisible, confident in your gift and knowing that, at last, you are on the right stage, at the right time. You knew what you had, and now all the world is gaga over a middle-aged, plump, frizzy-haired goddess. Brava!
social media, Susan Boyle, Ashton Kutcher, Dominos Pizza, Oprah, You Tube, Twitter, Facebook
Photo: Kimberly Faye
Peter Kim, whose eponymous blog can be counted on for smart insights and analysis, recently posted about the need to take the use of social media by brands to the next evolutionary level. His big points (which I totally agree with) are:
- Brands are using social media to be disruptive and get attention, but aren't using it to create relationships with their customers.
- Ad agencies are using social media the same way they've always used the web, as something scotch-taped onto their "real" campaign. Still clueless about real integration.
- As the Cluetrain Manifesto pointed out 10 years ago, companies are still clinging to the notion that employee, customers, partners, vendors, are all separate markets. They're not. Not only do the boundaries often overlap (employees are also customers, clients might also be partners) but these markets want to talk to each other. And those conversations are the ones that companies need to be enabling and participating in, if they're going to be competitive and survive.
Chris Hall referenced this post in his blog, but I think he may have missed the point a bit when he admonished online blogger and twitterer activists from "imposing their collective wills upon millions of other group members because they have realized that they have a platform."
First of all, I'd like to know how he assumes that this "vocal" minority doesn't speak for the majority. And second, taking a step back and considering the historical context, might provide a better insight into what's happening now, and what we, as marketers, should be doing to bring value to the conversation.
Of course, I had an opinion about all of this, and responded the following on Chris' blog:
I think what we’re witnessing is the messy business of evolution. For years (actually, forever), consumers had no voice. Marketing that drove the sale of products was a one-way conversation. They spoke, we listed. Recourse for complaints was limited to boiling your blood pressure trying to reach a human in customer service, sending a letter that, if you were lucky, got a form-letter reply, or boycotting the product which provided little beyond depriving yourself of something you probably needed.
Web 2.0 gave consumers a voice and the audience to speak to. Heady stuff for a group kept silent for so long. So it’s not surprising that anyone who got a little taste of the power of the pulpit could sometimes be a little indiscriminate in its use. Who hasn’t seethed at the cable industry’s arrogance, incompetence, and unapologetic disinterest in customer relationships? So bravo to the guy that recorded and YouTubed his cable service repair guy napping on the sofa because he’d been on hold with the home office for so long that he’d just dozed off. And bravo to the Motrin Moms for finally voicing the anger of so many women at Madison Avenue’s often reductive and insulting attempts to portray the complex balancing act that women who are some combination of wives, mothers, and workers, have to pull off.
It’s also not surprising that companies are reacting by sometimes overreacting. They’re not used to hearing from the great world that lives on the other side of the tv screen. Those nameless, faceless “target demos” who make up their customer universe. It must be a little scary to hear their voice after all these years.
I think, as marketers, consultants, and advisors, it’s our job to help both sides understand this new context. Motrin missed a huge opportunity to engage with this group of angry moms. As the incredibly prescient Cluetrain Manifesto guys (Rick Levine, Christopher Locke, Doc Searls, & David Weinberger) wrote, way back in 1999(!), “Markets are conversations. People are speaking to each other in a powerful new way. These networked conversations are enabling powerful new forms of social organization and knowledge exchange to emerge. As a result, markets are getting smarter, more informed, more organized. Participation in a networked market changes people fundamentally. People in networked markets have figured out that they get far better information and support from one another than from vendors. There are no secrets. The networked market knows more than companies do about their own products. And whether the news is good or bad, they tell everyone.”
Instead of their knee-jerk reaction, Motrin should have started a real conversation. What were the specific things about the ads that offended women. If this isn’t the right way to portray them, tell us what is? How do these women see themselves? What are the important things in their lives?
It’s not a matter of simply listening. Conversation is an exchange of information, thoughts and ideas. The last word goes to Cluetrain: “The community of discourse is the market. Companies that do not belong to a community of discourse will die.”