Content Versus Conversation

Chicken and the egg?

Tom Martin blew the lid off of this topic and I’m going to add my 2 cents. But let me ask 2 questions. Does content drive conversation? Does good content drive good conversation? The answer is yes and yes. Tom pissed off a bunch or people when he said that social media isn’t all about conversation and you know what? He’s right. Conversations are a derivative of social media. Conversations are not social media.

Some people think engagement for a brand has to revolve around the conversation-No… Conversations are derivatives of engagement. Conversations are the bi-product. If I had to choose how I was going to engage it would be built on great content across multiple platforms-that’s what’s going to create conversations.

Let me quote Tom:

The simple fact is that long-term success in the social space is about more than just being a great conversationalist. Especially when you’re looking at this from a brand perspective. According to numerous research studies, consumers choose to follow, fan and like brands in the social space primarily to get insider deals and to be exposed to cool content. If engagement or conversation is even mentioned, it’s very far down the list.

Why is this so shocking?

Fear of Social Media

I worry about the expectations that some people have for social media success versus the actual results. In some cases, we the consultants and champions of social media are just as bad and as guilty as the snake oil salesmen in pumping up and promising instant, magical results from social media. It’s not fair but for some of us, we believe and we know.

Sadly though, the reality is that even in the five plus years I have been consulting and the three plus years that I have been writing this blog, disaster still lurks in parallel with success for all that utter the words, “I do social media”…

And that’s OK…

There are a lot of intangibles that can equally push the needle in either direction, but the fact is, that the number (of intangibles) that can affect success and failure, has exponentially grown in the past 2 years. Meaning it is easier to succeed in social media now than it was in 2008.  Yes but…

  • It’s also easy to think you know what results you want from social media
  • It’s easy to set up a Twitter and Facebook account and think that you’re doing social media
  • It’s easy to compare your brand to another unrealistically
  • It’s easy to measure the wrong thing
  • It’s easier to be sucked in to the mystique and the aura of numbers
  • It’s easier to be duped by numbers
  • It’s easier to trust the wrong person
  • It’s easier to fail and
  • It’s easier to think that social media just doesn’t work because you fail

After reading that bullet list, I’d be scared to do anything too! Take solace though in this- Some of the best companies fail and will fail at social media, and even more-so, some of the biggest and best brands as well will do nothing with social media out of that fear of failing or notion that  social media doesn’t work.

So which company would you like to be?

Temper your expectations, temper your fear, do your homework, align yourself and your company with the right people and the right vendors and push on with your social media initiatives. It’s worth it. Does this mean that you won’t fail? No, but from every failure, you learn-Here’s a quick analogy: Baseball players fail 7 out of 10 times when batting and get paid millions to do it…and they practice hitting every day. Every day.

Remember being scared about learning to ride your bike without any training wheels? What did you do?  What will you do now?

How do you Leverage your Personal Data on Facebook?

Sometimes it’s the little things that really can drive a point home. Take for example a small conversation I had-actually it was an exchange of about 2-3 tweets between myself and Adam Cohen of Rosetta that occurred late Friday afternoon. It started with this:

It is a good post in Adweek about how food marketers  are trying a new approach when it comes to winning followers on Facebook by using online coupons and incentives that grow in value as more consumers “like” a brand on Facebook.

It’s sort of a Groupon approach but with a twist.

My tweet back to Adam after reading it was that, “Isn’t that really why people/consumers- fan/friend/like a Co.? Hoping for what they might get on the backend? Not always but..” My point to Adam being that Facebook friending, following, or liking a brand is all predicated not necessarily on brand devotion and loyalty, but more on what might that person “get.”-In the form of an offer, a coupon, a special, some swag, some recognition, some money, a job etc. etc. The “whats in it for me syndrome…”

I’ll like you as long as you kick me some…

There’s nothing wrong with that except when marketers and thought leaders want to paint the consumer following the brand on Facebook as an “Uber brand loyalist”- as something more pure than what I have just mentioned. But leave it to Adam to add a layer of levity to this though:

Great point. A value exchange. One to one. His point, the value of the consumers data in exchange for what you have as a brand. A trust level and brand affinity developed through traditional channels which can now be taken online into Facebook where the relationship can be deepened and enhanced. My value for yours…

In actuality, it’s still a “what’s in it for me” yo type situation but you, the consumer, really have an advantage, you just don’t know it.

Your takeaway? Value what you have as a consumer( your data) and leverage it-understand how important your data is to the brands that you like. How could you leverage your affinity to the brands you like online? Who’s benefiting the most from the brands that you follow or like? Is it a one off for them? For you?

13 Soft Skills Needed for Companies Selling Social Media

Do you ever stop and think about how much you’ve actually read and heard about social media? Especially the “how-to” stuff, or the all encompassing “list”? There’s one every day. Yet one of the things that is often overlooked in a lot of the blog posts and conferences I attend, are the soft skills needed to achieve success. What are those?

We talk or you hear all the time about C suite alignment in order to drive some type of momentum in rolling out social media, but has anyone ever explained or told you about the soft skills that are needed to get you over the top? Last night I was on a plane in the middle seat squeezed between Kevin Smith’s twin, and a poster child for Nyquil thinking about those “soft skills”.

When you get your foot in the door, know that integrating social media into the organization will take many meetings with many different opinionated, passionate, department heads who will have their own agenda. There is a reason it’s called “ducks in a row”, but have you ever tried to physically get ducks in a row?  Here are 12 soft skills that might help you.

1) It takes the touch of threading a needle and knowing when you might need a bigger needle. Or someone with better touch-don’t be afraid to ask for help.

2) It requires that you have an argument with use cases. Think Tom Cruise in the movie, “A Few Good Men”, or maybe Jack Nicholson? Just don’t act like jack.

3) You better have more than just your words. Use cases go a long way in proving out your argument.

4) Hopefully you have the oratory skills of a a Socrates or Abe Lincoln. Why? You’re going to need to strike a nerve with lots of different personalities who will be relating to different pain points. The same “spiel” doesn’t work with everyone-know your audience.

5) Let’s not forget that you must have the skill of a diplomat-Per my point in #4. Every one has a different agenda, some will have P&L responsibility. You must have the ability to let each department know that you have their best interests at heart..

6) Float like a butterfly and sting like a bee-Can you achieve the goal with the deftness and impact of a Muhammad Ali jab? You’ll need it. You cannot get bogged down-stick and move, but be effective-just like a boxer. Know when you’re getting bogged down.

7) You’ll need to possess the sales skills of a Zig Ziglar or Og Mandino. Or is that the pitching skills of the Phillies Roy Halladay?

8) Have the passion of Rhett and Scarlett-Remember this is new to them!

9) You will have to have the foresight to anticipate not only change in social, but change within the organization that you are dealing with and how that might affect what your pitching.

10) The hindsight to know what doesn’t work anymore even if it affects what you are proposing and the honesty to admit it.

11) You’ll need the insight to make it happen

12) Leave your temerity and ego at the door.

13) Trust what you know-believe it, but then listen and be able to adjust.


As you can see, the person who just sits in front of a computer screen and or just writes blog posts and articles is going to need a whole lot more under the hood should they happen to get in front of a client. Just because  someone graduates from medical school, doesn’t necessarily mean they are going to be a good doctor right?

What other soft skills would you add to this list?

7 Tips for Staying on Top of the Social Wave

Often times you have to step in it to realize you are in it. With social media, you would have to have lived in a cave on an island in the Pacific to not know how ubiquitous it is. It’s permeating every part of our daily lives. With that being said, here are 7 “things” you should be aware of as we go forward in this digital world that can carry you and your company towards Web 3.0.

1) Look for more content to be produced by “others”. This means look  for the rise of the professional content creators masking as citizen journalists. They will blur the lines so much-you won’t know where the value lies. We used to marvel at UGC, but what is it when large organization start to pass their content off as UGC? Think of Wal Mart or Astroturfing. Know the difference between “real” UGC and professional content.

There’s a reason why Twitter is killing Facebook in CTR rates. Marketers are realizing that Twitter is a consumption vehicle for content and thus they are catching on in continuing to push out content- but they realize they must disguise the content in a way that is appealing and doesn’t seem hook ladened.

2) There will be a continued increase in the value of communities but you will also see more splintering of those communities into niches. Face it, we all have a niche, and connecting to those people via an online community, certainly drives a good portion of our searches. Knowing that people are searching for their tribes will help you in your understanding of market segments. Focus on focus-Want to grow your product? Find the niche, it’s there.

3) Mobile will be THE social platform.The global mobile market is expected to reach $1 trillion by 2015. What are you waiting for? Your competitors? What are you doing about it? Get serious about mobile.

4) Social data will determine your next move in your future business engagements, don’t ignore it-Social data will be driving consumer engagement.

Companies are mining the social web to build dossiers on you. Information posted publicly on blogs, Facebook, Twitter, forums and other sites is fair game

5) Engagement strategies will be different on every channel because of the data returned from #4. Don’t assume that your social strategies will be the same across all BU’s. Each has it’s own nuance and needs. Be mindful that your social solutions will be different-understand their capabilities and their deliverables.

6) Mitigating loss of control in social media will continue to be underserved and undervalued. What seems to be common is that people don’t do anything from a crisis communication and loss mitigation standpoint until after things hit the fan. Create your social media worst case scenario plan, don’t wait.

7) Search will still rule, but social search will drive future customer engagement. How are you currently addressing the fact that people will be using a mobile device and could be doing searches through their social network of choice for products and service and companies? For starters, think local and then learn how it works.

If there were a way to etch these in pencil, I would do it. Things change so quickly in the digital social media world that nothing is finite and everything is fair game. But as an organization, agency or marketer trying to make heads or tails over what might happen-this is as good a snapshot as any to start from.

The 7 Fluid Absolutes of Social Media for 2010

I think a lot about measurement.  Not only measuring my efforts during the workday, but also away from the office like in working out or where my money goes, or why I can’t lose weight- You know, the traditional stuff. But I also like to measure the collective efforts of both large companies and small when it comes to social media and social media marketing as well, and how it all plays out into today’s economy and how it utlimately affects you, the consumer. Thus, I came up with a couple of “fluid absolutes” that for now, make sense to me.

  1. Social media measurement will continue to adapt and evolve with the constant change of external markets and it’s influencer’s. It’s not always about ROI, I’m sorry.
  2. The rules of engaging the consumer and marketing to that consumer are changing at light speed with the advantage shifting towards the consumer and with the enterprise constantly trying to catch up.
  3. Social media engagement should be measured differently in tough economic times. But some rules will still apply when the dust settles.
  4. The tone, the fabric and the nuances of marketing and social media marketing is changing, but sadly, marketers are not.
  5. Consumer expectations of social media will not change during  the current economic woes because they still don’t know what to expect.
  6. The importance of social media optimization, SEO and it’s relationship to mobile has never been larger, yet some still don’t get it.
  7. Some Social Networks have less chance to thrive now,  than they did at this point last year.

As we wind down 2010 with essentially 2 1/2 months to go. What have you seen? What did you predict would happen and did not? What do you think will change? What didn’t change?

What Does it Mean When Social Media Companies Can’t Survive?

In recent weeks I’ve received emails from Xmarks and announcing that both were ceasing operations by the end of the month. I was bummed. With Xmarks, I actually used it every day to keep all my bookmarks synced across multiple machines. With, I had used a dozen times or so and I could see an application or a place for it in the crowded world of social applications and services. So why did they both decide to shut the doors?

No revenues. Simple as that. They could not make any money. Both companies had traffic and users, and both applications were free, but the problem was, they could not figure out how to make a living off of a social utility. I’ve said for a long time that I can’t stand the traditional internet business model that’s predicated on traffic. I hate that model; and yet as we speak in 2010, we have 2 companies that needed traffic to grab advertisers, and to a certain degree had half of that equation, and yet still couldn’t survive.

What does that mean?

Sure we’ve had a ton of companies that have gone belly up, but what does it mean today? Back in the day, when your internet startup wasn’t tied to a transactional product, your best bet for survival was predicated on a mix of lots of traffic, word of mouth, and great service which attracted advertisers. But that still was no guarantee of survival. Especially when it basically was relying on traffic fueled ad dollars.

This morning Jay Baer wrote a post about how social media behemoth Facebook was basically suffocating the rest of the web 2.0 world. Frankly I have to agree with him. Not only is Facebook swallowing up our time, but it’s redefining our choices and driving our preferences-which means that companies that are trying to go it alone in the social media landscape, now have to compete for attention and eyeballs of people that prefer to play inside the walls of Facebook only!

Forget ad revenue from traffic as a major concern for new social startups. They now have to compete with Facebook right out of the blocks. It reminds me of the halcyon days of first Microsoft’s dominance and then Google’s. Everyone was always wondering what they were going to do next. This is Facebook’s world and we’re just living in it.

That’s what that means.

What Are the New Defaults of Social Media?

Before this post got  accidentally erased, I was waxing poetic about we really need to do to get past the current defaults of social media. It all started with a podcast I was on last week with Geoff Livingston, Toby Bloomberg and Nancy Pekala of the AMA, and we were discussing social media and the enterprise, and I was asking out loud, what it would take to get us to the next level. You see, in the last ohhh… 3-5 years much has been written about these defaults of social media and more has been said, but you probably know them better as:

  • Transparency
  • Authenticity
  • Openness
  • Being real

But, before we can move ahead though, what we really need to do is educate people on not the old defaults, but what the new defaults might be. Or better yet, what happens when we are:

  • Too transparent
  • Too authentic
  • Too open
  • Too real

For a lot of people, they can readily see what social media can do and what effect and impact it can have on their immediate social circle. But what they don’t see, is what the effect can be on people they don’t know. They find that out the hard way. Am I wrong?