Social Media: What’s Right, What’s Wrong, and What’s Next?

They’re coming. The lists are coming, the predictions, the opinions and the trends-all those juicy posts that populate the month of December, they’re coming. So I wanted to get this out there while it could still mean something.

What’s right in social media?

Or better yet what went right? For me it was a mashup. It started with an eye catching commercial developed by Wieden + Kennedy and ended with videos that have been viewed more than 40 million times and total brand views on the web that have been estimated to have surpassed 110 million. What am I talking about?

And for those that are wondering whether it was worth it, sales for Red Zone(the actual Old Spice product) hit $1.6 million  for the four-week period ending July 11, 2010. That was a 49 percent jump over the four-week period ending Feb. 21, 2010 according to SymphonyIRI.  The other four Old Spice Body Wash products also showed a lift as well. Overall sales for Old Spice Body Wash rose 105 percent for that period.

This was a seminal moment in the worlds of social and traditional media. It was cool, different and most of all it was viral which is the holy grail for all digital marketers. As much as some people are apt to point out the #FAILS in social media, this was the big win of 2010.

What’s wrong with social media?

The semantics of social media education. Collectively I think we are continuing to focus on constantly rehashing what the definition of social media is. As an industry we keep redefining what social media is so much, that it’s causing some to go back and redefine what social media is to them. Is it tools? Is it a platform? Is it a mindset? A movement? What day is it?

We are influenced by influencers who are influenced by influencers…

Some are focusing on what it could be and what it can be,  instead of belaboring the effort of trying to understand what it is. The barriers in social media are not so high that it is an exclusive club. Yet some want to create that mystique. I fear that we are getting caught up in the semantics of social media to an extent that it is bogging down not only us, but also companies of all sizes struggling to make money. It’s creating an air of impossibility, and we need to do a better job of removing that notion. It is still an effort, and rightly so, to show companies how to use social media effectively, but please, enough with the definitions of what social media is.

At some point we have to quit focusing on “What is it’ and focus more on the “What the heck, let’s try it.”

What’s next in social media?

One thing that is safe to say is that Google will make another play in the social space. Why? Because Google understands that if you can keep your people in network, then you can market to them, you can sell to them, and they are that much more valuable to you and your partners. Now add the mobile element to this and what you will see  is a continuous explosion of mobile apps, mobile marketing, and mobile sites all geared towards our escalating migration away from the desktop.

Mark this down as well: As Facebook rolls out their Facebook email, look for there to be issues around privacy and data collection. I know, not much of a stretch… But, this move will further propel Facebook front and center as a legitimate threat to space previously occupied by Google, Yahoo and MSN. And it makes sense. Keeping the users of your social network “in network” with their own email, makes complete sense.

Lastly, our online social connections will continue to become more ubiquitous and less assumptive. They may become more platform specific as we continue to search for our tribes but ubiquity we reign in 2011 and beyond.

So what about you?

  1. What’s right in social media?
  2. What’s wrong?
  3. What’s next?

Our Shifting Notion of Search, Social and Mobile.

10 years ago seems so 10 years ago in the world of search, social and mobile.

We’ve definitely evolved and rightly or wrongly so depending on your point of view. Take for example search. In 2000 Google was a 2 year old start-up still trying to create an identity and compete with Yahoo and MSN. We all marveled at the simplicity of their interface and as a starting point for our queries, it simplified and created a less cluttered entry into a sometimes messy and confusing search result. Little did we know what was on the horizon.

How do we use search now? Search is and has been woven into the fabric of our daily lives thanks to Google. It is a utility that drives our online and offline interactions. We use it for online transactions, travel decisions, job searches, purchases, research, and a dozen other activities. We use search the same way we use our lights, drive our cars and brush our teeth. Google has changed and redefined what search is for you, me and all the companies that rely on it for business.

What search will ultimately be, is as much for us to determine as it is for Google to create and beta test. We will define it.

Online social networks are redefining our offline relationships both casual and personal. What drives that redefinition? search? The barriers for connecting with someone are next to none. Social networks are not what they used to be. Looking back at MySpace, it almost looks like pre-Y2k web Dev. doesn’t it? If you think about what made MySpace popular, it wasn’t as much about the conversations as it was about creating your own content, your own page-it struck a nerve. Facebook has taken that aspect of MySpace, and simplified and reduced the ability to create, and amplified the ability to connect and share- and 500 million people have embraced it. Where does it go from here?

Social continues to evolve into something devoid of privacy and chock full of transparency with authenticity caught somewhere in the middle.

In the world of mobile, the evolution has been nothing short of dramatic. 10 years ago we were an evolving world of mobile adoption, the mobile handset was a utility for and an extension of the land lane. Now the mobile device is an extension of our desktop. The ratio of mobile handsets to people is approaching one to one. Search and social have migrated to the mobile device. SMS drives conversation and just as search has become somewhat of a utility for the desktop, the smartphone is now the defacto device for driving purchases, for buying tickets, for research, for email, for being social and oh by the way…making phone calls.

So what does this all mean? The same thing that has happened to all great inventions and milestones in history-Their original intent looks nothing like their eventual outcome.

I’m pulling for Detroit

This post really doesn’t have much to do with social media but it could, easily. You see, I’ve been in Detroit for the last 2 weeks and I want to let you know as well as the people of Detroit, that I’m pulling for them. As we all know the city has been hurtin and it shows- it’s been taking some pretty heavy hits from the auto industry over the past few years though the recent GM IPO is certainly a shot in the arm.

In the 2 weeks I was there though, I’ve been in sections of the city that you really don’t want to be caught walking around in after dark. As well, these same parts of the city, can even be somewhat dicey during the day.

Parts of the city don’t look too good. Other parts are not much better. They’re shells of their former selves. There doesn’t seem to be much of a rush hour anymore and the downtown area is not a thriving metropolis like it should be. Bleak picture right? But, what you haven’t heard from me yet is anything about the people and you know why? Because that’s what’s going to pull Detroit through all of this. The people.

The people I’ve met could not be more resolute. They are strong, kind, understanding and realize that what is at stake here is the fate of their city. Their city. They get it. So do I. They are optimistic and so am I. Why? Because I felt it, I heard it and I believe them. These people know the task at hand. The Detroit that we all once knew, it’s gone. The new Detroit is going to need to reinvent itself and I firmly believe it will. It make take some time, but I believe it. I saw it in the eyes of the people that are still there-they are beaten but not broken. They still smile, they still laugh and they are still friendly and they are still blessed. That’s why I have your back Detroit and that’s why I’m pulling for the Motor City.

P.S. You Still have the best radio stations in the country…

Does Engagement Equal Action? Should it?

Yesterday on an early morning flight to Detroit, I watched as the flight attendants went throughout the cabin pushing food and drink on the passengers. The passengers were prompted to look on page 26 of the inflight magazine to view what was available and what the cost was. When the flight attendants came to each row, the passenegers either looked up and told her no, looked up and told her yes and what they wanted, or never looked up. So how does the apply to social media marketing or even digital marketing?

Example #1. Let’s say you got the passenger to view what was on page 26 by tweeting the link. They clicked through but they didn’t buy. You now have some customer data so you know they were interested but they still didn’t buy. Would we call that enagagement? Through social media? Were there KPI’s that were met?

Example #2. The passenger views a YouTube video on what is being sold inflight. An hour after seeing the video, they buy a Coke. Engagement through social media? Measureable?

Example #3. The passenger here’s the message, reads the magazine, sees the tweet and views the video, and does nothing. Were they engaged?

I think sometimes we confuse social media impressions as a KPI. In social media, Engagement should be better defined with some type of actionable, measureable outcome. If someone clicks on a tweeted link and reads a blog post that prompts them to buy, but they don’t buy right away-Was it an actionable event? It’s actionable and measureable but generally it’s not measured because the action did not take place right then.

The waters in social media are warm and inviting to marketers but if they don’t better define what a successful outcome is and don’t better understand the subtle effect of an engaged action that takes place “later”-then they are going to always be dissapointed.

What’s the bullet in social media right now?

I’m reading the book Life by Keith Richards, the talented, weathered survivor and lead guitarist of the Rolling Stones. I must say it’s an interesting read, but while reading it, the following sentence caught me eye.

The music might be the trigger but the bullet nobody knows what that is…

Apply that statement to all that’s happening in the world of social media and digital communications.  What’s the trigger? What’s the bullet? Do you know the difference? Social media might be the trigger, but what is the bullet? Funny how it takes Keith Richards from the Stones to add some indirect perspective to the world of social media KPI’s, but we could say that in social, a number of things could be the trigger and as well a number of things could be the bullet-but don’t you think if you could identify what the trigger is for you personally or for your company, and what the bullet might be, that you’d be golden? Yep. Go forth young Skywalker…

The Customer Experience Revisited

Recently I had 3 conversations with a cab driver, a plumber and a CEO. Each conversation revolved around the customer experience. I want to share with you the gist of each conversation.

The Cab Driver: I actually had 3 cabbie’s but it was the 3rd one who had really understood the customer experience. Look I get it, if you take enough cabs, you’re going to get the gamut of drivers, but I think it’s interesting to see how some know how to engage the customer and how others could care less. I’m just a fare. It’s those that “get it” who will make more. I actually had the cab driver who explained to me how he reads the customer to see how he should “deal” with the customer. His goal? Not only to engage, but to provide a positive experience that could result in repeat business as well as referrals and a higher tip. Insights from a cab driver.

The Plumber: Let me preface this vignette by saying that “The Plumber” is a very good friend of mine. But the conversation I had with him was as much enlightening as it was a relative fact with all SMB’s. They not only have to do what they are good at but they also have to manage their people and manage their business. However what really opened my eyes was when he told me what was the key to growing his business. Was it more people? More trucks? More resources? Better technology? Nope. He told me it revolves around word-Compassion. Compassion for the customer and walking in their shoes. Good stuff coming from-A Plumber who get’s it.

The CEO-I had about as bad an experience as could be had at a local restaurant. I was so mad that I blogged about it. Of course I used the company name with a map and hyper links because I was so angry but never really expected to hear from anyone within the organization. I even sent an email to the GM of the local franchise but still, I never expected to hear from anyone I just figured it was another FAIL.

About a month or so after the blog post I received an email from the CEO of the entire company expressing regret and essentially saying that I was right, they were wrong and what can he do to make the situation right. He even offered to take me to lunch to prove that his restaurants do get it right when it comes to customer service. He didn’t have to do any of that did he? He’s the CEO-He could have had his area managers handle it, someone in customer service, or basically half a dozen others, but he chose to handle it himself. A CEO.

So what’s the story? It’s not social media. It’s about the customer. It’s always been about the customer. But ironically, it doesn’t matter what your business is, what your job is, if you understand that in whatever you do, the customer experience is priority one. You’re ability to win, to succeed, and to do great work will always be achievable.

Out of the three, who get’s it the most? How would you rank their approaches? I love the cab drivers approach. The Plumber understands what and who is driving the business and the CEO? I’m just one customer but he still took the time to reach out. This doesn’t mean that each will succeed in the end, but it does mean that in some instances, they can impart that wisdom on to others within their respective businesses.

Collaborative Cooperative Environments

Is there a difference between a collaborative environment in social media versus a cooperative one?

The definition of collaborative is to …

Work with another or others on a joint project.

The definition of  cooperative is…

“Done in cooperation with others”,  “a cooperative effort is marked by willingness to cooperate; compliant”

How does this apply to social media?

We can see the action words in this being “to work with another” and “done with others”…Pretty simple, right?  The essence of social media is content driven conversations fueled by the exchange and sharing of ideas, of thoughts and points of views with others. Isn’t it evident that the two words are interchangeable in the world of social media? Looking toward 2011 and beyond though, we can also see that those 2 words also add a texture, or an additional layer of meaning to the world of social media and will continue to futher define the space that we all continue to play in.

The Social Customer

Posted: November 2nd, 2010    By: Jason Breed

You think marketer’s lives are rough, try being the customer.  So much is being thrown at the customer these days, its hard to keep up.

B2B Customers: You used to have a few vendors that competed for your dollars, the agencies were simply creatives and technology vendors simply did technology.  Without all the improvements in technology, manufacturing had many barriers to entry which reduced your choices.  You never heard about how vendors were treating your employees (good or bad) and you never cared how they were performing with other peers in related industries.  Marketing was marketing and technology was, well, technology and never did the two meet.  Decisions were made independently without concern to the ecosystems that are in place today.

B2C Customers: You were able to make purchase decisions simply based on how the product tasted, handled, or felt.  You did not worry about their greenhouse effects, the videos their employees were making behind the scenes or how much the same product cost at other stores within a 7 block radius.  Your friends may have mentioned cool products but you did not have to worry about your friends seeing every purchase you make (remember that Dixie Chicks album you really want) nor did you have to remember if you had ”like’d” the Brand in one of your networks.  You did not care what they were making next because if you did not want it, you would simply just not purchase it.  Forget writing letters to your friends to warn them that the “new & improved” product really wasn’t.

Fast forward to today.  Customers are more equipped through technology and network science to make purchase decisions than every before.  Interestingly enough though, the buying cycle is getting longer, not shorter.  Customer’s purchase paths have changed. No longer do they call you to see if something is in stock or what your hours of operation are. No longer do you get a chance to speak to prospects, they simply search online, visit the first few sites that come up, comparison shop through online and physical stores, review product ratings and comments.  If prospects can’t relate to the things they find in that process, those potential customer simply go away without you ever knowing they were actual prospects.

While purchase patterns have changed, so have expectations.  The expectation is that I, as a customer, can ask a question online to a company and get a response back either from other customer zealots or from the company itself.  The other expectations are that you are being a good corporate citizen (because I’ll find out if you are not) and that my vote counts.  I want to influence the direction of the next product, not as a shareholder, but as a product user and Lord help if my product breaks down before I think is reasonbly expected.

We know that customers are changing for both B2B and B2C and yes, even for B2B2C.  The challenge is that customers have not yet fully transitioned from customer-of-old to customer-of-new so they are still in motion.  They don’t know what they want in a Brand yet however the expectation is still there.  So how do you handle this?