The new paradigm. Everyone has a voice. The new reality? Even a 12 year old has the power to make things happen, quickly. Everyone has the ability to create buzz. Everyone has the chance to tell a story. Everyone has the platform to have something go viral.
Case in point: 12-year old Maddi Jane — who has been lighting up YouTube with covers that have racked up over a 145 million total upload views on her YouTube channel. Not limiting herself to just YouTube, Jane, back on Sept. 10, crossed the threshold of 400,000 fans on Facebook-with 500,000 not too far off.
As I tweeted yesterday” You can’t plan viral. Viral is an accelerated manifestation of itself. It’s something that takes on a life of its own”
Every day we’re faced with free and I hate it… Marketers throw free around like it’s confetti. Consumers snap up free stuff because it’s free. But does free work? Does giving stuff away for free make you eventually buy stuff? No, generally not. I’ve often said that the majority of people that follow brands on Facebook do it not because they are supposed brand champions but purely because they are hoping to get something out of the engagement. Something free.
Why would you follow Nike , Gatorade or American Eagle on Facebook? Because of the cool videos? Because of the witty banter? Or maybe you’re all about new product launches? Engagement? No? Be honest. You just want to connect with your niche of people that wear Nike and American Eagle and drink Gatorade…
Ok, so pretend you’re the SMB or the competition. How do other companies compete when Nike, Gatorade and AE give stuff away for free? Do they just go ahead and break down and give away free stuff too? Predictable right? I think part of the reason why case studies on organizations that do it differently are written is because the majority of marketers and companies do it the same way over and over with predictably average results. We embrace and applaud being different and yet conversely, we choose nine times out of ten, to do it just like our competition. Why is that?
I remember asking a small business owner once why they kept advertising in magazines and newspapers when the results were so poor. Their answer was that they had no other options. They didn’t know what else to do, so they just kept doing what didn’t work. Thus, fighting free with free may seem like a good idea, in the end it is not a business model.
The value of free
The problem is we’re asking local SMB’s to compete with big brands who give stuff away for free all the time, by forcing them to give stuff away for free too. This ultimately leads to 2 things: 1) It’s costing them more than they can really afford or b) It’s not really having the same impact on the consumer as it would if it was coming from the big brand.
The over-reaching formula for big brands is to create awareness of new stuff by giving away free stuff and then use social networks to promote the promise of free while driving the notion of new. Does giving something away for free inflate the value of that new product or service? Uh no. It may create awareness of the brand, product or company but there is no value in free.
Unfortunately we’re chasing the long tail of free, we always have. The internet and the emergence of social networks have created an atmosphere of chasing free wherever it may be. Interesting thing though is that you get what you pay for, even when it’s free.
So how do you compete?
I had a friend of mine who recently asked me how is he supposed to make money blogging or creating good content- and this was after one of his friends mentioned that a monkey could write content… I asked him, why would someone pay for your content? What is the value proposition of your content? Is it so bad that you feel the only way to push it out is as free content? We have to eliminate the notion that our IP is not valuable and promote the aspect of content, products and services that are so valuable that people would indeed pay for them.
The internet and social have gone a long way to creating free platforms to access free content when in actuality most people would pay for it if the value of the content they wanted were implicit. The point- we have created free markets for free which is a flawed model right out of the blocks. Don’t give something away to sell something-you can’t compete with those that use that as a business model. So what’s the work around?
a) Value your content
b) Create valuable content
c) Focus on where that content can be valued
d) Create a market for your content that creates awareness of you, your brand and your company
Lastly, Pay attention to this interview by Andrew Keen of WPP CEO Sir Martin Sorrell. Very telling.
Simple as this. Relationships. They are critical to external organizationl success both at the lowest levels and the highest levels. Just as internal relationships are important in maneuvering through the maze of most Fortune 500’s and getting things done, in the digital world, especially in social media, your networks and the relationships that you have within and without, can make or break any social-digital intiative that you have going.
Whether its with coworkers, colleagues or customers-relationships, the creation of and the fostering of them will actually determine your organizational, departmental and personal success in social and digital.
At it’s core- it goes back to silos. You need to recognize them and maybe… embrace them. Silos don’t work but they still do exist. Why do they exist? Traditional business structures. Command and control. Politics. The way things have always been. Silos are the reason why sometimes social takes awhile to permeate large organizations. Picture salmon swimming upstream. It takes a while for them to get there because they are going against the current. In social, we’re all salmon. We’re headed in the right direction, it’s just tough sledding right now. Social is a struggle.
So why do organizations struggle with rolling out social? Unless it’s a top down edict from the C-suite, whoever the internal champions of social are, they will find that beyond having a compelling case, a strategy, a plan and tactics, what really will determine them going forward will be one of 2 things: 1) Their internal allies and their internal relationships with other departmental heads or 2) A catastrophic, game changing, reputation damaging event that happens via social.
Org.’s struggle because the advocates of social find that swimming with the current is much easier than trying to get internal buy-in, getting someone to change course, change direction, and think differently and do it differently just based on a notion or based on the mere fact that everyone may be doing it.
Social is still new. Hard to even say that anymore but it’s true, it’s still new. It requires you to step out of a comfort zone. It requires you to go beyond the insulation of heads down work. It demands that you look up. Social is busting down the notion that just doing good work can be sufficient and can be the determinant of success. But creating a sea change in an organization and becoming a social business is going to require a marriage of the old school and the new school. It’s hard and it requires the forging of relationships.
That doesn’t mean that NOT becoming a social business is the death knell, it just means that eventually if you don’t adapt-you will be the fish swimming downstream when all the others are going in the opposite direction. Have you ever tried getting someone to take the road less traveled?
I was just looking at recent tweet from someone I follow and was initially going to unfollow him because I thought he tweeted too much about himself. Until I realized after I had looked at a few of his previous tweets, why I followed him in the first place. It wasn’t who he worked for, or that he might be able to help me one day, as a primary reason of why I initially followed him. What it was, was that 1) he had a personality 2) he wasn’t pushing a product and 3) he actually provided some value from time to time. Lastly, the tweets had a flavor to them, a no holds barred flavor to them. I think I might have forgotten about that.
“The mainstream of communications is now controlled by users, not distributors.” and “You can’t just show up at social conversations with your bullet points and promotional offers. You need to be able to talk to people like, well, like you would talk to people.”
We have or I have talked about and written about these 2 points in the past, but I guess when you read in in Forbes it resonates a bit more. But it hit home when I started to think about the why I follow someone on Twitter. The why of why I engage. It’s not because I want something, well yea I do want something but its not a product or a service, or a gift or a coupon or lastly your ego.
What I want is to talk to someone, to connect with them and be able to call them a friend and a colleague maybe at some point down the line. Nothing really more than that. Whatever happens beyond that is a bonus for both of us. Brings back memories of the line, “Don’t try and make out with me before you’ve even learned my name.”
Brands are you listening? SMB’s are you listening?
There’s a reason Maslow had “belonging” right in the middle of his hierarchy pyramid..We want to connect with people, and with what make them unique. That doesn’t mean we have to force it. We are looking for personalities and their similarities to ours. We’re looking for people we have something in common with and yes the fact of the matter is… We do want to find our tribes.
Last week I asked via Twitter what the shelf life of a blog post was. I got some interesting answers. The essence was that there is no shelf life-they last forever.
In marketing, digital marketing, email marketing, and social media marketing our success needs to be measured by both hard and soft metrics. Often times we are urged or encouraged to fail fast and fail often because that’s the best way to learn and the secret to digital marketing success. Yet, most marketers might be pressuring themselves in to measuring success by measuring hard metrics when there are plenty of soft metrics to measure success by.
When we create hard and soft metrics, let’s make sure that we are measuring realistically what is possible long term from our initiatives. Let’s make sure that we can add an element of longevity to digital content that extends beyond the lifespan of the campaign. Let’s make sure we can measure what can be measured.
Let’s define the time frame of when we plan on measuring, and then add a soft metric component to that time frame so as to extend out that campaign. One of the great soft metrics of content marketing is that it is tough to measure it’s long term effect on your business or company. Soft metrics could be measured in so many ways beyond the lifespan of a “campaign” if we set them up to be.
Thus, it is really difficult to sit here and say that certain digital campaigns are out and out failures. Don’t get me wrong, out and out digital #Fails do exist and do have long term implications on positive brand perception-it’s why reputation management is now a service offering.
I’m talking about those campaign that look like they just didn’t work. Look, I’m cool with reading and or writing about how failure is part of the deal and that some people think that in order to succeed you have to embrace failure! I just don’t want to wrap my digital strategies around short term expectations of success or failure. It’s kind of like preparing your teams for losing, or accepting losing and not looking at the bigger picture, when that big picture could be next year or the year after, or saying that because you didn’t score in a basketball game, that you failed.
Marketers want to succeed, and yes some initiatives will not always hit the mark, and yes they will learn from them. But let’s expand the lens and look at the landscape of digital marketing and understand that the digital footprint can last longer than the lifespan of the marketing campaign.
Let’s not revel or bask in digital marketing failure when we haven’t defined success or failure in both long terms and short terms. The soft metric of good content means that it may be around long after you have left your current company.
We’re content starved. The emergence of tablets and mobile devices has only enhanced our desire to consume digital content. There’s a problem though. When content producers cannot meet the demands of a ravenous public, things can get ugly and the public walks-digitally speaking.
Actually, things already are ugly. Specifically, the dearth of original compelling content in the digital space has caused us to consume subpar content wrapped around good SEO. Don’t you just hate when you click on a compelling search result only to be met with 100 words of link laden dreck? That’s been the case for quite some time now, and only recently has it become clearly evident that what seems to work for most producers of content when they don’t have anything to “share” with others, is to just steal, plagiarize or reproduce someone else’s stuff; and wrap that around good SEO.
Good content is getting lost in the firehose of bad content
But there is a simple reason why they (marketers in general) have this burning desire to push out as much digital content as they can-whether it’s theirs or not. There’s an ulterior motive happening here. These folks are trying to appease the almighty search engines. Specifically Google, but Bing and Yahoo and all the other 2nd tier engines figure in as well. Organic search in a nutshell.
Most producers of content are in the business of driving traffic. Traffic equates to advertising which equates to dollars. You can buy traffic, but short of spending in the 6 figures to create artificial traffic, the only real way you’re going to get organic visits to your sites is to write content and share content that has all of the “right” SEO properties so as to come up high in search. Screw the readers. Forget good content, the goal now is “searchable”, SEO friendly content.
Content producers are unknowingly deferring to search engines instead of people
Does this mean that there are still sites out there pushing fresh, relevant, content that is meant for people to consume, view and share? Perhaps, but it’s a short list. You can look to CNN, USAToday, The New York Times, Techcrunch, Mashable, and MSNBC for examples of purveyors of quality content except that they can be just as guilty of the keyword laden salacious topic and title that is sure to drive readers, shares, comments and traffic.
As the tablet and smart phone markets continue to expand, so will the amount of water downed re-used content. Thus, we need to get back to a time when content mattered, when good content mattered. I’m not so sure we can as long as we’re still trying to figure out who we’re supposed to be creating content for. Is it people or search engines?
No man is an island entire of itself; every man
is a piece of the continent, a part of the main
In today’s “Uber” connected social world, what makes things work or why they work, is that we’re all now indiscriminately interconnected to each other. We share, we comment, we download, we upload and we consume the content of strangers in the same ways that we create it. It’s random, it’s purposeful, its meaningful and meaningless sometimes. At the end of the day, all we are, are just real people with real names with real avatars or… real people with strangely made up names with odd avatars swimming around fish bowls of ambient connectivity.
But it works just like it does in the ocean. Thousands of species living and swimming in the same ocean without any limitations of where they can go or when. We’re curious and we have an innate desire to connect with others in that vast ocean either directly or indirectly.
It doesn’t work if we’re always in”take” mode or “bash” mode or “all about me” mode. That quote from John Donne, the poet who lived in the 1500’s, sums up what is certainly a reality in today’s society. Whether you’re a brand trying to sell a product, someone trying to sell a book, or someone trying to get a job, or get a project, or build a book of business, you need networks, brand champions, supporters, advocates, friends and even strangers along the way to help you get where you need to go. You need us.
Its funny how in certain sports, like football for example, when success happens, you’ll invariably have certain players who will say out loud that they think that the reason why their “team” was great or why they won was because of them. Meanwhile you had 21 “other” players who contributed to the cause. If you choose to go it alone in sports, just as in the digital world, and not embrace the networks and communities and people that helped get you there, well then, I guess you’re alone in more ways than you think.
I’m the biggest proponent of social media that you could possibly find but I am also the one that told my daughter that she doesn’t need Facebook. She’s 14. I also told a group of 400 parents and educators that anyone under the age of 16 doesn’t need to be on a social network. I got a standing ovation for that one. I didn’t get a standing O from my daughter however.
On the one hand I will tell a company that they are missing the boat because they are neither a social brand nor a social business, so they better get with it. On the other, I will flat out tell some people and some companies that they have no business playing in the social space. Why the flip-flop?
You’re going to roll your eyes when you read this next line, but hear me out. When social media first came on the scene-it was about the conversation. But what happened next was that companies and developers smelled blood in the water. They saw that we liked conversations and connections. Soon we were offered multiple sites, multiple touchpoints and multiple opportunities to have conversations. However, a lot of us, no, the majority of us, don’t need to be having conversations 24/7/365. But what happened? Start-ups and new companies have flooded and have inundated us with so many social applications and sites, that they have confused the basic premise of what made social great in the very beginning.
It’s not just about building and maintaining connections. It may have been initially, but not any more. And thus…we don’t need another social network. We need to develop the one’s we’re in. At this point, it’s no longer about growth and it’s all about engagement. Sometimes when I see another “new” social app or site that is claiming that it will simplify or aggregate my confusing and complex social life, I roll my eyes. Why? They’re not making things easier, they’re forcing me to a) Look at and evaluate ( which I invariably do) another vendor/application b) Decide whether the current sites and apps I use now are still effective c) reconsider my loyalty d) disrupt the flow of my social engagements.
Perhaps that’s why the social landscape changes so rapidly. Developers are constantly rolling out bright new shiny things that they think we’ll need or that they think will make our lives easier, more productive, more connected. Or does it? I’m sure there’s over a 1000 social apps or more that I currently do not have on my phone or desktop that could make my social engagements better. But really? Better? Or just more cluttered and confusing?
Everything seems hard the first time we do it doesn’t it? Until it no longer ceases to be difficult and then it becomes innate, routine and sometimes mundane. On the web, we as digital marketers and change agents, worry that the sites, applications and networks that we build, share and promote aren’t intuitive enough. Yet even the toughest of sites to navigate seem to succeed with massive amounts of traffic and uniques. Why is that?
Because people want to go there. People want to use that site. No matter how difficult it is. Sites that are providing some type of payoff to be there, can overcome design inefficiencies on large scales. Be it a utility like email, a social network like Facebook, or a site where we buy stuff like Amazon or sell stuff like Ebay, people who want to, neigh need to use that site, will figure out how to use that site, no matter how difficult is it.
What does this mean?
Besides the fact that those that create web content and applications have a tremendous opportunity to deliver to users who have been inundated with a plethora of bad web stuff, great content and deliverables- What it really means is that when building for a Web 3.0 world… Less is more, more is not better, better doesn’t mean simple, simple doesn’t mean good, good can be bad, bad can be worse, simple can be bad, assuming can be bad, knowing is good, asking is better, change is good, change is bad and change is constant.
So is it a good thing to change? Who’s more comfortable with bad, you or your users?