Don’t Mistake Activity for Effectiveness in Social Media


The world of the content marketer/social media marketer is changing. I had mentioned in a previous post how it resets every day. When it does reset, we no longer are responding to what our readers, followers and fan say as much as we’re responding to what the analytics tell us in regards to consumption habits and trends from the previous day. What that tells us and what a lot of old school social media marketers will tell you (old school being about eight years… ) is that the art of engagement has now become a science. The conversations, have been lost.

How do we get back to our roots, to that happy place, to that place where social is social again?

Mack Collier talked recently about how Twitter just isn’t the same anymore and blames it on a lack of conversation and in a recent New York Times piece on specializing to survive this quote jumped out at me:

“It’s becoming harder and harder to separate the wheat from the digital chaff. The problem with the Internet is anyone can post, so it’s hard to know whether you are looking at a fact or pseudofact, science or pseudoscience.”

Clearly, we are all suffering from a need for speed. A rush to crank the content out. We’re so enamored with the platforms that allow us to say something quickly, or publish or push out a piece of content in just 2-3 clicks, that we have lost our way. We have lost our ability to have conversations and in our desire to want conversations. In fact brands and the companies that monitor brands have even redefined engagement.  Just go look up the definition.

The definition of engagement is that … there is no definition!

We can fix this though. It’s simple and it’s in the title of this post. Don’t mistake your social media activity for social media effectiveness. Measure your effectivensss in connections made and conversations had and realtionships created; and not on the quantity of what your pushing out and the number of places that you’re pushing it out on. All that does is dilute the message.

What Should Be The Outcome of Brand Conversations in Social?

Do big brands actually have conversations with the people/customers/prospects that friend, follow and fan them? Before we answer that, let’s talk about the dynamics of what we the consumer “feel” if a brand does talk to us. Happiness? A sense of belonging or inclusiveness? What should happen after the like?

What does a consumer want? Do they want content? Do they want to share what the brand says? Do they want something? Do consumers really want the following conversations?

Tom: “Maybe I should buy Famous shoe brand x shoes and walk to work, it would be quicker!”

Famous Shoe Brand: 2 hours later “Hey Tom, how’s it going today? What’s new?”

Tom: 5 minutes later “Not much, got in late today because of traffic”

Famous Shoe Brand: 2 hours later “Really? You’re in LA, was it the 405? What about taking the Santa Monica (10) Freeway east, the Hollywood (101) Freeway north through the Cahuenga Pass?”

Tom: 5 minutes later “Hey yea I never thought about that! Got any free shoes?”

Famous Shoe Brand: 24 hours later…”Nope sorry, but check out our new video and share it with your friends!”

According to eMarketer, Marketers know that building a Facebook page is not just about collecting “likes” but building relationships with  fans and getting them to share and discuss brand-related content.

Is the above simulated conversation the basis for a relationship? No, but maybe it’s a start. What might be Tom’s impression of the shoe brand now?

Social has created a situation in which brands  are now on the hook more than ever before for creating compelling, sharable, consumable digital content. Yes, at the end of the day engagement wins and brands are competing every day for the eyeballs of their digital consumers who have or haven’t liked their brand. In return they will get the interest and consideration of the user/consumer. Thus brands are banking on  consistent, high level, content posted daily being relevant and interesting; and that in return it leads to what?

Leads, conversions and sales right? Let’s not lose sight on why brands are doing this. But those same brands need to understand what the  digital, social, consumer’s expectation and motivation is as well.

The Sweet Spot of Social Media

sweet spot is a spot where a combination of factors suggest a particularly suitable solution. On a racquet or baseball bat, it’s the ideal spot you want to hit the ball. It’s the spot where you have a confluence of things that all align into harmony at once. Below is diagram that defines what I think is the sweet spot for social media.


Post Conversation-What do we do now?

Once you get beyond the conversation, what’s there?  For each aspect or rather in each of it’s iterations, there will always be a result or an action. Conversations, regardless of the network they are swimming in, have to have some causal net result. If not, then it’s one big dinner party or bar, where the conversations have no substance, and we all go home and wake up in the morninh with a headache and ask what happened.

There is a great discussion about this exact subject going on in a few places that I would encourage you to visit. Over at Valeria Maltoni’s site the conversation agent, Valeria has always maintained that it was always about the outcomes of the conversation. And she cites numerous sources that in one way or another support this premise. I couldn’t agree more. You have to do something with the conversations that you have participated in. There has to be an outcome. Unless of course, you converse just to hear yourself speak.

But see, the difference is that in this Web 2.0 age, our conversations take on many different forms. We reach out to have these conversations in many forms and in each form, the effort on our part is the push and we want the pull from the other party. But the conversations may have a tinge of self aggrandizement unfortunately, and that’s where we might be missing the point. I think that these days people are realizing that some of the conversations may be disingenous. It’s the dirty little secret of the social-ness of what we are all participating in. Its the nature of the fluidness of social. It’s way too easy to start the conversation and it’s way too easy to manipulate the conversation in your favor. But most of us are hip to that and I think it eventually  sorts itself out. We’re able to police that part fortunately.

What happens next in each aspect is covered as well by David Armano  with another one of his wonderful graphic representations in which David essentially asks… We’ve identified all the different mechanisms and networks and tools to bring forth the dialogue and raise the level of everyone’s voice beyond the tinge of a whisper so, “What next?”.

You see in each “property” in the above graphic, conversations are and have been taking place. But what comes of them? Here is a quick example. Do we blog because we want to hear and read what we speak and write about respectively? No, we do it because we essentially want to talk and we want to be heard, and we want to engage others in a dialogue. Problem is, and I’ve noticed that perhaps this one tiny aspect is often overlooked- in order to be heard and in order to converse on or in a blog platform, it does not happen immediately. It takes work, and it takes effort, and I think to a large degree, most people underestimate that. Thus they abandon the endeavor. Do we need to make it even easier to be heard and engage others? Is it still to intimidating and difficult to join in the conversation?

The outcomes of conversations in each of David’s properties all predicated on various barriers of entry. Some not as great as others, but each still requires some effort in order to be heard. Do people want to work at their conversations? I don’t think so, but in each example, conversations and the endeavor of enagaging in them is not a passive activity. never has been, unless you like to lurk.

Another aspect often overlooked in the online social world, is that there is still the aspect of engagement. Type “A”‘s might still have an easier time of engagement than type “B”s. We still have to look at easing the transitions for N00bs. Once they are engaged in the conversation, they may be ok. But then we all come back around to the beginning. And we ask ourselves, “Now what?” “What comes of this?”

Seth Godin started an invite only social network called triiibes that was tailored to his forthcoming book. There are roughly 3000 people in this network and conversations abound. The problem is, I have to think, and do, that all the people in the network are in the “take” mode. A network where everyone is looking for, according to Steve Bridger’s comments to David, “what’s in it for me” can’t be very productive, or maybe it is? Conversations have to be equally 2 way, if not, they’re not called conversations, they’re called monologues. They have to have something more to them in each web 2.0 scenario. That’s what Valeria and David are getting at. We have all these tools, so now what? What do we do with all the various ways that we now have to communicate with each other. Perhaps a Conversation Manifesto is in order?

Why online communities fail

“What we’ve got here is…failure to communicate.” — spoken by “The Captain”, the imperious prison warden played by Strother Martin in the movie, “Cool Hand Luke”


We talk about how great social nets are and all of the great things it has to offer but here is the flip side to that coin, why do online social communities fail? Where is the disconnect? Here are some opinions on the matter from the blogosphere.

Here is a post in which Eric Zeman says that up to this point mobile social networking has been a big fat failure. I’ve blogged about this in the past and have basically said that the 2 issues that will slow this rush down will be lack of real estate on the hand held device and browser speed of course. What do you think? where do you fall?

Social networking 2008 Friend or Failure, did this guy get it right? To a degree he did.  Of course we have this little ditty from the Wall Street Journal on why communities fail. which we did not really need to read to know why they fail. It’s the community people, its the people, people. It’s not the cash. People make communities work. If they didn’t, they wouldn’t call them communities.

John Furrier has an interesting take as well, in which he says that users want value not cheerleaders but that still doesn’t prevent him from saying that Social Media – Corporate Blogging – Most Failing? It has to be social.

Are you starting to see a trend here? As many supporters and champions of how great social nets are, there are still areas in which some if not many see shortcomings and potential for improvement in the model. Here are a few more. This one coming from the auto industry: Social Media Networks in the automotive industry are fledgling and the dynamics created inside of them is atypical of what you see in other niches.

Here’s a post from last summer, titled, Traditional marketing failing on social networks. Yes  that still seems to be true though I am seeing some marketing gains in regards to companies putting the right people in place to handle new social media intiatives. But not at any acceptable levels.

What all of this is, is people looking at communities and saying they are failing, or they failed and then they start pointing fingers. Or they just count the reasons why they failed. Or maybe they are the ones, who have never participated?  Bottom line should be, how do you prevent community failure in an online social network?

Here is a response from FreshNetworks in response to the Wall Street Journal article in which they are essentially saying, Branded online communities that are set up and managed correctly don’t fail. And I have to agree with them.

Here’s more on why online communities fail In a world saturated with solicitations where people have less and less attention available, most communities fail because they bypassed a few important questions, like “what are we offering users?”, “what is differentiating us from other communities?”,

And of course the online community numbers that don’t add up

Why do online communities fail?  The biggest reason for failure is relying on technology – whether it’s websites, forums, Web 2.0, social media, social networks or any of the buzzwords. Too many businesses spend massive amounts of money on the technology rather than the plans and processes and people that are what make up a community. To a certain degree the technology might not fit but it’s technology that drives the process, so we have to rely on it.

The customer collective on why communities fail: The first reason is that many companies who embark on community initiatives are putting their company or product at the center of the effort. As many pointed out, that is obviously WRONG – you need to put the community member at the center and make sure that there is some passion around the initiative. Put the customer at the center, but the customer needs to know why they are there.

Three Reasons Branded Online Communities Fail Would you launch a new product or service line without an experienced person to develop and manage it? Not usually, no. The same goes for online communities.

Or perhaps, why online communities fail, Community is about community and community leaders, folks don’t be seduced by eye candy!

Why Does Corporate Social Networking Fail? Dave Allen weighs in at Social Media Today. And so does Jerry Bowles with Online Business Communities – Who’s Winning? Who’s Losing

In conclusion let’s remember the thing that people who have the cash to set these up seem to forget or overlook. It’s all about the community, the managers, the brand champions, the word of mouth people who love the site,  the users who genuinely love to connect with people, it’s people who love the brand and the company, the people who would do anything for the company for the brand.  Its the friendships made. Its about companies listening. Those are your community. NOT the marketers, and the tech people that built it. It’s the people that matter that contribute, and it’s the contributors that matter who matter most. What part of that do you not understand?

After reading your fair share, where do you think the burden of an online communities success should fall?

What did we do before the conversations started?

You know, I have never had some many great meaningful discussions on so many relevant topics in all the years I have been in tech. I attribute alot of this to the buzzword of the latter part of this decade and that is the conversation. The emergence of the conversation between people wanting to work together, the collaboration of people working towards a collective goal. The customer finding his voice and the company finally listening with humility.

Mental Note: Be sure to write a piece about listening with humility. Who does that?

 Which led me to think. What the hell did we do before? What did people do with all of this great input, insight, knowledge and wisdom before, but with no real vehicles to share it. Did they write books about conversations? Not really,  Although, I know of one book where the conversations are rich and plentiful and thats the age of conversation edited by Gavin Heaton and Drew McLellan.

Tell me this isn’t a great time to be talking and sharing? I know these are hard times in some respects, but from a technology, innovation, and entrepreneuial standpoint, there has never been a more optimal time make a difference and actually do a lot with what we have right now! Here’s someone that all of you should follow. Ironically his blog is called How to change the world, once you get there if you have not heard of him, it won’t take you long to appreciate what he does with his time.

Another person that really enagages in some great discussions about, well conversations is Chris Brogan, your day should consist of stopping by Chris’s blog to see what he is thinking. In fact he has a post that I’m sure we all could relate to called, Be Sexier in Person. Not that Chris is blogging about sexy he is in person, just read the post.






You know who else I like, who else engages in light but interesting and thought provoking conversations? Mack Collier. he lays it out there in a way thats easy to digest. In actuality there are A LOT of conversations going on out there that I would like to take part in, but my god, would I ever get anything done?


I think whats important to keep in mind is that we all love to talk, or we wouldn’t be blogging but you tell me what do you want to get out of your next conversation? Are you into what you can contribute or what you can take away from it? What is your favorite blog and why?

Suffice it to say, I’m glad we’re in the age of the conversation and excited about where we are headed, wherever that may be.

Last thing. While I was writing this I had Pandora on in the backround and heard the most riveting acoustic version of “One”. The song originally sung by U2 was being sang by Warren Haynes at Bonnaroo, Check it out and tell me what you think.


Surprise! Conversations with the customer pay off!

What has been the most effective thing you’ve done to grow your business?

What tools, software or otherwise, have been invaluable to you? Have you used any social media tools?

I asked this in LinkedIn this past week, and I got news for you, Just when my faith is beginning to waver in how business is conducted these days, I got alot of great answers. Here are some snippets of those responses. see if you can come up with what the end all be all answer is yo the question.

Tim Brown of In The News “Number one with me sounds SO much like “consultant-speak”, but I stop myself and think about how the customer experience is working. I’m constantly trying to make that emotional connection and deliver an enjoyable buying experience. Our product is a non-critical item, easily deleted from the budget. If we build the relationship and make it easy, customers will still buy.”

Brian McCarthy of Tipping Point Media “Build a solid engagement strategy for business development that can be repeated within the sales organization. Once everyone is speaking the same language, it’s easier to push new customer development.”

Jolie O’dell “IRL conferences, LinkedIn, Twitter, and (surprisingly) Chatterous. Through these tools, I was able to start my own business and network with people who could tell me how to do that in all the right ways. The three social nets I named are repositories for best practices in new media, marketing, and technology, the latter two because they’re teeming with brilliant early adopters.

And immersion in the right kinds of social media can make things happen very quickly, as well. It’s often like being at an IRL conference 24/7… As long as you learn how to use it properly!”

Kent Lewis of Anvil Media puts it this way:  This may not be the answer you’re looking for, but I would advise you not to be distracted by tools, software and social media. They are enablers, but not solutions. Start with a unique vision and world class product, then market your story. Oh, and read Good to Great and First Break All The Rules.

Second, we spend a great deal of time evolving and perfecting our product offering and ensure we provide world class service. The end result is that we’ve averaged 75% annual growth over the past 3 years, without having a sales staff or a marketing budget. Our team and our clients are our sales force and with high retention in both areas, it makes the work easier and much more enjoyable.

That said, the more pat answers to grow a business have largely been answered, but I’d say:
-public relations (builds a brand)
-search engine and social media marketing (go hand-in-hand)
-online and offline advertising (protects the brand)

Just make sure all of your marketing efforts are fully integrated…your Twitter and LinkedIn profiles are embedded in your email signature file, etc. It’s a brave new world, and everyone knows your a dog these days, so be authentic and remarkable

Or maybe Lisa Van Allen nails it on the head with her short but succinct list?

Most effective (in order):
1. live (in person) networking
2. public speaking
3. publication of articles in local media and online (blogs, e-newsletters)
4. website
5. social media (LI, Facebook, Twitter)

I think we’re getting warmer, Look what Karen Schultz says: “Listen without selling. Learn what works toward the customer’s team’s success. Choose a customer who matches your definition of partnership. Have their healthy growth in mind. How can you help their success. Be prepared to embrace the customer needs while exceeding their expectations, not yours. It is all about the customer. You are the customer’s advocate. Without the customer, you are not in business. The business you are in should be your passion, not about the weekend, not about the money ( I believe it will come in a fair fashion and you will feel great for your accomplishments, people will like to do business with you, people will advertise for you, and your customers will grow your business for you).

Ultimtaley they were all great answers but I will leave you with Tina Indalecio’s response: To be honest – the most effective thing I’ve done to grow my business has been offline.

My firm consistently used social media, blogs, html newsletters, surveys to get feedback on customer experience, etc. But those have really just been ways to stay in contact with the customer so they don’t forget us.

The conversion to actual business has always been through face-to-face interactions. I always asked for referrals and repeat business (online and offline). I created incentive programs to increase repeat business and referrals – then used online tools as one way to deliver the messages – but always followed up with a call or face-to-face meeting.

We would also hold a client thank you mixer every year and invite our clients and encourage them to bring a friend that could use our services. It was a great way for them to get new business as well from our other clients and they all loved it.

Ultimately, personal interaction has grown my business and the “phone” has been invaluable. For online items, they have helped in the following ways:

– Survey’s have been good at getting feedback. (I’ve used survey monkey regularly during and after each project closed)

– Html newsletters have been good at staying in front of the customer – but be sure to ask them what they want in the newsletter and then deliver it. (I’ve used constant contact and cooleremail)

– online social networks have been valuable at bouncing ideas off other professionals, etc. (like linkedin)

– offline social networks have been valuable for keeping a presence in the business community (like membership to your local business association)

Good way to head off into the weekend I think!