The Problem with the Social Web

Competition is a good thing. Burger King is across the street from McDonalds. Chipotle sits a few hundred yards from Moe’s, Sprint and AT&T offer virtually the same thing. At the end of the day it’s about choice and personal preference that decide whether we go for the hamburger or the hamburger, the buritto or the buritto, or the phone or the phone. Sure we might get a recommendation or suggestion from someone, or we might be motivated by some type of incentive-but ultimately, you make the choice to choose…

Two years ago my friend Jason Breed and I created Hashtag Socialmedia– a tweetchat that revolved around talking about the business of social media. We patterned the chat around the rise of tweetchats that had distinct hashtags associated with them-our model came from Sarah Evans and her #journchat, which at the time was virtually the only tweetchat out there.

Her idea became our idea. But with additional bells and whistles and a different topic. The same but different. What drove both were the variety and types of people that participated. Was it a form of “Me-too”-ism? Maybe. But we weren’t competing for the same eyeballs and ears, so it didn’t matter. We took the basic concept of a tweetchat and made it our own.

In the larger picture of the social web though-there is Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, YouTube and blogs. Those are your so called starting points in social and then everything else sorta falls into lockstep behind them. I’m generalizing blogs, but if you insist, I could go with WordPress, Typepad and Blogger.

The point is this.  Right now we are stuck in the Me too phase of social. I see things being created that are offshoots of the basic premise of connecting, sharing and communicating-but nothing that is transformational. Nothing that is altering the way people do business.

If anything, I still see the adoption of social media taking longer than I expected.

Consider the following statements:

“We have a blog, come read it and find out cool stuff about our company”

“Come join our community and learn more about us”

“We have a Twitter account, follow us we may say something insightful”

“Come see our Facebook page and fan/like us”

“View our Youtube videos and share them”

“Download out mobile app and receive valuable benefits”

“Register for our email newsletter and print coupons”

See what I mean? We’re all drinking from the same well. Doing what we’ve been told works.  We’re all in the same bathtub and the toys in the tub are the same one’s that were there last week, last month and last year. Any new additions to the tub will be the same “type” of bath toys that are currently available, but nothing really new that may spur me to take two baths in the same week!. I know, what a ridiculous analogy-but my point being that I’m afraid that we’re stuck right now and it might be awhile before we become “unstuck”.

Recently I read where, First it was AOL, then it was Microsoft, then it was Google and now it’s Facebook. I’d say that was pretty safe. But look how different each was from the previous NBT.

It’s safe to easily sit here and say that Facebook is “it” right now, but also with the aspect of Twitter, Linkedin and YouTube  being variants of a solid basic notion that Facebook understood early on which is this:

All of those above mentioned platforms all have a solid foundation of “ease of  sharing, creating, connecting and communicating” at their core. There is no mystery about that. Sure, we’re exploring different ways that those can be exploited-but nothing really different. It’s “Here’s what you do, here’s how they work, the rest is up to you”- Now go do it.

The mystery is in what’s next. We obsess on it. But I will say this- We don’t need another Facebook. We don’t need another Facebook competitor either. We just need a better experience-but right now I don’t know what it looks like or where it’s going to come from.

Neither do you.

When Social Media Strategy Becomes Irrelevant

 

What’s important? Every day online and in the social media bubble we talk about ROI and the strategy and the channels used to grow your social media presence and impact. Here are 3 examples where social media has never figured more prominently and yet it had nothing to do with strategy or ROI, but had everything to do with the engine that does drive social media, PEOPLE.

This past Friday, YouTube created the YouTube Person Finder a channel that is aggregating video messages from the victims and the people affected by the massive earthquake and tsunami that hit northeastern Japan more than a week ago. No strategy, no ROI justification-Just YouTube realizing that they could create something that could help people in a time of need.

Meanwhile Google, creates the Google Person Finder which is pulling all relevant search information about people affected in the region into a simple interface. You can either supply information that you know about someone or you can search information posted about someone you know. On top of this, Google has created the Google Crisis Response Page which in my opinion should be shared by everyone just based on the amount of information posted and updated on it.

A Facebook Causes page was recently created to support and raise awareness and funds for the earthquake and tsunami victims.  The page is called Help Japanese Earthquake and Tsunami Victims, and it allows Facebook users to donate anywhere from $10 to $500, or they can join the cause and share it with their Facebook friends.  So far they have raised $240.000  This might not seem like a lot but every bit of it will help. Additional Facebook resources can also be found here  Global Disaster Relief on Facebook page.

This is bigger picture stuff here and at the end of the day has nothing to do with business strategies or ROI but has everything to do with people using the power of social media to make a difference when it matters most-People in need. Impactful stuff…

 

Monetizing Facebook

 

Let’s look at three situations.

We’ve all been wondering either on the behalf of the company’s we work for, or the clients we serve, or for ourselves- How can we leverage Facebook to actually make money?  Recently, Social commerce platform ChompOn, threw down the gauntlet by publishing some data on how much a Facebook share and tweet is worth.

For those who have never heard of ChompOn, they are a site/service where you’re able to create  Groupon like widgets to embed on your website.

Real quickly, for shares and tweets, ChompOn was able to attribute sales to the original action, so they took the total revenue attributed to each action and divided it by the total number of shares/tweets. For likes and follows, they had to estimate attribution by looking at their traffic references and subtracting out purchases made through shares/tweets as well as purchases made through direct traffic.

I don’t know. It seems like such an inexact science. I know it’s based on The notion of group buying shares and likes and tweets but still…Can we be that precise on the value of a share or a tweet? If we were, I would think much more would be happening in this space and business. Is that why Groupon was valuated so high?

    Next we have some data by Emarketer in which it was reported that US marketers will spend $3.08 billion to advertise on social networking sites this year. Additionally, that growth in spending will bring social media ad dollars to 10.8% of the total spent online in the US.

    US Social Network Ad Revenues, 2009-2012 (billions and % change)

    What’s not surprising though was that the primary driver of the change in projected spending is because of greater ad spending on Facebook.

    ”2010 was the year that Facebook firmly established itself as a major force not only in social network advertising but all of online advertising,” said eMarketer principal analyst Debra Aho Williamson, author of the upcoming report “Worldwide Social Network Ad Spending: 2011 Outlook.” “In 2011, its global presence is something multinational advertisers can’t ignore.”

    Facebook Ad Revenues, 2009-2012 (billions)

     

    These numbers just blow me away. Look at the change in revenue from 2009 to 2012 in the US alone!

    OK last one here. Recently SmartPulse  conducted a poll in SmartBrief on Social Media — asking:  Have you bought ads on social networks? If so, did the ads deliver a high return on investment?

    The choices consisted of the following:

    • No, I have never purchased ads on social sites — 64.86%
    • Yes, I have bought ads on social networks and the return on investment was low — 27.03%
    • Yes, I have bought ads on social networks and the return on investment was high — 8.11%

    I’m going to echo the question that was broached in the body of the survey results: “Why is the ad spend on social sites growing so rapidly, and will it continue?” I’m then going to affirm the next statement:

    I am astonished by these ad-sales figures, since everyone I seem to ask either says they’ve never purchased social ads, or they have bought ads, but would never do it again because of extremely low return.

    Am in the bubble that ignores banner and display ads? Perhaps. isn’t the click thru something like 1/2%?  I get it that social networks understand that their main source of income is always going to be derived the majority of the time from advertising. Facebook it would seem, is ideal then, given their 600 million registered users; because it can indeed provide a platform to purchase highly targeted ads based on specific demographics. But I think this highlights a bigger issue-No one is challenging a better way to make money either via Facebook or in social, either from a platform perspective, aside from a subscription model, or from the advertiser/brand side.

    So of the three scenarios. Is a Facebook share really worth $14? Are advertisers wasting money on Facebook? What advertiser is making money on Facebook? What brand is doing a killer job of utilizing Facebook to make money and can prove it?

     

    Brands are still not taking Twitter Seriously

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    I’m not nitpicking. But let’s talk about social media icons. We’re starting to see them on everything. Specifically the Twitter and Facebook icons. Just because we see them, doesn’t mean that those companies are “social”, that they are engaged, fully engaged or partly engaged. We can easily call it social media lip service, but when I checked the Twitter presence of some of the top 100 global brands according the Businessweek-engagement was little or none, and in a lot of cases, the brands didn’t even possess the Twitter handle.

    For example, @Disney has over 140,000 followers and yet has only tweeted 210 times. I know it’s Disney and they might not have to care about Twitter, but that’s not the point. It’s 2011 and brands are going all in when it comes to social. Just look at this years Super Bowl Ads. This might be the year social takes the Super Bowl by storm.

    Check out @Samsung 2500 followers and… a total of 8 tweets.  Meanwhile they have over 200,000 fans on Facebook. Was this the strategy they were told or did they come up with this internally? Should I give them the benefit of the doubt in regards to when they  launched their (new) social identity? Is it a work in progress? Take GAP, over 50,000 followers and yet a mere 400 or so tweets…

    You’re probably saying it’s just Twitter, but for brands, Twitter makes more sense than it does for the casual user. It’s a better fit and it’s an opportunity.

    With that said, I would like to say to brands, “Don’t be social because you have heard you need to be”. Yet we know that’s how some operate. Why not attach a strategy with some (not many) achievable decent KPI’s to your social initiatives? Weave your Twitter activity into your daily routine  the way you check email dozens of times per day.

    Hey Brands, don’t hoard social, own it. Yet I know major companies that either go out and do nothing with their Twitter presence or worse, squat on their Twitter handle  so that others don’t it. For example. @Budwesier, @L’Oreal, @Heinz, @Colgate, @Chanel, @Wrigleys , @KFC, @Avon , @Adidas, @rolex , @Hermes, Tiffany, and ING, all get an F.  Hello strategy? You might be thinking or actually they might think that they don’t need to bother with Twitter-Guess what? Twitter is free and Facebook is free and the barriers of entry and engagement are absurdly low.

    What a lot of companies fail to realize is that we consumers will search for them, or they will eventually come up in search because of a question, a customer service issue, or because prospects want to see who they are. We will click on your social icons. Then we’ll come to our own conclusions. Search and social are not strange bedfellows.  Your social results and personas will come up high in search and if you and your brand are coming up short, it’s an opportunity lost.And if you are there, don’t sleep walk through the chance to engage with your customers.

    Social without a purpose is a waste. Brands who put the Twitter and Facebook icons on their site or on their marketing collateral with nothing to really show for it, is not very smart. Of course I also think having search results where a brand and its associated products does not come up on page one or position one is a major transgression, yet some major brands miss that opportunity as well. Positive search results are a win and always will be. Bad search results can be devastating.

    Control the social aspects of your brand.

    There are no take backs in social media…

     

    Originally I was going to write about how NFL players not playing this past Sunday were tweeting during the NFC championship game about  how Quarterback Jay Cutler seemed to NOT want to go back in the game because of a perceived injury to his knee, how he was not tough, how he was soft, how he lacked heart. Little did they know that he was actually hurt. They were reacting more to his body language, to what the camera showed us or by what was being said or not said during the telecast. Little did they know that thousands were reading what they were tweeting.

    I was going to talk about how the players NOT PLAYING  tweeted things I’m sure in hindsight they wish they could have taken back about one of their peers. How they didn’t know the impact this was going to have. How Jay Cutler couldn’t even defend himself given that the game was going on. It was compounded by how quickly it became viral over the course of the next 24-48 hours. Some players retracted what they said through additional tweets AFTERWARDS but the fact of the matter was that the tweets are there to be seen, searched and read by thousands. FOREVER!

    Well if this authority figure or this well known former or current player said it or thought it or tweeted it, it must be right? It must be true. Right???

    Yep I was going to talk about how athletes should be careful of what they say about themselves or others especially on social networks. Until it happened to me. This is one of those valuable lessons that includes more than public figures. It’s about you and me and how we treat others. And I feel awful about it. Let me give you a quick background.

    I joined a private group in Facebook. It was a fun irreverent group of like minded professionals initially talking about the stuff, the challeneges , and the issues we face every day. But the tone of the group slowly shifted or evolved into something I didn’t really recognize anymore. I felt somewhat uneasy about the change and actually thought about leaving the group prior to; but I still fired up the machine to see what was being talked about and to contribute.

    What happened was I got caught up in the bashing of a colleague and peer who I have respect for. He wasn’t there to defend himself. He wasn’t part of the group. It wasn’t fair. It’s one thing to critique a blog post-Hey we all write crappy ones from time to time, but taking it down a notch was not fair. I didn’t defend him, I joined in and kicked him too! It was there for people to read and comment on what I said. Most didn’t notice but I did. It’s bothered me ever since.  I know better. Not just the fact that it was on a social network but this has to do with civility and respect.

    Afterwards, a good friend who was there and who actually defended this person, took the time to point out to me that I was better than that. She was right. I just wish I had realized it before. Sure it was in a private Facebook group but I can’t take back what I did and naming names does me or this blog post no good, but there’s a valuable lesson here. It’s one in which I’ve told companies about and probably fuels a lot of their trepidation of social media engagement.

    Once it’s out there, it’s out there for everyone to see. It’s in ink not pencil

    Sometimes, the hardest lessons are the ones you have to experience first hand. The NFL players who tweeted about Jay Cutler probably wish they could take back what they said, and so do I. It’s not part of what I am about. I can do better. I apologize. Like I said, there are no take backs in social media.

    The Takeaway from Social Media in 2010

     

    Online privacy means a lot to us, but for a majority of us, it’s only important when we know our privacy has been invaded. In social networks and social media, every time we join a new shiny network, or register for something online, we give up a little piece of our privacy, like a sculptor chipping away at a piece of marble. Sometimes knowingly, sometimes not, we’re giving up who we are to marketers and brands.

    You see, every time we create a profile we are allowing someone to glimpse a little bit more about us than most might really be comfortable with; but we do it because that’s what’s asked or required of us in order to “play”; and like I said, some of you might not even know it. Some of you might not care, because hey, “we’re living in the age of uber transparency”!

    Yes we have a right to know what information is being gathered about us, how it is used and whether it is gathered at all, yet most of us are too busy trying to get on the other side of an app to be bothered with reading a EULA or a TOS agreement. Why is that?

    I have a feeling  that the reason is similar to when you are hearing a radio spot and at the very end of the spot you’ll hear a guy talking so fast, you have no idea what he just said, so you ignore it, Because all you really care about is the deal that was mentioned in front of the fast talking man-The carrot, the offer, the opportunity. Privacy be damned. Most marketers and companies assume correctly that making the TOS’s and EULA’s so ridiculously convoluted, that we as consumers will just get tired of reading and will click the agree button. And the devil…is buried in the details.

    Facebook did the same thing when it came to compromising our privacy the first time. How many times has it changed it’s privacy policy? Most of  the 500 million users probably don’t care what is happening to their data-and that’s a scary thought; but enough of them care to call Facebook out for assuming that we are ready to alter our perception of what is acceptable in data mining- and thus we’ve able to somewhat keep them in check.  I am still not comfortable about the purported data leaks, or satisfied that Facebook is doing all it can to value my privacy, but then again it’s a 1000 times better than it initially was.

    So let me ask you something. As we head into 2011, are you cool with giving up snippets of your personal data for the sake of playing Farmville? Or being part of Groupon? or Foursquare?Are you comfortable with that? Are you truly prepared for radical transparency? I’m not sure I am just yet.

    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.

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

    In recent weeks I’ve received emails from Xmarks and 12seconds.tv 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 12seconds.tv, 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.

    If You Could Use Only One Social Media Solution, Which Would It Be?

    Given that most of us claim to be too busy to do anything anymore-and it is somewhat true. Traipsing in and bellowing to anyone who will listen, that the tranformative nature of social media will change the way you do business for the better, is a lofty claim.

    Let’s do a hypothetical. What if you could only use one “social solution”? Which would you use? and why would you use it? Let’s say you’re a consultant, which social media solution would you suggest and why? Which one is going to have the largest impact on your company? On your business? For your client? What if you’re boss said, “Pick one”, and given that that’s  a minor miracle he said that-which will give you the firm footing to do more later on down the line? The most impact? Results?

    This is kind of important for a number of reasons-not the least of being that some solutions are just not a good fit for some types of organizations.  The reasons could be limited resources, limited time, money or whatever-but you just don’t go and jam a generic social solution into every company just because they want one. You’re going to set yourself up to fail if you do that.

    Just because a company can set up a Facebook fan page for example- does that mean that it will give them the biggest bang for their efforts? Maybe, maybe not. What is going to give them the biggest return, the biggest impact? You can only choose one.

    Let’s short list 11 high level social media solutions and tools right now.

    Each of the above have specific bells and whistles that allow you to do certain things.  Remind me again, what’s the goal of social media? To have conversations? To sell stuff? To grow the business? To enrich Customer service? HR? Competitive intelligence? PR? Collaboration? Which one could do all of those?  I got a better idea. Maybe you should just concentrate on one  specific social “thing” that will make your organization better?

    Ahhhh haaaaa…  That’s it! Which one can do one thing that can make your organization better at what they do? You don’t need to try or “do” every social media solution to be successful. Just one-Doing one thing really, really well, will work.

    Your customers are not using Social Media-Case Study

    I was talking to an SMB owner the other day who is doing everything that he is supposed to do in regards to social media usage for his company, and doing it seemingly correctly. By correctly I mean he has a Facebook fan page and a Twitter account which he updates semi-regularly. He is transparent, authentic, and he shares content and advice liberally when he can. He reads and comments on other blogs when he has time and he is thinking of starting  his own blog. He loves what social media can do and is a champion of it. There’s one problem tho.

    His customers are not on Twitter and Facebook.

    Or are they? The back story: It has not been a year of engagement for either platform that he’s on and thus the growth of fans and followers has not been consistent or completely measureable. He still loves it, but his perception that social media could be a game changer for his business is waning.

    My thought? He may be echoing a larger sentiment of SMB’s far and wide. More and more businesses are walking away from social media because they are not seeing “the immediate results”.  Perhaps the first mistake is coupling the term “immediate results” with social media-Social is not a quick fix.

    If we look under the hood of  the SMB owner, we would see that though he is on multiple platforms, there is minimal engagement. His usage of both is scattershot and not very consistent. The effort that he puts into both is casual at best and he measures nothing. If we add a dose of unrealistic expectations coupled with zero strategy, then he is ripe to walk away and say that social media did not work for his business.

    So are his customers using social media or not? He doesn’t think so. What do you think?