Archive for September, 2011

Why Am I So Hungry?

Wednesday, September 28th, 2011

The more I read from the social media experts, the more I realize that no one really understands what they are talking about. One day it’s about likes and retweets, the next it’s about having the perfect ratio of comments, links and replies, then it’s all about the quality of the content, or, worse, the quantity of content. Gurus are going to tell you when to post and how to post, but it’s not really going to work. It’s like going to an all–you-can-eat buffet and learning it’s filled with 18,000 different brands of diet food. Sure it probably won’t kill you but honestly you are still going to go looking for glazed donut flavored ice cream the minute you leave the restaurant.

I recently had a friend ask me why she thought her jewelry company’s Facebook page has around three hundred followers while her competition has many thousands more. Interestingly, her company is getting 30,000 hits to its website monthly, but that isn’t translating to Facebook numbers. Before I even started writing this piece, I forewarned her there isn’t a magic potion or silver bullet to getting Facebook fans and anyone who is promising to sell you a silver bullet is probably a freshly shaved werewolf. That being said there are probably a few things related to expectations that need to be considered as well as time and money related issues.

1. Are you getting a return on your investment?

The number one thing anyone working with social media struggles with is the ability to quantify the return on their marketing efforts. In the B2B space, this means determining whether you are generating leads using social media, and in the consumer space this means are you getting sales? Anyone that says social media is only for product branding is trying to sell you on their ability to get a job in marketing without being able to sell anything. At the end of the day, selling your products or services is the only reason to use social media for business. Engagement is nice, but so is having a car. However, a car on blocks in the front yard doesn’t get you to work. There are a lot of links on my friend’s website leading to the company’s online store, but this isn’t enough. The first thing I would do is generate either a Facebook-only promo code or a product link that is Facebook specific to see if Facebook posts are generating sales. From this they can get a sense to see if the social media marketing efforts are having any impact and understand if it’s worth the time they are putting into Facebook.

2. Is Facebook really a competition?

I didn’t spend hours agonizing about the choice of following the Summit Brewing Company or the Surly Brewing Company on Twitter and Facebook. I followed them both because I wanted to. I didn’t think to myself, “wow, I just followed one brewery and I’m exhausted, I guess I’m done with that market segment on social media.” Just because your competition has more followers than you doesn’t mean they are capturing your potential followers, or more importantly, customers. Sure they may have 7000 more likes than you, but if both of you have 200 actual social media customers then at the end you are even with them.

3. Are you trying to build a community or a launching pad?

In this instance, the Facebook page in question has the same format for nearly every post: a wall photo of a piece of jewelry, an interesting comment about the piece with the price, and a link back to the sale website. If your intent is to get people to like and stay on your Facebook page, don’t immediately give them a reason to leave your page. Similarly to a restaurant without tables (I’m writing this after lunch so I’m as baffled as you are by all the food metaphors), you aren’t going to make any extra beverage sales by sending your customers away to eat a slice of pizza on the street. If you want a community, you’ll need a different tack than just posting your specials—that being said, if you are already getting a return on your investment then maybe your strategy is working.

4. Give people a reason to click

My friend’s organization included links to Facebook with every email and likes for everything on the website. However, if there isn’t a compelling reason to like or click through people aren’t going to do it. Just because you have set up a page and plastered an icon everywhere doesn’t mean people are actually going to click. In other words, just because Bravo has another cake-cooking competition, doesn’t mean I’m going to watch. I need a reason to watch. I might think those cakes are delicious, but I have no motivation to tell anyone about it. Give your audience a reason to like something and they will. I don’t have a magical solution for this one, but think about what marketing techniques work for you today and apply those strategies.

The net is, when it comes to social media marketing, a competitor isn’t necessarily the best yardstick to see if you are doing things correctly. With so little real understanding of how to navigate the social media space successfully (beyond historically successful marketing techniques) it’s probably better for an organization to look to case studies and examples of successful social media campaigns and emulate those with your own organization’s unique spin.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I apparently need to go hit the vending machine for an afternoon treat.


Will Facebook Match My Socks Too?

Thursday, September 22nd, 2011

I’m sure there are plenty of people that are still too upset about Facebook format changes from three years ago, to be particularly upset about yesterday’s changes. It’s fascinating to read or hear the backlash each time Facebook changes their layout. When we have beautiful fall weather, we need something to complain about, so I guess it gets to be Facebook. I suspect if there was an Amazon review of Facebook it would be “3 Stars, nice product but changes too often and won’t stop my mom from replying to my posts.”

Generally speaking, Facebook is one of the few companies releasing new features that work, rather than features that don’t work to replace features that never did work from the previous version. There are a few interesting things that have changed with this release and just like everyone else in America with access to a blog, I feel the need to tell you about it at this very moment.

The first thing is their promotion of lists in importance and helping us to formulate them. This is reasonable since I would probably never get around to categorizing my 500+ friends. To be honest, I have fewer socks than that and if it wasn’t for my wife, I’d probably never categorize them in pairs either. Facebook relied on the basic methods of blood (family), time (my Hiram College list) and space (people that are near Saint Paul). None of which are actually that useful to me and I suspect it’s the same for others. I don’t think we structure our social media generated virtual world in the same way we structure our interactions in the real world. Interestingly, my wife was added to a Family Group of a friend whom we’ve hung out with once since her wedding a few years ago. The only buggy thing I can speculate about the algorithms is that her first name starts with a J and last name starts with an I, so Facebook assumed she’s related to me, and that makes her related to my wife? Although the other JI and I aren’t friends at the time of this writing (request sent, I swear).

I’d rather Facebook did content based suggestions to help me organize my social life.

My Facebook Content Lists would be:

1. Posts Only Baby Photos
2. Copies and Pastes Religious/Political Talking Points
3. Serial Farmville Updater
4. Passive Aggressive Vague Post Writers
5. I Won’t Ever Read Your Blog Again
6. People Who Treat Their Relationship Status like a Light Switch

So yeah, there’s that.

The only other things I’d like to comment on are the idea of Top News Stories being related to how long it’s been since your last login is a great idea. Although, for me it’s still littered with people from Twitter and their cross-posted content—that’s a function of them being more prolific and engaged “sharers” than most of my physical world friends. Finally, the only thing I really despise about the new layout is the real time ticker in the upper right hand of the layout. I’ve yet to find something interesting in there AND it’s locked to the screen giving it the feel of a really creepy clown picture with overly painted eyes following me around the room. I just don’t like it and hopefully will get so used to it that I actually won’t notice it anymore.

Like any organization marketing to consumers or businesses, Facebook should connect with its users, and find out what they like, need, and suggest before making serious changes to their product. Just because they think it’s good, doesn’t mean their customers do.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go worry about much more important things than Facebook’s new layout.


Ten Things I Think I Think I Think

Thursday, September 1st, 2011

I was perusing the social media thinkers on the wide-wide-world-of-web and learned that I’ve been blogging all wrong. My rambling stories that take at least eighteen hours to get to the point are not the way to engage readers (I know right!). I need to use little words, short sentences, small ideas, and lists. We must have lists! Lists are shareable. Long-winded stories are what you tell over a beer while everyone at the table furtively hides their stifled yawns. Let’s make everything easily consumable, requiring minimal thought and be so bland that it will be forgotten tomorrow when we read the next vanilla article on the same topic. I’m going to give this a try.

Here’s my list and it doesn’t have anything at all do to with my introduction.

1. While short daily blog posts are certainly one way to engage your audience, it isn’t the only way. Please stop telling us that it is. It’s clear that many people, regardless of the industry, feel the need to write something daily and their quality of work suffers significantly. I’d like to think I have a decent idea weekly, a good idea once a month and a great idea rarely—all those bad ideas I have each day, I don’t need to share.

2. Use the medium in question or don’t bother. If your organization’s Twitter strategy is only to send people to Facebook or your blog, then you are missing the point. Tailor your message to the tool you are using and stop asking us to go three different places to get some information.

3. Direct Mail is still a great way to reach your customers. However, if you’d like people to drop a couple of grand on some computer gear, you might want to make sure that letter arrives more than six hours before the deal expires. I’m guessing people like to think about these things before pulling the trigger. Direct Mail requires a lot more planning than simply emailing out today’s deals. Think through your offer before you slap on a stamp.

4. Three social media gurus walk into a bar. The bartender asks, “What’ll you have?” The three ignore him, just talk to each other for an hour, and call the night a successful engagement.

5. If you blog about the value of using Twitter and the only people who read it already use Twitter, did you really have a point? I understand pandering to your base audience, but if you want to be influential, you need to influence people beyond getting some folks to nod in agreement.

6. I still really like Google+. It’s so quiet and peaceful there because no one is using it.

7. I love Peter Shankman’s article I Will Never Hire a “Social Media Expert,” and Neither Should You. Any human being who includes this sentence, “BAD WRITING IS KILLING AMERICA,” is a hero in my book.

8. Hyperbole has become mundane. Bump the excitement down a notch and give us more analysis and less hype.

9. Social Media gives you the opportunity to develop your “Personal Brand.” However, this doesn’t mean you are required to link all of your accounts to work, although you certainly can. But remember it is called Social Media and not Work Media.

10. I really don’t believe your organization is out of business if you don’t email me EVERY SINGLE DAY (unless your company is named Borders). How about giving me (your customer) an option to get daily, weekly, monthly, or holiday-only emails? It’s not that I don’t want you to market to me; it’s that I don’t want you to market to me so much.

Whew! Apparently I can’t even write a short article using lists.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ll be busy thinking about how to turn this list up to eleven.