Category Archives: strategy

My snarky advice to buying likes & followers…

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Sometimes my emails make great blog posts.

A respected friend of mine was recently asked by his client if they should personally buy likes and follows.  Noise maker that he is, he invited our thoughts on the matter.

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After a number of emails flew by… I entered the debate.  I decided to add my two cents.  To which, proud moment, @schnitzelboy said “and that’s why i wanted LDS to weigh-in.”

My response:

“Okay.. time to waft in..

I absolutely *hate* these get rich quick schemes.  Of course, I do support paid ad support for social – not from bots but from ad placements with users self selecting their participation.

In the early days, when I won some social media management business back in 200x – we were horrified to discover hundreds (HUNDREDS!) of nonsensical twitter followers & following that had naught to do with the brand advocacy, current consumption or future intent WITHIN  Canada.  Although they did not use a get rich quick scheme as your website below – they followed anyone who even mentioned the brand, anywhere in the world.  We learned quickly that year how to dump a following – note – Twitter has limits!

I think having some sizable critical mass goals are admirable and necessary for starter brands but these schemes are not the way to do it.    I don’t think going ‘organic’ alone is the way either.  Social media grows exponentially and the first part of the hockey stick is long & boring without some kind of interference.  Some targeted paid, integrated marketing, very clever content can help shorten the hockey stick.

If this is an individual asking, slap them on the side of their head.   Those with experience can look at the velocity of their accounts – no. tweets vs. followers, etc – and see something is amiss.  Social can do a lot of brand / reputation damage when you fake it to make it.

3 Lessons: How to Behave in Social Media During a Disaster

The Boston marathon explosions came as a real shock yesterday evening.  Much like many of my social colleagues, I want to write about my thoughts but still I feel quite private and emotional about the loss of life, the terror and the scare.  So I acknowledge this, and choose to keep these feelings to family, friends and Facebook and so purposefully write on another tangent – that is valuable business take-aways.

In a disaster, brands should “sit down and shut up” in social media

Quite soon after news of the Boston Marathon 2013 explosions emerged, @unmarketing tweeted “if you have scheduled brand tweets today, turn them off”.   That hit home for me – as I’m fortunate enough to be deeply involved in a number of brands’ social strategies and community management thereof.

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Admittedly, having produced several very detailed brand playbooks on social management (with sections on guidelines on community management postings & post escalations), I have completely overlooked the idea of including a section on ‘disaster response’.   I actually took the @unmarketing tweet and forwarded it to my staff & clients – recommending strong consideration of a quiet approach.  Stopping any scheduled tweeting is very important as it becomes very evident to the rest of us who is scheduling – which indicates both brand broadcasting and insensitivity to near world events.  His message resonated with many people with 548 retweets and 130 favorites since yesterday.

And so ‘shut up’.. don’t hijack by using an incident as a way to push a marketing message.

Lindsay Bell @belllindsay posted on Facebook another catch by @unmarketing (no flies on him) with Epicurious promoting scones and breakfast recipes around messages of consolidation.  In the amazing commentary that followed from her Facebook friends, one especially caught my eye.   The comment read that brands should ‘sit down and shut up’  then ‘figure out  how you can really help”.

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Responding in a meaningful way means delivering something that helps the situation at hand.  Google is terrific example of large scale immediate response as they relaunched their Google person finder tool.

These disasters are not times to push any kind of marketing agenda forward.   If there is no meaningful contribution to help the situation, then acknowledge the situation and then go quiet.  Disasters are sensitive situations and certainly not worth capitalizing on nor moving on too quickly to ‘back to business’ commentary, in my opinion.

At the agency where I work, we posted the following comment, which my friend @HessieJones endorsed:

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This was posted early this morning, before the above ‘sit down and shut up’ comments.

There is nothing worthwhile to say when our hearts and minds are elsewhere.  As it turned out, that tweet resonated with the agency’s followers – getting favorited and re-tweeted quite often.  Gaining a response, however, was not the reason for the tweet.   It was a human response to having nothing to contribute.  The account was silent for the rest of the day.

Finally, in a disaster, don’t share the graphic images on Twitter and Facebook.

One of the first tweets I saw of the 2013 Boston Marathon was of an accident scene with a lot of red on the ground.  It took me a few minutes and more reading to figure out that I was looking at a disaster zone.  I doubled back in my tweet stream to make sure that I didn’t re-tweet any images that were graphic.  Fortunately I did not.  What I didn’t like was the sharing of graphic images across Twitter and Facebook.   Indeed some of Facebook friends admitted to unfriending on Facebook for anyone sharing graphic images.

Many brands would not be sharing imagery of a disaster but news publications do.  They put disclaimers of ‘ warning the images that follow are graphic’ – however, I feel quite strongly some images just should not be shared.

I’m still personally mulling over the Boston Marathon disaster and will continue to think of those impacted for days to come.  Still, it helps me to just write about some valuable lessons for brands in how they react in a real world, near world event – if anything, as a distraction.

I welcome your comments and observations (please add your @ handle).  Thanks.

How to write a strategy deck… Bullshit, Prove It, So What –

When I was a junior consultant at IBM – working with an ex-Kraft marketing VP and ex-Campbell’s brand director – I learned the ‘Bullshit, Prove It, So What’ design for strategy presentations.  I’ve never forgotten it.  BULLSHIT – is the hypothesis line.  Prove it – is the chart, research, etc that proves or supports the bullshit.  Then ‘so what’ is the implications for the brand.  Sounds casual but it is actually a fine model for strategy presentations.

Today, I work with many individuals who help make sense of big data for agency clients.

Social listening – which is truly about finding patterns among copious amounts of data – is something that I rely on as one key input to digital strategy.  In doing so, I find myself training many individuals – not how to gather social listening, for we have tools that do that, but to become suspicious of what is being offered and then package insights.

Big data is more than simply a matter of size; it is an opportunity to find insights in new and emerging types of data and content, to make your business more agile, and to answer questions that were previously considered beyond your reach.” – IBM website.

Caption:  An interesting look at the usage of ‘big data’ in google searches.  We can see it emerging in the last two years. Image taken from Stephane Hamel’s blog post explaining big data.

First, I truly encourage everyone to understand how data is collected. Its a little bit like understanding the Google algorithyms.

For instance, let’s consider the key sources of mentions in the forums category for social listening platforms.  If a niche Canadian forum does not pass country information in its API to the social listening platform, is it still considered a Canadian forum?  The answer is no.  It is considered to be a US forum.  In which case, you can have gross misrepresentation when doing some forum analysis.  This is the case with the automotive sector – which is host to many niche forums down to the nameplate or model of a car.

The same goes for automated sentiment which is, for many unknown reasons, accepted and presented as defacto accurate by many.

But beyond questioning where the data comes from or how it is collected, I insist that folks demonstrate more than just ‘fact gathering’ (however qualitative this ‘fact gathering’ actually is).

Many people who do social listening just regurgitate what a tool presents to you.  So much so that reports become just a presentation of the what is seen in the social web.  What I am demanding is that the research first consider the issues and form a hypothesis.  What are you trying to demonstrate?  This is fundamental to “issues based consulting” – something that I attended in IBM University in NYC.

After hypotheses are formulated, we collect data that may prove *or* disprove the hypothesis.  For instance – perhaps you consider Canadians to be well informed about a major retailing event called Black Friday.  But in gathering SEO activity and social listening – you can see that Canadians are not knowledgeable about a retailing holiday that is based on an American holiday.

With issues, hypothesis and ‘facts’ (or I prefer to call them findings) – we can move to the ‘so what’ stage.  It sounds easier than it is – while doing social listening, you might go back & forth testing hypotheses three to four to five times.

The holy grail then is coming up with the brand implications from the data found.  That is the ‘so what’ fun part.  For instance, if Canadians do not understand black friday – when do they start looking for their answers compared to when retailers start offering answered.  There is a gap.

It sounds so incredibly simple.. and yet, few use it.

#NXNEi 2012 – Recap of “How to win at YouTube”

Today’s session on “How to win on YouTube” at #NXNEi 2012, was moderated by entrepreneurial @GuyGal –  one of the classiest video know-it-alls, with a kicking panel including @CoreyVidal – the guy that Guy describes as a video know-it-all, @epicmealtime ‘s @Harleyplays [who can cook up a mean turkducken filled with bacon as sampled from 2011 1MM subscriber party] [I’m the invitee that brought the TUMs] and @AlexIkonn – who has designed a life of 4 hr work weeks with luxyhair.com.

Below are my really, really quick highlights:

  • Chance – I think this was Harley who recognized that part of his success was chance.
  • Get over not liking twitter. All the social media platforms are connected and help you share your content. @harleyplays #nxnei #ljp #youtube *
  • “It’s your job as a creator to create what’s next.” @coreyvidal at the youtube @nxnei panel #ljp *
  • @nxnefest:  “Figure out who you are as a person and how you want to be portrayed.” -@coreyvidal #nxnei #ljp #youtube
  • @nxnefest: Get over not liking twitter. All the social media platforms are connected and help you share your content. @harleyplays #nxnei #ljp #youtube
  • @sarahbalta:  Do what’s authentic to your brand. “There is nothing epic about a mini.” Response from @HarleyPlays when asked to sponsor Mini Cooper #NXNEi  [this authencity and consistency message was also discussed by @alexikonn]

Also noted:

  • this idea that everything is connected and that the use of other social networks aids the distribution of videos. e.g.  @epicmealtime used their personal networks to vote up their digg, buzzfeed and other submissions.
  • that consistency is key in the delivery & development of a youtube channel.  E.g. epicmealtime is out every Tuesday – reliably.
  • that critical to the success of a channel is maintaining content focus that suits the audience you’ve built.
  • that the first video posts done by those who have had tremendous success – were sticklers for the details – the title, the description, tags chosen, etc.


Post session, I asked a panelist, @alexikonn of luxyhair.com fame,
about the value of YouTube comments.  I often find the commentary on YouTube rather garbage-y given the often anonymous nature of users.  He said – you have to direct a question to the audience at the tail end of the video.  With no direction, the commentary will be useless but once directed, you will have valuable comments.  Great pointer there.  (the same can be said for adding context sensitive URLs ) (a.k.a. clickable URL links).  This made me think of all the brands that slap up a 30s spot on YouTube with absolutely no catering to the channel experience..

A few more thoughts on YouTube success ideas:
– if you use music, give attribution to the artist.  You will see this well done by fan made movie stories.

*Note:  its not always clear who the tweet originator is by the tool I am using.  apologies.

Recap on @Avinash: Influence, experience and value #Google ‘s #ThinkPerformance

@iamstevetay 's photo from the dayToday’s Google #ThinkPerformance in Toronto offered a wonderful line-up of trailbrazers from @avinash @simonrodigue @mitchjoel Claira Bara, Matt Ackley and more.

People vocal about emerging trends, how to use data to drive business decisions, vocal on stupid digital experiences, stupid advertising spends and suggestions on what to do tomorrow.  A host of impressive smarketers who measure what matters.   Many of these fine speakers are deserved of stock from Google, from Facebook, from their own organizations for being better spokespeople than many an ineffectual media.

Take one of my favorite speakers +Avinash Kaushik delights the audience with a review of Canadiana – providing a little open season on those online experiences – Canadian Tire, Retail Council of Canada, among others that are not up to snuff.

He begins with a Toronto Star article on “Allowing retailers to stay open on holidays” – a story of Toronto council trying to open retail for nine statutory holidays..  “Why open on Canada Day?”  he quips.. and points out online commerce – that stores are already open 24 hrs a day.   Many in the audience are nodding.  Indeed, Canada’s e-commerce business is expected to double to $30B by 2015.

Already – with these opening remarks, I feel like I’m in a room of my own kind – especially when I hear laughs about “hits”,

Thanks to @drafted_boy for phone capture

“impressions”, “clicks” – metrics that mean absolutely nothing but are still well embedded into company vernacular.  I personally correct every individual I meet that uses the term ‘hits’ – as it is my personal indicator that the person knows nothing of analytics and what they speak.

Avinash’s presentation focused on three elements he is quite passionate about..

  1. Influence
  2. Experience
  3. Value

Influence – this is *not* a discussion of Klout.. (whew but of course not..) Influence was the idea of understanding influence at its roots… where do you find the people who spend time and understand your brand?   He then presented the print newspaper ad revenue over the past 100 years – credit, did you catch it?, given to Mark J Perry’s Blog Carpe Diem.  As Mark J Perry describes it – this chart is “another one of those huge Schumpeterian gales of creative destruction”.   Picture a steep climb and, with the last ten years, the drop.

And just where are the budgets moving to?  23% of consumer time spent is on mobile.  The crrrriiime against HUMANITY – as Avinash declared – is that 1% of ad spend is on mobile.   Print with 6% of consumers time spent has 29% of ad spend.  At this point – he is preaching to the converted.  What will happen when the CMOs finally wake up to the massive waste of budget?  I wonder.

“The day I saw this.. was the day I started to pay for the NYtimes” says Avinash.. as the future of print lies in question if it seeks its revenue from ads.

So.. Avinash is back to his passions – how do you find people (nice reference to Google), how do you influence them (brilliant experience), how do you convince people (and a tie to the importance of creating value).

Experience – I wish I could add audio clips to my blog.. imagine Avinash say.. “I am passionate about developing magnificent, brilliant experiences..” and  “I am ashamed on behalf of the internet” “stop the self-orgasms.. always let me [as a consumer] go first [enjoy the experience]”.

His reference is to Canadian Tire’s interrupt survey which appeared during the purchase funnel asking over 258 options before he can buy what he wanted.  Avinash is quite tough on websites, the financial realities Canadian retailers face in funding brilliant experiences is not the same easy street as American retailers face.. still putting a survey in the purchase funnel isn’t a cost mistake, it’s a stupid mistake.

thx to @drafted_boy

Value  – Now onto metrics worth measuring.  Avinash reminds the audience, just because we can measure clicks does not make it meaningful.   Same with impressions and hits.  Stupppid he advises.   What does it tell us of value?  Nothing.

thx to @drafted_boy

Avinash shares his favorite metrics.. bounce rate, a single page visit, is the same as they came, they puked, they left.  He speaks of more.. but what caught my interest was a few new classifications of old favorites

  • Super Awesome metrics (see pix)
  • Share of search:  a brand’s SEM/SEO key term performance versus your competition.  TD Bank got slammed here for Avinash used about 20 different key terms – “small business loan”, etc and TD did not appear in paid nor organic findings.  Avinash shared a print ad for the Bay (I think) for Nautica clothes – yet a google search for the same item was not turning up Bay results.. As Avinash stated  “no.. you are too far down the funnel.. you are ready to buy..”
  • Task Completion Rate:  Interrupt survey to web visitors – presumably not during the purchase process – asking “were you able to complete your task?”
  • Near term, medium and long term metrics:  ensuring a tiered focus to measurement.  A nice reminder

And new for this year, Avinash suggested four new metrics for social activity.

  • Amplification Rate:  no retweets per post,
  • Conversion rate – comments per post
  • Applause rate – no of favorites per post
  • Economic value – value generated per visitor – eg. visits via social referral and conversions assisted by social.

He showed this plotted by social network – so that we might compare the value generated by network.  This is also found in Avinash’s blog post and worthy read “best social media metrics”

All in all, Avinash kicked off a day long focus on the value of data to inform marketing decisions.

Many thanks to Google for putting together such a valued session.

#SoMeNite – an evening exploratory on social media’s maturation.

Once every few months @RickWolfe and I host a #SoMeNite; a night of exploration around Social Media’s maturity.

It started off as an effort to gain industry input into the development of an open sourced framework for accessing an organizations’ maturity in social media.  Though the framework has been well received and adapted/modified by the fine folks participating in our round tables, it has also become a conversational spring board for the most recent, topical issues that businesses face in social media.

Open Source Social Media Maturity Chart

I couldn’t possibly cover the entire discussion, but I can share some interesting themes:

  • Can you imagine the death of facebook? google, etc
  • How do you drive social thru the organization?
  • Related to this, the issue of restricted social media access within an enterprise.  [see @schnitzelboy’s post – about the restricted use of social media within the enterprise — “What Star Wars teaches us about Social Media at work”]
  • The difficulty in managing social media and employees participation within it (@EdLynne states – what of organizations with 32, 000 employees?)
  • The importance of including social aspects to product builds – as @simonsmith stated – angel investors will not invest in anything that does not have a social component.
  • The idea that some people / some brands are not “‘social by nature”  (e.g. health brands that consumers rely on anonymous search not social for learning)
  • Does social jump the cue in customer service?
  • A beautiful comment by @xsabaa on whether or not we would pay a premium for an anonymous profile.
  • @xsabaa also commented on the existence of brand fear as the consumer is sometimes a bully in social.
  • And did you know that it takes only 25 letters to move legislation? via @judyforce
  • Managing a community – with insight from @tanyasays
    • the multiple administrators issue
    • the explosion of social networks to manage but social media marketing teams have stayed the same size
    • the need for brands to go into the messy personal territory within social (lovely idea from @xsabaa)
    • role of the ^ – moderator identifier within community management
  • And – within our evening attendees, some agreement that the term “maturity” is premature in describing social media..  [consistent with an earlier #SoMeNite – Is it premature to talk about social media maturity?
About @RickWolfe:  Rick, of Poststone.com, is a specialist in digital conversation (which is to say he creates the right environment for an exploratory conversation that results in meaningful, fresh, and exciting insights).   Thank you Rick!

What’s holding brands back from becoming social: staffing & measurement

The future of social media is in the shift from ‘doing social’ to ‘being social’.

Today – there are many owners of social media, let alone digital, within an organization.  Social media forces marketing, PR, customer service, and other departments to work together.

When you get many owners of social, the business starts to understand how social plays an intimate role in what they do.  That social is a behavior, a philosophy, a new way of operating and not a simple tactic –  that social evolves from a function to a discipline.   When business understand this, they will shift.

Employees will become digital citizens, its experts surfaced to its consumers, and act socially on an enterprise level.

But the pathway to becoming social is held back for two major reasons:

1.  Social media is relegated to a junior person on the marketing and PR team.

Importantly, I’m not trying to undermine what often is a passionate, intelligent,  social savvy crusader.   Social moves forward in a companies due to a crusader, a crisis or executive level support.   But that said, the crusader method of organizational change is a rare one.

My rant — as a result of a junior appointment,  these social media leaders deal with rounding error budgets, may have engagement that is more damaging to the brand than helpful.  They focus on tactics not strategies  (Should I advertise on Linkedin?, I have followers on foursquare, now what do I do?.. you know the situation).  They are operational players and may not even be responsible for strategy.  They often measure the wrong things.

When you understand that the future of social is becoming a social brand – you see that the number of digital owners must increase.  There will be required alignment to strategies and plans.  Cross functional leadership puts a heavy load on a junior social media individual.   These social media specialists are promoted to their level of incompetence.

2. People measure the wrong things in social media
I’m a pretty harsh critic when it comes to measurement.  I believe measurement is a systemic, abominable situation in most organizations.  Really.

When I measure for success, I focus on  4-5 different categories.  Market, Recruitment, Engagement and Conversion/ Monetization.

  • Recruitment, or traffic includes the volume and size of your social presence, your rate of growth, hopefully compared to the industry.
  • Engagement typically includes metrics that measure the level of interaction between your customers and your content and/or own community management.   You can dive deeper into analyzing influencers, etc.
  • Conversion represents a focus on moving customers to action.  You can include or separate out monetization metrics.  [I like separating then – consider relabeling KPI – key performance indicators to key purchase indicators – it gives focus to what metric individuals are looking for]
  • Other – where I can, I like cross reference metrics to validate the integrity of the data.. but I digress.

The problem with much of the social media success metrics – is traffic is the domain that people stay in.  They don’t broaden to look past traffic to engagement and conversion metrics.  They only measure, and so are only concerned with, 1/3 of their success.    These tend to be the same people who don’t believe SoMe can deliver ROI.  Well no wonder.

This was the crux of a recent keynote I delivered at IBM’s Retail Fall Showcase recently, invited by retail futurist, former colleague and friend @drodgerson – sharing the stage with two very impressive gods – deep analytical genius @eeksock and global retail emerging tech deep sme @smarterretail.   I was grateful to be honest with a crowd of 200 retailers/ibmers on my frustrations.   My full presentation is available from my linkedin profile – through slideshare.. [linked above].  Presentations from the event are also available.