Last Wednesday I joined an invigorating conversation on Twitter’s weekly #editorchat. Hosted by Business Week’s editor @johnabyrnes. We talked a lot about the future of magazines and media. No surprise, but journalism is going through all the same challenges confronting ad agencies and brands. According to John, “It’s no longer content handed down from reporters to an audience, but rather a process that has to embrace the reader at every stage: from idea generation (when you ask readers for their suggestions), to story development (when you share the work in progress), to the finished piece (which becomes an intellectual fireplace around which meaningful conversations occur.” Sound familiar? This is exactly what every marketer is grappling with as well. As we lose more and more control of our brands to consumers, as we realize there are conversations going on whether we’re there or not, as we conclude that the most valuable service we can provide is to create a community that connects customers to each other and allows us to both participate and learn, we conclude, as does John, that “deeply engaging readers (or prospects and customers) and converting them to partners is essential to induce loyalty and return visits (business.)
John had another comment that resonates. “Editors and writers need to understand how to create and build communities and then how to serve them. That’s part of the job.” As far as I’m concerned, as a marketer, as a content creator, as a brand builder, that is the job. What are your thoughts? Are you finding other parallels between different industries? Advertising and journalism? Music and publishing? Share your comments.
There are so many different ways to use social media, so many platforms to consider, so many tools to connect with your audience and so many variations on the content a brand can create, I figured it might help to simplify things into five easy to remember approaches. So here they are.
The James Cagney
Like Cagney with a machine gun, this is the spray-and-pray approach. Stick up a fan page, post some stuff on Twitter, upload some videos to YouTube and hope for the best. Given the millions of people visiting those social networking and content sites every day someone’s bound to see at least some of your stuff.
The Woody Allen
As Woody said, 90 percent of success in life is just showing up. So what the heck, just get out there, anywhere, hang around, have a conversation, participate, engage, see what happens. Wing it a little, make a few friends and hey, at least you can say you’re using social media.
The Ed Wood
What, you’ve never made a viral video? That doesn’t matter. If Ed Wood can make a movie, you can make a viral video. Get a camera, stick in a cassette and point it at anything you think is funny. Chances are if you think it’s funny other people will think it’s funny. Simply stick your masterpiece on YouTube or Vimeo and before you know it 1,000,000 people, give or take a few zeroes, will hit play.
The Edward L Bernays
OK, let’s get little serious for a moment. This is the PR approach to social media. You come up with an angle, an insight, the results of a survey, synthesize them into a sound bite and pitch it to bloggers, micro-bloggers and twittering journalists. They’ll appreciate not having to generate any content themselves and gladly pass it on as if it’s news.
The George Washington
Media companies like this one. Take out the wallet and pay for presence. Stick an ad on Facebook or YouTube, or a popular blog. Or maybe buy some search results. Hey, why do any work, manual labor or ongoing maintenance when you can just fork the cash over to Google or Yahoo? It’s still called social media, right?
Of course you could always do it the right way. Determine exactly what your audience is looking for (entertainment, information, community); develop a strategy; create relevant content; build a brand network platform; and construct a “a cone of connection” that has engagers at the bottom and influencers at the top. That will probably work a lot better.
Comments? Thoughts? Ideas for what makes a great social media program? Please share them.
Last week my colleagues and I made two major presentations to clients. One was a big show: brand positioning, tagline, television, print, online advertising, point of sale displays, purchase incentives, iPhone applications, digital experiences and live events. When we were done, the first question — in three parts — was, “What do you think about blogs? Should our CEO blog? What should our blog outreach program be?” The second presentation was also pretty comprehensive, including recommendations on how to use social media to listen, engage, inspire, build, and mobilize. At the conclusion of that meeting the first question – also in three parts — was, what should our Twitter strategy be? Should the CEO Twitter? If not him, who?
For the last 30 years I’ve been a copywriter and a creative director. Most of the work I’ve done has been in TV, print, websites, OLA, viral. Yet today, the only questions clients are asking me are whether they should blog, who should be posting on Twitter, what content should go on their Facebook fan page versus the corporate website.
Fortunately I’ve spent a fair amount of time developing answers, or at least trying to. (They’re out of date within a week or two if you don’t keep up and staying ahead is impossible.) If you’re in this business I hope you’ve been doing the same. If not, start now. All the talk about advertising as we know it coming to an end? It’s not just talk anymore.
What are you hearing this from your clients? Do you feel like you have the answers? What are you using as sources and content for your new recommendations? Would love to hear.
Today I received an @reply from Evan Williams –not the Kentucky Bourbon which actually comes up on Google before the co-found of Twitter –but the Twitter @ev. Earlier in the day he posted this tweet. “@francavilla Impersonation is not allowed on Twitter. If someone being impersonated contacts us, we’ll look into it and suspend.” (129 characters with spaces)
I asked, “@ev aren’t the madmen characters impersonations?”
(We all know that Don Draper and friends were hi-jacked by fans. After initial complaints from cable network AMC, Twitter suspended the accounts using the Digital Millennium Copyright Act as justification. AMC subsequently returned the characters to their Twitter imposters when Deep Focus, AMC’s digital marketing group, argued that there’s value in giving up some control of their brand to passionate fans. But that’s a subject for a future post.)
Anyway I digress. Shortly thereafter I got a response from @ev. “@edwardboches I don’t think posing as fictional characters is legally “impersonation.” Potential copyright infringement (in that case, OK’d),” making abundantly clear the difference between snagging a real identify versus a made up one. Good to know.
In three tweets: a conversation, clarification and a new connection. Once again, Twitter proves just how cool it really is.
Barack Obama’s Nowruz Message
If you didn’t see Obama’s video message to Iran for Nowruz, check it out. It is a lesson in honesty, modesty, respect and hope. It’s also an example in how leaders, CEOs, even brands can communicate more creatively, whether they’re talking to customers, prospects or critics. Imagine if AIG’s CEO apologized to the public using a video like this, explained the legal interpretation of the bonuses and why AIG thought they might have to pay them, and then offered to have them withheld. Condemnation would turn into consideration, maybe even appreciation.
Consider what might have happened, or not happened, if the CEO of Motrin had got online immediately following the #MotrinMom backlash and explained the company’s intent, conveyed respect and appreciation for Moms’ points of view, and asked for help from the Mom community in shaping Motrin’s future messages? How good would that have been for Motrin’s business and reputation?
Oh, for a laugh, take a look at George W’s Nowruz message.
Tony Hsieh at SXSX
A second video worth watching is this one of Tony Hsieh’s (pronounced Shea) opening remarks at the Interactive program at this year’s SWXC. Tony isn’t messing around with social media for the sake of social media. It’s the entire strategy for his company, Zappos. “We’re not in the shoe business or the online business, we’re in the customer service business.” The customer service business. Isn’t that the only business to be in? As a result, Zappos puts all of its marketing dollars into customer service realizing that the value of a life long customer is worth more than anything, and that the most powerful way to convey the virtues of any brand is through word of mouth. Zappo’s phone number is easily visible on its site. Zappo’s sales people don’t try to get you off the phone; they try to keep you on the phone. Zappos actually wants to talk to customers. That’s what you do when you get it.
I don’t care if you’re a CEO, a CMO, a marketer, a creative director or a PR counsel. Watch these two videos. Learn from them. You’ll become better. Agree? Other ideas to for how we can communicate better? Use the new power of social media? Leave your comments.