Today I had a letter to the editor run in the Boston Globe. The printed version. For some reason an article about extending “A reporter’s privilege for Twitterers” inspired me to actually send my thoughts to the Globe’s editors who would scrutinize them before deeming them print worthy.
True, only a small percentage of letters to editors actually get published. And yes, as long as we show an iota of civility we can see our reactions appear instantly in the comment section that appears immediately below a story in the digital version of virtually every newspaper.
So why bother to go through the gatekeepers? Good question. Is it because I wanted to know if someone else thought my points were valid? Because there’s still some little rush that you get when your copy appears in a “real” newspaper? Maybe it was simply the challenge. Or knowing that it’s too easy to shoot off an instant reaction to something we read on a blog or in an online newspaper.
But perhaps it’s also because for some reason, I still have respect for the editors, publishers, even creative directors who have earned the privilege to pass judgment. Their accomplishments, their taste, and the respect they warrant from peers all imply there’s real merit in their approval.
On the other hand, perhaps this is a really old way of thinking, inspired by the days when, as Bob Garfield says, “the man had all the power,” and we – reader, audience, consumer – were at the whim of their autocratic decision making.
I guess I’m torn. I want the great gatekeepers to filter out the bad and feed us the good. But of course I only want to subject myself to that scrutiny on my terms.
So what do you think? Do we want gatekeepers? Do we give them more credit than they deserve? Or do we need them as much as always?
But am I a social media guru?
The answer to that one’s a definite noo
I’m a social media doctor
On occasion an imposter
But am I a social media guru?
I’m telling you it just ain’t true
Been a social media analyst
And a social media panelist
But am I a social media guru?
Of course I’m not. And neither are you.
Maybe it’s just that I’ve never wanted to be a member of any club that would have me as a member. But based on what I’ve seen of people who actually label themselves social media “gurus,” I can tell you I don’t want to be one of them. So, even though Ad Age, no doubt out of sincerity, bestowed that label on me this week, pay them no heed. I’m just out here trying to do the same thing you’re doing. Listening, learning, sharing, connecting. Sorry for the lame thyme. Was easier than writing a real post.
OK, so you still want to be a social media agency after reading part one? Got all of those capabilities down? Good, on to part two. This will either motivate you or exhaust you. Turns out there’s much to master. And, if you’re a client, and you think you can do all of this yourself, think again. I’m not sure anyone can. Here are seven more capabilities you might need to do social media right.
8. Technology, utility and apps
Think you can be a real social media agency without developers? I kind of doubt it. Twitter’s API, Firefox add ons, Facebook Connect, iPhone apps, and now augmented reality, seem to be as much a part of the landscape as 140-character sound bites. You may not have to build the applications yourself, but you’ll want to know how to conceive them and get them produced. Plus this is the fun stuff.
9. Search engine optimization
In some ways this is simple. Generate great content that gets linked to. Blog. Increase your engineered presence. But it’s surprising to me how many brands don’t take advantage of the basics, from their own blog SEO to Google Local Business to a more thoughtful and measured use of keywords. You may also want to think about optimizing content for Stumbleupon, Delicious and Digg, even developing relationships with social bookmarkers who fall within a client’s business niche. Just don’t be what SEO types call a black hat. All the tools are out there. Get your developers to show you how, hire a kid right out of college, or learn it yourself.
You can’t be in this business if you don’t start thinking about how to use the power of the crowd. Forget design competitions for a minute. Here’s a simple example. We’re about to make new TV spots for the Boston Bruins. We don’t need help. But if we invite the crowd to create along with us, we’ll end up with dozens of videos, a lot more buzz and conversation, and the appreciation of all those who get to play along. Why not get to know some of the companies that can help, firms such as Tongal and Kluster and Chaordix?
11. Web development
True, the days of if you build it they will come are over. But in certain cases, this may still be the best place to do business, demonstrate your capabilities and host your content. And there’s no reason a brand can’t invite its community to join them here. (Think Starbucks and Dell.) Should a social media agency be able to build websites, or at least contribute to a client’s? Absolutely.
12. Measurement and analytics
Yes, it is actually possible to measure social media: everything from reach (quality and quantity) to discussion (topics and sentiment) to impact and ROI (site traffic and purchase intent. Of course that means you’ll need enterprising listening platforms, text mining partners, platform API tools, and site analytic solutions. (Can’t believe I just wrote that sentence; say what?)
13. Alliances and partnerships
The good news is you don’t have to do all this yourself. You simply need to know where to get these capabilities or who to work with. Which means you’ll want partners and alliances no matter how many capabilities you have in house. This is a mindset more than anything. One that any agency should have and one that any client should demand. The future isn’t just about community and conversation, it’s about curating and collaborating, too.
14. Branding experience
I saved the most important for last. Even with all this social media stuff, we’re still taking about marketing. And marketing is all about brands: knowing what they stand for, staying relevant to your customers, being consistent in your voice and behavior, differentiating yourself through all of your content, even your posts on Twitter. Neglect to understand the fundamentals of branding and how social media efforts are but one piece of an overall marketing effort and you can do more damage than good.
Yesterday, Bob Rinderle left a comment that this was really about creating and defining a relationship agency. True. But as we all know, relationships are complicated and time consuming. They take work.
So, what do you think? Are 14 capabilities enough to be a social media agency?
Ever notice how when the economy is booming, everyone’s a hedge fund manager? Or at least a contractor? Well, we’re experiencing a similar phenomenon when it comes to social media. Everyone’s in the social media business and anyone can anoint himself an expert. So, just in case you want to be (or hire) a social media agency, here are some of the capabilities you might actually want to develop and offer (or look for.) Turns out there are a lot of them. I’m up to 14 so far, with the first seven listed below.
1. Professional listening stations
Everyone talks about listening, but guess what, you actually have to know the tools and techniques – from Google and Quantcast to Radian 6 or Techrigy –and probably be able to build custom dashboards to track conversation, follow competitors, and organize the feeds that matter to a client. Might help if you can train them in using some of this stuff, too.
I borrowed this term from Michael Calienes, but simply put it’s the orchestration of the content and conversation you share in the places your where audience and community gather. If your client’s customers are on Facebook, Twitter, Linked In and YouTube, they should be there, too. A good social media agency will know how to put them there in a way that integrates all of their (and your) efforts and responds to the habits and preferences of the community. Here’s a simple way of looking at it. Keep in mind, of course, that just because you’re there doesn’t mean anyone’s paying attention.
3. Content creation
Which leads us to capability number three. Create good content. Any marketer can put stuff on Twitter, YouTube, Slideshare, Flickr or a company blog. Of course that’s also the problem. There’s a lot of crap out there. So get good at making content: not just messages, but the kind that starts conversation and dialog, that gets talked about and passed on, and that invites customers to get involved and teach you how to make them happy.
4. Blogger relations
This is the new PR. Don’t forget the offline press, but today the story starts online and then bubbles up. Problem is too many marketers think they can just send off some crappy press release and get coverage from key bloggers. Nope. You have to develop real relationships with the citizen journalists that your customers read. Know them, read them, promote them, too. And finally don’t get caught up in any of paid post stuff. It will come back to bite you.
5. Employee mobilization
This merits an entire post. But too few brands take advantage of their hundreds if not thousands of employees to spread the word. Office Max and EVB launched Elf Yourself that way. And Zappos does a really good job (note please they are a client.) But you should learn how to identify, educate, and invite (opt-in preferably) employees to represent a company and be part of its voice.
6. Viral mobilization
True, no one can make something go viral. But you can increase the odds if the potential is there by how you launch it, inform influencers, or incorporate co-created content from people who themselves have a community and followers. And don’t forget the importance of building in a meme.
7. Crisis management
Even if a client is ready to jump in head first, having a plan for how you’d deal with something like Dominoes or United or even Motrin is essential. It’s as important not to over react as it is to respond. You’ll need a model and a philosophy to be a social media agency. When do you roll out the CEO on tape for all the world to see? When do you simply connect with one irate individual to address his concern?
It may seem like a lot, but this is only half the list. There’s still: technology and apps; social bookmarking; search engine optimization; web development; crowdsourcing; measurement and analytics; and, since no one could possibly be great at everyone of these capabilities, alliances and partnerships. I’ll offer up my take on those in the next post.
No sooner had I posted yesterday’s version of this exercise, than James Sherrett of AdHack sent me Google’s presentation from Advertising Week. While much of it doesn’t fit the true definition of social (community, conversation, sharing) it offers some great examples of what you can do with the many platforms, APIs and technology available to us all. It’s also evidence that in the world of advertising and marketing you better make sure you have plenty of developers in the midst of your “creative” department. And always be thinking in terms of participation, not messaging. The story isn’t the story you tell, it’s the one you inspire.
Here are some favorites.
Too cool for categorization
I have to admit this is a favorite. This collaborative music and spoken word project by Darren Solomon from Science for Girls, with a little help from his friends, allows you to play all or some of these videos simultaneously, and even adjust the mix. In a nutshell, it’s crowdsourcing, co-creation, and user participation unified into one very cool project. This should inspire ways to market music for sure. But why not let someone re-edit a movie scene. Or change the sequence of a story. You can even think about how to take this model into other places. Why not combine different ingredients into a recipe? These examples may not work the same way, but play with this for a while and you get all kinds of ideas for how to create an experience that engages a community.
Crowdsourcing a symphony
Not meaning to focus on music, but this is simply a reminder that you can crowdsource anything, from products to content. The Google presentation offers plenty of examples, from HP to Sour, and, of course, this one.
The art, science and possibilities of sharing
OK, there is only so much any of us want to know or have the time to even acknowledge. But think about the possibilities of offering customers the chance to compare themselves to others (works well for Nike Plus). Or, if they’re B2B customers, to serve them up information that’s relevant to their business, inventory, sales, market share. This platform, Datum, lets you collect, categorize and communicate almost any data you can find, capture or generate.
Inventing experiences with Google maps
Obviously there would be plenty of these examples in a Google presentation, but this Zappos application, showing what people are buying and letting you link to the product is a cool example for a marketer.
Check out the entire Google presentation if you have a chance and leave your comments as to what you like and find inspiring. There are obviously lots of ways to be creative in the new age of social media, from how we tell stories, invite participation and encourage propagation. Got anything else to share?