Tag Archives: Marketing and Advertising

Think social business. Not social marketing.

Social business - not social marketingThink social business — not social marketing. Social marketing, the content, programs, campaigns and promotions that leverage social technologies, is part of social business, but it’s not the end all, be all. Social impacts business in its entirety. It’s easy to say social media or social marketing when talking about social business; because it’s how the press has pegged the activity of brands and users on these networks, but it’s wrong.

Social impacts nearly every aspect of the organization: human resources, legal, product, customer service, business development and of course, marketing and communications. A smart business looks at social holistically and integrates it into the business units in a way that connects the entire organization via social technology. Through this integration, social makes the business more accessible, more agile and more responsive to customer needs. These are all good things.

Businesses that truly “get it” don’t limit their thinking of social as some specialized area of marketing. In fact, social can’t (and shouldn’t) be confined to marketing or to the marketing function. To think of it as a marketing-only area is to miss the boat in its entirety.

So whenever I start saying “social marketing” too often, I remind myself that it’s an organizational discipline and a fundamental shift in how business is done by leveraging new ways of communicating with one another — both internally and with the outside world.

This isn’t a new idea, just a reminder I like to give myself to keep my eye on the prize.  I thought you might find it useful too.

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Social Business Means Redefining What Business Is

Brian Solis talks about the bigger social business opportunity that is ahead of businesses and social media professionals:

When you look behind the scenes, you actually see more duct tape and rubber bands than fluidity and polish. Business units are still siloed and even the chief executives have gone on record saying that the acts of engagement do more for the company’s PR than it does for the improvement of products and services. Just look at your favorite social media source and you’ll see an endless array of examples of how brands are succeeding in social media. Again, most of them are basking in the brilliance of individual victories, some are actually breaking through the internal barriers that prevent collaboration, and others are simply stunts designed to spike conversations, sales, and PR. Nothing wrong with it…especially if it work as intended.

You and I are here together, right now, to do something greater. It’s up to us to lead the way for the socialization of business, understanding that it’s an uphill journey for the foreseeable future. But in the end, our experience and triumphs are unparalleled.

What Brian is talking about here isn’t social media marketing.  He’s talking about redefining what it means to be a business. It’s an ambitious vision, but has a few nascent successes that point to what could become the new corporate structure (Zappos comes to mind, 37 Signals, etc.)

For as long as the corporate entity has existed the model has been command and control.  Ground troops up on the front lines taking orders from well heeled Generals sipping tea well back from the front, who are ordering air support via massive branding campaigns on television, radio and print. All in an effort to convince the public that their product was just a little bit better, cheaper or faster.  And this worked well, for a long time.  But not any more.

With today’s connected, real-time landscape, business leaders and brands are in the thick of it.  They’re being pulled in every direction, flanked by conversations, complaints, kudos, competitors and their own internal chaos as they try to respond to the changes in the way business gets done.  And respond is all most have been able to do.  Not think, not plan, not leverage. Merely react.  Often these knee-jerk reactions are head-in-the-sand denials. Across the country there are conversations going on that start like this “Maybe we should just kill our Facebook presence,” because these leaders and brands aren’t fairing well in this new reality.

And even those that choose to engage in this new arena, as Brian points out, are doing it via smoke and mirrors, not necessarily through any enlightened state of corporate prescience.  But hey, if you’re one of the brands that hit the jackpot in connecting with customers online; well, by all means, don’t leave the girl you brought to the dance.  However, it’s important to understand the distinction between achieving success with social media marketing and reconstructing your business based on this new world order.

The marketing changes wrought by social media platforms have been hashed over ad nauseum for the last few years.  Most socia media successes can be boiled down to tactical executions of providing customer service and compelling experiences on the social web.  And that’s all well and good and interesting.  The evolution of marketing from spray and pray, one-size-fits-all messaging to actual conversation is welcome indeed; but in order for businesses to fully leverage the changes afforded by the social web they must embrace this new reality outside of their marketing department.  And that’s where I think Brian gets it right.

It’s not about redefining your message, it’s about rebuilding your company.  Breaking down command and control, creating better flows of information capital, creating more authentic and meaningful customer experiences and touchpoints, and empowering employees to put in their best to work for the business and customer every day.

This transformation starts when the business owners realize that the game has changed, that they in turn need to adapt.  Businesses must be willing to flip the megaphone around and put the wide end up to their corporate ear.  And then do something with the data to rearchitect their fundamental infrastructure to better serve the market. Because it’s not enough for a company to come up with the Old Spice Man campaign if customer feedback isn’t driving product development.  It’s not enough to launch a Facebook page when you’re customers are all active on a BBS somewhere.  It’s not enough to have branding, product, customer service, loyalty, global marketing, product teams, etc. all off experimenting with Twitter; when what’s needed is leaders who can to drive the new social way of operating on the Web through the organization to create a new way of thinking about delivering value to the market place.

A favorite metaphor for corporate dysfunction and disorganization is that the left hand isn’t talking to the right hand.  Well this problem is amplified by the challenges created by a real time, messy, loud market place full of demands.  And if organizations insist on relegating social media to the PR/customer service silo, without truly embracing the power it can bring them in terms of insight, innovation, customer and employee satisfaction and bigger and better shareholder returns, than the vision of social business is left unfulfilled, and we as champions of the space will have come up short in our mission to change how business is done.

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That’s G: Gatorade Gets Social Media

Gatorade Mission ControlGatorade has planted a stake firmly in the social media realm, putting its social media monitoring and engagement at the heart of its marketing department, launching Mission Control. Mission Control is Gatorade’s listening and engagement center where it monitors brand mentions and conversations in social media space. It also lets the brand see which websites, landing pages and online marketing efforts are performing better than others-letting Gatorade extend or shut down campaigns depending on how sentiment and other KPI’s are doing for given opportunities.

An impressive effort to be sure, and one that more brands will follow as social media becomes core to their understanding of how their brand is performing with their target audience. Whether it’s a physical space or not, expect more brands to make social media monitoring a core part of the daily dashboard showing the health of the brand, market or business. So the question becomes, what are you doing to monitor the health of your business online?

From Mashable’s article on Mission Control and its ROI to Gatorade:

On a day-to-day basis, Gatorade’s tools are also being used for more conventional marketing tactics –- like optimizing landing pages and making sure followers are being sent to the top performing pages. As an example, the company says it’s been able to increase engagement with its product education (mostly video) by 250% and reduce its exit rate from 25% to 9%.

Below is Gatorade’s video about the new Mission Control:

Read more:

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Social Media Stats for 2010

Socialnomics book

Socialnomics book

Socialnomics author Erik Qualman has updated his popular Social Media Revolution video that shows how big the social media opportunity has become for companies and individuals alike.  He packs a ton of social media stats into this video and it does a nice job summarizing the shifts that social media have created in our marketing landscape.

I’m always a bit leery of over-selling social media because I believe it is sometimes heralded as a panacea when really it is part of a bigger brand/marketing whole. Social media “experts” tend to miss that part of the conversation or address it with a bunch of hand waving.  But in general I think this video does a nice job of showing how big the opportunity in social media really is.


Image from socialnomics.net.

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Artisanal Marketing

My favorite type of marketing, by far, is artisanal marketing.  Hand crafted, thoughtful, intelligent marketing.  Not slick. Not aimed at the masses. Not average marketing for average consumers.  But just the opposite.  Thoughtful, insightful, honest, embracing complexity and celebrating the craft of the product or products themselves.  This type of marketing eschews hype in favor of information yet still has a very strong opinion and point of view that it shares with those that choose to listen.  It’s not easy. It takes thought to get and isn’t for everyone.  And it is all of these attributes that makes artisanal marketing special, unique and, wildly successful.

In a world full of over-promise, under deliver, sell to the lowest common denominator marketing, the artisanal approach celebrates the simplicity (and complexity) of delivering a message about the value and use of a product or service.  And in its own anti-establishment way remarkable and worth talking about.  Artisanal marketing used to be the realm of small companies.  Companies that didn’t have the Madison Avenue Madmen telling them how to package and process their message to hit the widest, most generic target possible.  It was the realm of the companies who clearly “didn’t get it.”  But their charm and earnest nature earned them raving fans who loved the product and felt a connection as part of a tribe that “got” what the company and the product was all about.  The company didn’t settle and neither did their fans, who became passionate consumers and advocates for the brand.

That is the power of artisanal marketing.

But it’s no longer just the purview of those small companies.  Big corporations are embracing artisanal marketing and cultivating that same down-home, honest image and approach that makes artisanal marketing so refreshing, appealing and successful.  Not conicidentally the ones that do it the best are the ones that have done it all along – from the time they were tiny to now.  The ones that haven’t succeed are the ones where the only thing artisanal about the product is the marketing.  Without real, honest product the way you package it up becomes irrelevant.

One artisanal marketer that immediately comes to mind is Trader Joe‘s with their sales flyer that is unlike no other.  The Fearless Flyer reads like a local newspaper, full of kitch and detail and opinion and bad puns and play-on-words and everything that you’d expect from a local publisher.  Except its the sales circular for a large grocery chain.  And it works, brilliantly.  While most sales circulars, loaded down with high-gloss photos of studio shot food and triple coupon specials, end up in the recycling bin without a second thought, Trader Joe’s Fearless Flyer gets read, like a magazine and enjoyed.

And it’s completely counter-intuitive to what you’d expect from a grocery flyer.  Printed on newsprint without any photos of the products it is often 4 or 5 times as long as a traditional circular. Product descriptions aren’t two sentences, they’re two paragraphs.  The copy is breezy, funny, and engaging.  It takes time and energy to get the most out of the Fearless Flyer.  It’s the time and energy the other chains are betting its shoppers don’t have.  But Trader Joe’s makes the Fearless Flyer an experience.  A hand crafted experience that insists that you slow down and enjoy it.  It doesn’t hope to reach the thoughtless masses with cheap promotional calls.  The Fearless Flyer says, I’m not mass produced. I’m not aiming for the lowest common denominator.  I will not make it easy to consume and discard me.

The Fearless Flyer is artisanal. It embraces an honest, authentic point of view that celebrates the complexity and diversity and joys of food. It doesn’t try to win in the rat race – it connects with its shoppers who appreciate a more honest and artisanal approach to food.

It’s the perfect expression of artisanal marketing and the power the authentic, less-polished approach to marketing can have.  It’s refreshing and wonderfully done.  I’ll look at more artisanal examples going forward; but my question to you in the meantime is what can you do to bring a more honest and artisanal approach to your marketing?

Image credit

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If you’re reading this it’s a good bet that you are probably responsible for marketing your company in one form or another.  And if so, instead of another list of things to do in 2010, or another pile of resolutions to stick to for the first 6 weeks, I simply ask that you take responsibility to work on your craft in 2010.  I promise to do the same.

What does work on your craft mean?

It means refusing to be comfortable.  Resisting the urge to feel satisfied.  Remaining curious. Reading, thinking, pondering, improving, pushing, testing, trying, failing and succeeding.

The world is full of too many people who think they’ve done and seen it all.  I talk with digital marketers every day who still say Twitter and Facebook are fads.  Who still think digital marketing comes down to email, search and a Web site.  And that is the mark of someone letting their responsibility slide.

We owe it to ourselves, our colleagues, our profession, our families to continue to learn and push and get better.  Sitting still is the quickest route to irrelevancy in today’s world.

So I implore you (and me) to take responsibility for our craft as marketers. To refuse to know it all, to refuse to be satisfied and to open our eyes to what’s happening right in front of us and start asking questions – about it all.

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If you can’t change frequency…

In my last post I wrote about how changing purchase or use behavior is one way to improve sales of a product when you have a product that can’t be changed. Motor oil was the example I used. Avocados are another. But what if you can’t materially impact purchase frequency? Then what?

Then it comes down to loyalty and referral.

There are plenty of examples of this type of product marketing need. You have very little control, for example, over how often a customer buys a new house or builds a new nuclear reactor. In these types of markets the best you can do is win on loyalty and referral.

It’s easy when you think about it. If you can’t get the Smith’s to move into a new home faster than the every five-year clip their moving at the next best thing you can do is guarantee that they use you when the time comes and that they’ll refer you to their contacts in any discussion about real estate.

In these markets it’s not about changing purhase frequency. It’s not about rewriting the rules around use. To create loyalty and referral requires two different elements: a remarkable first transaction and diligent and thoughtful follow up.

Both fall into Godin‘s world more seamlessly than the commodity marketing in my last post. Creating a wow first experience is really the key to this type of marketing. Because it powers the rest of the cycle. The virtuous cycle of loyalty and referral is kick-started by that first experience.

A wow experience out of the gate gets you halfway there while a ho-hum or unsatisfactory experience leaves the cycle DOA. The follow up is what gets you the rest of the way and makes sure the wow isn’t wasted. (That’s a post for another day.)

The tough part is defining the wow. Because wow is different to everyone. Each customer has their own need. So you can either tailor each experience to your customers’ needs or you can seek out customers who appreciate your style of business. Continuing the real estate example, if you’re completely automated and tech driven you may do better to seek out people who don’t want to “waste a lot of time” on pleasantries and phone calls. Whereas if you’re the warm friendly type, targetting type-A personalities who answer your phone calls with text message replies might not be the best market segment for what you bring to the table.

Regardless of your approach one thing is certain. Being marginally better than the competition is the least fortuitous route to the virtuous cycle in these marketing arenas. You really need to be at an extreme to succeed. You can’t be somewhat friendly and somewhat convenient. You need to be at one end or the other. Otherwise you’re like everyone else.

And when you’re like everyone else you don’t command loyalty and you don’t command referrals. And that is not a good spot to be in when your customers only make a buying decision once every 5 (or 50) years.

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Can you make what you do a game?

More and more we’re seeing the world of marketing and gaming mix. From the latest location-based social networks like Foursquare, to the digital “tree” that “grows” in response to fuel efficiency in new Ford Fusion, making marketing a game is becoming a sure-fire way to reach customers. In a world where most advertising and marketing gets ignored, what can you do to build game play into your marketing messages?

We’ve all been told (and all know by experience) that people are overwhelmed with information and have limited time to pay attention to anything new. Getting a piece of their attention is the hardest job a marketer has. But in an apparent paradox, people will invest hours and hours playing simple games online like Farmville, check in repeatedly to earn points (worth nothing more than bragging rights) on Foursquare and even change their behaviors to win at games that have little perceived value. What Ford and Foursquare have done is used the elements of gaming to create enjoyable interactions that reward users and provide brief periods of escape while surprising and delighting them with unexpected changes based on their use.

The idea of putting game elements into marketing isn’t anything new of course. Les Wunderman famously used the hunt for the gold box in Columbia House Records advertising to drive direct response sales that crushed traditional advertising campaigns. McDonald’s runs Monopoly year after year for a reason. But it seems every time game play is introduced in a new way it means success for the marketer that incorporated it into their awareness campaigns.

Here are a few ways to incorporate gaming into your marketing:

  • Make the game easy. Ford makes the game of fuel efficiency in their new Fusion by allowing the driver to “grow” a digital “tree” on the dashboard in response to their fuel efficiency.  It rewards driving in a manner that improves efficiency and highlights the “green” elements of the car to people attuned to that message.
  • Reward people for taking actions beneficial to you and them. For example, checking in on Foursquare earns users points that give them bragging rights among other users and can become the “mayor” of locations for repeated check-ins.  Foursquare benefits by repeated use.  Advertisers benefit by presenting localized offers to users in the area.
  • Make the rewards visible. Foursquare uses badges, Ford uses a tree image.  By making the rewards visible the players help you market the game by proudly displaying their accomplishments to their friends inside and outside the game.
  • Make the game part of a bigger community. Playing a game individually is fun, but its an experience that can’t be shared.  By providing a way for others to compare themselves to one another you make them part of the community that plays the game.  This makes them more likely to stay engaged and playing by tapping into the competitive and communal nature of our beings.

So what can you do to put game elements into your marketing or product or service? I’m working to figure out how I can do it in my business, but I haven’t figured it out yet. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this strategy of building awareness and engagement with your product/service/message in the comments.

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Establishing a Social Media Presence: Degrees of Difficulty

Note: This is a working argument, not a polished piece. I appreciate your help in shaping this thinking further.

Between upcoming speaking gigs, new marketing efforts at work, and my past history as a one-man blogger in a niche, I’ve been thinking a lot about the differences between establishing a social media presence for different types of people and organizations. For example getting Twitter followers may be exceptionally easy for Ashton Kutcher because of his pre-existing celebrity status whereas a small handmade bike manufacturer in Portland may find it extremely difficult to establish their presence on a service like Twitter.  This fascinates me.  How do the challenges and effectiveness of the medium change as you move across different organization/individual types?  In other words – does who or what you are determine how difficult it is to achieve success in creating a valuable and meaningful social media presence?

I think it absolutely does, with a few caveats.  Success of course, is relative.  There is no question.  The bike shop above doesn’t need the 2 million followers that Ashton has, rather they need a small set of passionate bike fans, preferably in the Portland area who are engaged and advocates for the company.  That population number is obviously much smaller.  And of course, meaningful and valuable are highly subjective as well.  However, I think there may be some interesting patterns that arise from establishing a social media presence that point to different degrees of difficulty for different individual/company types/focus areas.

It becomes increasingly difficult to effectively establish a social media presence that creates value for you and your stakeholders the further you get from either an individual pursuit or from a consumer-focused business model.

To help me get my head around this I created a crude little bell curve with some markers/placeholders to help me think about the types of businesses and the overall difficulty in establishing a mutually-valuable (to company and customer) social media presence.  Note: I’m strictly talking establishing a presence. When you look at managing a social media presence this bell curve gets tossed quickly.


How to read this thing

The bell curve’s y-axis is difficulty in establishing a valuable social media presence for any entity. Person, corporation, non-profit, etc.  The x-axis is existing market footprint.  Defined as existing share of mind or awareness that is latent in the online audience.  This can be either via other marketing, a well-known brand, celebrity achieved elsewhere, etc.


So for example, on the continuum social media for individuals is rather easy.  Setting up profiles, finding friends, and engaging and connecting with your network is a relatively easy way to use social media, and is, by definition, the way it is used the vast, vast majority of time.  While it’s easy it leaves you with very little in the way of a market footprint, and usually that doesn’t matter; but to some it does.


Again for start-ups it’s relatively easy to jump in and start using social media.  Without a large customer base, working with early adopters and people who are willing to forgive you for your mistakes as a young company, and without the restrictions of brand police and established marketing you’re free to dive in and start developing your voice from day one inside social media.  It makes presence building the easiest possible for an organization.  Starting from the very beginning is always easier than trying to transpose a message/voice/brand on to a medium that is built for individuals.  Again, though as a start-up you’re dealing with a typically small market footprint which makes your mistakes generally more forgettable and experimentation at establishing your presence in social media.

B2C Focus

As you start to move across the footprint size x-axis your difficulty increases.  The bigger your footprint more often than not, the more you are constrained by things like brand standards, messaging, corporate communications policy and other legacy media structures that make establishing a valuable presence in social media very challenging.  Add to the fact that most established companies with a decent footprint (think regional firm, or a company that has solid revenue or subscribers or whatever metric you want, without the brand recognition of the Fortune 100+) have more than one stakeholder involved in the communication process.  PR firms, advertising agencies, internal marketing, customer service, etc. etc. all have responsibilities with social media.  Establishing an appropriate and effective social corporate strategy is critical to achieving success.

These barriers inherent in many of the world’s organizations make social media implementation much more difficult than that of an individual.

B2C companies get a bit of help because as a consumer-facing entity their customer/potential-customer base is large and are (for the most part) independent actors who are governed by their own set of decision-making criteria many of the people they want to engage with are on social networks representing themselves and are free to act as they see fit.  This, I argue makes establishing a social media presence far easier for these B2C companies than for B2B companies as we’ll discuss next.

B2B Focus

The curve falls apart a bit here because there is no reason why a B2B firm should move further along the x-axis (i.e. their market footprint) compared to a similar-sized B2C company.  But the change in difficulty on the y-axis is quite a jump from B2C.  In fact, I argue that a non-branded B2B company has the biggest challenge when it comes to implementing a social media presence that is valuable enough for the company to officially support.  You’ve got a few things working against you as a non-brand B2B company in social media.

  1. As a B2B entity your customer/potential-customer base is far smaller than a B2C play.
  2. Many of your customers (the other “B’s”) probably have very limited social media presences themselves.
  3. Employees of your customers are typically using social media primarily in a personal capacity and not as representatives of their firms in the space.
  4. B2B relationships are often defined by communication structure (e.g. the CEO talks to the CEO, etc.) that can’t hold in the social space.

And I’m sure there are more. But the point being that this type of social media presence creation/implementation is the most challenging of all because the audience is limited and their accessibility and engagement on these platforms is restricted by their own corporate policies/practices.  These make the opportunities for B2B much smaller in number than in the B2C space.  While the quality may be higher, it is exceptionally difficult to prove the return on the social media investment for B2B companies when so few business to business relationships function across the medium.

Big B2B & B2C

In the diagram I argue that the B2B v. B2C dynamics of difficulty hold for big brand companies and establishing a social media presence  (say a company like Paychex vs. Best Buy) but the difficulty begins to comes down due to the brand recognition already obtained by the presence of their large market footprint.  Continuing with the two companies I’ve chosen it’s much easier for Best Buy to connect with their customers online because there is hardly a person in America who isn’t familiar with the company and brand.  Paychex also can leverage their reputation to more easily implement a social media presence than other companies less well-known, even though they have a B2B acquisition model. Small businesses are familiar with Paychex and would be more willing to connect with them in a social media setting than another unbranded, smaller company in the same space.


And celebrity is just the combination of the ease of creating and using social media in a personal setting combined with the massive market footprint created by outside activities.  The confluence of these two factors make establishing a valuable social media presence the easiest for celebrities out of all the groups that I’ve identified so far.

What’s the point?

The point is that there is a lot of one-size fits all social media theory and strategy bandied about daily by people who don’t consider the implications of the person or corporate realities that impact their execution in creating a new social media presence.  The circumstances are different and therefore the execution, expectation and effort levels need to be different as well.  I implore all “experts” talking on the subject to consider where your audience/clients/readers lie on this continuum before dispensing generic advice.  Building a social media presence for a regional B2B manufacturer is completely different from McDonalds, Britney Spears or Morgan Brown (humble author, individual). The challenges are different, the expectations are different and the difficulty in creating value out of a new social media presence is certainly different.

As I said at the open, this is an in-process framework that I’m using to sort through some of these issues as I address different audiences.  I’d love to hear your thoughts on how to represent and think about these challenges and any thoughts you have on the concept in general.  Thanks.

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