Sep 21

It Takes Money to Get Facebook Fans

What?!?! You have to BUY Facebook Fans? That’s preposterous.

No it’s not. Consumers are lazy and often don’t care about you. You give them service, they give you money. The transaction has ended. They are under no obligation to fan you, friend you, or do anything beyond this.

In some way, you will have to spend money to get a huge fan base on Facebook. What am I talking about spending money on here?

starbucks-logo31.) Special promotions or deals. Starbucks offers deals for free or discounted coffee for participating on their fan page. I know that if I fan Starbucks, I will get news on the company, but there is an added benefit which just so happens to bring me back in the store. This is margin taken right off the top of their sales, but it’s a sacrifice they make to get more people in the stores and to continually be the #1 provider of fancy pants coffee.

Red_Bull_logo2.) Content that compels people to view and share. Red Bull has EXTREME content targeted towards their audience. They spent money and hours to find it and make it. News about the company hacky sack competition would not cut it, unless told in a super compelling way (which costs you money, because good story tellers don’t go cheap).

Note: if your business is content, you can suggest people fan you as a means for RSS or connecting with a similar community.

zappos-logo3.) Over the top service. Zappos is known for amazing customer service and over 65,000 people like them on Facebook. Customer service oriented companies often have to make seemingly irrational decisions to make customers happy. They have to have a lot of people manning the phones. They have to offer returns when others won’t. Customer service is not “efficient” in the bean counter sense, but having 65,000 fans on Facebook helps you make up the difference by connecting you with user evangelists who can spread the word.

Many companies promote their fan pages with Facebook ads. That costs money too.

Don’t think Fans are worth it? According to this study on GigaOm, the average Facebook fan is worth $136.38, as fans spend an extra $71.84 more than non-fans, are 28 percent more likely to be repeat customers, and 41 percent more likely to recommend a brand to friends than non-fans.

Jul 27

Social Media Strategy–Who’s in Charge?

I spoke with Tom Parish yesterday about social media strategy and large companies. Be authentic. Check. Be transparent. Check. Be…organized?

Wha? The social media strategy guy at the conference didn’t preach that on stage when he was waving his book around.

Tom pointed out that in the 90s, every division of a big company wanted control over their presence on the website. There can be a lot of pride of ownership issues, with each division thinking their message and agenda is the most important. You can’t really blame each division for wanting to use the site to become more effective at their jobs, but giving each division control over the layout, voice and functionality of their website would not make for a very cohesive experience to the customer. It would also make it difficult to decide what sections to prioritize.

Social media right now has a bit of the element of the Wild Wild West. Some people go full throttle in with no strategy and get nothing but fool’s gold. Some companies are too scared to venture in such uncharted territory, refusing to let people actually talk back. What seems very common is that the top often doesn’t know or doesn’t care what the underlings are doing with it until an innocent blogger wanders into hostile territory and gets shot up by some Native Americans who didn’t exactly welcome their preaching the virtues of their company with spam.

Like a website, a social media presence can communicate a lot of things. It can reduce tech support costs (see Deirdre Walsh’s thoughts on connecting the National Instruments users to help each other). It can help you get new recruits from the people who know your products best–the users. It’s not just a leadgen tool. This is why I stress that it is not merely a function of marketing, and if you view it as such, you aren’t wrong–you just aren’t using it to its max potential.

What do you see as the best strategies for keeping a company’s social media presence in check?

Jul 21

It’s Time to Take a Holistic Approach to Social Media

I’m going to beat this drum. Again. Social media is a communication tool, like a cell phone. If you view it purely as a marketing tool, you are missing all the many ways it can cut costs and make your customers happy, who then want to make sure you both grow and never go out of business.

I like seeing patterns. I often see the pattern that big companies are really struggling with this stuff. It’s not that they don’t care. It’s that social media is well, a communication tool. In a small company, it’s easy to wrangle down the number of blogs, Twitter accounts, etc and overall strategy to be more cohesive, especially if you started your company after they came out. In a large company where the customer care team doesn’t know the marketing team from a hole in the ground, this is much more difficult. They both want to use the tools to solve problems, and they do. What they may or may not realize is that to the end user of these accounts, they aren’t divisions. They are just a product or service they use.

It’s like having a phone system where there is no operator. There is no prompt getting you to the right division. If you’ve ever been on the phone with a company where the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing, this is infuriating. It’s not the hands’ fault. The brain isn’t connecting them to each other.

I believe companies must make every effort to assess where they stand with their customers and how they can better leverage social media to improve this standing BEFORE dumping money into big social media efforts. What do customers like about us? What don’t they like? What causes them to come and how can we improve to get them to stay? It’s one thing to do spin things that get people talking about your spin. It’s another thing entirely to pinpoint what you need to say or do to get them to say, “Holy crap, those guys are awesome and more importantly, they make me awesome.” Maybe I’ve seen too many superhero flicks, but I’d choose the latter any day.

What do you think, all? How can big companies wrangle down their multiple divisions to not just generate buzz, but to actually make their customers better?

Jul 07

Do You Think the Fast Company “Influence Project” Actually Influenced Anything?

Technology is cool. I love seeing marketing campaigns like Fast Company’s “Influence Project” use it creatively. What I don’t like seeing is a campaign that takes a cool idea and misses the mark in terms of understanding the fundamentals of human motivation and drive. I do not agree with Rohit Bhargava’s assessment that this is a “brilliantly conceived marketing campaign”.

Essentially, you get a link and the more times people click on the link, the bigger your photo shows up in their influence graph. Now, the graph looks pretty cool, but let’s break down this concept for the end user (the clicker):

1.) I click link.
2.) I make your picture bigger for other Fast Company readers to see.

6a00d8341c4f1253ef0133f21f3af7970b-800wi

As someone who loves using technology to make marketing campaigns more interesting, I am not quite sure what the end goal is here. Do people really think true influencers will actually value having their photo show up bigger on Fast Company? Is the Dalai Lama keen on showing you that he has more clout than you? Can you see Alan Greenspan hovering over his computer, furiously spreading his link around to ensure that Bill Clinton does not beat him on the influence graph?

Influence is something we earn by gaining expertise and by executing on it. It’s also something we can waste if we get too carried away in our own egos. I don’t question that influential people could certainly “win” this contest, I am just not quite sure they would actually care to. It is self-promotion for self-promotion’s sake and reminds me of those weird programs where at-risk kids go door to door and practice their speaking skills for money. Couldn’t they just spend that time selling something? Raising money for charity? Anything?

So I have to agree with Amber Naslund’s assessment. The graph is a cool idea, but I wish Fast Company appealed to my desire to be helpful rather than my desire to be known.

*pic from http://www.rohitbhargava.com

Jun 27

Why Do Corporations Struggle with Social Media?

I see a lot of larger companies who don’t seem to get how social media makes things cheaper and well, just better. It’s a direct communication tool, like a cell phone. Big companies seem to just snuggle with Web 2.0 rockstars and then call it a day. That’s lame. That doesn’t make me want to throw you my money. I just want to know that you aren’t going to hose me or my friends and then we are cool.

Here are some tips for large companies on how they can cut costs, improve their products, and well, make the world a better place by using social media:

1.) It sounds harsh, but evolve or die.
Look folks, I’m not making this stuff up. Social media and in particular Facebook is a global revolution. Imagine a country that grows to 400 million people in six years. That’s Facebook. Twitter was founded in 2006, and studies show that 37 percent of journalists already use it. 59 percent of them already blog.

Yes, it sprung up on you, but that doesn’t mean you can’t take it seriously. If 37 percent of journalists are on Twitter, how easy is it for pissed off customers to hit them up with a juicy story about your company?

What am I saying here? It means 1.) Your communications people need to do their homework, 2.) Your senior leadership needs to do their homework, and 3.) You need to come up with a plan and a budget, and you need to revisit them frequently. Don’t just ignore it because the word “Twitter” sounds kind of dirty.

2.) Social media is not a marketing tool. It can be used by your entire company.
Social media tools like Twitter are merely communication tools. When I advise people about them, I use a term from the movie “The Matrix”:
There is no spoon.

This means you can use Vimeo not just to spam people with ads, but to instruct them how to use your product. You can use Twitter to follow potential business development opportunities or get feedback for your product teams. There really is no rigid “use” for social media. If you give it to the marketing team, you are essentially telling the world, “The only way we would like to communicate with you is to sell you something”. I suppose that’s within a company’s right, but there are many more useful ways to use social media to cut costs and make things happen in a short period of time.

3.) You are playing with fire when you outsource it to someone else.
Your customers are going to ask you all sorts of things.
Can I get a job at your company?
Fix this issue or I’m calling my lawyer.
Why hasn’t this tech support rep answered my email?

Can you really trust some 24-year-old at a marketing agency will get a tweet from a journalist or a very angry customer and is going to represent your company in a way that doesn’t get you in trouble with the SEC or the press? I don’t really understand this model of using social media. I’ve tried it and it doesn’t work. Agencies can create good marketing campaigns using social media and can provide guidance for sure (see this and this), but they shouldn’t really represent your company’s presence online.

Again, trusting it just to the marketers means you are missing other opportunities to save money, like using these tools for tech support or product development.

4.) You let the lawyers take control even though they think “blog” is a drink you have on Christmas.
People seem to think lawyers know everything about the law. Here’s a secret: THEY DON’T. The law is very expansive and constantly changes. No lawyer knows everything about it and if they do, they are just big lying liars.

Lawyers should not be able to set policies on tweeting and blogging if they don’t have any familiarity with the mediums and in particular, the concept of Creative Commons. It just makes employees nervous and distrustful and then they do their own thing on the side anyway. Just like senior leadership should do due diligence to learn about social media, so should the legal department.

5.) People aren’t convenient numbers. They are people. Now they can form a “corporation” of their own, for you or against you.
This is perhaps the point where big companies struggle the most. You’ve got the bean counters who expect certain amounts of leads, profits, etc, whatever. They are used to a Cold War game, where you just outgun your opponent with huge shock and awe figures.

The game has changed. This is not a trend. This isn’t a fad. That game is gone and lost forever.

What the Cold War mentality isn’t considering in a new media world is that these numbers can all ban together and decide you rock. They can ban together and decide you suck. They now have easy access to each other. You can’t just hose a bunch of people and think they don’t know any better. It’s not the way it used to be. They are all talking about your company and comparing notes.

In a new media world, you just have to be honest and reduce your risk for IEDs, snipers, and the like. You have to win the hearts and minds of people and then ask them to spread the word.

It’s not that corporations can’t be agile enough–it’s that often the people in charge simply don’t get it. They didn’t get where they are at using it so there is no use dropping what works for some “fad”. A little research and a holistic strategy about social media could mean wonders for them. I don’t how you can look at social media tools and figure that consumers will ever stop using them to reach out to each other. They just help people make informed decisions.

Frustrated because your company fits this bill? Leave a comment for how big companies can improve what they are doing. You can use a fake name like Awesome McAwesomePants or something outrageously cool like that so as to not incriminate yourself.

Dec 04

Be Bobby Fisher Instead of the One Hit Wonder in Your Marketing Campaigns

marketing chess movesMarketing is like a chess game. You need to set things up first before you can get your big wins.

That’s why I genuinely don’t focus on numbers until numbers are needed. I focus on what the late and great Elvis would say, “Taking Care of Business.”

The question we as marketers should not always be “What can I do to get more customers or traffic?” This is an instant gratification response. It feels great to log into Analytics and see that spike, but it isn’t necessarily going to last. The question should be “What messaging should we put across to make our company more sustainable and therefore profitable in the future?”

Think about it: if I put out one message that gets me 500 customers, great. That’s 500 customers I didn’t have before. BUT, if I put out a message that gets me the passionate lead architect or designer I needed to make my product great, that person has the potential of getting me thousands if not millions of customers with a fraction of the work. My message in a small, obscure community could get me one big investor who helps save my company. Who cares if only five people saw one particular message?

Each marketing message shouldn’t be about bringing in masses. It can be used to bring in employees, investors, partners, company cheerleaders who essentially do the selling for you, or press fanboys. You’re just communicating. As in chess, a big bold move too soon can make you vulnerable to attack from your enemy. Setting up the pieces first means you are in a better position to let numbers drive themselves.

Nov 30

Are People Just Fatigued of Your Brand?

Many “social media experts” will tell you to be everywhere. Leave comments on every post pertaining to your industry. Go to every meetup. Network with every professional. They tell you you can’t sleep to network and market yourself effectively.

I know people like this and I generally feel sad for them. I sleep quite well (ten hours if you let me), hang out with friends, and actually prefer going on vacation instead of every marketing or 2.0 conference imaginable so as to “brand” myself with this. Not only is networking everywhere pretty soul-sucking, being everywhere for anyone is actually dangerous for a brand. Now why is this?

It’s the same reason why actors should be choosy about the projects they are in. It’s the reason why Starbucks is now having to disguise itself as local chains to avoid public backlash. Scholars are calling this phenomenon “brand avoidance”. We see one face or one brand so frequently in too many places. I think the less technical, teenager-esque term for this is “trying too hard”.

Saying “no” to a speaking engagement, event, or networking event does not mean you’ll disappear into obscurity forever. On the contrary, it means that when you do show up, you’ll be more interesting because you’ll have had time to actually build things and/or learn. Being a “snob” of sorts will afford you the time you need to build a brand based on your merits, not just on your connections. People will also not get as sick of you as they are as they are of the five pound box of Honey Bunches of Oats that they bought from Costco four months ago.

Think of Apple. They go to absolutely no events, never leave comments on blogs, and yet people literally plan their days around their product launches. It’s not about being everywhere–it’s about being in the right places at the right times.

Sep 06

Evangelism as Marketing? Pish. Just Take Care of Me

I used to work for BMW. As a company, BMW is obsessed with getting your feedback. They don’t send you a survey in the mail or via email–they have someone call you who asks you five questions about your buying experience. This isn’t the passive survey email you ignore in your inbox–this is BMW actually hiring someone just so they can call you to make sure everything went okay. Here’s the other kicker: your salesperson’s income depends not only on how much money they bring into the company. It also depends on the scores of this very survey, which is why you can count that your buying experience should be very positive. BMW puts its money where its mouth is.

Call a BMW 750 a Nazi sled–I don’t care. From the moment a concept for a car is created to the moment you drive it off the lot, each employee cares that you love your car. You can claim that’s what they have to do because they cost so much, but I know for a fact that there really isn’t a lot of profit margin in BMWS. They just see it as their means for being a sustainable company.

BMW is publicly traded, but is primarily owned by one family. An American corporation might say, “Oh, we can cut costs here in the suspension and the leather. We can fire this guy, or we can have a recall just so we can find other problems with the cars we can charge them to fix (which, sadly enough, happens). That means one extra point of margin in each car, which earns us X more dollars a year.”

I don’t care if Scott Monty is on Twitter. It’s hard for me to have a love affair with American car companies based of empirical knowledge. I’ve driven a Mustang GT and watched the back end squirrel about when I wasn’t even flooring it because Ford can’t build a suspension that transfers power to the ground. My sister’s Chrysler minivan needed a transmission after 38,000 miles. I saw the paint flake off a Suburban’s inner console when it only had 200 miles on it. I just can’t recommend American cars because I’ve worked at a dealership and have seen them come in on trade and am never impressed. They flood the market with fleet sales too, which means your American car is worth less because it is less rare.

Here’s the saddest part: I want to be able to recommend American cars. I want Ford to beat Ferrari at Le Mans like they did back in the 60′s. Engineering wise, they really don’t compete with their Japanese and German counterparts. Service-wise, I’ve heard of some really shady practices at American dealerships.

So I don’t care if you have a company evangelist. I care that you have customer evangelists. Just take care of us. We’ll take care of the evangelism for you.

Jun 30

How Someone With 2000 Twitter Followers Can Be More Powerful than a Person with 25,000

Much of what Seth Godin says seems like common sense to me. Unfortunately, I’m finding more and more that companies need his lessons pounded into their brains. Here’s a video of Seth explaining that it doesn’t matter how many Twitter followers you have, it’s how effectively you can network with it:

Numbers don’t matter. That’s like saying because you weigh a lot, you are a more powerful tennis player than Roger Federer. Federer can hit a tennis ball harder than people twice his size simply because he gets in position and has better technique. Tennis analogy not working for you? Here’s an example of what Seth is saying worked out:

HOW A PERSON WITH 2000 TWITTER FOLLOWERS CAN BE MORE POWERFUL THAN SOMEONE WITH 25,000 SIMPLY BY FOLLOWING SETH GODIN’S ADVICE:

1.) A person who blogs about foreign films starts following people who tweet about movies like “Dinner with Andre” or are tweeting about the Cannes Film Festival while it is occurring. By tweeting back and forth and engaging people, tweeting unique links, this person gets 2000 followers. Many of these followers have over 1000 film obsessed followers themselves.
2.) Another person buys followers, follows people just so they follow back, etc. The whole mentality of “I’ll follow you only if you follow back” is just childish. Tim O’Reilly offers useful info all the time and will probably never follow me in my lifetime. So what? Anyway, by playing this numbers game, this person gets a whopping 25,000 followers who are more concerned about reciprocal followers than actually getting useful information.

Say I’m marketing a foreign film. If I have these people tweet something with the intention of it getting as much exposure as possible, the person with 2000 followers will probably be of more use to me. Why? Because this person will get retweeted by people who actually care what I have to say, who would have a lot to offer their own followers by retweeting my stuff. Do the math:

2000 people exposed initially
50 retweets
x 6000 unique followers among these retweeters
600,000,000 possible impressions

vs. 25,000 possible impressions for person #2

Someone who just gets followers to have them will probably get few to no retweets, and often gets them simply with the notion that he or she will feel obligated to retweet in return. That’s lame. It’s not targeted or effective. So this person with tons of followers has little influence, because he or she is more focused on being perceived as influential rather than actually having something to say.

Power=mass x acceleration. If you are in the right position and surrounding yourself by people who actually care about what you are trying to do, you can do a lot more with a lot less. Ignore the numbers game. Engage people who are useful and who would find you useful. The numbers come, and not always where you expect them to.

Apr 24

Why Everyone Should Have (and Spend Money on) a Strong Web Presence

Sometimes I find that I get so involved in the online world and the people active in it, I lose touch with everyday people. When I try to explain why it is important that they spend money on a website and get involved with social networking online, I get frustrated that they don’t get it.

So to help, I’m going to put the pace of the internet in perspective. We take big companies like Google and Amazon for granted, but we fail to see that these companies are incredibly young compared to peers in other sectors. Google, Amazon, Facebook–they didn’t grow in the traditional way other companies did. They exploded. And those who decide to adopt too late will face a lot of competition who are more seasoned in the online space.

Think about it in historical terms:
-Google was launched as a privately held company in September of 1998. It is now a publicly traded company whose products are used all over the world. “Google” is a verb. You can use it on your desktop your laptop, and on your phone. There’s a good chance it’s your home page. Google is just over ten years old and has over 20,000 employees.

Just eleven years ago, if I told you to “Google” something, you’d probably think I was insulting you. You used the phone book. Remember those?

Amazon.com launched in 1995. It started by selling books. Amazon now attracts 615 million viewers annually which is twice the traffic of walmart.com. It has websites in the UK, China, France, Germany, and Japan. They are now trying to take over the online book market with the Amazon Kindle.

People thought the founder Jeff Bezos was crazy. Just 15 years ago, you didn’t buy anything online, much less books. Think back on how many brick-and-mortar book stores have closed in just 15 years.

–Facebook launched at Harvard University in 2004. It was still “The Facebook” until 2005. Facebook started as a way for students to keep up with each other, but has since grown to do everything from connecting college buddies to event planning to playing Scrabble to raising $200,000 for Cambodians. Facebook now has over 200 million users in every country but Syria and Iran, where it is banned.

If I told you five years ago that I could use an interactive Rolodex to keep tabs of people all over the world for free, you’d think I was nuts.

Where did you buy music ten years ago? Best Buy? Where do you get it now? How many CD stores are now GONE in just ten years?

People think social media is a fad. Was Google a fad? How much more did early adopters make because they knew how to leverage search engines to be on the top of Google? How much more do established Amazon and eBay sellers make over those who jumped on late out of desperation? Being successful online takes money, work, or preferably both. But it’s not going away and the rates of growth are accelerating even more rapidly than they were before (see Twitter stats)

Whether you are a business owner thinking of improving (or adding) your online presence or a web professional who is selling it, it’s important that we understand the urgency of how the web affects our economy and how we can use it to beef up national GDP, employment and our way of life.