Social Media Lesson: Reach out – Listen – Learn

social media's magic ingredientIn the post –What Michael Jackson can teach business about social media… I shared four valuable social media lessons business owners should learn from the life and death of the King of Pop.

The first lesson was that being first doesn’t mean as much as you probably think it does.   I’ve worked with many clients who drastically over-estimated how long and hard the road is when you’re truly blazing a new trail through the wilderness.  (They don’t call the LEADING edge the BLEEDING edge for no reason!)

The second lesson was the importance of reaching out – listening a learning.

In Creativity is Easier when you have a Partner – David Wright shares an AMAZING story of how reaching out -listening and learning helped him turn losing the only job he ever loved into not only a book but also a business (Collective Inkwell).

There’s a lot of value in the “community” aspect of social media.   There are lessons to be learned via social media if you’re willing to reach out – listen and learn.

There are life lessons to be learned in social media – whether they be lessons from the road courtesy of Betsy Wuebker lessons in self defense from Lori Hoeck,  lessons in the art of possibility from Davina or  lessons in laughter from Lance.  You could live five lifetimes and not accumulate half of the life lessons shared in those just four blogs.

There are POWERFUL business lessons to be learned  as well.  Liz Strauss writes intriguing, instructive posts teaching CEO’s how to correctly “view” social media.  In Could You Be a Chief Executive Social Gardener? she models through words AND actions social media’s real value for brands.

Social Media can show BOTH sides of the story

New business owners can learn from experienced leaders in their field who freely share their expertise via social media.   Tom Volkar shares freely his insights on starting a new business- the RIGHT business for you with posts like Why Rock The Boat?

However, once you’ve chosen your business – you need practical advice as well – from those who have “been there, done that and bought the T-shirt.”   For exmaple, David Airey shares his words of wisdom about his own formula for design pricing.  However, if you’re a designer there’s also a wealth of information from those who are struggling with the process of finding the “right” designer…as Sara Healy does in her post The Still Small Voice Was Right.

Social Media showcases both success and failure

We all love success stories – but sometimes those success stories don’t give us the full picture.  Jason Cohen has written a WONDERFUL article on how most business “advice” is flawed  because it generally focuses exclusively on the “success” side of the coin.  In Business Advice Plagued by Survivor Bias he shares what is possibly the most illustrative word picture of how focusing on the success may actually cause you to miss the most valuable business lessons of all.

The “traditional” media is obsessed with success… to the point where they’ll gloss over the time, energy and failures that go into building a successful business.  However, in the social media arena – most bloggers are more than willing to share their failures as well as their successsed  as Barbara Swafford has done in Bloopers, BooBoos and Ideas That Went Bust.

Social Media may have more in store for us than just valuable lessons

social media saves the worldThere’s a lot to be learned from social media – but Danny Dover makes a case for Social  Media  my be a key to Saving the world. Dover reveals in this post:

Social media has the potential to become the greatest early detection system that the world has ever seen. It is faster, nimbler and has more access to user data than any traditional search engine.

Social media is powered by all of us individually. Because of this, you have the ability to make a positive difference.

When Michael Jackson died, I read somewhere that the server hosting one of the breaking news web sites had at one point 42 hits PER SECOND.   That’s a lot of people seeking information from a single source.  Fortunately, that information “disseminated”  quickly – much to the relief of a server admin I’m sure – but it shows how BIG this world is and how connected we are thanks to social media.

This is why I “cringe” when someone wants to reduce blogging to the mere act of “lead generation” and “lead conversion”.

It’s not that I’m against making money – or even evaluating what marketing tools are “working” and which ones aren’t.  It’s just that trying to put an ROI value on social media is not only premature- but possibly pointless.

As you can see here – there are a lot of GREAT lessons – both life lessons – and business lessons – being shared via social media if you’re willing to reach out – listen and learn.

What Michael Jackson can teach business about social media…

social media fansWhile the King of Pop may be dead – there’s no way he’ll be forgotten any time soon.  Thousands of years from now, I can’t help but wonder what future archeologists will think when they discover all of the media coverage the star’s life and death engendered.   I’m certain they’ll think our primitive culture worshiped the mysterious shape shifter as some kind of god.  I’m entirely  not sure they will be incorrect in that assumption.

Michael Jackson had what many businesses desperately want – recognition and a huge fan base not to mention award winning products.

When he was at his best – the Thriller days – everything he touched turned not to solid gold, but to solid platinum.   However, it’s interesting to note that after the release of the first single from Thriller,  industry insiders predicted the album would only be a”minor” success.    Obviously, no one was expecting the incredible success of the album which went on to release 7 of the albums 9 songs as single releases – each achieving top 10 status.

The wildcard was – of course – the masterful way that this musical genius would use a brand new medium – music videos – to create intense demand for what would become the best selling album of all time.

I remember when MTV debuted in 1981…it was within the first few weeks of starting my freshman year of college.  (A brief history lesson – back then – MTV was 100% music programming.  Yeah – really! There wasn’t a single reality show in the line up. Go figure.) No one really knew how this whole music video thing was going to play out in those days – but there was a sense that this whole music video thing was the start of something special.

Michael Jackson is the one who showed the world the potential of music video.

SOCIAL MEDIA LESSON #1: First doesn’t mean SQUAT

MichaelJackson did not invent nor did he create the first music video.   The very first music video aired was the one hit wonder  “Video killed the radio star” by the Boggles.  It played incessantly on MTV in the beginning – not because it was a great song – but because it had a video.  However, being first didn’t make the song or the group successful.

While Michael Jackson didn’t invent music videos – he did recognize the power of the medium.  By the way, Micheal Jackson’s earliest forays into the music video world were not stellar video accomplishments.  Some of his early videos’ production values were just as bad as the rest of the garbage playing on MTV at the time.   Music videos weren’t viewed as serious music marketing in those days – they weren’t even a side dish on the menu let alone  an entree.   Music videos were on par with the free peanuts offered at the bar.

However, Michael had a vision.  He broke new ground by recognizing that music videos didn’t HAVE to be confined to watching the performers play music and sing.  He produced a “mini-movie” for the title track of the album.    The other music videos such as “Beat it” and “Billie Jean” were produced with similar production values.  It was sheer folly at the time – to spend so much time and money on a music video.

Before his success – he was a madman.  After it, he was a genius.

Jackson understood the WHY behind using music videos as a marketing tools.  He understood that music videos provided  a way to make deeper connections with his audience.  Instead of sitting in an audience watching him sing [and dance] on stage – instead he could help his audience “visualize” the story behind the music.

Forget what you read – first doesn’t mean squat. The first social media site was Friendster.   Heard anything about them lately?  Ever?

Exactly.

See what I mean.  Doing it first means nothing.  Doing it RIGHT means everything.

SOCIAL MEDIA LESSON #2: Reach out, Listen and Learn.

Thriller was a tough act to follow – so Michael Jackson turned to one of the few people on earth able to mentor the musical genius- Paul McCartney.   Not only did McCartney collaborate on two hit singles with Jackson – but he shared sage advice which the superstar took to heart.  McCartney shared with Micheal Jackson the key to leveraging his income into true wealth – through owning the rights to other people’s music.   In a bit of an ironic twist, Jackson took this advice to heart and later competed with McCartney when ATV Music – the company which owned the rights to many Beatles songs came up for sale.

Many businesses start out as Micheal Jackson did.  In the early days – Micheal Jackson was eager to learn from those who had successfully navigated the path he wanted to take.  He listened – he learned – he collaborated.

Unfortunately -it was becoming obvious that creating Thriller – with 7 out of 9 songs becoming top ten singles – was a once in a lifetime achievement.  Part of the success of the Thriller album (IMHO)  lay in the then undiscovered marketing power of the music videos.  Once he illuminated the power music videos had to sell records – others quickly jumped on board.

While there were many imitators – Michael Jackson was still the “King of Pop”.  When he was open to collaboration and new ideas – he soared like no one before or since.

SOCIAL MEDIA LESSON #3: It’s easier to get negative attention than positive attention.

Suddenly – Jackson was faced with a difficult reality.  He craved the media attention success had brought – but media attention is fleeting – a sentiment which his sister  Janet expressed when she sang – “What have you done for me lately?”

Thus began the steady decline and inevitable fall of the King of Pop.   The creation of the media frenzy surrounding his previous success had involved dedication and hard work.  Michael Jackson craved the attention but didn’t have the patience to wait for the press to report on his next album release, so he began releasing attention gathering news stories about himself.    This act brought the never-ending intense personal scrutiny which Jackson quickly began to hate.  When he invited the demons in – he had no way of knowing that he’d never be able to get them to leave.

Instead of using the press to his advantage – the tables had turned.  The press was now using Michael to their advantage – to sell papers by featuring the escapades of “Wacko Jacko”.

Jack Hough writes in an article in the August 2009 issue of Smart Money revealed that stocks of companies whose names (and CEO’s)  DID NOT appear in the news perform better than stocks which are “media darlings”.   It appears it’s not just pop superstars who are seduced by the flashbulb flicker of the paparazzi.  However, research is showing that stocks of companies whose management focuses upon running the company instead of performing for the media outperform their counterparts by a significant margin.

Evidence shows that if your goal as a business owner is to gain media attention – then your business will ultimately suffer.  This is probably because it is far easier to get negative press than positive press.

SOCIAL MEDIA LESSON #4: Fans are no replacement for real relationships.

We’ll skip now to the end of the King of Pop’s life for what may be the most disturbing lesson of all.  We now learn that over the past decade – Michael Jackson was becoming increasingly isolated.  People are coming forward – sharing how they tried to steer Jackson from the path of destruction – but Jackson responded by cutting them out of his life.

While his meteoric rise was marked by collaboration and communication, Micheal Jackson began his fall when he began isolating himself.  He had fans – but no REAL relationships.

Real relationships involve an element of pain.  When you write a blog post that is misunderstood – it smarts.   However, it makes you a better blogger.  You learn to communicate better.

This is perhaps the most important lesson a business can learn from Michael Jackson regarding social media.  Micheal Jackson wrapped himself in lies to protect himself from the pain of real relationships.   His obsession with avoiding pain led to his untimely but inevitable death.

SOCIAL MEDIA LESSON #5: Feedback is essential – not optional.

Social media can provide PAINFUL feedback for companies – however that painful feedback can and should be used to make the business better.

When a blogger writes a negative review  about your business – there are two paths you can take:  You can address the problem or blame the blogger.

Building a following of 30,ooo Twitter followers is worthless if you don’t take time to  listen.  Building a blog and then turning off comments because you don’t want to hear what customers are saying is a similar waste of time. The magic in social media are the people behind the screen names.   Real people – real connections.

Trying to manipulate social media into a lead generation marketing tactic is a social media strategy doomed to failure.  Others have tried – [eg. Walmart]- and failed miserably.  Michael Jackson’s manipulation of the tabloids unleashed a torrent which tortured him to the end –  don’t make the same mistake trying to manipulate your social media marketing into doing what it’s not made to do.

Social media is about connections – PERIOD!  Those connections will not always be profitable and they won’t always be pleasant – but they sure as hell beat the alternative.

Social Media’s Magic Ingredient

social media's magic ingredient A client of mine was “grumbling” the other day about social media. She said, “I know I SHOULD be using Facebook and LinkedIn – but I just can’t BRING myself to do it.”

For her – the prospect of social media is “no fun” – even though in real life, she’s a very social person. It seems she hasn’t made the connection yet – that behind the screen icons there are real people.

She’s buying into the notion that social networking is about racking up numbers beside your name. She thinks that in order to use social media “successfully” she needs 30K Twitter followers and 5000 friends on Facebook.

To her, participating in social media is about as appealing as putting on a sequined tube top and a shiny mini skirt – donning hooker heels and heading to the streets to shake her money maker and “sell” her stuff. She hasn’t discovered yet the true secret ingredient of social media:

Social Media’s Magical Ingredient is PEOPLE!

Vered said it BEST in Value of Social Networking:

if you have formed real connections with a handful of people through social networking, you are using this tool correctly. But if you have thousands of followers, who are at best a collection of meaningless faces and broken sentences, and often place an overwhelming demand on your time, you are simply allowing fake networking to seduce you. There’s absolutely no value in that, business or personal.

There are PEOPLE behind each screen name. People with families. People with jobs 0r who need jobs. People with wants. People with needs. People who -by nature – want to be connected and feel connected.

It’s this NEED to be connected that is driving the whole social media frenzy.

However, that fact seems to be getting lost in the hoopla.

It’s positively MIND BLOWING how many different social networking sites there are online today. I was surprised when I saw Brian Chappell’s exceptional work on compiling the 2009 Social Network Analysis Report. There were several “big” social networking sites on the list that I didn’t recognize. One of those sites is Badoo. Acording to Wikipedia,

“Badoo is a multi-lingual, London based, social networking website. It allows users to share photos and videos, create “reportages” of their lives, and promote themselves and their work.”

With 41 MILLION registered users – if Badoo were a country – they’d be the 29th most populated country in the world, following South Africa and coming in ahead of Columbia. It’s kind of a big site to overlook… but I’m not the only US citizen overlooking Badoo. However, residents of Morocco, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia are getting connected socially online thanks to Badoo.

Brian’s post illustrates how the growth of social networking sites are “clustered” geographically…. just like the growth maps for other social networking sites. If you stop to think about it – it makes PERFECT sense. Real life connections are mirrored in these online connections – and real life connections are often based on either DNA or geography. It makes sense that digital connections would follow similar paths.

In, The Myth of Brand Loyalty, Chris Brogan writes of his disappointment with Apple – because they sent him an email marketing piece hyping the latest Macbook – which Chris has recently purchased. OUCH!!! So much for the “illusion” that when you buy a Mac – you’re a part of a “family”. No, you’re a spec on a spreadsheet – not even a decimal point – and don’t you forget it!

When you’re a Mac fan – you connect with other Mac and Apple fans. However, Chris learned that while he may share a bond with other Mac users – he doesn’t have a relationship with Apple. Perhaps he may have a relationship with the employees at a local Apple store… but as for the company named for a piece of fruit – not so much.

Part of participating in social media is connecting with PEOPLE. Connection is what your customers crave!

Despite what you may have been told by the latest guru selling his latest “social media makes your cash register ring” ebook – it’s the whole ability to CONNECT and LISTEN.

I can’t even write the word “listen” without thinking of Liz Strauss over at the Successful Blog… how’s THAT for an example of “branding” and making a “connection?

THAT’S THE KIND OF CONNECTION YOU WANT TO BE MAKING!!!

When people think of “X” – they think of you. You can’t achieve that in a single blog post – and you most certainly can’t achieve that via junk mail.

If there’s nothing else to be learned from Micheal Jackson’s tragic life and death – it’s that fans are no substitute for real relationships and real connections.

When “work” is fun – more “work” gets done.

social-media-marketing-1The Wall Street Journal is launching their own social networking site – placing it in DIRECT competition with the existing business social networking site LinkedIn.

Jason Alba hilights in his post The LinkedIn Killer: Wall Street Journal takes a STAB at it how slow LinkedIn has been to embrace the true “spirit” of social networking sites.

I know from my own personal experience on LinkedIn that there really isn’t much to entice me to visit the site.  The messages from the site are such boring updates as “So and so has updated his/her profile pic.”

I’m sorry -but one of my business associate’s latest hair style isn’t enough to tear me away from my busy day to log into LinkedIn.

However, if the WSJ can master what Facebook has already figured out – then the WSJ Connect will be a true winner.

What has Facebook figured out?  That when work is fun – more work gets done.

In other words, I use Facebook for SOCIAL NETWORKING.  I communicate with others there.  I laugh – I cry – and I’ve gotten more than a few referrals because of my partiicpation there.

But I’ve NEVER gone there to “work”. I’ve never made the mistake my former client made when she trashed her reptuation on Facebook.   I’ve always gone there to “play” and have fun.  It’s just a nice “side benefit” that some work happens there as well.

All work and no play makes LinkedIn a loser of a social networking site in my book.

Actually – I have to take that back.  A LACK OF TECHNOLOGY makes LinkedIn a loser social networking site in my book.

See, I did use LinkedIn for a while.  I did post questions – I did answer questions.  However, I had to be LOGGED IN to see the questions and the answers displayed.

LinkedIn NEVER drew me in with an addictive and fun game like Facebook has.  I’ve never thrown Mardi Gras beads or given 80’s fashions or sent someone a drink there.

Facebook knows what LinkedIn and the Wall Street Journal need to learn – and quickly –

When work is fun – more work gets done.

In the movie “The Shining” – Wendy finds out how much “work” her husband Jack has been putting into writing his novel.

So it appears that all work and no play makes Jack go on a killing spree with an ax.  Fortunately, when it comes to social media sites – all work and no play just leads to a slower and less bloody demise.

Social Media is not Linear

Social Media MarketingThe straightest path between two points is a line – but when it comes to connecting with your customers – the path is anything but linear.

Ever since I can remember, business people have always wanted a “soda machine” relationship with their marketing and advertising.  Slide a dollar or two into your “marketing machine” – and out pops a sale.

It’s no surprise that those same people desperately want social media marketing to work in a similar “sales funnel soda machine” fashion.

The sales funnel is a myth either created by or created to satisfy the bean counters who wanted to see a direct link between marketing expenditures and sales figures.  In the attempt to “prove” that when a dollar is fed into the marketing soda machine that a soda can customer does indeed “pop” out the other end, the Rube Goldberg type of sales funnel was created.  This was the myth used to explain the complex process customers go through between the time they “consume” marketing dollars and the point in time when they show up in the sales figures.

Like all myths, it had a purpose.  In this case, it was created to provide “hard evidence” that there is a cause and effect between marketing and sales.

Unfortunately, for the sales funnel myth, in the real world, people are rarely willing to be lined up and marched in orderly fashion to make their company coerced acquisition on schedule.  Consumers don’t consider themselves to be “consuming” marketing dollars when they watch a television show.  They feel no moral obligation to purchase from their favorite television show’s commercial sponsor.

SURPRISE!!!  Customers make acquisitions to satisfy their own GDP – Goals, Desires and Problems.

Ah  -there’s the rub.  Those pesky customers have their own agenda.  Those pesky customers expect to be treated like real live PEOPLE  – people who are usually pretty smart and who make decisions as to what is in their best interest.  Those pesky customers who want more from their relatioship with your business than to be treated like a credit card wielding ATM whose goal in life is to keep your payroll and profit margins fat.

Social media is about connecting with people. It’s about pulling back the veil between companies and consumers and allowing companies to put a FACE on those customers who, until recently- were just numbers on a spreadsheet.  It’s about having the means and opportunity to watch as consumers discuss your product online – as they Tweet their recommendations – as they blog about their disappointments.

In Social Media’s Warning Label – I highlighted the story of a business that didn’t recognize or appreciate the marketing intelligence provided  by a disgruntled customer.

With that said, the social media warning label can only help the business owner who understands that the very nature of social media is to remove the veil which separates customers from the proprietors of the business in question.

Again – IMHO the sales process has NEVER been linear.  Success has always been found in focusing on the customer’s goals, desires and problems.  Francois Gossieaux over at emergence marketing writes in his post “Where are my leads?

A new study published in McKinsey Quarterly reports that 2/3rd of touch points in a buyer’s active evaluations process are now consumer-driven marketing touch points: user generated reviews, word of mouth, and in store interactions. Only 1/3rd of the touch points are still company-driven. DID YOU HEAR THAT? You still control 1/3rd of the touch points!

I’ve linked to Jason’s post before about why your blog needs to focus on creating cheerleaders and not leads but I’m doing it again because it’s a message that needs to be spread.  In a world where 2/3’s of the sales process is out of your hands – it’s best to marshall your marketing forces to try to SHAPE those interactions… or if nothing else – load your customer’s lips.

Your blog – your Facebook account – your Twitter account were not created to function as “sales funnel soda machines”.   They are communication tools to connect you with other PEOPLE!

Your customers are people too.  Their first concern is NOT your bottom line -it’s their GDP (Goals, Desires, Problems).   Creating a business which counts on customers caring about your bottom line is the quickest path to destruction – or if you’re an auto maker – government ownership.

Connecting with people CAN result in more sales for your company, but not because your blog is a sales lead collector.  Social media can literally pull back the veil and literally provide insight into how your company is perceived by your customers – without the whitewashing of a carefully constructed “customer survey” or “focus group” – if you have the courage to listen.