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: It’s a Moral Imperative

socialmediamarketing2For more than a millennium, the underlying relationship between consumers and business has overwhelmingly been defined by the term  caveat emptor (buyer beware).  However, over the past few years the easy to use mass communication tools we’ve dubbed “social media” has been subtly shifting  the balance of power in the relationship between buyers and sellers.

Social Media is shifting the balance of power in the relationship between consumers and the businesses that serve them from caveat emptor (buyer beware) to caveat venditor (seller beware)  and the easy to use mass communication tool known as social media is the sole reason for this shift.

The Power of Social Media Connection

The real driving force which is powering the social media explosion are the gossamer threads of human connection.  The unseen, unmeasured force which seems to drive us to connect with other human beings.

This was illustrated clearly a few nights ago when my family watched an absolutely HORRID movie at home.  It was one of cases where the movie’s marketing had caught our attention,  but we never found the time to see it in theaters.  I  popped a bag of popcorn and we settled in to watch a movie which had been heavily marketed as a “comedy”.

We suffered through almost 2 hours of  graphic sexual content and  intense violence (such as gun shots to the head and a death by ax bludgeoning) delivered by a cast of recognizable actors playing one dimensional characters under the guise of “comedy” .

When the final credits rolled – my oldest son jumped up and ran to his computer.

“What are you doing?”  I asked.  After all, it was shortly after midnight and I was heading upstairs to bed.

“I’m a member on IMDB.  This is what we IMDB members DO!”

Ah, the gossamer threads of social media literally pulled him to his computer to share his experience.

This is what social media looks like from ground zero.

Seth Godin refers to this kind of behavior as “tribal” and I think it’s a good description.  My son actually felt a MORAL OBLIGATION to spare others in his “tribe” the “agony” of watching this painfully un-funny comedic romp through hell.

It’s important to note that part of our extreme disappointment with this movie was the fact that the marketing for this movie had painted it to be a “comedy”.  I personally don’t find death by ax bludgeoning or gunshot wounds to the head to be even mildly amusing.    Obviously from someone’s marketing perspective – these gruesome scenes are real side splitters.

The expectations set by the marketing played a huge role in my disappointment with the flick.  We had all been duped.   Had my son not jumped from his seat as if he were called to a 3 alarm fire – this blog post would have been all about how important it is to create realistic expectations in your marketing messages.

However, my son’s actions illuminated a deeper truth to social media.

People are smart.  They’re smart enough  to realize when they’ve been promised something that wasn’t delivered.  When that happens, they get angry.  They want to TAKE ACTION!!! That combination of emotion and easy access to mass communication tools is like spraying a gasoline mist into a cylinder.

The resulting social media explosion can be positive – or negative.

When it’s positive – it’s called viral marketing.

When it’s negative – well, it can cause a social media shit storm.

Social media makes communication easy, fun but most importantly PERMANENT!

There was a time – when your advertising and other marketing messages didn’t live forever, easily accessed by the search engines.

That was then – this is now.

Disappoint customers today and they’ll take to the tools of social media to share their experience with others.   Those disparaging remarks will live on – and if you’re not on top of your online reputation’s SERPS – those customer complaints may end up being featured front and center.

The consequences of disappointing your customers can be more severe than just a negative rating on a single website.  Disappointed customers who feel  strongly can now easily, post a Tweet,  create a video – create a Facebook Fan Pages – or worse yet – blog about your current customer service.

It’s becoming obvious that this type of sharing is one of the moral obligations of social media.   Caveat venditor!!!

What to do when Social Media creates a Shit Storm

Only July 6, 2009 – United Airlines executives awoke to discover a social media shit storm had erupted thanks to this viral video from Dave Carroll.

Thanks to Carol Solomon of Stress Eating for the heads up about this video.

The video above was a long time in the making.  The  now infamous guitar tossing incident happened way back in March of 2008.   Dave writes on United Breaks Guitars about what it took to bring him to the point of creating the song (the first of a trilogy) and the video (again, probably the first of a trilogy).  After months of fighting with various levels of management at United… where they actively engaged in the age old customer complaint strategy of deny, obfuscate, and stall –  he writes:

At that moment it occurred to me that I had been fighting a losing battle all this time and that fighting over this at all was a waste of time. The system is designed to frustrate affected customers into giving up their claims and United is very good at it. However I realized then that as a songwriter and traveling musician I wasn’t without options. In my final reply to Ms. Irlweg I told her that I would be writing three songs about United Airlines and my experience in the whole matter. I would then make videos for these songs and offer them for free download online, inviting viewers to vote on their favourite United song. My goal: to get one million hits in one year.

United Airlines can’t say they weren’t warned.

Dave Carroll promised Social Media Armageddon and he delivered.

With over 2.5 MILLION views for the video,  multiple television interviews and the resulting blog buzz, this story is not exactly what most businesses envision when they ask for a viral marketing campaign.  It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity for Dave Carroll… but it looks like a shit storm from the other side.

There are several  pundits who are saying that United can make lemonade out of this shit storm.  The phrase,  “there is no such thing as bad PR” has been tossed around.   One recommends that United should try to leverage this disaster in their future marketing.

All I can say is I’ll take a kilo or more of whatever it is these people are smoking.

If United were my client – I’d share with them the wise words my mentor shared with me over 20 years ago.  When one of my advertising clients awoke up one Sunday morning to a PR shit storm in the Sunday paper of admittedly a much smaller scale – my mentor shared these valuable words of wisdom:

The more you stir shit- the more it smells.

Talk about pithy words of wisdom – those were it.  So when I sat down with the client on Monday morning, my advice was simple: LET’S NOT STIR THE SHIT!.

My advice to United would be the same.

Don’t try to make lemonade out of shit stew – no amount of sweetener is going to make this palatable.

I would also advise United to FIX WHAT IS OBVIOUSLY BROKEN.

The thing is – twenty years ago – the customer service practice of dealing with customer complaints by  denying, obfuscating, and stalling was actually sound business advice.  Why pay restitution if you didn’t have to?   (I have to wonder why flight vouchers weren’t offered to try to placate him.)  After a few frustrating and fruitless conversations, most customers would become frustrated or bored and give up.

If this situation had happened two decades ago, there wouldn’t be much backlash.   United might have lost a customer – maybe one or two more thanks to word of mouth.  However, adding up the lost revenue and comparing it to the restitution involved in this situation would have made this an easy call a generation ago.  This guy and his band don’t spend enough to make it worth it to make this right.

Twenty years ago – Dave Carroll couldn’t have caused more than a scratch to United’s Teflon coated brand.  Without access to the mainstream media – his message wasn’t going to get very far no matter how catchy, clever or well produced it was.

That was then – this is now.

Now – Dave Carroll is planning a second video – riding the wave and stoked with all kinds of creative energy on how to make the next video even BETTER than the first.

Rather than play armchair quarterback to all the opportunities inherent in the situation for United’s competitors in the marketplace – I’ll offer this admonition…

A new age has dawned and it’s name is social media.

Social media makes it easy for average people access to a world wide audience.  Those average, everyday consumers can use technology to create what is know as user generated content.  Sometimes, that user generated content is catchy and clever enough to do more damage in a week than several decades of carefully orchestrated media buys and brand strategy.

In my book –Beyond the Niche: Essential Tools You Need to Create Marketing Messages that Deliver Results I warn business owners to be aware that “power customers”  -those who can do serious damage to their marketing efforts – were not easily identified and as a result, EVERY customer needs to be treated as if he/she has the ability to influence dozens of other consumers.

Social media takes the power of a single consumer and expands it exponentially.

You never know when a consumer may have a popular blog – or even access to one – so treat them all like they do.

This is a full blown shit storm for United – but every day, similar smaller stories are happening all over the web. They aren’t as well documented as this one is but, then again, six weeks ago Dave Carroll was just another musician with a beef against United.

Another crippling blow in retaliation to piss poor customer service has been delivered.

Why Ask Why – a Tale of 3 Bloggers

social media marketing success“Why are you blogging?”

If you haven’t asked yourself this question lately, maybe you should.

Recently, I had back to back conversations in a single morning with three different types of bloggers and was struck by how different their individual blogging goals were.

While each fit a similar “demographic” profile and all three were business owners, their answers to the question, “Why are you blogging?” were all dramatically different.

The Conversationalist – blogging to build community and connection.

The first blogger’s journey into blogging began because she wanted to be able to easily update the content on her website.  Enter the WordPress self hosted blog as CMS (content management system).

However, as time has progressed, this client has been feeling “called” to begin blogging with building community in mind.  She wants to begin engaging in a meaningful conversation with prospective clients and visitors to her website.  Because we’re already using WordPress as the CMS for her site, this will be an easy transition.

Creating a community conversation blog means installing some plugins to encourage conversation (a.k.a. comments) – WordPress plug ins like:

It also means adding some “social media” plugins such as:

The change in direction also means setting up Feedburner for the “new” information sharing style web presence. (The easiest way to make sure all RSS feeds go through Feedburner, use the FeedBurner FeedSmith plugin.)

All of these plugins are designed to make conversation and community “easier” on a WordPress self hosted blog.

This client has begun regularly “blogging” about a new “life design” she’s implementing.  She’s started blogging regularly and making sure that her blog posts encourage others to join in on the conversation.

While it’s possible that this will blogging project will ultimately net her more clients – right now, the primary reason this client is blogging is because she really wants to connect with others and have them join her on this journey.

The Capitalist – blogging to achieve superior SERPS

The next client’s reason for blogging was entirely different.  When I asked this client the question – “Why are you blogging?” –  there was an uncomfortable silence as she considered her answer.

I “rescued” her by interjecting, “if you goal is to make the cash register ring – it’s OK! It just means there are some elements that you won’t want to embrace in your blog.”

The Capitalist knew that creating search engine friendly content is WAY easier when you build your web presence using a WordPress self hosted blog – and I think she was afraid that I would “condemn” her for not having “loftier” blogging goals.

In my book – a blogger who knows WHY he or she is blogging is already breathing rarefied air!!!

For the Capitalist, we skipped the plugins centered around “encouraging comments” but we’ll still be using the social media plugins because this client is very active on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.  She’s constantly making connections – not only to sell product but also has the goal of making joint venture connections via these valuable social media tools.

In addition to the tools above, we’re also using Viper’s Video to easily embed the informational videos she is creating for YouTube within blog posts. Creating YouTube videos is a GREAT way to leave  what I call “breadcrumb trails” back to your blog.

Of course, this clients product offerings are available on the static pages of her blog.  It’s amazing how many people I talk with who think that for some reason, a blog page can’t contain links to purchase products and services.

While the appearance of the blog is important to the Conversationalist – it’s even more important for the Capitalist. I can’t count the number of times I’ve “upgraded”  the design elements on a small business web presence and seen the conversion rate climb radically just because the design went from “home grown” to “polished and professional”.

The first time I witnessed the “design effect” was when a client came to me with a site that got nice traffic but sales conversions were dismal.  A simple “face lift” increased the conversion rate over 400% in a single quarter.

Content is king – but professional design is also important – especially to the Capitalist who wants to engender enough trust with visitors to get them to hand over their dough.

The Clueless Chump – blogging as a quick easy way to fame and fortune.

The first two conversations were with existing clients.  These are women who own successful businesses which they want to take to the next level.  The morning ended with a prospective new client call.  During the course of the third conversation I discovered that this woman is looking for a way to make a six figure income with a minimal investment of time, money and effort.   She’s obviously been infected with the “blogs as easy money” virus – which should be more feared than any strain of flu.  For that reason, I’m dubbing her the Clueless Chump.

Ah, if only she had opened the conversation with a quick, concise statement which communicated the information above- how much easier my life would be.

Let me be clear, this isn’t a woman who wants to launch or promote an authentic small business.  She’s not interested in adding value – which is what a blog with affiliate links must do to be successful. There’s plenty of value to be provided by the blog that offers reviews of products or services.

This woman is also not interested in selling products or services.   She’s also not interested in connecting with others unless they’re willing to give her money without her doing anything to earn that money.

I’ve been burned by this type of “money for nothing” client enough in the past that I’m getting pretty good at spotting these early on and steering clear.

This third call was not a reader of my blog.  When the Capitalist asked me why I blog – my response was I use my blog to try to “weed out” the Clueless Chump calls.  In this case, this particular Clueless Chump has never read my blog and probably never will – she found me by referral.

It’s days like this when I learn first hand why it’s so hard to give “one size fits all” advice around the issues of social media marketing and blogging.   As social media marketing emerges, it’s becoming obvious that crafting a social media marketing strategy is the most important step of all.

That’s why you should ask yourself “why”.  Asking yourself “why” can give you a solid foundation upon which to build your blogging strategy.