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.

When Customer Feedback is like Drinking from the Firehose

phone as social media toolLast night, I was talking on the phone with my best friend from high school.  She refuses to join Facebook – despite the fact that about 1/4 of the members of our graduating class are communing there and despite considerable pressure from friends who still live close by for her to join the social media revolution.

My friend cited an interesting anecdote as a compelling reason for not joining Facebook .  A woman in her social circle was having serious marital problems and was considering divorce.  Despite the fact that this woman had set her Facebook profile to “private” – one of her friends posted a well meaning “wall to wall” communication which effectively broadcast as fact the possibility that this woman would soon be  filing for divorce.  This news quickly  jumped”offline” as church members and co-workers who were friends of Facebook started burning up the telephone lines with this juicy piece of gossip.  This is how my friend found out – via an “old school” social media tool: the telephone.

So my friend’s reasoning for not joining Facebook is simple:  there’s no way for her to control her privacy there because there’s no way to control what other people are saying there.  Even though my friend can control what she says – she can’t control what others say and that is reason enough for her to “sit out” when it comes to joining the social media revolution online.

While my friend can decide to “opt out” of the whole social media game to preserve her online reputation – it’s not an option for business owners.  When you make a sale to a blogger – ready or not, your business must be prepared to enter the wild, wonderful world of social media.

Long ago, you could tell yourself that because customers weren’t calling, they didn’t have any complaints.  However, it’s important to note that your customers have NEVER contacted you first when they were unhappy with your product or service.  They have ALWAYS bitched to their friends and family first.  The first course of action has NEVER been to pick up the phone to call the company.

What’s new now is how easy it is to spread the word via social media.

In the days of picking up the phone to communicate, the tales of customer mistreatment would have to be carried one person at a time – like leaky buckets of water. Today – social media can carry those tales of customer service and deliver them with incredible intensity.

I’m not saying your business has to be perfect to thrive in this new world of social media.  No person – no business – is perfect.  None of us is able to deliver 100% perfection in the world of customer service.

With that said, it takes a LOT to frustrate a customer to the point of  investing the time and expense Dave Carroll did when he created a social media shit storm with the “United Breaks Guitars” music video.  That wasn’t the result of a single “dropped the ball” in the customer service department.. it was the result of consistent and blatant disrespect of the customer.

Fortunately for Dave Carroll – he was creative enough to create a music video.  Two years ago when a woman was frustrated by Comcast’s blatant lack of respect – she went berserk with a hammer in the Comcast offices.  A new meaning emerged for the term “Comcastic“.  Instead of meaning a satisfied cable customer, the word began to take on a new meaning –

“willing to delay or deny services to which customers are entitled.”

Is it any wonder that Comcast no longer USES that term as part of their marketing message?

When these tales strike a collective nerve –  instead of receiving customer feedback one glass of water at a time – a business can be overwhelmed by a flood of customer feedback.  This flood of feedback can be overwhelming –  almost like trying to take a drink from a fire hose.

I’ll illustrate this with a clip from the movie UHF from the twisted mind of Weird Al-

It’s Your Reputation at Stake

social media transparency A former client of mine is anxious to get her business off the ground and  has bought into the “hype” surrounding social media.  She doesn’t understand it – but she’s pretty sure that social media is the key to getting her business off the ground.

We worked together for about six months and parted on good terms.  While I’m obsessed about creating a  marketing strategy, where we define where you are now, who your customers are and the marketing messages you send based on those customers’ GDP – she was convinced that there had to be an easier way.

By the way, that “easier” way often takes the form of chasing every shiny new social media tool that comes down the pike.  Instead of evaluating “is this where my customers are?” and more important, “is this somewhere my customers WILL BE?”  it’s easier to say, “Hey – this is new and this is fun.  Let’s do this!”

I wasn’t surprised when I got a friends request recently from her on Facebook.  I accepted and was immediately barraged by an avalanche of marketing messages from her.  It was like the beating of a drum.

BONG!  Buy from me.

BONG!  Sign up for my email newsletter so you can buy from me.

BONG!  Visit my website so you’ll buy from me.

There wasn’t a single update along the lines of “I just finished reading a book I couldn’t put down” from someone who is NOT the author of the book.

There were no personal notes along the lines of  “my kid’s birthday is today.”

There wasn’t a single personal connection point and there wasn’t any indication that a human being was behind the picture or any of the messages.

Just the steady beat of the drum.

BONG! Buy from me. BONG! Buy from me. BONG! Buy from me.

I emailed her and said, “Hey – you’re going to get your Facebook account shut down if you keep that up.”

By the time she returned my email six hours later, it was too late.  Facebook didn’t like her tactics any more than I did.

It was in her return email  that I learned that she had hired an intern to “help” her with her social media marketing.

She actually paid someone to trash her reputation on Facebook.

I have no idea what the going rate is to  pay someone to learn the ins and outs of social media marketing while they get you banned from various social media outlets.   I mean, I get paying someone to GUIDE you – someone who’s “been there, done that” but that obviously was not the case here.

What I don’t is understand is paying someone who obviously has no idea how this whole “social media” scenes works to impersonate you because after all – it’s your reputation on the line.

I quit working outside the home and launched my business 12 years ago because it bothered me that I was paying someone else to raise my children.  Because of that decision, I missed out on such amenities as paid vacations and 401K plans –  but I gained control over how my children were being raised.  I’ll admit – the hardest part was shortly after I began working from home when my oldest son began BEGGING me to send him to the after school care.  When I told him that was for kids whose mommies worked  outside the home- he told me to go get a job.

I assume that my former client thought that hiring someone to do her social media for her was along the lines of hiring a nanny.  However, your child knows the difference between Mommy and the nanny.  When you hire someone  to  perform your social media marketing – this person is doing more than acting in your name – they are IMPERSONATING you.

When my client’s marketing barrage appeared in my Facebook stream – it wasn’t the intern’s face that appeared next to those updates – it was my client’s face!

My client said in the email that she has signed up again with a new name and a new email and asked her intern to “slow down”.

As for me, I’ll be ignoring the next friends request I get from her.  Why bother?

First, it’s not HER I’m connecting with – it’s her intern.  Her intern already sent me a friends request and I already accepted that.

Second, now that I know WHY she’s on Facebook – well, I’m not in the market for the services she’s selling.  Why sign up for another barrage?

Social media is a GREAT way to connect with people.  It’s a LOUSY form of direct marketing.   If you want to barrage your potential customers with your marketing message – use direct mail.  Those kind of “in your face” sales hype tactics WORK in direct mail and other forms of direct marketing.  Billy Mays’ sales tactics worked well in direct marketing –   they are AWFUL  when practiced in social media!