Social Media Mistake #3: Forgetting what it is…

social media marketing

Probably the most common social media mistake made by both business owners and individuals is not having a clear understanding of what social media is.  When you forget (or don’t know) what social media is  – that is the time when the biggest mistakes are made.  So what is social media –

Social media is conversation!

True – it’s a unique – technology aided means of communication – but when you strip away the shiny metal surface – social media is simply communication between people who are not face to face with each other.

Because it is conversation – the typical rules of making polite conversation apply.  With the way some people treat social media – I wonder how many dinner party invitations they receive – because their manners online are atrocious.

Of course, those with the worst manners are those who are trying to “game” the system.  These boorish oafs are akin to the person who shows up at the party and starts barging in on conversations, telling anyone who will listen about this GREAT MLM opportunity.  The only reason this type of person ACCEPTS a party invitation is to build his or her “down line.”  There is no room for relationships – only rubes.

The real “problem” most businesses have with social media is that their previous relationships with their customers were strictly one way.  The company spoke via television ads, radio ads, newspaper ads, etc.  The customer responded by whipping out his/her credit card and making a purchase.  There is little opportunity for feedback in that kind of “relationship” – and quite honestly it – it made it MUCH easier on the business when the communication was strictly one way.

Instead of dealing with REAL customer feedback – the business could simply speculate on what consumers thought.  They could sit in meeting rooms – drinking coffee and pouring over spread sheets and try to interpret the WHY behind their consumers behavior. In the days BEFORE social media – the only other way to gain this valuable data was to resort to focus groups.  Focus groups are where people are brought into an artificial setting and asked about their opinions.   It’s phony – it’s forced – but a decade ago it was the best way to figure out what was going on inside a consumer’s mind.

That was then – and this is now.

Now we have a more “advanced” tool for gaining access to what’s going on inside consumer’s minds.  However, there are those who will try to tell you that [insert social media tool here] is the short- cut to marketing success.  Just set up a Facebook Fan Page – or a blog – or begin Tweeting – and you’ll be amazed as you watch your business revenues skyrocket with throngs of customers hungry for your product or service.

Don’t get me wrong – that certainly CAN happen.  There’s nothing better than working with a client who has a clear vision of their customer’s GDP (Goals, Desires, Problems) who wants to get involved in social media marketing.   On the flip side – there’s nothing worse than trying to work with someone whose social media marketing goal is revenue without relationships.

There are many ways to communicate with your customers and potential customers.  The biggest difference between social media marketing and “traditional” marketing methods is that the prospective customers can – and WILL – let you know what they think.

Come to think of it – consumers are doing the same thing via social media when it comes to traditional marketing methods such as television advertising as well. So when you think about it – there really is no escaping the fact that social media will be shaping your business whether you like it or not.  You can make the biggest mistake of all which is ignoring social media – or you can try to manipulate social media when you don’t like what your customers are saying – but in the end, remember that social media is merely communication aided and abetted by technology – and nothing more.

Any “magic” you find in using social media for marketing is definitely provided by YOU!

Social Media Mistake #1: Ignore it

social-media-marketingOne of the most toxic social media mistakes a business owner can make is to adopt a “ignore it and hope it goes away” type of attitude.

This head in the sand tactic is employed on many levels.  Some business owners want to ignore social media in general – hoping it’s a fad which will quickly fade away. Unfortunately, for some businesses and brands – their first foray into the wild and wonderful world of social media is when they discover a social media shit storm has erupted and their brand is at the epicenter.

It’s important for business owners to recognize that conversations are already happening about your business and your brand.   While it’s infinitely easier to ignore these social media rumblings – ignoring these critical conversations and hoping they’ll go away is the worst thing you as a business owner or brand manager can do.

There’s a reason for the saying, “Ignorance is bliss.”  Except on the web – ignorance is anything BUT bliss.

If you think social media is magic – think again.  Social media is simply people communicating via the web. The web has always been about communication and in the old days, that communication was restricted to those who “spoke” the language.  In the earliest days, that language was HTML.  The big “fuss” began when people who didn’t speak “HTML” could communicate using the web via blogs and eventually other social media sites such asMySpace.com and Facebook.

This free and easy communication cut two ways for businesses.    On the plus side, businesses could easily communicate with not only current customers but prospective customers as well.  Since these conversations were happening on the web – they are digital footprints left in cement rather than sand.   In some ways, these conversations are better for business – because we as business owners can “eavesdrop” on the conversations going on about our brand.

However, on the flip side – there’s a business axiom that proclaims a happy customer will tell 3 people – an unhappy one will tell 16.  This axiom is from the days before social media – and those figures should probably be amplified exponentially to reflect the changes happening thanks to social media.  This means, the conversations that are happening about your business or brand online are more than likely going to be negative.

The biggest reason business owners and brand managers seek out a social media consultant is because they’ve recently discovered the negative conversations going on online about their brand.

Their first request – almost without exception – is to ask for the consultant to remove the negative conversations – to erase them from existence.  As a result, the first conversation most social media consultants have with new clients is to explain that REMOVING these negative conversations is impossible.

That’s the bad news.

The good news is that  it is possible to MOVE the negative conversations off the first pages of search and replace those negative conversations with positive ones.

However, remember – people are much more likely to “bitch and moan” than they are to rant and rave about your business.  That’s why businesses need to be proactive in encouraging and nurturing positive conversations online – because these positive conversations don’t happen “naturally”.

In a freshly tilled garden, weeds always seem to grow faster and easier than the desired plants.  Whether you want your garden to yield beautiful flowers or tasty vegetables and fruit – you can’t simply plant some seeds in freshly tilled soil and hope for the best.

The same is true of social media. If you’re not actively nurturing your social media presence – then chances are the “weeds” are taking over.

Ignorance is  anything but bliss when it comes to social media.  The biggest mistake you can make when it comes to social media is to ignore it.

Who’s afraid of the FTC’s new guidelines?

social media's magic ingredientAnswer – ” Not you if you’re operating under an authentic business model.”

Social media is all about information flowing freely and easily.    When a company engages in questionable business activities – social media is there, allowing customers to share what it’s like to do business with someone.  However, there have always been business owners who don’t want to play by the rules.  Instead of gathering authentic testimonials – they resort to crafting lies to promote their product or service.   They create “faux blogs” to promote their products – complete with fake testimonials.  They hire celebrities whom you trust, banking on that trust being transitive.   Well, the US government (via the FTC ) has been receiving complaints and is about to join the game.  They are in the process of crafting some new “rules” for the game of doing business – both off line and online!

The FTC stands for the Federal Trade Commission- a US government agency which is charged with the protection of American Consumers. The FTC was founded in 1914 – in the era of “trust building and trust busting.”  Since then, the agency’s powers have been enhanced to include all “unfair and deceptive business acts or practice.”  The most recent (1980)  guidelines are receiving a “face lift” for the new millennium – and may be a cause for concern for those who have been operating outside the bounds of “authentic” marketing and business building.

It’s not just brick and mortar businesses that have to worry about the new guidelines. Bloggers and internet marketers are definitely affected by the latest FTC guidelines that ban deceptive or unfair business practices.  If you’ve embraced my 3 step  authentic business success secrets formula – then you’ll probably welcome the relief offered by these new guidelines -written with social media marketing in mind.

New guidelines are being drafted which in their current state would allow the FTC to go after bloggers for any false claims or failure to disclose conflicts of interest.   The current draft of the guidelines also allows the FTC to go after the companies who partner with bloggers as well.

By the way, this same language also applies to celebrities who endorse products.  It looks like those D list celebrities who endorse such products as Cash 4 Gold had better take a good hard look at the reputation of the company who wants to hire them.

So, if you’ve written a glowing testimonial for a product you’ve never used – you might find yourself in as much hot water as the person for whom you wrote the testimonial.

If you’ve written a glowing review of a product you received  for free and you failed to disclose that you received the product for free –  again, you might find yourself in the same hot water.

Mary Engle of the FTC tells why in this video:

It  appears that the FTC is joining in the effort to keep the communication going on via social media “clean” and free from manipulation.

If you’re running an authentic business model – you have little to fear with the new guidelines.

If the testimonials you feature on your blog or web site are real – both the ones from your customers and the ones you have written for other bloggers and internet marketers – then your compliance with the guidelines will be easy peasy lemon squeazy.

For most ethical business people and bloggers, you may need to disclose the fact that the links in your blog post are affiliate links – but other than that – the new rules shouldn’t cause most authentic and ethical business owners and bloggers much concern.

If however, you’ve been less than authentic in your marketing communications – then you may have a serious problem on your hands when the guidelines are finalized – expected some time in 2010.

Business Building Strategy: The most important question of all…

business-building-strategyWhen you’re building a business – there’s a lot of questions that need to be answered.  Dr. Jean Murray says there are 10,000 questions you’ll have to answer as you start your business.  While I never stopped to count them all – I think she’s definitely in the ball park with that estimate.

Some of those start up questions are easy – and when a question is easily answered it’s usually answered quickly.  Some questions are hard – and it takes time to discover the answer.

There is one word which can drive your business towards success more quickly than any other word.  While this word can stand alone as a question – when it’s part of larger question – it’s presence signals that the question at hand is one of the most important you’ll ask over the course of your business.

This powerful word is easy to say – and easy to spell.

This mystical magical word is the word – WHY.

Why ask why?

Why is a powerful question to answer as you build your business.  In Business Building Strategy: What will you do to get their money?, I talk about a common business problem – those idiot customers and their stupid requests.  (If you don’t know me or haven’t spoken with me – you might not know that my tongue is FIRMLY in my cheek when I wrote the previous sentence.)  Often – when you’re tempted to “label” a customer as “stupid” or an “idiot” – it’s often because you don’t understand thy “why” which is driving the customer’s behavior.

For example,  “Those idiot customers keep calling to get directions to our store, even though we have a map on our web site!”

Ask “why” and suddenly the view of the situation changes.  Asking why helps to move the view of  from a customer problem – to a web site problem.

When you apply the “why word” to the questions raised – the questions suddenly take on an elevated level of importance.  You can even add this mystical magical word to a simple statement to turn it into a thought provoking important business building question.

Take this “complaint” – “My [insert advertising media here] is driving visitors to my web site – but it isn’t generating any new business.”  Adding the word “why”takes a complaint and turns it into an essential business building question.

Sometimes  answering this question is easy.  Sometimes it’s hard – but the reason it’s hard is not that it’s like solving a complex math problem hard – but rather it’s a “we’re going to have to do something that’s outside of our comfort zone.”

“Because I said so” is a LOUSY answer when someone -anyone – asks you why.   If you’re tempted to give that answer – take a moment to think.  Often, that answer is often a sign that you just aren’t willing to dig in and answer the real question – “why?”

Asking why often leads to discovering business problems which lie outside of your comfort zone.  For that reason alone – knowing the answer to “why” is essential.  The “why” can help you take that first scary step through the Looking Glass – which is known in MBA speak as “thinking outside of the box”.

The impact of social media…

social-media-marketingI’m beginning to wonder if the rise of social media may be playing an unseen and unmeasured  role in the US economic crisis.

This thought train began a few months ago while watching Mad Money.  Jim Cramer was talking about Nokia and Dell – two companies who were blaming dismal sales on the state of the economy. Cramer correctly pointed out that if it’s “raining” for one business then it should be “raining” on everyone in the neighborhood.  So while both these companies were complaining about the dismal economy and how it’s the reason for their suffering sales, both these companies have competitors who are:

a) kicking their respective asses with better products and better customer service

b) doing great in sectors with strong growth despite the “dismal” economy.

Which made me wonder -are Nokia and Dell’s sales figures victims of social media? After all, if there were ever going to be two products heavily affected by negative buzz in social media circles, two sectors which would be appropriate “canaries” would be the mobile phone and computers.

Is is possible social media is responsible for slowly killing these giant companies?

Social Media – it’s a moral imperative

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.

I’m working on a Dell computer.  Well, it’s a Dell wearing an Alienware mask.  I was sold on Alienware – not from an ad in a magazine but from personal recommendations from other Alienware users. I purchased my Alienware shortly after they were acquired by Dell.  In short, I spent $2500 on a freaking POS Dell computer with a souped up power supply and a glowing alien face.  I bought the BS being spread that Dell wouldn’t impose their shitty quality upon the Alienware line.

To say I’ve been disappointed with my Dell purchase would be an understatement.  Let’s just say – tears were shed, threats were issued and I was loading up my Sunpass for a trip to Miami to visit the Alienware headquarters to voice my displeasure in person.  When I heard Dell’s earning suck – my thought was  “GOOD!!! If they’re still in business – their earnings don’t suck enough!!!!”

Is it possible that the Dell “economic slow down” is really just the result of information flowing freely online? Is it possible Dell’s woes are not rooted in poor economic conditions but rather the fact that they sell crappy computers?   Is it possible their users are WARNING others via social media?

Which got me to thinking… is it possible that Betsy Wuebker’s post WELLS FARGO DUMPS ON A GRIEVING MOTHER is joining forces with literally hundreds of other Wells Fargo customer service horror stories?  Is it possible that these individual blog posts could eventually create a tsunami for Wells Fargo?

Which brings up the question…

Is social media already making a real economic impact on businesses?

Jim Cramer only stated that poorly run companies often blame their poor performance on the market instead of upon management where it belongs.  However, as Cramer  talks about products that don’t perform – I keep thinking of blog posts which have “outed” those products long ago and still linger online today.

How many blog posts does it take to bring down a corporate giant?  Has social media as a medium reached the point of being capable of taking down a company of any size?

I don’t believe that we’ve reached that “critical mass” yet – but I believe that day is coming.  Stay tuned!

Social Media Buzz can’t….

Is it just me, or is it an EERIE coincidence that while the “social media buzz” was still building from New York Fox News anchor Ernie Anastos’ dropping of the f-bomb – SNL newcomer Jenny Slate just “happens” to drop the f-bomb on live TV?

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GQcBPNyv9Do[/youtube]

While Ernie’s “drop” is resulting in catch phrases being born and literally MILLIONS of YouTube views- Jenny’s slip isn’t getting NEAR that level of attention.  This “phenomenon” seems to have gotten a brief “buzz hit” on Twitter and Facebook – only to quickly die.  Blogs aren’t reporting on this – and it’s barely making traditional media’s radar.  In addition, views on the video are in the low six digits – and the “preferred” clip appears to be the abbreviated one with the poorest sound quality.  That’s because it’s easier to sift through the poor audio is infinitely better than trying sit through the ENTIRE skit.  It’s really, really bad.  It’s positively painful.

Notice the difference – Ernie’s f-bomb has added a new phrase to the Urban Dictionary.  Jenny’s f-bomb is already heading toward oblivion.  She’ll go down in history as the THIRD SNL cast member to drop it – and may set a record for the collective yawn it inspired.

Was this a scripted and desperate bid by SNL to attract viewers? It looks like it.

Unfortunately – this illustrates that it’s impossible to create “viral” without making some kind of connection.  The “biker chick” skit was flat and heartless – PERIOD.

It looks like the SNL writers looked around for what was “hot” – read that the FX show “Sons of Anarchy” is hot and tried to parody something they didn’t understand.

While the SNL skit bombed – the FX series continues to thrive – because the creators of SoA  give the viewer a glimpse behind the scenes.  They “get” that these bikers are human – and have created a show which connects with viewers.  The characters are “real” – they’re not flat and heartless.  Like the HBO hit – the Sopranos – awful monsters are shown to have a human side as well.  The show allows us to watch them live and love just like people we know.  However, we then see them kill and maime without missing a beat.  Viewers are fascinated by the dichotomy and more tune in each week for a chance to make a connection with these characters.

Maybe if the SNL writers had bothered to watch the first season of that hit show before they tried to parody biker chicks – this skit might have had legs.  The dropping of the f-bomb during a well scripted, well performed skit might have created buzz which could have elevated SNL back to the status of “must see TV”.

The moral to the story?  No amount of “buzz” will sell an inferior product.

SNL skits are painful to watch more often than they’re amusing – and that’s why people aren’t watching.  Flat and lifeless are the norm on SNL and you can’t create buzz when people don’t connect and don’t care.

Before you try to create “buzz” – make sure you’ve made a connection.  Your customers will let you know when you’ve connected.  Only then is it time to try to create social media buzz….

Dropping the f-bomb – spreading the word

Social media has significantly changed the fabric of our society and a recent “slip of the lip” in which the f-bomb was dropped on air by New York news anchor Ernie Anastos provides a great illustration of the power of social media.

In case you hadn’t heard, Ernie coined the phrase, “Keep f#&*ing that chicken” (KFTC) during a live broadcast of local news.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PdnXYWSa56w[/youtube]

The video was uploaded to YouTube multiple times and this version has garnered over 2 million views in less than a week.  The new catch phrase “hit” the Urban Dictionary five days later.  You can get it on a T-shirt or a mug -just in time for holiday gift giving. 😉

Within a week of airing, the phrase has officially become part of the American vernacular. My favorite definition:

Expression, 21th century American English

1) An expression to encourage one to continue with an undesirable or menial task.

Steve: I have ton of paperwork to do.

Ernie: Keep f#%&ing that chicken.

Live television has always been fun to watch – because you never know when a slip of the lip may occur. However, Ernie Anastos is not the FIRST television news anchor to drop an f-bomb during a live broadcast.  What makes this “news worthy” is the speed and ease with which this “news” has traveled illustrates the depth and breadth of the impact of social media on our society.

Think about it – if Ernie had uttered that phrase on air even five short years ago – it couldn’t have traveled this fast and this far this easily. Sure, a few Fox news viewers in the local market would have been amused – but the story probably would have ended there.

Think about the difficulty in distributing the video of this “faux paus” even five years ago.  Theoretically, it would have taken a few weeks to reach the likes of Eric Bauman -creator of Ebaum’s World – – one of the first “funny video” sites on the web.   Then, Eric would have uploaded the video to his server and his audience would have viewed it – and it probably would have ended there.  A few thousand views – a few thousand belly laughs- and the phrase would have become an obscure inside joke for a select group.

Fast forward to the “new” world of social media.  A news anchor drops the f-bomb on air and an alert viewer records the slip and uploads the video to YouTube.  Almost immediately, Gawker picks it up.   A day later, the Huffington Post blog “reports” on the slip. The Gothamist calls it an “irresistible catch phrase” and reports that Anastos has not be disciplined for dropping the barnyard based f-bomb.  Two million views on YouTube is just the beginning.  The story is multiplying exponentially online and offline and a catch phrase is being born.

This is the “power” of social media.  Fifteen years ago – television was an all powerful information “gate keeper” as were radio stations and newspapers.  Fifteen years ago – if you weren’t in the NYC area – you would have missed this story.   Fifteen years ago – if you wanted to communicate on a national level – you either had to have a more than a few producers and editors agreeing your message needed to be heard.  If you didn’t have that – you needed to have a LOT of cash to buy air time to distribute your message.

Today – the keys to the information lock have been freely distributed to everyone with internet access.   Got something to say?  Create a video with the web cam built into your laptop.  Then upload it quickly and easily to YouTube – and a couple of hundred of other online video sharing sites while you’re at it.  Tag it and then blog about it and wait to see if it “connects” with people.

The real “magic” is that ANYONE can do this now.  Information distribution is not just the job of geeks and it’s not limited to professional journalists.  Technology has provided the tools so ANYONE can now share information – freely and easily.

There’s something about the KFTC that “connected” with people.  It is naughty (there’s no doubt an FTC fine was levied on the station)- and it’s catchy.   While it’s not telling a customer service story or creating a social media shit storm like Dave Carroll did – it’s still connecting in a powerful way.  The difference between now and then – the traditional information gatekeepers aren’t dictating the path this story is taking – the “everyman” is.

This is how social media works to build your business…

transparency in social mediaHere’s another real life story on “How Social Media” works.  I hope it helps to illustrate WHY it’s so hard to put an ROI value on your social media participation.

“Suzy” is a client of mine and she has a problem.  Actually, she has more than one problem.  She has MANY problems because that’s just part of building and running a business.  However, for right now – she has one problem which is obscuring all the other problems she’s facing in her business.

Many years  ago,  Suzy had another problem – she needed a web site.  She shared this problem with people she knew and eventually spoke with another client for whom I’d created a web site.  That person was happy with my work and recommended that Suzy contact me.  In the conversation that followed, she decided that she could TRUST me to solve her problem and she hired me to create a web site for her business.

Once the “thrill” of having her business online had passed – Suzy discovered that her web site wasn’t the solution she thought it would be.  See, she thought that her website was some kind of “magical, mystical” money printing – client generating machine. The problem didn’t lie in the web site though – the problem lay with Suzy.   Suzy didn’t know what problems her business was solving for her clients.  Because she didn’t know  what she didn’t know  – her web site couldn’t begin to solve her REAL problem.

Suzy’s REAL problem was  she wanted clients for her business.  However, when she asked for a web site – what she got was a tool.  How she used the tool determined whether or not it would solve her problem.

Frequently, when it comes to solving problems – often what you need are PEOPLE not TOOLS.

Over the next few years, Suzy struggled.  Fortunately, Suzy picked up a copy of  my book Beyond the Niche: Essential Tools You Need to Create Marketing Messages that Deliver Results which helped her to discover exactly what problems she was solving for her clients.   Once she knew what problems she was solving, it literally changed the way she viewed her business.

As a result,  she decided that she needed a NEW web site. This time she knew exactly what she wanted her web site to do – and  we relaunched her web site as a blog. Now – Suzy writes regularly about the solutions she provides.  As a result, she’s stunned at how effective her web site (a.k.a. her blog) is at bringing new clients into her practice.

The other day, Suzy discovered she has another problem.  Unlike her previous problems,  this is a problem I can’t help her solve but one that I’ve also faced in my business. So when she fired off an email asking me if I had ever experienced this problem – I was able to offer the name of another business owner who does provide a solution.

At this point, you may think, “She’s going to tell about how she’s connected with the solution service provider on [insert name of social networking site here] and her client then found her solution provider who is also on [insert name of social networking site here] and because they’re both connected to her profile.  Viola!  Social media marketing at work. ”

THAT IS NOT HOW SOCIAL MEDIA WORKS... at least, not in this case.  (If/when it does work like that – it’s the exception and not the rule.)

While it’s true that I am connected with both this client AND the solution provider on several social networking sites and in THEORY – she should be able to “sift” through my connections and “discover” the provider of the solution on her own- that’s not what happened.

She didn’t know what she didn’t know – which included not knowing the REAL problem or the REAL solution she was seeking.  Often – that’s the case.  She didn’t KNOW she needed a drill – she just knew she needed a hole.

I started this blog post with a promise to illustrate how social media works to build your business.  However, there’s a catch: Social Media Marketing can’t build your business if you don’t know what problems you’re solving or what  goals you’re helping your clients/customers achieve.

In a perfect world, everyone who solves problems for business owners would have a blog and they would use their blog just like  like Tom Volkar does over at Delightful Work.  (I “pick” on Tom a lot here because Tom is doing a SUPERB job of using social media CORRECTLY in my humble opinion.)

However, in reality – my source doesn’t have even a basic web site – and he does very little with his social networking profiles.  As a matter of fact, he’s only recently began checking his email regularly.  However, he’s not a tool – he’s a solution so he’s worth the extra effort to connect with him.

When I passed along his email address – I did so hoping that a spam blocker doesn’t make it impossible for her to connect with him.  It’s times like this that I wish I could instead send my client to the solution provider’s blog.

If he had a  blog – she could read the tales of how this gentleman has helped OTHER business people solve their problems – similar problems to the one she’s experiencing.   If she wasn’t ready to take action yet – she could subscribe to his blog  or his email newsletter and “stay in touch”.  She’s MUCH more likely to do so because I recommended she connect with him.

Eventually, when her problem got big enough – got hairy enough – got ugly enough – (a.k.a. big enough to warrant writing a check) she could contact him directly for a solution.

Isn’t that better than just passing along an email address and hoping that a spam blocker doesn’t get in the way of making a connection?

This is how social media works to build your business.  It’s word of mouth advertising made better – made stronger – and most importantly-made  more effective.

You can’t judge social media marketing’s “effectiveness” by followers -or RSS subscribers – or blog comments – or even an Alexa ranking.  In reality, social media is just a communication tool – and it’s only as effective as the message you’re communicating.  The fact that – unlike other marketing tools – social media marketing DOES allow you track and measure – visitors, followers or subscribers – it give the ILLUSION of being “measurable” and “trackable”.

Long ago – I did a web site redesign.  The site in question had GREAT content wrapped in lousy graphics and poor navigation.  After the redesign – sales increase 450% in the following quarter.

Unfortunately – in order to “measure” the ROI of social media marketing – you need those kids of “before” and “after”studies.  There are still people who will argue that a professional “face” on your web site isn’t necessary – and all I can say is “It depends upon what goal you have set for your web site.”

If you’re wanting to use your web site to make tons of money using Adsense – then an ugly web site can definitely be an advantage.  When you’re running Adsense – you WANT people to click on the ads and leave your site.  A high bounce rate is DESIREABLE in those cases.  However, if you’re wanting to sell people something at YOUR site – well, why encourage buyers to go elsewhere – whether it be with Adsense or an ugly site?

Business owners are discovering that the REAL value in social media is the unsolicited feedback social media provides for their business.  How can you put an ROI figure on learning that the “free” sample you offered is simply pissing off potential customers?

It reminds me of the Mastercard ads –

Setting up a web site for your business:  $X

Launching your free sample promostion to grow your email marketing newsletter: $X

“Discovering your “free” sample is pissing people off  – PRICELESS!”

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.