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Keeping Social Distributed And Ethical

Got a great email today in response to our last show. And the questions asked were so in tune with my recent speaking engagement in Pasadena, that I felt compelled to answer at length.

The main gist of the email was questioning both how companies could ever justify social network involvement without response and the ethics of pay-per-tweet. I started with the latter answer, which was the easier of the two:

"Wow! So much to comment on. But let me try to do so briefly. 
"Pay-Per-Tweet issue has been covered repeatedly on the show. In fact, Ben Kunz is particularly against it and has been on the show quite a few times addressing this.
"My only issue about any paid promotion in the social space is when you aren't saying, 'this is an ad.' And I'm not just talking about disclosing that you took a freebie or some money changed hands. I don't think disclosure is enough, because you still aren't admitting that you are doing an ad for the company. You're pretending to do a review for the product or that somehow you are immune to bias and that's disingenuous. Even a negative review becomes suspect, because people still question the fact that you kept the item. I even go so far as saying that if you give away the item as a prize you are still taking a payment for promotion of the product.
"So if you say it's an ad, you're clean. If you feel you have to justify your credibility in any way, you are straying into payola.
"As for using social media effectiveness, there's no simple way to answer this, but essentially it needs to be a distributed and transparent effort to get the most benefit. Yes, there needs to be a single, official account for tweeting the promotional links. But the real power of social is when multiple people in an organization are empowered to share their thoughts and gather followers. Sure, you need guidelines, but offering the ability to employees to be individuals shows the customer what kind of organization you really are. A great example of this is Zappos where every employee is encouraged to use social networks aggressively for the benefit of the organization.
"We also shouldn't muddy the waters by talking about response with social. Social marketing is an experiential branding tool that enhances the advertising and response efforts, but doesn't generate response. Social is about creating relationships, which can then be leveraged for response-based and sales efforts. But when Dell crows they sold $X million with 'social' they aren't being honest. They built trust with social. And then they launched a coupon campaign that was well received because of the social. But the social effort itself isn't the source of the response. The offer and message of the coupon campaign did that.
"A great example I recently heard was a charity using NPR. By all measures their NPR effort was a dog. Response was in the basement via that particular 800 number. Yet every time she canceled her NPR buy, ALL of her other efforts went down. I liken social to that story. It's not the burger, but it's the secret sauce that sells the burgers."

I still owe you readers a full-on report of my recent talk, but hopefully this does a good job of encapsulating some of the higher points of the discussion.

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