I had an interesting opportunity today to explain the difference between mass-market and luxury market consumers, and why mass-market social tactics aren't as effective with luxury product buyers. Here are my insights.Read More
There is a false assumption when talking about what goes viral. It's something like this: "Viral is what happens to great content."
It's a nice thought. Sometimes it's even true. But as much as we'd like to believe that well-scripted, beautifully produced and properly placed content always goes viral, again and again we see examples of how that's just not the case.Read More
Remember when we were all worried about what blogger and Twitter endorsements would do to the reputations of those individuals who participated? Many social media and regular media and media media experts were fretting that selling your blogging soul to a brand would reduce your credibility to your audience.
Well, holy crap, we couldn’t have been more wrong.
Not only are bloggers more influential than ever, it seems that the more they whore themselves out to brands, the greater their influence becomes. It’s as if their communities are actually rooting them on as they get on the “take.” It’s like a great big, “Stick-it-to-the-man” thing, where all the readers are cheering that their favorite living-room, pseudo journalist is finally getting her due.
And the agencies and PR shops and brands and media buyers could not be happier about all this. They crow and crow about their “earned media,” which is really “paid media.” But why split hairs here? They’re getting those coveted endorsements from the average mom who just happened to be sitting on top of a media empire, all for a fraction of the cost that real media empires cost. Hell, sometimes all it takes it shipping free product and they are getting thousands of impressions.
Of course, there is the question of whether this is really moving the needle on sales. As with all things social, we are loathe to discuss the troubling ROI question. But no one is looking too closely at this because we are earning...I mean buying...I mean earning...I mean buying...cheap awareness for our products and no one is getting hurt. But still, you gotta wonder if it’s doing anything to get a “almost-earned” endorsement from a blogger, when the audience listens with equal rapt attention to the average Today show product placement, which let me tell you, is still reaching far more of America that Bobby-Sue’s living-room blog.
But back to the point. We were wrong in thinking that a blogger’s audience was any different from a loved celebrity’s audience. That’s why books fly off the shelf when Oprah recommends them, even though we know Oprah’s on the take. It doesn’t matter to us. We like Oprah anyway. The same is true of bloggers on the take. Their audiences think of them as celebrities. So an endorsement has the same effect. It’s just cheaper.
So have at it, you willing product Johns, looking for a good blogger wench to bed. We need no longer fear a venereal backlash of audience outrage. And while you’re at it, I run a popular podcast and also love to accept free merchandise. Call me! 336-549-0938.
The following appeared first in the April 8, 2013 issue of Ad Age:
Some say we can’t value social marketing efforts directly. Others claim that if we can’t attribute a return on investment, we shouldn’t be doing it. But maybe we’re all missing the point. Maybe the problem is not whether social value can be measured in dollars. Perhaps the issue is we can’t measure in dollars objectives that weren’t intended to be profitable in the first place.
Most CEOs and CMOs have a clearly defined objective to make money for their organization. Yet most social marketing programs are still designed to create engagement, gain followers or generate Facebook Likes. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize that there’s a disconnect there. Getting to an ROI figure from most social efforts doesn’t take better analysis tools — it simply takes the inclusion of objectives that are centered on generating profit.
Customer loyalty, advocacy, engagement, interest and awareness are all important in the marketing funnel, but the assumption that they supersede the “baser” activity of selling is pure hubris. If customers don’t also desire “buying” relationships with us, then we have no business being in business.
We need to get to a better balance with our social marketing efforts and speak to the entirety of the customer permission set, including how they want to buy from us. Only then can we form measurable profit objectives that intersect with these permissions. Because, the object of social marketing is not simply to collect audience appreciation, but to make every customer experience shareable — including the purchase.
For example, Zappos has been heralded as a “social brand.” But that’s not entirely true. Zappos is a “customer service” brand. The majority of their “social marketing” investment actually goes into hiring the right people and creating amazing customer experiences. I still share about the time I sent an anonymous gift with Zappos. During the transaction the operator fawned over me repeatedly for making such a wonderful gesture. It was a little embarrassing, but I was gratified. Then came the surprise, because over the next two weeks this operator shipped to me gift package after gift package of cookies, socks, books and even a messenger bag in appreciation of my act of kindness. It was amazing!
Sure, Zappos still collects likes for posts about new articles of clothing or holiday well-wishes. But they have a broader mission of making the sales experience personal, meaningful and ultimately shareable.
In a nutshell, Zappos doesn’t do social to generate sales. Zappos makes selling social.
Further, the assumption that the spectrum of social media is being ruined by the “old” tactics of push selling is disingenuous. Push and pull always need to work together. We can say that Louis C.K. or Radiohead have proved that fan-led pull efforts are the new way to market. But have you noticed that nearly all of these “fan-led” successes are built on the backs of years and sometimes millions of dollars in old-school push promotions?
Going back to the Zappos example, they may use social to generate pleasant relationships, but they also buy a boatload of social ads that push product. What’s more, they are one of those vendors who use “stalking” ads that display the products you last looked at on their site. And frankly, despite the creepy factor, customers don’t mind for the most part, because the relationship they’ve built is centered on us buying stuff from them.
If we want to look for the real value of social to an organization, it’s that it shreds the veil between marketing and operations. It puts on public display every customer touchpoint within the company. So, we need to stop creating passive programs that simply use social media, and start thinking of social marketing as a discipline of doing business in a manner customers want to share. Selling must be social. Because only then are we able to measure the profitability of social marketing.
Is your content invisible?
This is a question that plagues me. Because while each episode of The BeanCast is filled with great information and fascinating debates, none of this is natively discoverable. You can certainly piece together the fact that a certain person was on the show and was involved in a specific discussion because of the show notes I post, but the things that were said and the tenor of the conversation is mostly lost to search.
This dilemma is only going to increase as video and image-based content further eclipses text as the de facto standard of communication on the Internet. Currently we rely on keywords in descriptions to generate awareness for our visual posts. But to truly optimize views we need to be much more aggressive. Here are just a few ideas:
From the moment we plan and script our visual and audio content, we need to be thinking about what makes it shareable. Making visual content discoverable in a social world is dependent on viewers/listeners sharing insights in text that is associated with your link. Always be thinking about what will motivate your audience to share, then provide the easiest possible means for them to do so.
I’ve struggled with this need. It seems like a frivolous extra cost that will hardly ever be read or used. But associating your visual and audio content with complete transcripts provides you with a wealth of search value and opens up more of the content to discoverability. It’s also another content resource that can be shared and attributed to you, so it’s worth the effort. (Talking to myself here as well.)
Creating conversation around your content, through comments on posts and discussion in social media, is a great way to introduce volumes of searchable keywords. Just make sure to balance these conversations to include places that map to all possible areas of discoverability. Facebook and Twitter are important for discussion, but Google is blind to this in-bound linking and keyword data. So make sure to include conversations in places that all the search paths can see.
Old media still matters. One of my biggest traffic spikes in listenership came from a promotional link associated with an article I had published in the print edition of Ad Age. If something is said in your visual/audio content that is relevant to a news cycle, get the word out through your public relations channels, packaged in a resource that journalists and producers can use.
So what other ideas do you have? This is an ongoing discussion in its own right. So how would you generate added search value to your own visual and audio content? The comment box is below, so have at it.