Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Where is that internet at?

The number of people who actually understand the impact of social media on their lives and business is not nearly as many as the buzz we generate suggests.

Yes, there is growth in the use of social media/new media but many of the companies adopting it are doing it for the wrong reasons. Here are a few common statements that definitely provide opportunity to assist with the social media learning curve, before it follows the same fate of the misused, hated and ignored online banner ad.

Statement #1: When do consumers have time for this social media stuff?
I heard this in a presentation I gave to an MBA class about two weeks ago. Since then, I've noticed the comment on blog posts, client conversations and podcasts. My response here would be - when did we find time to read the paper or increase our time watching television from a 30 minute show to an hour show? When did people decide they could afford the time to setup a Facebook profile, Flickr account, or learn to text message? We are often a terrible reflection of the mass opinion. It is amazing how much time people will actually create when they have the desire to do something. The same could be said for money. It is amazing how much money people will actually create when they have the desire to consume.

Statement #2: Where is Twitter?
I'm not a Twitter power user. I tend to try and keep who I listen to and talk to in manageable. I use Tweetdeck to keep tabs on the conversations of some of my clients and some prospective clients. This question, or some of its variants like "How do I Twitter"and "Let's make this one viral" always come up. This presents a great opportunity to preach about the virtues of social media. But don't. Instead show one simple example of the benefit/power of these tools. This will focus the attention on the strategy rather than the technology. You'll avoid the "why did we Tweet" or "remind me why we're on Facebook again" conversation down the road when the technology changes. For example, I was tracking online mentions of a client the other day. I found a comment where a guy was asking if he should upgrade his current product (made by my client) or change to the competitors. There was no response at the time. I took a screen shot and sent it to my client to connect the dots between the buzz behind social media and the opportunity in its most basic form. This is also a great way to find new clients...but that's another post.

Statement #3: I want some of that social media interactive viral community stuff.
This is a request that comes in 99% of the time to all agencies. I have talked to clients, to friends and other agencies and this is usually the first client to agency initiation of a new media discussion.

Let me set up the situation. This company is x years old and knows how to market its product, after all they've been doing it for years. They come to you with the request to send our latest ad out through [insert social network] to join the conversation.

The intent here is right. This person is interested to see what can be done to reach consumers where they spend their time. The red flag here is that the expectation is probably off from what is possible. They are used to the way things have always been done. There job has been to get eyeballs to see their product ads. When someone sees a great viral video they want to do the same. They want to have 2 million eyeballs watch their stuff because they see a cost benefit over the cost to do the same in TV. They also think it would be cool - which it is. However, there are two ways things tend to go viral:
  1. When a company has been in that space for so long that they have permission from their audience to authentically go viral
  2. When a consumer attributes meaning to something a company does and sends it out (whether that company supports the meaning or not)
We need to manage the expectation by making this clear. It's all about engaging the people who will buy your stuff. It's way less about cool and even less about forcing something out there.

Think Public Relations. Getting a PR team to send out a press release has far less use and impact than getting a PR team to manage your brand/company/employee story. We waste our resources getting people to do little projects for us, no matter what the marketing purpose. Think holistic story telling.

Statement #4 I agree. We should reach out to consumers. Could you give me a price on how much it would cost for you to do this on our behalf?
This is usually a follow up to Statement #3. If this is mentioned to you it means you've failed to help this person in anyway. But all is not lost. It might also mean that you have one more opportunity.

This question usually comes from a company that:
  • Still considers it's customer base a cost. Hence their eagerness to unload the customer relationship onto an agency - they have too many other things to do.
  • Is thinking 'campaign' versus 'sustainable revenue'.
  • Does not understand what your talking about.
In all cases they are a company that has not made a real commitment to engage in the strategy. The only steps one can take here are to drip, drip, drip the strategy into different levels of that company. Hammering the idea into their head at this point is useless. Actually moving forward with the campaign is probably not a great idea either. It would make the company happy and put some cash in the bank, but in the long run it makes both client and agency look bad.

I'm sure there are more statements worth sharing, but I'd like to hear yours...