Top 5 social media marketing mistakes clients most often make (but can be avoided)

Companies are quickly ramping up to integrate social and digital media effectively into their marketing plans. Unfortunately that has been a tricky proposition given the already complex and fluid landscape of the technology behind digital media. And a recent Forrester study confirms how tough it really is; “The complexity of the interactive landscape is creating a fragmentation of interactive agencies, which in turn is creating a whole new set of challenges to marketers,” said Forrester analyst and the report’s author Sean Corcoran. “Interactive marketers should prepare their organization for even more agency partners…” http://www.mediapost.com/publications/?fa=Articles.showArticle&art_aid=118779.  

This reality makes the already steep learning curve even steeper with lots of perils for marketers. In my experience, here are the top five typical mistakes marketers make (present company included) that absolutely can be avoided.    

1) Assume that great content alone will create buzz and go viral. This is such a typical mistake and yet it is probably one of the easiest to avoid. First, no agency should promise that content alone can go viral, it happens so rarely that I bet the odds are better at winning the LOTTO. So don’t fall for the “your content will go viral” promise. You are setting yourself up for disappointment.  

2) Put all your buzz eggs in one social media basket. The expectation that people have about social media is way out of proportion to what it can deliver. No self respecting marketer would put all their media weight in just one vehicle for one day (unless maybe we are talking Super Bowl – but even then). Yet, so often I hear that an entire digital marketing plan just includes a Facebook promo. Digital and traditional media work similarly in one important way – you need a diversity of outlets to achieve critical mass in reach and frequency to break through. Diversification is the hallmark of well developed digital plan.    

3) Diving into social media without a clear monetization plan. When I talk to business colleagues who are starting social media programs, I ask them, “What are your goals for the campaign?”  The typical answer is “Oh I want buzz…” Then, when I poke at that and ask, “Well what does that do for your business”, the answers get quite fuzzy quite fast. I wonder why it seems acceptable for social media to be held to a different set of performance standards than traditional tactics. Any seasoned marketing pro understands that marketing programs need clear performance benchmarks whether it be an email campaign or a new site. Why is it that marketers do not demand similar performance objectives for their social/ digital efforts?  Don’t fall for the buzz hyperbole. Instead be clear about what you want the campaign to do.   

4) Expect immediate results. Here too social media seems to live in a parallel universe where the rules of common sense marketing principles are suspended. No one expects traditional media plans to work overnight, yet people hope, even expect, social media to magically launch a brand overnight from a cold start because it can go viral. It does not work in any marketing program and social media programs are no exception.  

5) Be sure your agency walks the walk and does not just talk the talk. Here’s a true story that just happened to me a few weeks ago. The CEO of a large IT company was telling me how his social media agency included him as their case study right there on the agency’s blog which was featured on their home page. Way cool I thought. So I decided to comment on the case study on their site. Ya’ know what – I submitted the comment on the agency blog only yo see that it was posted a full month after being submitted. It left me scratching my head. I don’t expect an agency to spend all day long managing their blog – but I do expect that if they bother to have a blog then it should be managed as a reflection of their philosophy to walk the walk and not just talk the talk.    

It’s all too easy for companies to be convinced that social media is some magical marketing mystery. It’s not. In fact, much of what applies in traditional applies in social media too. Keep that in mind the next time you are seduced by some “sick” social or digital marketing tactic; feel free to fall in love – just don’t lose your business head in the process.   

Judy Shapiro

Digital’s dirty little secret.

Digital and social marketing erupted on the scene with such a splash as to rock virtually every marketing boat on the seas. Its deeply disruptive nature was cloaked within the seductive promise of lower costs marketing programs to get the message out. The social media’s no/ low cost myth was bolstered by a wave of technology plug ‘n play platform companies offering low cost ways to create communities, syndicate distribution of content, automate social network interaction and track all this activity. Then the myth was popularized into cultist status by charismatic young CEOs, like the energetic Alexis Ohanian of Reddit who give clever presentations at places like TED about how “low cost” social media helped save the whales via a social media campaign called Mr. Splashy Pants.

The promise of a marketing holy grail seems closer than ever for marketers.

But that’s where the dirty little secret comes into play. While self serve platforms offer the promise of “self serve” – they rarely are. Almost always, the platform has to integrate with existing systems and that needs expertise. Most technology companies who offer these platforms know that. Most markers do not until they go through it themselves. Then, somewhere along the way the brand sees that the final TCO is higher than the self serve budget allows.

I must give as an example a particularly egregious platform example. There is an affiliate marketing platform that lets you build an entire affiliate site sell through their platform. They provide keyword assistance, a wysiwyg interface and hosting. The sales pitch is compelling; “the only barrier is you and if you go through the process, it will work”. And so forth. They make up acronyms that make it sound easy but isn’t. Now I looked at this platform carefully because a colleague was working with it. He told me it took him over a year to make his affiliate site work on this platform. I was curious. This guy was smart – why should a “self serve” platform take so long to get functional.

That’s when I realized in actually working with the platform that while it does have some great technology in it –  it is only useful if you are an expert with 10+ years experience – maybe. The promise of “easy, anyone can do it” are simply false. They make it so hard that, when inevitably you submit a question which I did, you receive a very nice though decidedly unhelpful response ending with pitch for services.

That’s what irks me. These platforms are being pitched as easy, low cost, no cost, self serve, plug n play, automated wonders of technology when the truth is they can not really deliver as promised. It is the rare company that can use any of these tech platforms as is. That’s the real world. And it is in many cases, there is a shameless bait and switch game being perpetrated on companies.

Is too much to ask for a little truth in advertising please? I fear in the new techno self serve world it may be.

Judy Shapiro

Want to understand the essence of Yiddish angst? The secret is revealed in seeing how business leaders inspire.

One of my favorite ex-bosses was fond of saying; “Failure is not an option” when asked about the secret of his success.  His Turkish/ British sensibilities expressed this concept as a statement of fact – unequivocal – no heroics – no bluster … It simply was the reality. It was meant to encourage people to realize that you keep trying until you achieve your goals.

Now while many of us we have heard that expression before, subtly within the phrase lays a wonderful aspirational dynamic. Since failure is not an option – the only other possible outcome is success.   Uplifting, motivational and inspiring. Well done.

Now – here’s the Yiddish version of that sentiment (fyi – I was raised in a Hasidic family speaking mainly Yiddish until I went to school). Mind you, same the net effect is intended, e.g. to encourage people to carry on no matter what, but the difference is how a “Yiddish” CEO would say it which is in a more plaintative “Never surrender” type of sentiment.  In the psyche of the Yiddish (largely traumatic) experience, this sentiment had the same duality that the “Failure is not an option” phrase has but with a key element of angst thrown in. In this mindset, you also had two outcomes. 1) “You surrender” which was understood to mean  you died – either a physical or spiritual death; or 2) “Never surrender” – you managed to lived to see another day. No great vision of glory but simply the ability to go on was success enough.

Same concept – keep going no matter what – but worlds apart in their outlook on life. One uplifts and inspires – the other is satisfied with much less grand results. And in seeing the contrast one can see the entire essence of Yiddish angst.

Me – I like to use both ideas. The “never surrender” gives me a sense of extra urgency and imperative (OK – so I do worry too much) while the “failure is not an option” phrase reminds me of the prize.

I confess though, living is both worlds can confuse at times (just ask my husband or this ex-boss :) .

Judy Shapiro

Why “Social Media for business is” [not] “CRAP!”

I write this in haste and I am pissed. So watch out –

A friend just sent me this discussion on LinkedIn entitled:” Social Media for Business is CRAP! OK, I finally said it publicly, Social Media for business is Crap!”, written by a guy who has a digital agency – PPC, SEO, Web analytics – that sort of thing.

The article goes on for great length to say how social media is overhyped and not really useful for business. My first take was this guy was ignorant and he didn’t understand social media is just a tactic – not a silver bullet. If a business used it without success the goals were probably not clear.

I gave the article a second read. With a second look, I realize I had been too generous with the guy. He was not just ignorant; he is downright dangerous because he assumes that people are just robots – they can only be persuaded to buy when they are in “buy” program. Here’s the crucial bit upon which his argument of “why social media for business is crap” hinges:

Social media is used for entertainment and communication, ahh, socializing. “Socializing” people are not in the “consumer mode” when they are cruising the social sites. They are looking for friends, maybe a date, etc…you really cannot target potential consumers when they are out at their “buying behavior mode”.

In his view, if you’re buying you buy and if you’re not – you’re not – never shall the twain meet. So since social media can not lead to a direct sale (untrue BTW) it must be, therefore, useless for business.

What nonsense.  Aside from the fact that this POV does not account for the process of creating a customer, it does nothing to create a pool of prospects who may be future customers. But then he continues with what he thinks is proof for why “social media for business is crap”:

And yes, I have read the eMarketer predictions that social ad spend will increase by about 400% by 2013. But, these same groups are also publishing reports like today’s “Does Social Media Work for Small Biz?” where 88% of all small business owners say social media is not helpful to their business. Proof that most of us are not yet seeing the tangible benefits.

Uh – that’s one way to look at the data but that’s a distorted view to make his point. It would be far more accurate to understand these statistics by recognizing that most small businesses do not see the value of social media yet – because they have not yet done it! Social media is barely 12 months old and you have to wonder why small business is not relying on it yet? Come’on – .

Not until the end does he subtly reveal his agenda to the astute reader (let’s remember his agency sells PPC services):

Sure, you can start a dialogue [with social media} and maybe down the road they will recall your business, but the effort to generate business is much more ROI effective using PPC or SEO. The one bright spot for social media as a business tool may be list building, but my own results have been mixed (via measuring quality of opt ins).

So, according to him, the only way to get tangible results is to use the type of programs that he sells services for (hmm – what a coincidence). But here’s the rich irony of it all. As he disses social media for its lack of ROI,  who here wants to bet that traffic to his site quadrupled???? My take is if he can’t convert any of that extra traffic to paid customers – he is doing it wrong – not social media which did its job perfectly.

You may be wondering why this whole episode really ignited my fury. I got so angry because there was no intelligence in his article – no insight. He simply manipulated the social media environment by picking an obviously intense topic for his own blatant agenda.  It strikes me as shameless and without integrity. If an agency person wants to generate controversy – go to town. But be simple and direct and pick a topic that you can discuss with intelligence and honesty. Digital lynching of social media is so passé.

(I feel better now).

Judy Shapiro

Congratulations CES for becoming the hottest, consumer advertising buy on the planet

CES has descended upon the psyche of the tech world so that it dominates most reports and tweets and attention.

We all wait with bated breath for the declared best new product, most innovative game, most outrageous consumer electronic gadget. We are, in effect, like kids with our noses up against the window pane of the biggest toy store in the world.

I should say that the hyper cool nature of CES is a fairly recent phenomenon. Back when I worked at AT&T, CES was an annual ritual that, frankly, rather inconveniently put a crimp on holiday festivities since many of us had to go the Las Vegas a week before to setup. There went New Year’s plans *sigh*. Sure it was fun to see what ingenious gadget was coming into the market, but make no mistake about it; CES was a serious B2C trade show where manufacturers worked hard to woo retailers into carrying their stuff. While there was some consumer coverage, mostly it was confined to the B2B press.

Then, somewhere in the last 4 years, I think driven by the gaming industry, Google, Apple and social media, it took on the glamour of the Oscars for tech set. If a product was even mentioned in a “from CES” report, that was cause for celebration (“I am so honored even to be nominated” kind of thing). CES went from being a B2B event to the event that plays itself out directly to consumers. That shift, in effect, caused CES to become the biggest consumer trade event of all time – even if every consumer is attending by proxy via social media.

But there’s more to it than that because at the current level of consumer exposure to the show, CES has transcended the trade show segment and was elevated to become a premier consumer media buy, kinda like SuperBowl. Think about with me. A media buy in SuperBowl was a strategy companies used to catapult themselves – think GoDaddy. This media buy cost a few million bucks, but if played right – you were made. I think CES has taken on that same level of media potential if you account for all the primary, secondary and tertiary coverage that live streaming and social media provide. And instead of a few thirty second spots, you get three days to strut your stuff. Make no mistake about – doing CES right is a multi-million affair. But the pay-off could be huge. In fact, it would not shock me if I learned that CES exceeded SuperBowl in the number of impressions delivered.

That’s awe inspiring. Never before has a trade show had that kind of reach and coverage. It seems cosmically fitting that new technology, e.g. social media, would elevate the very essence of CES itself.

Welcome to the year of living intelligently with technology.

Judy Shapiro

Brands becoming Publishers

I came across this white paper from R2I, a technology company serving the marketing industry that discusses how brands are evolving to become publishers.

Insightful and worth a read.  Here is an excerpt:

The Past:

Before the Internet, and even for some years after its rise as a consumer tool, the roles of retail brands and publishers were distinct and complementary. Publishers catered to, and often created, communities of interest, delivering compelling content and facilitating dialogue within the group. Brands, alternately, would seek out these communities and pay publishers to have their community-targeted advertisements delivered within this forum.

And so it remained for generations…

The paradigm shift

Today the capabilities available to each participant in this relationship have changed profoundly. Search technology in particular has changed purchasing behavior significantly. Customers now have the power to gather information and opinions from multiple sources. Communities of interest, instead of being mediated by publishers, are now self-organizing, appearing on social networks, blogs, news sites, and even retail sites. Retail brands, for their part, have clearly come to recognize this shift and have begun in earnest to deliver not just ads, but community-focused content directly into these forums.

In fact, when examining a day in the life of a brand and a publisher – they don’t seem to be that different anymore. For both, their job is to:

o Create communities of interest

o Deliver compelling content

o Facilitate community dialogue

o Monetize through advertising

Read the White Paper here.

http://trenchwars.files.wordpress.com/2010/03/r2integrated-white-paper-brands-becoming-publishers-21.pdf

Judy Shapiro

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