The Twitter Secret for business. The simple, definitive “why” of Twitter – Rant #2.

Back in July, I wrote this first rant called: The Twitter Secret – why & how to use Twitter for B2B and technology businesses. Rant #1, where I give a detailed explanation of how to use Twitter properly in business applications. By now I would have thought most people would have figured out the “why” of Twitter.

But no.

Back in July, when I wrote this post, The Pew Institute reported that for 2009, Twitter awareness was at a remarkable 80%+ but usage was relatively low at around 7 – 8%. People tied themselves in knots to explain it. Many suggested that Twitter’s relative youth accounted for its low usage numbers and that surely over time, its influence would only grow.

Guess what. A year later and the latest Pew Institute usage numbers for 2010 say Twitter is still at 8%.  This time around, it’s harder for people to explain it away in the same way. So now a new crop of answers try to explain the awareness/ usage gap.

Therefore, in the interest of efficiency, I will explain the secret of Twitter in 140 words or less (yeah I know I am cheating – so sue me).

Twitter is important to you if:

  • You need to distribute a lot of content, e.g. media people, reporters, PR/ publicity folks,  agency folks, marketers, analysts, bloggers AND online commerce site
  • You need to consume a lot of content, , e.g. media people, reporters, PR/ publicity folks,  agency folks, marketers, analysts and bloggers
  • You want to outreach to specific media/ people in your industry
  • You want to outreach to specific customers or customer groups
  • You hope to develop a better way to hear customer input
  • You hope to figure out what Twitter is REALLY good at, write a book and get rich :)

So unless you fall into one of the categories on this list, don’t worry about Twitter for right now. It’s probably not that crucial to your business. Go ahead – you can definitively cross this question off your list. Now you know.

Happy new year!

Judy Shapiro

 

Untapped potential – the Susan Boyle phenom

                                                          

I admit it – I am probably one of the only people on the planet who does not like American Idol (or Britain’s Got Talent version). It requires too much of the entertainment value to come from the inevitable humiliation that hopefuls are willing to subject themselves to.

 

But Susan Boyle gave me a reason to believe in human potential again and it was a breathtaking moment. Her triumph was the vicarious triumph of anyone who was written off just because of how they looked or because of who their parents were. 

 

It was a moment of triumph for many of us. This is where the social media shows its true power and influence. Within minutes, uTube had the footage. Within hours, there were blogs posts and interviews and Susan Boyle became an overnight digital brand.

 

Astonishing was the speed of her rise. Astonishing was the speed of her broad reach. Most astonishing still, was the desire so many people had to relive and share her amazing experience. And the new digital social media … from Twitter to Paltalk to uTube …  lets us share more broadly and more spontaneously than ever before.

 

Now that’s tapping the biggest source of potential – the human sprit.

 

Judy Shapiro

What’s cool?

      

My insightful 13 year old recently noted that being cool is not really important once you leave high school. I was surprised at the maturity of the thought and he was right. The work world values smarts and hard work and results. And for those of us who remember when there was NO internet (I can hear the gasps now), business success was what counted — not being cool. And success meant a few simple things.

 

1.       Your product/ company made sales

2.       Your product/ company made profits

3.       The product/ company is well received in the marketplace

 

But then the Internet happened. And some of the most successful businesses out there were started and nurtured by kids for whom being “cool” was still relevant. And here’s the interesting part. Many of these companies, like Facebook, YouTube and Twitter, became big because they gave us new ways to become cool and maintain our cool-dom. This gives cool a new level of influence that could, by sheer association, build a profitable business.

 

Cool has emerged as the new business requirement. Or has it?   

 

I don’t think so. Mark my words. Kinda like the tulip bust in Amsterdam in the 17th century – I believe that “cool” bubble will burst, especially in the social marketing world. What will ultimately count again, and soon, are the businesses that deliver. Not whether they are just cool.

 

Paltalk is a potent example of the new type of cool. We have spent 10 years building a really great audio and video chat software product. We have created a business model that is the envy of our rivals in that we are highly profitable. In fact, I wager that we may be the only one in this sector that is profitable.

 

But experts in the social marketing field sector believe that tech companies can be “made” almost exclusively if they can get the support of the some of newer “cool” bloggers who yield massive influence. Indeed, these veterans caution me, “They won’t talk to Paltalk, it’s not the cool new thing.”

 

It challenged me and on some level infuriated me. Why would these “cool” influencers not talk to the company who practically started the social networking segment and is making money at it? How much cooler does it get than that!  

 

So I decided to launch my un-cool campaign with these high tech influencers identified by Forbes (see below). It is striking that many of the “cool arbiters” are actually in the 35+ age demo’s. That gives me hope. They will “get” that while spotting the cool new trend is “cool”, nowadays making is as cool as it gets.

 

Catch the new cool wave. Wish me luck.

 

Judy Shapiro

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

PS – FYI … see attached list from Forbes entitled, “Web celeb 25”.   

http://www.forbes.com/2009/01/29/web-celebrities-internet-technology-webceleb09_0129_land.html

 

 

The Web Celeb 25

1Perez Hilton

2Michael Arrington

3Kevin Rose

4Frank Warren

5Cory Doctorow

6Pete Cashmore

7Beppe Grillo

8Heather Armstrong

9Guy Kawasaki

10Jason Calacanis

11Robert Scoble

12Will Leitch

13Jeff Jarvis

14Wil Wheaton

15Nate Silver

16Om Malik

17Matt Drudge

18Owen Thomas

19Dave Winer

20Seth Godin

21Brian Lam

22Mark Frauenfelder

23Steve Rubel

24John C. Dvorak

25Leo Laporte

Can you teach a new dog old tricks?

 

The buzz around all the new digital marketing tactics can be so confusing – Web 2.0, social marketing, D-PR, blogs, viral marketing, widgets, WOM and on and on and on. I sometimes get the feeling that all the Web 2.0 companies and agencies want to keep this all very mysterious so we all have to go to the “experts”.

 

Well –  think again.

 

Believe it or not – despite all the buzz – the principles that drive the good marketing have not changed and it is really quite simple.

 

1) Know what your target wants and satisfy the need.

 2) Know what your competition is doing and why you can satisfy your customer’s need better than the other guy.

3) Get the word out within a structured and disciplined plan approach.

 

This simple outline does not minimize the complexity there can be in understanding and executing – but the deliverables need to be crisply reduced to these basics.

 

And when it comes to #3 – don’t let any “new media” agency tell you that it is impossible to do a digital marketing media plan. That’s just plain rubbish. The ability to create a “digital media plan” like any traditional marketing plan absolutely is possible. Digital marketing campaigns are centered around planning content campaigns where strategic themes are developed and seeded across the digital media landscape. These content campaigns can be done within a specified timeframe (e.g. 90 days) and can be measured to see how they drove search volumes.

 

So indeed you can teach a new “media” dog old tricks – it is called marketing and media planning.

 

And if your agency does not get it – find yourself a “new” new dog.

Judy Shapiro    

The downside of doing the corporate “Let’s throw it up against the blogging wall to see what sticks” approach to digital marketing

 

I come from a simpler marketing time.

 

As David Meerman Scott explained in his recent book, The New Rules of Marketing & PR, I was one of those cool agency folks who, “…sit in hip offices dreaming up ways to interrupt people so that they pay attention to a one-way message”.

 

I worked at a large ad agency (NWAyer) on accounts like DeBeers – diamonds is forever, AT&T – Reach out and touch someone and I even got to bring back Punchy of Hawaiian Punch fame when P&G bought the brand in the 1980s.

 

They were simpler days because marketing was able to be planned. You wanted “awareness” there were relatively few ways to do it and it costs money. Lots of it.

 

And so we cool agency folks became insulated and complacent. I remember when “Prodigy” did a major presentation at the agency and people bet on how fast it would fail (if you know what Prodigy is – please raise your hand and email me. If you don’t – never mind). My agency colleagues were only half right. Prodigy did fail – but the concept of connectivity lived on to what we now know and love as the Internet.

 

Now however, a corporate marketing exec type has to integrate traditional media with all these emerging concepts and make sense of it. Worse, any program he does now involves legions of people NOT from marketing. A corp marketing exec needs people from development and database management and web deployment teams and on and on. Gone are the “one department decision/ deployment” days.  

 

And if that wasn’t enough – agencies that know digital marketing tend to be run by twenty something’s who are just bigger kids just with bigger toys. They never had to stand in front of the CEO or CFO and explain why you needed another $50,000 to talk to people who aren’t even reporters!

 

Well it’s enough to make any corp marketing exec cry. I know because enough of my friends are in those roles and they come crying to me.

 

But there’s hope.

 

The trick now is for companies to find ways to plan these programs within predictable parameters just like a good old fashioned media plans because corporate budget are not known to be nimble. “But wait”, I hear you say, “viral IS UNPREDICTABLE”. The paradox of social marketing is that it often catches you unprepared and by the time you get your budget act together, well, your moment is gone.

 

The way to manage that within a corporate environment is to create a platform that organizes content distribution (which is the heart and soul of digital marketing) across media within a “campaign” model. Rather than throwing lots of social marketing toys onto the scene to see what sticks, plan campaigns around content distribution and key phrases that coordinate across functions – SEM, PR, article syndication and so forth within a specific timeframe that can be planned. This approach won’t cover all unexpected activities, but it beats trying to get any CFO to warm up to the idea of spending $50K so you can have a presence on Facebook.

 

Trust me – it ain’t pretty.

 

Judy Shapiro  

PR or D-PR – how to get the most from your PR agency

  

 

I can’t stand it anymore.

 

If I hear one more friend or colleague complain about their PR agency, I will scream. Within the past week alone I heard 4 complaints about PR agencies. “They don’t get it”. “I am disappointed with the results”. The drone is the same. The question is why does it seem that level of complaints has reached a loud pitch?

 

The answer is because we have not updated our understanding of how to use PR in the increasingly digitally focused marketing world. Well it’s best to start right now.

 

We all know that there is “new media” (a.k.a. digital media) and traditional media (such as TV). Well PR has the same distinction that looks like this.

 

Traditional PR = media outreach. Period. That means your PR agency gets reporters to pick up a news item about your company. If that’s what you want – then many PR agencies are just fine. But for many eCommerce centric businesses, an occasional media pickup does not seem to have the value it used to. It does not build an audience reliably or consistently. And it does not seem to create the “buzz” many companies are looking for.

 

So what happened? A great pickup in the New York Times used to give a business more lift in the past than nowadays. But don’t blame the PR agency.  

 

Part of the reason for the decline of the power of traditional PR is the decline of the power of the media as sole purveyors of our news. Now news can be procured through complex and open channels. Private individuals can capture a video segment on their cell phone that becomes front page news. A person networking on a community site reports on her experience with the government and an investigation is launched. But many PR pro’s continued to cultivate the traditional media outlets even as their influence declines. .

 

That’s how D- PR (digital PR) is different. D-PR is about the ability to create and manage a public conversation through a myriad of digital tools that drive public opinion.  This approach allows for a continuous presence that sustains a business rather than a one time article that drives short term results. That type of planning and execution takes digital PR savvy in knowing the new tools needed to target new audiences that traditional PR agencies don’t normally address.

 

And D-PR turns traditional PR planning on its head. Rather than hiring a PR agency to pitch a story and hope users will follow, D-PR takes an alternate approach. It uses digital technology to seed usage among key user groups and gets them talking about it. Once these champions user groups have been established (they need not be big numbers – just passionate about you), then do the “traditional PR” outreach. D-PR is the “new PR” – true public relations in its broadest and most inclusive sense.

 

So please stop beating up your PR agency. Start understanding what you are paying for.

 

Judy Shapiro

“Viral marketing in a box” for free — for real.

Your site is new and there you are. All dressed up and no one is buying. You know that to make this work, you need to get traffic but more important you need to convert traffic into a sale. And you know that viral marketing is a powerful “lubricant” that facilitates this process.

But you know you can’t afford to spend as much as you would like and more to the point you are not sure what to do in the first place.

To the rescue is a new initiative from Comodo, a large Certification Authority,  that delivers something no one else is – a “viral marketing program in a box” –for free – no cost. This initiative is called UserTrust and it creates a viral marketing platform where people can submit ratings for you. This is one of the most effective ways to build credibility and trustworthiness among prospects.  This is viral marketing at its best.

The cost to you is nothing because that’s how we will help build more great eBusinesses that we can deliver great products and services to. It is how the Internet will grow and our success with it.

So ignite your own viral marketing campaign today. Join UserTrust and let the power of people’s opinion drive your business.

Judy Shapiro

The making of marketing miracles

“What is a marketing miracle?” you ask. In my world view, a marketing miracle is when a small entrepreneurial company can “out brand” the largest established companies in their space – without breaking the bank in marketing and advertising costs. Or a miracle can be the launch of a company that was considered as dull as watching paint dry become a poster child for the prosperity of the dot com boom. Some miracles have a David versus Goliath feel to them, others are miracles of timing. It’s useful for marketers to recognize marketing miracles because if you are lucky enough to be in on the ride, it is always exciting and rewarding on many levels in one’s life.  

Does it happen a lot. No, which kinda of explains why it is called a miracle. But they do happen and I know because I have been lucky enough in my career to have seen two, spread over a dozen years.  

Why I got so lucky to have a ring side seat not one miracle but two – who knows. But I know a miracle when I see them and I am always in awe. It restores my faith in the possibilities of what marketing can really do for a company. It is restorative and inspiring which is why I want to share it with you.

 Miracle #1

My first miracle was when the Lucent brand was launched. (As a side note – Lucent rise and fall of Lucent was in my opinion a case when marketing was actually better than the products the company had to sell. It was only a matter of time before the product realities overwhelmed our ability to create a compelling brand message. But that’s another story L )

Anyway, I was an AT&T employee at the time, and I was drafted (literally) to go to the equipment side of the company, yet unnamed. I was not happy. I wanted to stay with AT&T but an ex-boss of mine convinced me it could be fun. “I’ve never actually launched a brand” I said. He said, “we’ll learn”. We did and fast. I became part of a small core team who had the full responsibility to launch the Lucent brand. My role was corporate brand management and I had to deal with all sorts of rebranding requirements – from buildings to stationary and everything in between. I was responsible for product naming and worse I had to enforce a set of corporate marketing communications guidelines across 11 very very independent business units who all had their own idea of how to market their brands which often did not adhere to the greater Lucent branding good.

And yet, after just 12 months, the brand was awarded a best-in-class brand by the American Marketing Association. We continued to win that award two more years. Stock had gone up a lot. After 18 months, we won the APQC Branding award (American Productivity and Quality Council). Harvard did a case study. In other words, we made boring telecom equipment sexy – to employees, to customers, to partners and most importantly to investors – big and little ones. In fact, we overtly targeting individuals to invest in Lucent as individual investors tend to “buy and hold”. After two years, a stock that had started at about $5 had risen so much it had split.

So what was the miracle? The miracle was that we were able to market Lucent to reflect the optimism the emergence of the Internet was having on the collective psyche. The miracle was one of being able to capture the core essence of society’s imagination just at that moment in time.

Miracle #2

I admit it. I was a non believer. I was almost (gasp) blasphemous. The CEO of Comodo in June or July of 2006 set what seemed to me to a highly optimistic goal regarding the number of installations of our consumer firewall solution.  I was not sure the number was even possible. We were after all starting from a cold start. The first 6 months or so were slow. We celebrated when we hit the 1,000 mark with great glee. But then, we got our viral marketing engine into gear. Forums were set up, web pages were SEO’d and so forth.

In about 15 months since launch we had reached download rates that I thought were unattainable. After 20 months, I realized how right the CEO was. In just under 24 months, we have just launched the first of a line of identity management solutions for end users starting with a new No Worry Warranty. No one else in PC security comes close. The sales goals have been set. They are optimistic. But this time I do believe. We will achieve it – sooner rather than later.

Which leads me to miracle #2.

The power of this strategy has resulted in Comodo being more searched on the Internet than the $3B company VeriSign. All on the fuel of emarketing. It’s not free – but it doesn’t cost $80/ barrel either.

Do you believe in miracles?

Judy Shapiro

The Three “M”s of Marketing

 

It seems that marketing has been defined is such ridiculous and out-of-date terms lately that I thought a mini guide to what marketing is and is not was in order. (This little tirade was prompted by a marketing graduate student I recently encountered who seemed to have no clue what marketing actually was.)

Let’s start with that classic marketing definition  … the Four Ps – product, place, promotion and price. This well worn definition worked well in the dominant days when a product manager (PM) at a large packaged goods company had total responsibility for a product  – from development to marketing. The PM at Gillette or P&G had total life cycle management for that razor or fruit juice and the four Ps worked well in that model.

Today though that model is wholly inadequate for many businesses particularly technology companies. Product development in technology is not about buying pineapple juice concentrate or manufacturing packaging. The products are often complex technology platforms requiring a level of expertise beyond a typical product manager. 

Or let’s take marketing in an online world. A marketing plan for an online business would look nothing like a marketing plan for a traditional packaged goods product. It would include sections outlining viral marketing and SEO plans and it would spend a lot of time analyzing site statistics.

So you see why it does not work. Let me, therefore, put forward a definition of marketing that is broad enough and relevant enough to apply to virtually any business model out there.

I call it the three Ms of Marketing.

It breaks down into the following –

M #1 = Magic

M #2 = Muscle

M #3 = Method

#1 – Magic

Marketing requires a sense intuition, imagination, insight and ability to see the world through your prospects eyes. Traditionally, marketing spent a lot of time researching these questions but in the fast paced almost real time business environment of today, by the time the research is done – the market has moved.

 

It is sometimes hard for people not very intuitive to be willing to let go of research to guide their decisions. These people either are not intuitive or don’t have faith in their intuition. Either way, they need research and facts to shape their ideas. This to me seems too inefficient. If you start from a reasonably well grounded theory based your intuition, there are free and quick validation tools out there (e.g. free survey tool  http://www.surveymonkey.com/to give you some feedback.

In the end, M #1 is the sizzle behind the product or brand. It is what people react to when deciding if they will purchase your product.

#2 – Muscle

This is the personal leadership skills to get people to believe in you and how you imagine a product’s positioning, plans and tactics. This is where M #1 is first tested. Can you convince your peer group that your intuition and insight are right.  

This is not as easy to accomplish as one might think. First, this M needs time, 6 months maybe more. And you gain their trust by being true to yourself. Not always easy in some environments. But if you are consistent and proven over time to be right – then they will follow where you lead.

Patience and persistent.

#3 – Method

This is the executional nuts and bolts of marketing, a.k.a. marketing operations. In today’s complex marketing that has a lot of technological tactics and programs built in, marketing operations is the engine for the marketing organization’s success.

No ideas – no matter how brilliant – is not worth much if it never sees the light of day. The marketing operations of marketing is not what one typically thinks of as a marketing requirement – but it is nevertheless one of the pillars of marketing.

So that dear friends is what I believe the new marketing model looks like. A good marketing leader understands this model and populates a marketing department with people who collectively have the three Ms covered.

Forget the four Ps – this new model is how to win in the marketing wars.      

 

Judy Shapiro

“But it’s not fair!”

As children, we cling to the notion that life is fair. It is how we, as children, can make sense of a world. After all, if there are 3 candies and 3 kids – fairness helps kids know what they can expect.

This notion of fairness unfortunately is not how life often works. Long ago I abandoned my childish attachment to fairness and replaced it with a more mature devotion to balance.

While superficially “balance” just seems to be another word for “fairness” – they are really quite different.

Fairness is used to manage expectations, like 3 candies – 3 kids. Everyone knows who gets what. But it is also a passive, static activity. The principles of fairness drive the action and the participants are subjugated to the rules of fairness.

Balance, on the other hand is a created thing. The participants are the ones who create the energy of equilibrium creating the balanced state. And balance is always shifting – never static.

This week I was reminded of this lesson and how it pertains to emarketing. Stuff happens in the big city. Sometimes in marketing great stuff happens – you get a great review from an important publication. But sometimes – you get a bad review because the editor did not understand your solution. How unfair you rage.  On first instinct you want to call the editor and appeal to his sense of fairness.  You want to scream into virtual cyberspace … “But it’s not fair…”

I had the chance to relearn this lesson when we recently got an unfair review by a reporter for a desktop security solution. Sophisticated technology can take a bit of time to fully understand and it would be easy to overlook a feature. And that’s what happened here. The editor just got his facts wrong. And based on wrong facts this editor posted a blog entry on his popular technology blog declaring our product unreliable. Not good for a security product.

Not good at all and I immediately launched into my instinctive crisis management action plan. Get to the editor, show him the error of his ways and then I imagined, he would change his posts to be “fair” to our solution.  

But I was able to observe that crisis management in the online world isn’t about fairness. I learned this week that crisis management in the online world is about balance. It is about owning the trajectory of the balance that is to be created. The party that drives pace of the equilibrium is the one that wins the emarketing war.

That translates into closely monitoring how the incorrect blog cascades through the blog-o-sphere and responding to the incorrect assumptions. That translates into being very vocal and very candid about your concerns in public. That translates into being sure that your point of view is visibly out there.

It’s not a perfect science. How far do you push? But the fundamentals are straightforward. Quickly get your perspective out in as many places and ways as you can. Control the conversation so you can create the balanced state.

Fairness won’t win an emarketing battle – balance will.

Judy Shapiro

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