Practical Thinking About PR and Communications from Woolf Media & Marketing
About this weblog:
Marketing, communications, and public relations are changing at Internet speed. This weblog is my online sounding board to exchange ideas about what works, what doesn't, and best practices so please, let me know what you think.
I just set up a new Google+ destination page for a client this week. Now I am assisting with posting content to their blog, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and now Google+. Does this really help with brand visibility? Of course it does, assuming you can build the appropriate following in each channel. The trick is knowing what sorts of content work in the different social media channels. I find Facebook, for example, gives me a strong general following, but LinkedIn is more valuable for professional peer-to-peer contact. The jury is still out on Google+, and Twitter has some value, although I think most participants just like to hear themselves tweet.
If you are confused about where to post your social media content, it’s not rocket science. Consider the context for the message and who is watching where. This illustration although quite funny is also instructive. It’s important to be seen online, and you need to lay a trail of virtual breadcrumbs that lead back to branded content that helps you tell your story. However, if your followers are on a low-carb diet and want something other than breadcrumbs, be prepared to feed them something more appealing or lose them. That’s why the content you post to Facebook should be different from what you post to LinkedIn, or even Twitter.
TED always has something interesting to share. Here is a new presentation from Roger McNamee, a follower and investor in disruptive technology. Here are some interesting insights posted on TED earlier this month, with six big “aha” ideas he predicts will shape Internet business. McNamee’s prediction is that the future will be all about engagement, with Apple leading the charge. Here is a synopsis:
1. Windows is dying. (Okay, you can stop cheering now). McNamee’s point is that workstations and enterprise software are become dinosaurs that will be made extinct by the meteoric rise of handhelds and other devices that can access the Internet.
2. Google and Indexed Search is on its way out. The index has become full of garbage because the web is full of garbage. Now search is becoming specialized with destinations like Wikipedia, Yelp, Twitter, Tripadvisor, etc. The point is that Google’s dominance in search will be eclipsed by specialty resources that don’t serve up garbage with the index. Google commoditized content, but users are looking for more than commodities. Index search doesn’t work well on smart phones.
3. Open source, i.e. the Web, has migrated to branded, value-added content. Apps rule over freeware. Apple will ship 100 million Internet-enabled devices, and those device users will be hungry for copyrighted apps.
4. HTML 5 is coming,and it promotes engagement. With this new programming language you can construct a web page with embedded interactivity and video and audio without Flash and other clunky bolt-ons. Now you can create a differentiated and complete experience in one native language that works on various browser platforms.This is the key to total engagement, and you don’t need the commoditized providers.
5. Tablets are dominant. McNamee predicts that the Apple will sell more iPads than they sold iPods and it will become the dominant engagement platform. The iPad revolution is another reason Windows is dead.
6. Social is a sideshow. Facebook has won the social media race and the rest of the social starters have to follow Facebook to pick up the crumbs, like Zynga which has built its market on Facebook’s dominance. But McNamee sees social as a feature, not a platform. What’s coming is a new means of engagement.
So we are looking toward a world where everything is an app, and every advertisement becomes a store. You can create and satisfy demand in the same place, through immersive engagement.
McNamee may be totally wrong. I believe enterprise technology will continue to prosper as long as there is a need for closed network systems. Everyone has been talking about the cloud recently but it’s value and security has yet to be truly proven. And will handhelds really replace laptops or computers? They certainly will pick up market share, but who knows if they will become dominant anytime soon. I don’t feel qualified to talk about HTML 5, but I know that before there was Blu-ray the television industry had been talking about HDTV since I started writing about it in 1978.
It will be interesting to see how accurate McNamee’s predictions are. Share and enjoy!
With this week’s changes to Facebook, there has been a rebellion among Facebook users. Facebook fans have turned in their rock concert lighters for torches are marching upon Mark Zuckerberg’s castle. However, despite the hoopla and gnashing of teeth, I don’t think there will be a mass exodus from Facebook any time soon. Facebook fans will continue to complain to their friends about what’s wrong with the new Facebook interface, and they inevitably will use Facebook to lodge their complaints.
Do you see the logic here? Facebook is popular, extremely popular with a current populace of 750 million active users spending over 700 billion minutes per month on the service. People are not going to abandon Facebook, which is why it continues to be one of the most important online locations for your personal brand.
How do you turn traffic into repeat visitors? That’s the big question. The short answer is, “be interesting.” However, that’s not as easy as it sounds. It’s one thing to post baby pictures for your friends or the latest stupid video from YouTube. But it’s something completely different if you are a company trying to build a brand following. You need to keep the content interesting and relevant.
The problem with social media is that it’s voracious and requires a steady diet of interesting material. So how do you keep it fresh?
Here are a few ideas I spotted earlier today in a post from HubSpot on Facebook Page Ideas You Haven’t Tried Yet. I plan to try some of these for my own corporate fan page to see if going to experiment with these and see how they work. Rather than posting all 25, I want to share some of my favorites. I’d love to hear what works for you?
Don’t link to your Twitter feed. As the article notes, Twitter and Facebook are very different, and a Twitter feed will clutter your wall with junk that will cost you followers.
Use comments and “like” buttons to promote interest. Show that you are following others, and they will follow you in turn.
Ask for ideas. What should be your next topic, or product, or book, or whatever. Open the floor to outsiders to share.
Pose an open-ended question. Let followers fill in the blank or answer an open-ended question that has universal appeal.
Post teasers. Post partial entries or interesting insights from your blog or corporate news to promote traffic.\
Tag real people in your photos. It will call attention to those photographed and all their friends.
Post a mystery photo. Ask for identifiers or captions or guess a location or something about the photo – think Where’s Waldo?
Share photos from a local meet up or meeting. People like to see themselves online, and this will tie the photos to your brand.
Post pictures of interviewees and industry experts. If you are talking to industry pundits, use their photos to drive traffic to an interview or insights posted on your blog or web site.
These are just a few of the ways to keep your Facebook content fresh and drive traffic. Be sure to keep your content relevant as well as interesting, and use whatever you post to promote your brand. Your followers or audience should know what to expect from your brand experience, and that extends to their social media interaction with your brand as well.
Here’s a short post in honor of Casual Friday and Labor Day. I have been working in and around Silicon Valley for 20 years and I have watched the dress code evolve. In the world of high tech, suits are considered evil and khaki slacks have become the common dress code. I wear khaki’s and polo shirts almost daily, but I still keep the suit and tie in reserve for business meetings because I believe in dressing for the client as a means of demonstrating respect. It’s part of knowing how to dress for success.
I actually was talking to a client yesterday who makes it a point of hiring retirees and older workers, and he recently hired an energetic young woman to manage the group. She is enthusiastic, and like many of her generation, shows the marks of her tribe – hair colored a shade nature never intended, facial piercings, and a few tattoos. I asked “How is she doing?” and the response from my client was that he had a frank conversation with her about her performance, including the recommendation to “lose the hardware” as a sign of respect for those she was managing. The oldsters don’t respect the piercings. I agree.
It’s not that I am adverse to freedom of expression, or that you shouldn’t be allowed to dress as you like. However, if you want to earn respect in business, it has to start with your attire. I have worked with countless techies who show up for meetings in T-shirts, shorts, and Birkenstocks to outwardly celebrate their inner nerd. Okay, I get it, but it’s harder to accept strategic input from someone who dresses like my teenage stepson. If you want to be taken seriously, you have to dress seriously.
I want to share a graphic and video from Entrepreneur.com that I spotted earlier today. The blog post, contributed by Ross McCammon, is entitled “How to Dress as an Entrepreneur,” and offers some interesting insights into the concept of dressing for success:
Because clothes represent propriety. When you present yourself, your clothes connote either thoughtfulness or thoughtlessness. When you overdress, you have a better chance of ending up on the right side of propriety. Early on at least, your clothes are your agent. If your agent is a jackass, you still might get the gig, but why give yourself so much to overcome?
Like managing up, I also believe in the concept of “dressing up.” You have to assume the attire of the role you wish to play, even if it feels like a costume. If you want to run with the chief executives, you have to assume the trappings of their tribe in order to fit in. It makes them feel more comfortable about you and your capabilities, and makes it easier to find what you have to say worth listening to.
Are you suffering from information overload? I certainly am. The amount of noise in my life seems to be increasing exponentially. My definition of listening goes beyond just hearing the sounds around you. It also encompasses the amount of digital noise that we have to deal with on a daily basis, including SPAM, Twitter feeds, text messages, and Facebook updates.
To combat the increasing level of noise in our lives, I see a number of people working on refining their multitasking skills. Unfortunately, the human brain is not really wired to multitask, so instead of handling multiple feats simultaneously, we end up doing two or more things poorly. If you doubt it, but try to hold a phone conversation with someone checking their email at the other end of the line. Or try talking to your teenager while their thumbs are busily texting their friends. You not only don’t have their attention, but they are actually actively ignoring what you have to say.
We need to recapture the art of listening. We need to rediscover ways to cut through the noise and re-engage with those around us. Especially in the age of social media, we have all become “skimmers,” sifting through the cacophony of incoming noise and taking away the sound bites we want without applying critical thought to the context or the bigger picture. In fact, we are all starting to communicate in sound bites since we know our listeners won’t take the time to hear a longer statement. One of the prime criteria for bloggers is keep it short so you don’t lose your audience. (I recall the Jeff Goldblum character in the film “The Big Chill” stating that the editorial criteria for People magazine is “I don’t write anything longer than the average person can read during the average crap,” which seems to apply to most communications these days.)
To quote Julian Treasure from a recent TED presentation, “Conversation is being replaced by personal broadcasting.” This particularly true with social media where we are all shouting at each other for online attention, and have to ask ourselves if anyone is listening. Sure, we each can count the number of Twitter followers or LinkedIn contacts, but how many of them are paying attention to you?
As Treasure states, listening is our access to understanding. It’s time to renew our commitment to conscious listening.
In his TED presentation, Treasure offers five exercises to improve your listening skills, which I will present here for your consideration. We all need to reassess our listening skills and stop shouting at one another, so take a moment to consider these exercises:
Practice Silence – Take three minutes each day to recalibrate your consciousness. Get yourself back in tune with the world around you.
The Mixer – How many individual channels can you hear in your environment? If you are at Starbucks or waiting for a BART train, or just sitting in your backyard, sharpen your listening skills by trying to tune into to as many simultaneous sounds of “channels” as you can.
Savoring – Enjoy mundane sounds. Tune to something that generates sound in your life and pay attention to its sound and how you can deconstruct that sound to make it more meaningful.
Listening Positions – Work with the filters to get conscious about the sounds around you and work with the ways we listen. Is your listening active or passive? Reductive or expansive? Critical or empathetic?
RASA – This is the Sanskrit word for “essence” and can be applied to the acronym Receive, Appreciate, Summarize, and Ask. This is the process of listening in its most active form. If you are going to engage with your audience or as a member of someone else’s audience, then you need to listen carefully and critically, which means you need to apply RASA.
Listening is a critical component of any communications campaign. If you can’t engage with your audience in a manner that promotes critical listening, you are just adding to the noise. Let’s all think more about listening and less about trying to get our own message across.
I always find inspiration from the TED conference presentations. One of the videos they highlighted this past week was Johanna Blakley, Deputy Director of the Norman Lear Center, talking about “Social media and the end of gender.” This is an interesting presentation for a number of reasons. First, I like the way she deconstructs demographics as a way to measure response. For too long, marketing professionals have been pigeon-holing their audience, their target market, by defining them by such stereotypes as age, gender, race, and income. One size does not fit all. (Whenever I think of the broad assumptions that marketers make about me I flash on Patrick McGoohan from the old series “The Prisoner” shouting, “I am not a number, I am a free man!”)
Many of the points Blakley shares are poignant, but the thing I really like about this presentation is that is shows how social media can be truly harnessed as a tool to communicate with others of like interest. It’s not about how old you are or how much you earn, but where your passion lies that matters. Social media allows you to express that, and it allows you to connect with others (including companies) that share that passion. Social media offers a unique opportunity to talk to others who have similar interests or needs or concerns, and that is the real power of social media for marketers. It’s also the reason why you have to engage in conversation rather than shout about your wares.
I also was intrigued by Blakley’s observation that women are more active on social media and may be easier to target. That’s no surprise, frankly. I observe how my wife has taken to Facebook as a means to share insights about kids, politics, local happenings, you name it. She strikes me as the typical Facebook user, and she uses it as an online back fence over which she can gossip with her friends, share her views, and catch up with old buddies. Us guys, who speak in monosyllabic grunts, aren’t driven by the same motivators.
So what does this tell us as marketers. It tells us to micro-target. Think about unique areas of interest and not demographics. We can now target prospective clients and customers based on their areas of need and interest, which is much more relevant than anything gleaned from demographics. It’s time to engage.
With all the busyness getting ready for the holidays I realized I haven’t posted to the PRagmatist this week, so I thought I would share this little bit of Christmas cheer from YouTube. You may have already seen this – it has had over 6 million hits on YouTube (as I write this) so you probably have encountered it somewhere. Still, it is an excellent (new) testament to the change social media has brought to our lives. (And with 6 million hits, a real testament to the power of viral marketing.)
I made a presentation earlier this week on using social media to build brand awareness and drive sales for the Northern California Business Marketing Association. I don’t do a lot of these and I wasn’t sure what to expect. It could have been a room full of marketing gurus and social media skeptics, ready to challenge my every assumption. Or it could have been a room seeded with know-it-alls ready to countermand my every point.
It turned out that the turnout was small, but very friendly, and we sat around a table over breakfast to review my ideas and discuss how to apply social media in practical situations that related to their business and their clients. Still, the experience of public speaking or performance is always daunting,even to the most seasoned professionals. Which reminded me that fear is good – it helps you dig down and find your best insights and promotes peak performance.
I actually ran across two blog posts this week about fear, which I found serendipitous. Peter Shankman of HARO fame posted a blog entry about “Using Your Fear to Create Awesomeness.” As we all know, fear is a very primitive instinct that kept early man from being devoured by saber-toothed tigers or trampled by mastodons. These days our fears seem much more mundane as we have redefined our fears about survival so we ignore the venomous snakes in the zoos and instead focus on the institutional snakes threatening us with unemployment and bankruptcy. Still, fear is a motivator that can drive excellence.
Peter Shankman may be the poster boy for using fear to drive excellence. Every time I check his blog he seems to be preparing for another ironman competition or getting ready to jump out of an airplane. He understands how to harness adrenaline. He understands that while most of us seek comfort and complacency and try to avoid fear, when it’s properly harnessed, fear gives you an edge. As the saying goes, pressure makes diamonds.
Carol Tice also was blogging about fear this week. She offered some practical tips on how freelance writers can banish or take control of their fear. Some of her advice is useful to all of us. For example, she notes you need to get perspective and place whatever you are afraid of in a larger context – “that which does not kill us makes us stronger.” Lighten up, because a lot of fear comes from taking yourself too seriously. Get rid of the negative beliefs and be positive, because you can accomplish tasks that at first seem impossible if you believe.
So standing up and addressing a group about a topic shouldn’t be scary, especially if you are confident about your subject matter. It’s similar to making a pitch to a tough prospective client can be scary; if you believe in yourself and your expertise and have passion then you can easily overcome fear. Use your fear as a barometer to see if you can stretch yourself. If a task or project feels uncomfortable and you fear failure, then break it down into its basic components and understand what you really can accomplish. You’ll drive yourself to achieve so much more.
I have been talking to a number of clients about branding lately – what goes into a brand, how personal branding ties to corporate brand, how to think of social media and branding, etc. These discussions let me to one of my old standby texts on branding by Al and Laura Ries, The 22 Immutable Laws of Branding. And I began to consider how exact is the science of branding? Can you really define a brand using scientific terms?
One of the more active discussions on one of my LinkedIn marketing communications groups asks the question, “Define ‘a brand’ in a single sentence.” The responses are quite diverse (all 750 of them) and range from “a slogan” or “a promise delivered” to “the emotional relationship between a company, a product or a service and a purchaser” or a “reputation.” The fact that this question elicited so many different replies just shows that it is challenging to define a brand. However you define it, a brand is subject to specific rules.
Which is why I was fascinated to run across this presentation on TED by Dan Cobley, who offers a new perspective on the science of branding. Apparently, the laws of physics also can be applied to marketing and brand management. Cobley makes some interesting parallels:
Newton’s second law of motion – Force = Mass x Acceleration. The more massive a brand, the more force you need to change its positioning or direction.
Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle – The act of measuring a particle changes the measurement, just as the act of observing consumers changes their behavior. (Think of that the next time you set up a focus group.)
The Scientific Method – You cannot prove a hypothesis by observation, you can only disprove it. The same is true of brands; they fulfill their expected promise,until they don’t and let you down. A single brand disaster, such as the Toyota recall, is enough to destroy the brand.
Increasing Entropy – The measure of the disorder of a system will always increase. In today’s world of social media, the stronger your brand image, the more you will lose control of it to digital comment and social media as you brand becomes dispersed.
Some interesting ideas about the “science” of branding and and how physical laws can serve as marketing metaphors. The floor is now open to comments….
I just love the TED web site. They post some of the most interesting discussions by some of the most controversial thinkers of the 21st century. I recently saw this animated video of a talk by Jeremy Rifkin given before the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA) on Empathetic Civilization, and it made me start thinking about human empathy and its impact on social media. If Rifkin is right and we are soft-wired for empathy, then it explains a lot about the success of social media.
If you have read this blog in the past, you know that I have posted about the tribal nature of social media, and even about the impact of brain chemistry on our inherent need to connect with others. Rifkin calls mankind homo empathicus, because our need to empathize and connect with other creatures is soft-wired into our brains.
As Rifkin explains it, as individuals mature they develop greater empathy for their fellow creatures. Babies cry because they hear other babies crying. Children develop a sense of individuality or self around age 2, which is when their empathetic development really begins and they can start to understand how they relate as individuals to other individuals. Around age 8, children come to grips with the concept of mortality, life and death, and they start to understand that all creatures on earth are following the same mortal path, which broadens their sense of empathy even further to encompass other creatures, not just other people.
According to Rifkin, an empathetic civilization is not utopian but rather is powered by suffering and a solidarity from understanding of our own mortality. And the tribalism of this empathy civilization expands with man’s experience. Early man could only carry empathy to his immediate circle – the blood ties of those within shouting distance. As man’s world expanded, the concept of blood ties expanded as well, promoting a sense of tribal empathy because of your religion, your country, etc. With today’s technology, we can experience a sense of worldwide connectedness or the global tribe.
Which brings me to social media. Rifkin’s premise is that man’s empathetic nature is not only soft-wired, but basically benevolent. Rather than being driven by self-interest and greed, man’s inherent sense of empathy makes him want to aid his fellow creatures. This is what fuels the sense of tribalism that makes social media so successful. Social media is promoting an online empathetic civilization of sorts, where people are connecting on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and other social media looking for like-minded people to become part of a shared experience. That same soft-wired empathy also offers an explanation of why those who violate the trust of the tribe are doomed to fail. If you pervert the social media trust by aggressively selling your next webinar or your newest product, the tribe will eventually shun you because you violated the unwritten rules. How many of you have “de-friended” or “un-followed” those who do nothing more than cry”buy my stuff!”?
So it seems homo empathicus is predisposed to gravitate toward social media, since we are all looking to connect to a larger world and expand our own sense of tribal connection.