Archive for November, 2009

The Awareness Scale: How Social Media, PR & Advertising Now Work Together

Awareness Scale

Since we’ve been pitted against all sorts of different marketing agencies lately — from PR firms to interactive shops to megalithic advertising agencies — I’ve been thinking about the interplay of these disciplines.

How can we help the average corporate marketer distinguish between these puzzle pieces, since Social Media has created such a mash-up of our thinking?

Thus the Awareness Scale. It’s a simple way of thinking about how Social Media, Public Relations and Advertising fit together in an ideal way.

Smart brands are coming to understand that Social Media is an ongoing behavior change that pays homage to grassroots communications: it’s a splendid scary mix of monitoring, communications, customer support and evangelism.  Newly-minted consumer evangelists can provide a bulwark against criticism and better yet, can gin up a wave of goodwill for new products and services.

And what better foundation for a rock-star Public Relations program?  The public approbation found via Social Media engagement softens the beach head for a mainstream media outreach program.  Approving articles in the mainstream are picked up and shared by a brand’s fans, effectively “giving proof” to their belief in the company.

That’s where Advertising comes in: advertising can play defense.  Don’t take that the wrong way.  Ask any sports fan — “Defense” makes or breaks a team’s performance.  As a form of earned (i.e., paid-for) media, Advertising is great for capturing attention that reinforces the consumers’ perception of the brand.  This makes it 10X harder for start-ups to capture mindshare.

This is the Awareness Scale.  It’s a mountain all great brands are learning to climb.

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The Future of Movie Marketing

FrontrowiconMy family recently spent a rainy Saturday morning watching upcoming movie trailers via the “Front Row” app that came bundled with our Mac.

I wryly noted that they would likely only see 10% of the actual movies — which led me to wonder if Social Media could be better leveraged to make the maxim, “Hollywood’s business is America’s business” even more of a truism.

After all, when it comes to marketing, Social Media’s power is derived from the ability for consumers and brands to directly interact.

Yet when it comes to movies, it’s a more significant challenge: you’ve heard pundits (like me) say over and over again that doing Social Media “right” means thinking in terms of relationships not campaigns.

But movies are by their nature short-term and event-based — so campaign-thinking is 100% appropriate.  And unless you’re a one-in-a-million, really focused brand like Pixar, you can’t expect a movie studio to do a good job on the relationship-side: there’s no built-in loyalty to the studios themselves, and, anyway, each of the studios’ cinematic products target wholly different audience segments.

So far, the most ambitious marketing efforts — e.g., for 2012, the current box-office champ — add iPhone apps (“do you have the right survival skills?”), Twitter profile wallpaper, and fake websites to the usual crop of intriguing billboards and teaser trailers.

Given the movie’s reigning-champ status, you can’t argue that 2012’s campaign was not successful.  Yet as Chris Thilk of Movie Marketing Madness pointed out in his examination of the campaign: “Despite the impressive reach of the marketing – all those posters, all those websites, all those TV commercials – the campaign winds up feeling like the same sort of superficial spectacle the movie will likely be. It’s all glam…”

So how do you build a relationship built on the one-time event of a movie?

My best answer is that that relationship must start far earlier, and, I wonder if the studios should take more risks on user empowerment…

John-carter-kayananFor example, I grew up reading the pulp fiction tales of Edgar Rice Burroughs.  (Yea, Tarzan. I cop to it.)  I was also an ardent 10–year old fan of Burroughs’s second-most popular character, John Carter of Mars. Back in 2005, Jon Favreau was slated to direct a film version of my childhood fantasy, and I spent too many hours on IMDB chat boards (fruitlessly, blithely), wrangling with fellow geeks re: issues such as casting, tone, etc.

Granted, I am one of the Ain’t It Cool News variety of geek whom the studios have essentially nailed down…

But, imagine a scenario in which consumers get very early word of a tentpole release, and can use Social Media outlets like Facebook to vote not just on minor issues like “Who’s your favorite character?” (as the marketers of Alice in Wonderland recently handled quite well), but also fundamental questions like, “Who should play the protagonist?”

Imagine a no-holds-barred global casting call in which a pre-determined selection of — say, 5 actors — was subjected to a reality-tv style vote that took place across several weeks, for a major studio release.  Each actor’s Facebook Fan Page could include their screen test, their bio, oodles of shareable content, etc., as well as the to-and-fro message boards where the actors could interact with their fans and guide them to ever-more-interesting acts of promotion on their behalf.

You could create a Facebook Connect app that automagically places the famous actor within your own FB photos — which you could re-post in your newstream, for all your friends to see, comment on, and gain their own participation.

The actors could give anyone who tweets 50X about their vote in the contest a personalized photo, or access to a special Twitter avatar, or raffle off a trip to see them on-set.

And of course when the final casting decision is made, it’s kept secret until the teaser trailer is released — and it’s released first off to that actor’s biggest fans, who would likely spread it like wildfire.

What I am talking about here, with this one (quickly-brainstormed) concept, is personalizing the moviemaking process from its earliest possible origins.

Movie_ticketsKeep in mind that there are many potential reasons to see a movie. Maybe you’re a fan of the director.  Or of the actors.  Or of the movie genre.  Or of the original book on which a movie is based.  Broken down like that, you can quickly envision ways to engage each of these psychographic groups in such a way that they invest themselves — for differing reasons — in the movie’s development … which guarantees that these newly-minted ambassadors spend time promoting it when the premiere finally rolls around.

In other words, they’ll truly make Hollywood’s business their personal business.

But I am no expert on movie marketing.  What thoughts do you have?

The Future of Marketing

IStock_000006451839XSmallI hesitate to say that the Social Network Race is over – look at AOL, MySpace and Friendster, all of which used to dominate – but let’s face it, all of these former giants now pale compared to Facebook and Google (and Twitter, if we’re also measuring based on buzz).

Unlike those early players, today’s winners are holding a much more winning hand.  Google and Facebook are shooting arrows in the backs of those original pioneers.

The reason Facebook and Google will be the long-term winners: it’s not just the fact that they have critical mass, but that that critical mass comes at a time when Social Networks are not just destinations (a la the old AOL and MySpace), but are becoming integral to the holistic Web Experience.

There will be room for niche social networks, too, of course, like Ning and LinkedIn.  For as much value as people see in the bang-for-the-buck they receive by joining the biggest social networks, they also don’t like to feel like a member of the faceless hordes.  Joining a virtual knitting circle on Ning provides intimacy and smaller-bore friendships.

And your activities on a site like Ning will help refine the experiences you get elsewhere, i.e., the ads or causes or friend suggestions you see on Facebook will skew towards promoting the known behaviors of the “knitter” psychographic profile.

And so, now that we know the presumptive winners of the Social Networking Era, we can move forward into the not-so-distant future, to envision how we’ll handle The New Marketing…

When we surf and when we search, beyond the Social Network sites, we’re going to be taking our Friends with us; we’re taking our known online activities with us.  Sites and search engines will re-orient themselves dynamically to match our identities.  The entire Web experience will re-architect itself on-the-fly based on where we’ve been, what device we’re using, what we’ve looked at or purchased in the past, who we are friends with, what offers and content our contacts have been sharing and purchasing, etc.

In the future, the Web you know will be based on the Web that knows you.

IStock_000003551768XSmallThis is validated, quite easily, by the efforts of Google and Facebook, with their competing “Connect” products, which also vie with the OpenID standard.  The Masters of the Web are desperate to lodge themselves in our extended online activities.

We can also feel pretty confident that this will all happen because Social Media has simply become an unstoppable force.  When “checking Social Networking sites” trumps “checking email” (Nielsen: Global Online Media Landscape report, April 2009) you know the marketers are on the hunt.  According to MarketingSherpa in a 2009 report, Social Media Marketing topped the list of marketing execs’ future spending plans.

The social networks are just going to “follow that money.”  Who could blame them?

That might not be such a bad thing, as “following the money,” in this case, could well result in a more custom-tailored online experience that leverages the experiences of friends and connections in a mutually beneficial way.

What will this future of marketing mean for marketers?  How will it change our approach?

First off, I suspect a lot of the Long Tail stuff, e.g., making special offers based on known behaviors and connections, will be automated: it’s too hard to scale otherwise, and besides this is not so far removed from Search Engine Marketing techniques, from a tools & mindset perspective.

However, that doesn’t mean that we’ll devolve back to the Influencers-Are-Paramount mindset that led to the PR spam that plagued our industry (and those poor Influencers) for the past 50 years, either.  We’ll become more sophisticated: we’ll be able to identify micro-influencers and influencers-of-influencers.

Want examples?  You always want examples.

iStock_000010972770XSmallBefore delving into examples of human-based outreach, let’s look at how Social Media might be used by marketers to automate the way they interact with consumers online, in a way that syncs with the growing desire for an opt-in (low-scandal) experience.

I foresee a day when consumers will be able to turn on/off disclosure preferences from within their social profiles (or even their browsers), to actively change their daily surfing, e.g., sometimes a consumer will want her entire web experience to re-orient itself around the fact that she is an avid yoga enthusiast: so she’ll activate that detailed keyword on a day when she’s in the market for a new yoga mat or a new yoga partner.

Her travels across the social web on that day will reveal advertisements for Nike’s YoGirl Yoga Mat and the Boston Sports Club — and the advertisements may offer special discounts if this consumer is known to have over 300 friends within her metro.  Based on how the “yoga enthusiast” keyphrase has re-oriented her psychographic profile for the day (“she’s healthy, but not hardcore; mindful; probably charitable and green-minded”), she’ll also be invited to participate in a 5K walkathon for a local eco-charity.  Her next visit to Yelp will emphasize healthy eating establishments.  Once she’s purchased those new sneakers, found a new yoga partner, etc., the consumer will switch off her “Yoga Girl” identity and resume her websurfing in a more generic way…

That’s a pretty awesome vision in and of itself.  But marketers crave personal interaction; they want active brand ambassadors; they need differentiation and buzz.

So, looking at the future of marketing outreach in a social age:  Let’s say you sell baking supplies.  In ye oldeniStock_000007587266XSmall days, you’d look to place articles in Modern Baking to reach wholesale prospects and Martha Stewart Living to reach consumers.  More recently, perhaps you’d add mombloggers to the mix.  Maybe you’d also reach out to one of the baker’s dozen’s worth of active Baking-related groups on Facebook.

But in the near future, you’ll add @ChillieFalls (Jason‘s dad) to your list of outreach targets.  Why?  Because Mr. Falls is a maker of funnel cakes, and he’s active on Twitter.  Given that Twitter dominates Google and Bing’s incipient real-time search results, if you’re selling baking supplies you’ll want to court Mr. Falls.  His tweets about your product could easily show-up prominently in those real-time results.

Imagine that: the efforts you expended courting a managing editor at Martha Stewart Living are now spent getting to a funnel cake maker in Virginia.

And when you want to reach the notice of Chris Brogan, maybe you’ll use a service like BackType to note the 8 people whose comments Chris wants to keep tabs on, and you’ll try to influence them by initiating a dialogue that they find helpful.  Maybe your examination of their public interactions suggests that they have a favorite charity or a quirky interest in exotic cartoon art: knowing this you can figure out a way to satisfy their engagement preferences, and generate content and dialogue worth spreading via their blogs, tweets — or private conversations with Mr. Brogan.  Congratulations! — you’ve influenced the influencer of an Influencer.

And that’s how tomorrow’s game is going to be played.

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Curating the Signal:Noise Ratio in the Social Graph

IStock_000009428077XSmallCharlene Li of the Altimeter Group is widely quoted as suggesting that, eventually, “Social Media will become like air,” i.e., it will be built-in to every aspect of our online lives.

I don’t doubt this is true.  Increasingly we will rely on the wisdom-of-crowds approach to decide on activities (“worth it to go to this movie?”), and purchases of all sizes and types (“experiences with this car model? with this restaurant? with this real estate agent? this plumber?”), etc.

There are different gradations of support we will want from these crowds.  For example, most folks will be perfectly happy relying on the advice of strangers on Yelp or Yahoo Movies to decide on how-to spend an evening.

But what about more personal and important choices?

What if you only want the advice of your “real” (or at least local) friends, on, say, the latest chapter of a book you’re writing, or if you should attend a reunion, or if you should move to a new town, or switch to a new brand of aftershave?

These types of decisions are either too personal to spread far & wide, or, too trivial to bother your extended Social Graph.  But in both cases you might want to reach a broader group — and in a more social way — than you might reach via an email chain and/or to just get a quick consensus on a trivial matter.

In such cases, there will be a challenge to having a Social Graph that’s far larger than you can comfortably manage.

For example, I have hundreds of “friends” on Facebook and I probably know 1/4th of them in real life.  I am pretty indiscriminate in saying “Yes” to new Friend Requests.  Ya never know when an unknown “friend” might become a business prospect! — And, no, I don’t bother breaking up the mass of friends into Groups.  Same thing goes for Twitter.  I don’t use TweetDeck or Twhirl so I can’t filter “real” friends from random followers.

I don’t know many folks who do undertake such curation.  Who has time?

Yet as Social Media becomes more and more “like air,” I am pretty sure that the challenges I’ve laid out above will come to haunt me.  Why should I bother my old pals from New Milford High School, Class of ‘87, with my shared blog posts about PR & Social Media?  Why should I ask them if they know of a good restaurant in London?  And likewise, why would I care about the “likes” or “shares” or “causes” of my hundreds of unknown Facebook “friends?”

I applaud the discovery process that sometimes unearths gems from the dross of Social Media.  But, there’s a lot of dross.  A lot of spam.  A lot of irrelevant nonsense online.

Remember when the Web was new?  Remember clicking on every shiny ad banner, just to see where it led?  That got old pretty fast.  It’s probably much the same with our acceptance rates of new “friends.”  It will get old.  It will feel overwhelming.

As Social Media becomes an ever-greater part of our lives, we’re going to want to do a better job of curating our online relationships to maximize the value we give and receive.

4 Ways to Build Relationships with Web Content

shannonpaulThis is a guest post by Shannon Paul (find her on Twitter, too).  A prolific online personality, in her “day job” Shannon is the communications manager for PEAK6 Online.

On the PR/marketing side of the equation we know good products go unnoticed without proper promotion, but we’re often reluctant to make the same admission about content.

If it makes you feel better, I’m not going to blame this problem on the proliferation of new channels of communication brought on by social media, etc. But, please know that great content does not market itself.

Rather than going on about social media and my signal-to-noise ratio, I’m going to show you how many good things went unnoticed with a short list of some of my favorite long-ignored great works of content:

1. Freaks and Geeks:  Like most of the world’s population, I missed this brilliant television series when it first aired in 1999.  Despite brilliantly delivering on the tagline, “what high school was like for the rest of us,” the show was only broadcast for one season. However, the show was the launch pad for of a lot of talent you might recognize today, including Judd ApatowSeth Rogen, Jason Segel and James Franco. Not only was it set in a suburban high school in Detroit (my hometown), but it’s the only sitcom that ever relied on Star Wars, Dungeons and Dragons, and the Grateful Dead to inform much of the humor and plot.

2. Nick Drake: During his lifetime, not one of Drake’s albums sold more than 5,000 copies. By the time he finished his last album, Pink Moon, he decided to retire from music altogether.  He died at the age of 26 from an apparent drug overdose that was ruled a suicide.  His music is beautiful.  I wish the world had loved his music while he was alive to feel it.  Listen to Pink Moon.

3. The Shawshank Redemption: Yes, it’s true that this movie tops most best-ever lists, but when released in 1994 it was a box office dud. There are a lot of theories around why such a great film performed so poorly in theaters, but theories are just that. Rest assured, everyone’s favorite bro-mance between Morgan Freeman and Tim Robbins went on to become one of the highest-grossing movie rentals of all time.

Chalk each of these examples to a case of wrong place/wrong time, but I happen to think solid PR and marketing could have made a big difference in each of these instances.

In social media circles, we talk a lot about how to inspire word-of-mouth and connect consumers with one other, but in each of these instances, word-of-mouth triumphed over a lack of good publicity — not because of it.

These days, there’s this notion that if you have a lot of great content on your site, you can sit back and let the content work for you.  Great content is a great start, but content marketing is still about relationships.

Four ways to foster relationships with your web-based content:

Outbound links: Yes, it’s true, linking to other content might send some people away from your site. However, most people pay attention to sources of inbound traffic and links since it helps them meet their goals of increased traffic and page rank. While it’s not a one-to-one formula, outbound linking tends to encourage inbound linking. What I mean here is when someone sees your incoming link and recognizes the synergy between your content and their content, they often return the favor by linking to your content.

Comments: Comment on other peoples’ and companies’ blogs with the intention of participating in a conversation they started. Don’ t comment in an effort to steal someone else’s traffic — that’s just rude. Done correctly, the relationship will provide a lot more value in the long-term than a few curious clicks.

Resource-rich Blog Content: While it’s still important to serve journalists content they think will be useful for their readership, now it’s equally as important to create direct-to-consumer content (or direct-to-customer content if your business is B2B). If you’re doing this, remember to talk about something other than your product and deliver something they can’t get anywhere else.

Guest Posting: I’m a guest post here on Todd’s blog, but writing content for others in your industry or customer space helps establish relationships with new readers and with the person managing the site.

    If you think I left something out of this list, let’s discuss in the comments.

    Much like great products, great content will only find the best people to love it if it’s leveraged well. If your content hasn’t found its sweet spot yet, don’t fret — you’re in good company.  Keep trying new angles and formulas for success.

    Show some social media love would ya?

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