Archive for August, 2010

Which Social Media Marketing Agencies Will Thrive In 5 Years?

From WIRED Magazine’s controversial article, “The Web is Dead, Long Live the Internet” came this set of factoids:

The story of industrial revolutions, after all, is a story of battles over control. A technology is invented, it spreads, a thousand flowers bloom, and then someone finds a way to own it, locking out others. It happens every time.

Take railroads. Uniform and open gauge standards helped the industry boom and created an explosion of competitors — in 1920, there were 186 major railroads in the US. But eventually the strongest of them rolled up the others, and today there are just seven — a regulated oligopoly.

Or telephones. The invention of the switchboard was another open standard that allowed networks to interconnect. After telephone patents held by AT&T’s parent company expired in 1894, more than 6,000 independent phone companies sprouted up. But by 1939, AT&T controlled nearly all of the US’s long-distance lines and some four-fifths of its telephones.

Or electricity. In the early 1900s, after the standardization to alternating current distribution, hundreds of small electric utilities were consolidated into huge holding companies. By the late 1920s, the 16 largest of those commanded more than 75 percent of the electricity generated in the US.

Indeed, there has hardly ever been a fortune created without a monopoly of some sort, or at least an oligopoly. This is the natural path of industrialization: invention, propagation, adoption, control.

IStock_000003363042XSmallWe vaguely knew all of this from High School History, but too easily forget: at some level we are simply living through just-another business cycle.

It’s almost sad.  I’m fond of saying that Social Media represents the most fundamental change in human communications since the Gutenberg Printing Press — and I still feel that way — but the cynical businessperson in me also recognizes that where Opportunity exists, opportunists will rush headlong.

We already know that companies like Apple and Google and Facebook are dominating their niches.  But when it comes to Social Media Marketing providers — whether in the fields of monitoring, PR, advertising, customer response, etc. — we are still very early in the process of figuring out the long-term winners & losers.  As Jay Baer recently noted:

Agencies realize how hot social media is, and they are scrambling to add social media expertise (real or imagined) to their services mix. In fact, a search for “social media agencies” on Google yields more than 41 MILLION matching Web pages. Sifting through that pile to separate the experts from the pretenders is a near impossibility.

What’s your take?  Which Social Media Marketing vendors and agencies will be thriving 5 years from now?  Who will be gone from the scene?  If you care to make any predictions, share them with me in the comments!

Marketing Doesn't ONLY Happen Online

IStock_000004365898XSmallAccording to a recent report by the Keller Faye Group, less than 10% of word of mouth conversations happen online.

Think about that for a second. We spend an inordinate amount of time fretting about Social Media Marketing, which is — let’s face it — largely an online phenomenon.  We perform blogger monitoring/outreach, Twitter monitoring/outreach, Facebook and LinkedIn and Yahoo Answers monitoring/outreach … It all feels right.  We can measure the clicks.

Yet according to the research, which dates back to 2006, “online” is NOT where consumers are talking about brands.

90% of all conversations Americans have about products/services and brands taking place offline is a startling statistic.  The important implication for marketers is that brands cannot ignore the offline conversations people are having.  Brands cannot rely solely on online social media marketing to spark conversations.  It’s another opportunity, not the only opportunity.

What does this mean to the modern marketer, who may still be rubbing the Social Media faery dust from their weary eyes?  What makes up the OTHER 90% of the word-of-mouth opportunity?

It’s not hard to figure out.  It’s what you USED to care about: traditional media relations, direct and online mail campaigns, advertising, events, guerilla marketing, etc.

Some Social Media Marketeing zealots would have marketers believe that the online opportunity represents the New Normal.  More rational and experienced marketers understand that Social Media Marketing was only ever meant to be ADDITIVE, not a REPLACEMENT for their “traditional” approaches.

(An exciting and compelling, even transformative addition — but an addition nonetheless.)

Think about some of the brands you respect most online.  Now recount to yourself how much of their marketing you might notice in the offline world.

Chances are they are working their asses off in what they rightfully view as a “multichannel” world.

An Atypical Son Heads to College

I know you visit this blog to hear about thoughts & strategies re: Social Media Marketing and Public Relations.  And that’s what you get 99% of the time.  So I hope you’ll forgive me when, 1% of the time, I make this blog personal.

A few years ago I told you about my wife, on the eve of her graduation from nursing school (by the way, if you know anyone hiring nurses in the Bay Area, please let me know).  Today I’d like to take a moment to tell you about our son Luke, who leaves for college this week.

Luke is not perfect.  His room is in a constant state of disrepair.  He couldn’t find a household chore we didn’t point him toward.  He’s been known to take out his teenage angst on the occassional closet door.  His dedication to scholarship has been spotty.  That’s how he is typical.

This post is about how he is not typical.

Last year Luke traveled to Thailand during his summer vacation to serve the poor.  Yes, we pushed him to do some community service, but to his credit he dove in — and upon his return spoke poignantly of the poverty he witnessed.  He was impressed by the guileless joy of the Thai schoolchildren and described living conditions so impovershed that it made us gasp.  And because he was 17–years-old, and apparently bulletproof, Luke also found a way to break away from his group and party pretty hard in Bangkok.  Bangkok!  One night in Bangkok will make a grown man crumble (or so they say).  Our boy emerged grinning from the adventure.

This past Summer, he traveled alone to an orientation program at his college.  We arranged for a ride to the airport, etc., but he was largely on his own.  Despite umpteen reminders, Luke forgot his wallet with his I.D. and money.  That’s another example of how he is typical.

How he is not typical?  He cadged his way past the gate agent and the TSA agents in the Security line — without a scrap of I.D.  Luke didn’t call to let us know about this misadventure until he was boarding the plane.  “I talked ‘em out of charging me that new baggage fee, too, Dad,” he gloated.  (We fedexed his I.D. and $$.)

Upon his return from that same orientation program, his connection was delayed and Luke was going to be stranded overnight at JFK.  I started to panick; I was googling, “best terminal to sleep in when stranded at JFK.” But our atypical son never lost his cool: he called me up from a nearby flea-bitten hotel; he “would have called sooner, sorry,” but he’d been arranging for some Chinese take-out to arrive at the hotel.  The man had his priorities straight: shelter, food, and “reassure Mom & Dad,” in that order.

They say that a parent’s job is to give their children “roots & wings.”  A stable home life that instills decent values, and a sense of confidence that will allow them to handle Fate’s slings & arrows.  As our boy joins the ranks of the Class of 2014 this week, it will be with tears of pride that we watch him take wing.  Something tells me he’s going to be just fine.

Good luck, son.  Make good choices.  We love you!

The Rise of Branded Journalism

I recently had lunch with an old colleague who now runs PR at Kaspersky Lab, one of the best-known and fastest-rising anti-virus companies on the planet.

My friend told me a story that should seize the hearts of journalists even as it captures the imagination of corporate marketers; it’s a story about the rise of branded journalism.

Of course, you already know all about “branded entertainment.”  For some groundbreaking examples, look no further than Spherion Staffing’s “The Temp Life” video series or Ikea’s “Easy To Assemble” webisodes starring A- and B-list Hollywood celebs.  (Fast Company recently ran a helpful review of some of the Web’s best examples of branded entertainment.) While branded entertainment can be an expensive, hit-or-miss proposition, Kaspersky Lab has adopted a relatively low-cost, high-value approach that’s better described as “branded journalism.”

Logo-footer-threatpost_0Once upon a time, the writers and analysts who covered Kaspersky Lab as it slogged towards victory against the likes of McAfee and Symantec included Dennis Fisher at eWeek, Paul Roberts at The451 Group, and Ryan Naraine of ZDNet.  These men were among the top editors and analysts covering the anti-virus space of the day (2004–present).

Now, each and every one of these highly credentialed gentlemen produce superb content for Kaspersky Lab — as employees.  They are contributing to the Company’s well-regarded global IT Security news site, Threatpost.  With talent like Fisher, Roberts and Naraine working the levers, Threatpost is, well, a legitimate threat to the ZDNet’s, CNet’s, and SC Magazine’s of the world…

Now, to be clear, competing with those esteemed publications is not part of the agenda of Kaspersky Lab’s marketing team.  Surely they continue to seek coverage in those journals. 

However, they’re also glad to know that all of that thought leadership & always-contemporary SEO-savvy content benefits Kaspersky Lab.  It benefits their channel sales partners as well, who frequently repurpose the Threatpost content in order to motivate new conversations with prospective customers.

That’s not to imply that the content is “salesy,” however; there’s a church/state separation on the editorial side at Threatpost: subscribers are not fed into a lead-gen dbase.  No doubt that was a key factor in Fisher, Roberts and Naraine’s decision to join the Threatpost editorial team.  They now not only have the kind of job security most media professionals lack, but also can walk away from the experience someday with their reputations only enhanced by the experience.

Meanwhile, Kaspersky’s business is thriving.

Welcome to the future.

Disclosure: Kaspersky was a SHIFT client for 4 years.  We did some good work in that time — from “upstart Russian wannabe” to industry leader — as demonstrated by this Google Trends chart, which company execs very generously suggested I share with you:

KL

Social Media Training On the Rise

IStock_000008765217XSmallHas Corporate America finally woken up to the fact that Social Media is not going away?  Yes.  That Social Media could affect both their reputations and fortunes? Yes, they’ve realized that, too.

And now I think they are waking up to the fact that they might be able to harness Social Media for reasons above & beyond “marketing.”

In recent weeks SHIFT Communications has been on the receiving end of several RFPs for Social Media Training. They are not asking us to handle Influencer Engagement.  They are not asking us to manage their Facebook communities.  They are not asking for us to develop mobile apps.

They just want us to teach them about Social Media. More often than not, they want us to teach a few handfuls of internal employees to “do what SHIFT does” when it comes to blog monitoring, commenting, and writing; Facebook engagement and posting; how-to set up a YouTube channel; how-to use Sysomos or Radian6, etc.

After that mission is accomplished, we’ll be cordially asked to leave them to their tweeting, thank-you-very-much.

Some of my industry peers might see this as “the first step toward disintermediation.”  After all if the clients are trained as the Agency personnel are trained, might there be less need for the agency reps?

Maybe, but still, I see this as a good thing.  To a one, the folks we’re talking to about Social Media Training are looking to form a cadre of in-house experts who can promulgate Best Practices across the enterprise.  Not “just” for PR but as a means of understanding how/when/why Social Media could/should affect their business processes.

Folks like Peter Kim at the Dachis Group and Charlene Li and Jeremiah Owyang of Altimeter would certainly applaud such thinking!

Importantly, these trainees are NOT just from the Marketing/PR group: they include Customer Service reps, showroom employees, R&D engineers, etc., each of whom will be tasked with carrying their newfound knowledge forward, both online (on behalf of the Company’s broader outreach) and internally to their own fiefdoms, to help set Social Media Policy.

Imagine a world in which every employee at every company was familiar with the tools and rules of Social Media engagement.  How might that change things?




Show some social media love would ya?





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