Social Media Isn’t Easy (Part 2)

When Oscar Wilde observed, “experience is the name everyone gives to their mistakes,” he was clearly anticipating the age of social media.  Mistakes abound, some minor, others calamitous but all offering guidance for those who choose to learn from them.  Here are five more mistakes that I’ve observed, each provided with suggestions on how to fix or better yet avoid altogether.

#6 Ignore social media

One in three big brands, across a wide range of sectors have yet to commit significant time and resources to social media. Highly regulated industries like financial services and pharma are particularly cautious given the lack of clarity offered by regulatory bodies like FINRA and the SEC. Other laggards are taking the ostrich approach, hoping that social media will just walk on by and leave them in peace.

Ignoring social media for whatever reason simply won’t cut it. Doing so means the conversation is happening without you, eliminating your opportunity to respond to the negative, reinforce the positive and or close the door to a competitor who is more socially adept. If you are afraid your customers will say bad things, you’re probably right but rather than turning a blind eye, engage your detractors with honesty and fix the problems.

Ignoring social media also means you’ll have no means of fighting a social media fire if one erupts. Domino’s Pizza found this out the hard way when two young jokers thought it would be funny to make a video of themselves putting cheese up their noses and then onto a customer’s pizza. With no social media channels in place, Domino’s HQ floundered and sales dropped nationally. Meanwhile, Ramon DeLeon, the GM of six Domino’s in Chicago, used his long-developed social channels to put out the fire in his area, rallying his fans and growing his sales.

#7 Limit employee access at work

A lot of companies restrict employee access at work to sites like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube, afraid that productivity will drop. As such, there is a limited understanding of the channels themselves as well as the business opportunities that they can create. So instead of having thousands of eyes and ears to watch, listen and learn, the knowledge remains concentrated and the opportunities limited.

The simple truth is that companies that want to make the most of social media need to have a lot of social people across just about every department. The benefits of this open approach are far reaching, allowing the organization as a whole to cast a broader net to catch fresh ideas, important trends, hidden prospects and even future employees.

One company that has benefited from this open approach is the behemoth IBM. Realizing a few years ago that their clients hire IBM because of IBMers, they made an all-out push to become a social business. Presently, IBM has over 30,000 employees on Twitter, over 200,000 on Facebook, over 200,000 on LinkedIn and over 35,000 bloggers. Add these to internal networks and a 75,000 strong network of ex-IBMers and you’ve got a massive community that creates and shares content with unrivaled speed and agility.

#8 Selling too hard

For most brands, social media is not the ideal place for the hard sell yet that hasn’t stopped many from trying. I heard a marketing director of a hospital call Twitter “a dumping ground” and a seasoned direct marketer describe social as “email on steroids.” Typically the result of trying to sell too hard too fast via social channels is nothing — no engagement, no interaction, no referrals, etc.

No one likes a blowhard and there is no quicker way to be unfollowed, unliked or just plain ignored than by tooting your own horn with relentless monotony. On the other hand, if you take your mother’s advice by “yacking less and listening more,” you’ll have lots more friends, friends who will be very interested in learning more about you when the time is right.

Keep in mind that 50% of the people who “like” or “follow” a brand, do so because they hope to get beneficial information or offers. Curate your content carefully, a bit like you might on a first or second date. Once the friendship is secure, feel free to put forth relevant offers. Skittles, in particular, has benefited immensely from an entirely soft sell approach, amassing over 15 million fans on Facebook in the process.

#9 Multiple voices

Perhaps because it is so easy to create content, some marketers feel it is okay to present completely different brand voices even on the same channel. A smarter approach is to establish your brand point-of-view upfront and to employ the various channels like instruments in an orchestra, creating a harmonious and synergistic effect. Defining what you are for and what you are against, will not only give you direction for execution but also it will give you permission to engage with your consumer on your subjects of mutual interest.

Among the best examples of this approach comes from an unlikely category — feminine hygiene. Targeting young women 14-24, Kimberly Clark launched a new line of tampons called U by Kotex. Going against the usual euphemistic approach, U by Kotex established a clear POV with a “bold honest attitude towards all things period and to call BS on everyone who doesn’t.” This POV permeated advertising and social media, helping the brand grab 20% market share and remarkably appreciative fan base. (FYI, the U by Kotex presentation was among the best at the BDI’s The Social Consumer Conference last month).

#10 Misalignment of platforms and goals

With so many different social media platforms to consider there is the natural temptation to try a bunch of them. This temptation is further reinforced by the seeming absence of costs to use these platforms and the presumed “cool factor” a brand may think their getting by using them. The simple truth is that not all of these platforms are right for every brand especially when you consider a particular brand’s objectives.

Dell has been particularly adept at aligning the platforms with specific business goals. Dell’s gathers customer feedback and crowd-sources new product ideas. Recognizing various uses for Twitter, Dell has a variety of accounts including @DellOutlet for deals on refurbished computers and @DellCares for customer support. Dell’s Investor Relations team was among the first to use, a presentation-sharing site, to present quarterly earnings. And their 24/7 “Social Media Command Center” ensures that customer complaints are heard and addressed regardless of the channel.

Final note: Acknowledging the wisdom of James Joyce when he said, “A man’s errors are his portals of discovery,” I do hope you’ll make a few mistakes of your own and share your discoveries with us all.  (This article first appeared on


Dear Social Media Santa, Here’s My Wish List

Wrapping up 2010 with relief, if not joy, good little marketers are looking at the year ahead with both optimism and trepidation. Even the marketers that triumphed this year know Santa’s lump of coal awaits those who misjudge the rapidly evolving communications landscape as an aberration instead of a permanent shift in power from brand to consumer. To ensure good tidings in 2011, here is a social media shopping list worth checking once — if not twice — to slay your competition.

1. Social Media Strategy

Although more than half of all large companies have a presence on Facebook and Twitter, fewer than 25% have a clearly defined social strategy. Tactical experimentation pleased some, but left many CEOs wondering whether social media like the mythical Rudolph could really drive results. Since yes, Virginia, there is such a thing as a social strategy complete with CEO-pleasing metrics, put this on top of your shopping list — finding the expertise internally and externally to make it happen.

2. Dedicated Social Chair

In 2010, social media was treated by many marketers as a part-time affair, assigned to the junior staffers who just happened to have the most friends on Facebook. Unable to dedicate the time required, they also lacked the experience to put social media into the context of broader customer engagement, thus relegating social to a sexy but modest marketing experiment. Fixing this means assigning at least one dedicated professional who can champion social strategy internally, while coordinating execution across all the departments it can and should touch.

3. A Metric System

Given all the roles social media can play, from customer service to product development and WOM to lead gen, putting precise metrics in place is challenging even for those with well-defined strategies. That said, new tools are emerging that should make measuring results easier and well within the budgets of even the most cash-strapped operations. Startup ArgyleSocial, for example, links social media activity with “real business value,” for under $300/month.

4. An Aggregation Plan

One of the unexpected yet joyous benefits of a strong social program is its potential to significantly improve organic search results. But in order to turn social content into the gift that keeps on giving, brands need to aggregate and archive the content on their own Web sites. HubSpot, a software-as-a-service (Saas) platform, makes this process relatively easy for small business. Larger companies will seek out more robust solutions, including a surprisingly strong social offering from IBM.

5. Customer Feedback Loop

While listening to the customer has long been an important business credo, it is only lately that marketers are turning to online tools like Get Satisfaction that truly enable and track instantaneous feedback. In 2011, offering customers the ability to engage with fellow customers right on the company website will become more the rule than the exception, especially as companies come to realize that a few negative comments increase credibility and ultimately increase online sales. These conversations also enhance search results by creating tag-able content.

6. Social Business Enlightenment

In the brave new world of social business enlightenment, all businesses are social and all social is business. Even large companies will want to present all their employees, not just those in customer service and marketing, with unfettered, yet guided, access to social media tools. These employees will begin to see what the fuss is all about, quickly realizing that social isn’t just something their kids do but rather a way that generates leads, captures sales, services customers, and advocates new product development well beyond this holiday season.

If you’d like to add to this social media shopping list, just send me an email, preferably not addressed to the North Pole.

Breaking Down the Social Media Fences

When part of my garden fence fell down this week, my dog was delighted, my neighbor exposed, my wife mortified and my impatiens completely flattened. After spending a couple of hours jerry-rigging the crumbling wood back into place, I realized this experience was a convenient if not appropriate metaphor for the challenge marketers face in dealing with social media within their organizations.

Like a dog with a bone, consumers are thrilled with the tumbling divide between themselves and the brands they choose to engage with. Unfortunately big companies do not necessarily share this enthusiasm, treating social media as yet another channel to be managed by an existing department like marketing or corporate communications and in doing so limiting the opportunity for a truly new approach.

In fact, in a recent poll conducted by The CMO Club, a whopping 62% of CMO’s said their department leads social media. Added one of the polled CMO’s, “social networks are about engaging customers ands stakeholders so Marketing has that responsibility.” Pete Krainik, founder of The CMO Club, explained that, “marketing departments have a more strategic view of the business, customer trends and upcoming programs,” and therefore should be leading social media initiatives.

In this same survey, CMO’s acknowledged that just over 1 in 5 companies have PR/Corporate Communications leading social media. But this may be a vestige of the early days of social media. Explained one of the polled CMO’s, “responsibility started in PR/Corporate Communications but we quickly moved it to the Marketing department as community marketing became more and more important to us.” (Hmm, can’t help but think a Corp Comm head might see these as “fighting words.”)

And despite the fact the Social Media is a fence-busting hydra touching just about every aspect of a company’s business, only 11% of the CMO’s surveyed said that social media was lead by a cross-functional team. When I asked Catherine Davis, the former SVP of Marketing at Diageo about this, she explained, “Cross department collaboration can be quite complicated, particularly with new disciplines like social media.”

Complicated or not, Josh Karpf, Senior Manager of Digital Media Communications at PepsiCo, professed that “everyone has a role, marketing, communications, HR and you need a variety of skill sets from customer service to insights to editorial strategy.” Added Karpf, “you likely won’t be able to find all those experts in one function within a company.” So, while Robert Frost’s proverb “good fences make good neighbors” may be true in real life, it is not necessarily the ideal approach to dealing with social media.

Like my mortified wife, companies are less than thrilled by the collapsing fences between brand and consumer, and many are jerry-rigging solutions while they figure out a long-term plan. Noted Dan Greenfield of Bernaise Source Consulting, “PR and marketing pros seem a little conflicted; few deny the value of integrating sales, customer service and community moderation teams when building a modern day engagement strategy but most lack a clear sense of how to do it.” (Greenfield will be addressing this challenge head-on at the upcoming PR+MKTG Camp.)

And while there is little hope of recovery for my flattened impatiens, a flattened organizational structure may be just the trick for companies seeking to truly engage with consumers via social media. PepsiCo’s Karpf instructed, “it’s really about process and clearly defined roles, so the trick is finding the right team and a cohesiveness that allows the process to move forward.” Confirmed Davis, “I have always found it helpful to establish joint objectives with clearly defined roles and responsibilities.”

Instead of plopping social media into a pre-existing department structure, this author can’t help but wonder why more companies aren’t trying a new and highly collaborative approach. Despite the inherent challenges of cross-departmental collaboration, if ever there were a time to try something new, this would be it. Social media simply touches too many disciplines from customer service to PR, human resources to marketing, recruiting to sales, to rationalize keeping the old departmental fences in place. (Note: this article first appeared on

Ben Franklin: Social Media Enthusiast?

The great patriot and social media enthusiast Benjamin Franklin would surely enjoy the communications revolution that has swept our fair industry and would have plenty of good advice for modern day practitioners.  Advice well earned.  At 15, he adopted the pseudonym Mrs. Silence Dogood just to get his articles published in his brother’s newspaper.  This ruse pissed off his brother to no end and ultimately forced young Ben to flee to Philly where at the age of 21 he formed an early social network called Junto, a group of “like minded aspiring artisans and tradesmen who hoped to improve themselves while they improved their community.”

Once in Philadelphia, Franklin quickly distinguished himself as an agent of change, a man Malcolm Gladwell might be forced to describe as connector, maven AND salesman. At 22, he established The Pennsylvania Gazette, essentially a printed blog of his essays and observations, a vehicle that earned him tremendous social currency.  Shortly thereafter, he set up the city’s first library, the Wikipedia of its day, complete with America’s first librarian.  A noted scientist, perhaps his least known invention is the concept of paying it forward, freely sharing his ideas, inventions and on occasion his cash all with the hope that “it may thus go thro’ many hands.”  Clearly, without Franklin there are no open source API’s on Facebook and certainly no #good tweets on Twitter.

Having established his bona fides as social media pioneer let me now call upon the ever-humble B. Franklin to offer us instruction on how modern day marketing patriots can declare their independence from social media silliness.  And while this piece is no Poor Richard’s Almanac, it will approach the topic at hand with a similar clarity of purpose and simplicity in language.  It will also do so knowing Franklin would have supported this author, “So convenient a thing it is to be a reasonable creature, since it enables one to find or make a reason for everything one has a mind to do.”  Finally, it will encourage marketers to take AIM, a simply acronym that befits a Franklinian approach to social media.

1.  A is for Audit

All too often, marketers take the “Ready, Fire, Aim” approach to social media.  The numerous social media pundits who prescribe dabbling over diligence encourage this philosophy.  Back in 1748, Franklin would have warned you of the risks of this approach, noting, “It takes many good deeds to build a good reputation, and only one bad one to lose it.”  Instead, Franklin would have encouraged a rigorous social media audit, offering, “An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.”

Hardly revolutionary, a social media audit lays the groundwork for a successful campaign, fulfilling Franklin’s prognostication that, “Diligence is the mother of good luck.”  These audits can be done in-house but as Franklin warned, “Those that won’t be counseled can’t be helped.”  Kinaxis, a supply chain management company, sought the help of Forrester before it went on to triple its leads and double its site traffic via a rigorously planned social media program (see detailed case history .)

2. I is for Implementation

A great communicator himself, Franklin would have been undaunted by all the new options, evaluating each carefully in order to “Never confuse motion with action.”   When it comes to content creation, Franklin’s remarkably timeless advice to, “Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing,” is as true for Twitter and YouTube in 2010 as it was for patriotic pamphlets back in 1775.  Anticipating the transparency that enlightened marketers now seek, his proverb “honesty is the best policy,” is truer today than ever before.

Franklin inherently understood social media implementation, and the critical roles of likability, entertainment and patience.  For brands that want to build fans on Facebook and the like, Franklin offered, “If you would be loved, love, and be loveable.” For brands afraid of having a little fun with their audience, Franklin encouraged, “Games lubricate the body and the mind.” And for brands in an unrealistic hurry to gain traction in social media, Franklin noted, “He that can have patience can have what he will.”

3. M is for Monitoring

As Postmaster General in 1768, Franklin monitored the routes of British mail ships to discover why it took them two weeks longer to reach US ports than private merchant ships.   Conducting his own focus groups with merchant captains and whalers, Franklin ultimately charted and named the Gulf Stream, which was acting like a firewall, slowing the movement of data from East to West across the Atlantic.  Not new to the idea of monitoring, Franklin approached even minute details with earnest, noting, “A small leak will sink a great ship.”

So too must social media marketers monitor their activities with rigor and respond accordingly.  While lots of free tools are available to monitor everything from conversations to web traffic, organic search performance to lead generation, Franklin reminded us that, “Lost time is never found again,” thus the anticipating the use of time-saving paid services like Radian6.  With such a disciplined approach to social media, marketers can, in Franklin’s words, “Let all your things have their places; let each part of your business have its time.”

Even 220 years after his death, Benjamin Franklin remains a beloved character bestowing a treasure trove of wisdom for good citizens and good brands.  In fact, among the 12 virtues that he drafted when only 20 years old, you will find the single best guidance for any brand I’ve ever read, “Resolve to perform what you ought; perform without fail what you resolve.”  (This article originally appeared on

Cinco Ideas de Mayo

April was a remarkable month with both Facebook and Apple making game changing introductions while gatherings of characters, developers and CMO’s provided glimpses into the goodness ahead.

1. Learn to Love the Like Button

Make no mistake about it; the Like button from Facebook is a stroke of genius for them and most likely for the online publishing world.  Just in case you missed this momentous land grab, on April 21st Facebook made its Like button available to all publishers and in the blink of an eye changed how content is shared on the internet. Over 50,000 sites jumped at the opportunity because it is a smart and easy thing to do–so easy that even I could add it to this blog in a matter of minutes.  Facebook is expecting a billion Like buttons to sprout shortly and I’m hard to pressed to think of a site that wouldn’t benefit from this simply yet powerful means of encouraging content sharing.

2. Keep Your Eyes on the iPad

I was at party for iPad developers a few weeks ago and it felt like the late ‘90s again. The party was sponsored by the HR department of Barnes & Noble, who was there trolling for developers – no doubt looking for ways to leverage this new media channel.   The energy and excitement over this new platform is akin to the early days of the Internet.  Simply whip out an iPad and people will flock to you like moths to a flame. A friend of mine recently used an iPad during a sales call and got an hour of quality time with a previously recalcitrant prospect.  Even when the novelty wears off, assuming that happens in the next 12 months, the uses of this device go well beyond gaming as the true business applications are just beginning to be explored.  Sure other “tablets” that promised a B2B revolution have been released before, but none have had the dazzling elegance and enthralling simplicity that Apple brings to the iPad.

3. Tap into the Goodness of Tweeters

Among the many things I gained from the 140 Characters conference in New York last month was a profound sense of hope.  For those of you not aligned with the Twitterverse, the 140 Characters conference assembles 140 interesting people on stage and another 1000+ in the audience to share the good, the bad and the ugly of all things Twitter.  With no PowerPoint crutches, many speakers bared their souls, enlightening us about the good deeds enabled by Twitter, from raising money for Haiti to putting prayers into the Western Wall.  Celebrity tweeters like Anne Curry and Ivanka Trump engaged with the hoi polloi in a remarkably open manner reflecting their belief that “people are inherently good.”  Maybe it’s the “retweet” function that attracts good people to Twitter, but regardless there’s a very strong Pay It Forward substrate embedded into this particular social medium.

4. Follow Twelpforce into Customer Service

As most of the marketing world is contemplating how social media fits into customer service, BestBuy is out there doing it and doing it well via TwelpForce (and I’m not just saying that because I won an iPad courtesy of BestBuy at the 140 Conference!).  Set up over a year ago, Twelpforce is “a collective force of Best Buy technology pros offering tech advice in Tweet form.”  Enter a question on Twitter about technology referencing BestBuy or Twelpforce and you’ll get a well-conceived response in short order.  They even set up their own monitoring/response tool that allows the hundreds of BestBuy employees that make up Twelpforce to respond with answers longer than 140 characters.  It is no wonder that over 25,000 twitterers are following Twelpforce.  If your company hasn’t integrated social media into customer service yet, Twelpforce offers a pretty darn good road map.

5. Channel your Chutzpah

I’ve spent a lot of time with marketers lately, interviewing them for articles and at conferences like The CMO Club Leadership Summit.  Marketers come from all walks of life, many starting in disciplines other than marketing, and the range of approaches to their positions is startling diverse.  Some are heavily analytic, others more prone to shoot from the hip.  That said the one thing that the most successful ones have in common is chutzpah.  They simply aren’t afraid to bend the rules or challenge convention or beg forgiveness in order to get an innovative program out in the market.  When the CEO of Kodak asked his CMO, Jeff Hayzlett, about the ROI of a Kodak social media initiative, Jeff’s response was, “I’ll answer you if you can tell me what’s the Return on Ignoring our customers.”  Now that’s chutzpah!  What Jeff is doing with the Kodak brand is a veritable album of innovation.

Hopefully, the shower of stimuli I absorbed in April will help your ideas bloom in May.

Six Questions to Start the New Year

1. Does your target Digg your ads?

If zapping tv spots wasn’t bad enough, now Digg is allowing their readers to essentially vote ads “off the island” while promoting the ones they like to star status. For the undug, Digg is the highly popular tech-focused news site where the stories are chosen by the users—the more Diggs a story gets, the higher it ranks on the site. And now that ads can be Digged or Buried, marketers will get real time feedback on the relative appeal of their ads to this highly influential target. If you’re targeting techies, this could be the cheapest copy test you ever tried, as well as the most eye opening.

2. Is your marketing worth retweeting?

While the joys of tweeting may still escape you personally, the phenomenal reach of Twitter is undeniable. In addition to the 20 million or so global users, tweets now appear as status updates on Facebook, LinkedIn, Plaxo and other social networks, extending Twitter’s influence to just about everyone marketers might want to reach. This isn’t kid stuff either. Professionals between 35–49 are the biggest tweeters of them all. So, if you create marketing worth tweeting about, the world will find out about it faster than you can say, “Wow that’s tweet.”

3. Do interns handle your social media?

This is not a trick question. We’ve been asked this a lot in the last month and it is a reflection of a naive belief that it is okay to put a brand’s social media campaign in the hands of novices. One senior marketer even told us that his company uses interns for all of their social media and then shrugs off the lost intellectual capital when the interns move on. As social media advances from the experimental phase to the front lines of customer relationship management, building and maintaining expertise is essential to optimizing results and avoiding PR nightmares. After all, would you ever put an intern on the phone with the press or your top customers?

4. How many customer “love letters” do you get a week?

It is a simple fact—beloved brands do better. Becoming beloved requires achieving customer satisfaction on the basics (product quality) and somehow exceeding expectations via service. Zappos calls this delivering “wow” and does this wherever they can. The Apple Store does this with its amazingly knowledgeable squad of orange-shirted concierges. Others use Marketing as Service to foster brand love, as HSBC does with the BankCab, whose riders send at least one love letter every week. So ask yourself, what could your marketing be doing (versus saying) to generate this kind of passion?

5. Do you have an app yet?

2009 was the year of the app rush for marketers. Everyone from Blockbuster to ZipCar, Betty Crocker to Starbucks, and Fandango to The Food Network cooked up mobile apps for their prospects and customers. In fact, well over a hundred brands joined the fun, some with pragmatic extensions of their service offering (like FedEx mobile) and others with engaging entertainment to enhance their brand perceptions (like Scion’s AV Radio). Given the low development costs of mobile apps and the millions of smart phone users, there is still time to get app happy. And while you’re at it, check out the newly launched CALL THE SHOTS iPhone app that Renegade developed for HARLEM, the new ice cold shot drink imported from Holland. It’s fun, it’s free and it’ll answer the question—how lucky are you really?

6. Did you know Renegade moved?

Back in September we said goodbye to Chelsea Market, our home for 10 years and moved to our new digs in the heart of Greenwich Village, just south of Bowlmor Lanes and north of Patsy’s Pizza. It seems that a few of you might not have our new address so here it is: 41 E 11th Street, 3F, NY, NY 10003-4602. Our phone numbers haven’t changed and we look forward to seeing you soon.

Happy New Year!