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Posts Tagged ‘Facebook’

Despite what some spittle-lipped sharpsters might try to sell you, social media’s rapid behavior-changing adoption is still far from settled enough for anyone to analyze and measure.  The marketing industry still bobs chest deep in the churning waves, making assessment difficult at best.  The one incontrovertible truth is that in remarkably short order, Twitter, Facebook and other social networks have powerfully reset both who we communicate with and how, leaving brands scrambling to determine just what to make of it and how to adjust.Picture 2

Today’s consumers enjoy a radical new level of access and empowerment; marketers enjoy a unprecedented access and insights.  And everyone involved must now balance the benefits of another powerful new platform even as we assess the drawbacks and limitations.

All of which makes Catharine Taylor’s latest post on Social Media Insider a great jumping off point for timely client discussions.  Under the provocative heading “Is Social Media Turning Us Into Whiner Nation,” Catharine raises the issue of determining the relative quality of social media input.  Sometimes this dialogue can inform and reshape productively, but many times, they amount to so much hyper-empowered bitching.

On one level, companies can consider all of this new social input the equivalent of having a world wide complaint desk that’s always open–a vastly enhanced, far more powerful version of the old one-employee department that existed solely to provide disgruntled shoppers an outlet for their frustrations.  And to a point, that’s reasonably accurate (consider Motrin, and just recently, Amp).  Social media provides a mass channel for opinion, and it can be skewed heavily by special interests or a vocal minority.  Worse, the most destructive of those opinions often spring from people far outside a brand’s core target, rendering them less relevant but still potentially damaging.  Should brands respond then or should they abide, enduring a temporary tempest before the shouters move on to the inevitable next offense, another issue of another new day?

These are questions brands and their advocates must address.  Like it or not, advertisers are well served to monitor these inputs, and make adjustments if necessary.  But to do that, we must all get more skilled at assessing those tweets and blogs–their relevance, resonance and virulence.  And we must also get better at assessing positive feedback; it’s far too simple to slip into easy acquiescence after hearing one or two glowing reviews.  Positive sources can be just as suspect as negative ones.

Perhaps the greatest irony of this new reset in the advertiser-consumer relationship–from a one-sided platform driven by wealthy brands to a two-way dialogue powered by basically anyone with broadband–is how hard it is for marketers to reconcile the fact that consumers now have a voice.  And speak up.  Pretty loudly sometimes.

We always thought that was our job.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79
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A recent feature in the New York Times Sunday Magazine labeled “Facebook Exodus” highlighted some purported trends regarding Facebook and it’s fading hold on certain demographics.  Of course, Facebook proponents viewed this less as ‘highlighting’ and more like ‘hyping’ but some facts do remain, many of them courtesy of this iStrategy Labs analysis of Facebook statistics.

•  Facebook is almost ridiculously popular, nabbing nearly 88 million unique visitors in July from the US alone.

•  The six month trend for Adults 55+ has been a stunning 514% growth in new users.

•  That same trend for high school and college age students is 16.5% and 21.7% less new users.

Good or Bad is Debatable: But Change Is Always Constant.

Good or Bad is Debatable: But Change Is Always Constant.

Because we live in a Twitter powered world of byte-sized information, those last statistics have been frequently mis-reported as those audiences shrinking by those percentages.  To be clear, those audiences have still been growing but at far, far lower velocities.  And that does represent a trend.

But as someone who remembers when our neighbors the Tanguays back in Radnor, PA became early adopters of cable television, it’s hard to be surprised to see changes to the platform.  Back then, no commercials EVER came on cable–that was the whole selling point.  After all, if it had commercials, why would you pay for it?

Obviously, things change over time.  And the same is happening to Facebook.  Personally, I’ve become immune to the chain letters disguised as apps–if you want to know my birthday, ask me and I’ll tell you but no, I won’t download another app for that honor.  Nor do I want to fight your Ninjas or join your Mafia mob–it’s a newer face but not a whole lot more than the old Dungeons and Dragons bit.  I’d rather play basketball thanks.

As Facebook matures and newer alternatives arise, the biggest challenge will be maintaining a positive signal-to-noise ratio among it’s heaviest users.  So long as the contacts and networking stay simple to use and acceptably clean of too much unwanted junk, Facebook will retain it’s audience.  Should that balance shift, it won’t.

Kind of like television.  Imagine that.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

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On the way into work today, I passed a bus featuring an ad for Quaker Oatmeal.  Three simple words floated in a beautifully clean layout atop a portrait of the Quaker and his knowing smile (whom for reasons lost to time we always called ‘Larry”).  The headline read “Go Humans Go.”

“Go Humans Go”?  What?

I am admittedly biased on this subject given we handled this account for six years or so at Element 79, but they’ve been flogging variations of “Go Humans Go” for over a year and as much as I genuinely respect Goodby’s creative and planning excellence, I can’t think of a more ill-conceived campaign for the Quaker brand.  It is a new voice for the brand and one that is no doubt attention getting.

Apparently "Earthlings" Didn't Test Well In Qual

Apparently "Earthlings" Didn't Test Well In Qual

But so is belching the National Anthem.

Attention-getting creative still must relate to some consumer benefit or else it’s entirely dismissable.  A new consumer voice still must feel somehow authentic to the brand or else it consumers won’t believe it.

What’s been sacrificed here for no discernible reason, is brand voice.  Perhaps some new people on the brand team consider things like ‘trust’ and ‘wholesomeness’ too passive…  Perhaps they wanted to do something kicky that the kids might like…  But whatever their intent, pursuing it this way destroys the trusted Quaker brand voice.

Putting “Go Humans Go” above Larry’s grin literally re-positions the trusted Quaker as a robot, a superior lifeform patronizingly looking down on a lesser species, like a representative for some semi-benevolent alien race.  That’s interesting, but not particularly relevant.  And it sure isn’t human or empathetic or even trustworthy.  I mean, does that make you want to Facebook friend him?

Change is often necessary for brands.  But I doubt this is change anyone can believe in.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

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In this week’s Advertising Age, Chris Perry–the senior guy in Weber Shandwick’s digital practice–wrote an article placing the major ‘blame’ for social media’s under-performance squarely at the feet of the ‘dated agency model.’  Because social media is so new and so revolutionary, traditional agencies and their clumsy attempts to mainstream it into existing profit structures fail to use this medium to anywhere near it’s full potential.  In short, we’re all doing it wrong.

Art by Steve Lambert, http://visitsteve.com/

Art by Steve Lambert, http://visitsteve.com/

Oh please.  This kind of hand-wringing, model-bashing argument is getting truly tiresome; it’s too much “I told you so” that doesn’t tell much of anything. We’re slapped in the face with the promise of it even though no one has yet to deliver any profits from it.  Garrett’s Popcorn is tweeting now? Okay, I’ll remember that next time I feel compelled to talk to a tin of caramel/cheese popcorn.  Dell’s much ballyhooed two million dollars worth of @delloutlet Twitter sales?  That’s less than one hundredth of a percent of their annual sales.  NBC CEO Jeff Zucker said it best: “Our challenge with all these new-media ventures is to effectively monetize them so that we do not end up trading analog dollars for digital pennies.”  Indeed.  This is, after all, a business.

But all of this is quibbling; fundamentally, Mr. Perry’s argument is flawed because Mr. Perry assumes there is such a thing as Social “Media.”  I disagree.

Social media doesn’t yet live up to the hype because social ‘media’–as agencies and advertisers define ‘media’–simply doesn’t exist.

Call me a copywriter, but words matter.  “Social Media” is an ill-considered term for advertisers.  As an important cultural phenomenon, slapping the label “media” on it creates the impression that clients must put messages there and that’s simply not true.  The explosive expansion and proliferation of social networks is nothing short of a communications revolution, but that doesn’t make them a marketing medium…or any sort of “media” whatsoever.  When my sister friends her long lost high school bandmate on Facebook, she doesn’t consider it an advertising platform–Facebook is simply a way to connect and communicate.  It is SOCIAL first and foremost; it is absolutely not “Media” by any traditional industry definition.  This simple reality drives headlines like this from today’s Online Media Daily: “More Women Using Social Networks, But Brands Not Benefitting.”  The whole conceit of ‘Social Media’ is a sociologist’s invention–using it in reference to marketing unnecessarily confuses the issue.  With the notable exception of Word of Mouth PR outreach, social networks provide an extremely limited forum for selling and driving profit.

Do social networks matter?  Very much so.  Should agencies be focused on them?  They better be.  At Element 79, we believe every one of our clients should be deeply involved in social networks–less as a selling platform and more as a deep, rich, real-time glimpse into consumer sentiment about their brands and categories.  Social networks present an unprecedented platform for real time research that savvy planners can mine for opinion gathering and monitoring. 

In these times when brands are opinions and opinion enjoys a vast media channel independent of the paid media that spurs and sparks consumer conversations, we must start creating metrics around social network conversations as another measure of our communications’ success in market.  Internally, this lays a new groundwork for planner responsibilities: first mining social networks for consumer insights and relevance and later assessing the results of our efforts.  Did our ideas enter the conversations?  Were our strategies compelling, our executions memorable, our messages relevant and persuasive?  That’s all measurable with the vast data engine that is the web.

These new platforms are social networks; rich and vibrant communication ecosystems that advertisers should strive to protect and foster.  Social media however, remains a pipe dream, an ill-considered fool’s errand where marketing messages flounder amidst a social setting that so far, is neither welcoming nor profitable.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

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A recent Pear Analytics study finds that 40% of Twitter messages from a random sample of 2,000 tweets amount to “pointless babble.”  Items like “I’m eating a sandwich” clog the micro-blogging service, followed closely by conversational messages between users at 37.5%.

In other words, nearly 80% of Twitter content amounts to little more than incidental conversation.  Which should serve as a stark reminder that Twitter–and Facebook, MySpace and hundreds of other smaller social networks–are all about the social.  Overeager advertisers looking to exploit low cost media platforms need to take a hard look at this communications environment: it’s hardly a welcoming audience to commercial messages.

Of course, not knowing the people of Pear Analytics or their credentials, I decided to grab ten tweets from this morning’s Element 79 feed and analyze them.  In fairness, being an ad agency  and not an individual attracts a disproportionate number of industry reps, job seekers and for some reason, people who tweet in Spanish and Mandarin, but that is mostly a result of an earlier non-discriminating ‘you follow us/we’ll follow you” policy: a basic no-no of effective social networking.  Anyway, here are this morning’s ten:

1.  @JBajancopymaker:  This would be Babble.CT

2.  @tkdainc:  This pitches an artist who creates doe-eyed anime creatures sporting tatoos and furry hats with ears.  This is Sales.

3.  @redsquareagency:   A link to camo-wearing, gun-toting Hispanic military men, two of whom sport this agency’s t-shirt.  This is Sales, and depending on your perspective, funny or ill-advised.

4.  @richandcom:  A link to a news item about well-financed quick buck schemers hosing longterm investors.  This is News, of the irrelevant and vaguely depressing sort.

5.  @Oshyn_Inc:  A link to a blog about “Live Server Dynaments.”  I wandered at “Live Server” and they lost me at “Dynaments.”  News.  Kind of.

6.  @GuyKawasaki:  A funny link to Craig Damrauer’s witty morenewmath.com .  This is Humor, and depending on your perspective, funny or time-wasting.

7.  @charlottehrb:  This is a Conversational Message between users.

8.  @kevin7211:  This, the first of three Tweets within three minutes, spotlights some ad guy selling mobile with a ‘context over content’ message.  Wants to be News, But it’s Babble.

9.  @drdue:  Sales pitch for girdles.  Bad targeting.  Sales.

10.  @LuckyIntern  RT of an Adweek article.  News.

So by the strict parameters of this carefully-conducted study, the predominance is split between Sales and News, both at 30%, with Babble and Conversational Messages at 20% each.  Of course, by personal standards, the Kawasaki link was the only thing worth following.  For a quick laugh.

Laughter definitely has human value, but it’s kind of hard to bill to a client…

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

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Back in the mid-70’s, I used to ride the bus to junior high with a kid called “Tiger” Jackson.  Actually, none of us called him “Tiger” but apparently someone in his family did and he liked the sound of that a whole lot better than “Bill Jr.”  Tiger was never particularly popular but he was always the first to have any comedy record–George Carlin, Steve Martin, The National Lampoon Troupe–and somehow, the mere act of owning and sharing that material lent him a consideration he wouldn’t have enjoyed otherwise.

I hadn’t thought about Tiger in three decades but yesterday we had a long discussion about social networks with a client that is getting very active in that space and facing the challenges every corporation does as they make the foray into the less-charted world of earned media.  As we explained the “Hey Everybody!” nature of Facebook and the “Hey anybody!” nature of Twitter to a curious if bemused seventy-year old, the question of “But…why?” came up again and again.  “Why do people spend so much time on these networks?”  “Why do they stop what they’re doing to write about it?”  “Why do they think anyone would care?”

We try to answer these queries with intellectual theses about the need for connection in a socially-isolating world where people bowl alone…  We wax philosophical on how technology empowers a cognitive expansion of our collective Dunbar numbers…  But at it’s heart, this need to broadcast what we’re doing, what we think, or what we have found to an unseen audience that includes friends, nodding acquaintances and a considerable amount of total strangers, bears more than a trace of narcissism.  “Look at me!  Follow my links!  Enjoy this comedy brought to you…by me!

Picture 2I type this fully aware that this insight indicts me and my social network habits perhaps most of all.  I write this blog most weekdays, creating lessons on marketing for…well, for whomever stumbles across them.  But I want people to stumble across them so I send out links to these posts over Twitter and LinkedIn.  Every morning during my commute, I try to find some topical story to inspire a one-liner for my Facebook status update.  I tell myself that I do these things because I need firsthand knowledge of social networking or that writing about contemporary advertising forces me to develop an intellectual discipline during these rapidly-evolving times.  And all of that is true.

But that hardly explains why I check my blog stats everyday to see how many people read the post.  Or why I secretly thrill when a friend on Facebook ‘likes my status’ or someone re-tweets a link.  Or why so many people on twitter spend hours each day, forwarding links like a modern day Tiger Jackson.  All of that springs directly from narcissism; a narcissism every client wading into the waters of social networking with hopes of spreading their messages would be well advised to keep in the forefront of their minds.  As an advertiser in social media, your wants and needs will always fall a distant second to your audience, unless you find a way to align your needs with theirs.  If that seems unthinkable, just read the first few paragraphs of this MobileInsider post by Steve Smith.  As he winds up for his pitch against ill-considered mobile phone apps, he says this: “For the benefit of those consumer brands that weren’t listening the first few hundred times this has been said, consumers do not wake up in the morning thanking the lord they live in a country where they get to worship your brand and see life through its narrow self-serving lens. That only happens in the retro-fantasies of Don Draper and the households of top executives at many of these major brands.”  Ouch.

Adjusting to the foundational narcissism that fuels social networks not only presents a real challenge, but a direct juxtaposition to the necessary narcissism of every corporate marketer.  Which is why these are, and will continue to be, very interesting times…

Of course, if you feel differently, I welcome your comments.  Even if you think my thinking is way off-base, the narcissist in me will take comfort knowing you responded.  Bless you.

Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

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I recently had my consciousness raised regarding Facebook.  On this blog some months back, I wrote a surprisingly popular post wondering whether this social network would become the Members Only jacket of the early 21st Century.  Once the novelty wore off, would the investment of time required outweigh the benefits of all this easy connectedness?  In hindsight, the ‘Members Only’ tag could be what drew readers, but I’m a bit sketchy on my SEO knowledge to really determine that.

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Turn To Page 96

Writing in the July issue of Wired magazine, Fred Vogelstein outlines how this aggressively market-capped, yet-to-make-a-profit social network aims to create value, and it requires insuring the benefits of this easy connection platform always outweigh the time investment. As it stands, over 20% of all internet users are on Facebook, spending an average of twenty minutes a day there.  Mark Zuckerberg and company aim to further embed Facebook as the center of all online activity.  

Why?  Because everything we do there is trackable.  And owned solely by Facebook. Every connection we make, every opinion we express, every last ‘Which type of canned vegetable are you?’ quiz we take and share produces data which they alone own.  None of it will ever show up in other web browsing search engines.  And since Facebook is the one place online where people regularly use their real names to share real thoughts with real friends about real topics, that data has remarkably robust human context.  By comparison, Google’s data is largely limited to search history.

The ramifications of monetizing all this contextual data could be staggering financially.  If this type of deeply human Facebook information informed even a tiny percentage of the incomprehensible 3.6 trillion banner ads placed in 2008, they would stand to make…well, technically speaking it would amount to tanker ships of cash (I know even less about finance than I do about SEO).

We live in a world where opinion has a mass channel greater than TV, radio and print combined.  We work in a world where brands truly are opinions, and thus bound to the vagaries of fluctuating public consideration. For Facebook to have exclusive access to untold hours of that opinion provides them with a competitive advantage that borders on the scary.

I doubt Google, Bing, Dogpile, IceRocket, Collecta and dozens of other search engines will be friending them anytime soon…

by Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

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