Remember the Heinz Ketchup commercial with Carly Simon touting the virtues of anticipation along with images of ketchup with the taste that’s worth the wait?
I’m reminded of that right now as I wait in a virtual line for the ultimate ioS app that promises to tame my inbox. The app is Mailbox—an app that helps you achieve “Mailbox Zero.” The service checks your email from the cloud and delivers it at super-fast speed to your phone. From there, you can decide whether to act on it now, later or never, all with the swipe of a finger. As of writing this blog, there are 105,619 nerds in front of me in a virtual line to get the app. (On the bright side, there are 193,917 people behind me.)
The buzz began back in December when Techfluentials got early Beta access and shortly proclaimed it “the next big thing.” Said TechCrunch’s Ryan Lawler, “Every now and then, I get my hands on an application or piece of technology that I can’t wait to tell the rest of the world about. Something that is a joy to use, tackles a major problem in a totally intuitive way and makes otherwise difficult tasks unfathomably easy. Something that has the potential to fundamentally change the way we do things.”
I wasn’t as lucky as Lawler. I never received early access. Or, perhaps, the invite got lost in my inbox.
In the months that followed, word of mouth continued to spread as the scrappy start-up did everything right to sustain the buzz:
· Provide early access to the media and other influencers. Check.
· Embrace social media to relentlessly tell your story. (The start-up’s trailer video alone generated more than 1.2 million views and more than 250,000 sign-ups). Check.
· Spur conversations at buzz-worthy events like SXSW. Check.
It also helps to have a killer Day Two story: the Cinderella start-up with just 13 employees had been acquired by Dropbox.
Just three weeks after launch, Mailbox revealed it was already delivering 50 million messages a day. (By comparison, it took Twitter three years before it had the infrastructure to process the same amount of messages). What’s more, the waiting list was more than 1.5 million people strong.
There was just one problem: the company didn’t have the infrastructure in place to keep up with demand and scale accordingly. To best serve customers with a good user experience, Mailbox introduced a waiting list. To get on the list, you download the Apple app to reserve your spot in line. Reservations are filled on a first-come, first-serve basis. At any moment, you can tap on the app to see your progress. And, with just one touch, you can stay current on the latest developments and discussions.
At SXSW, Mailbox CEO Gentry Underwood explained that the waiting list is an honest and transparent solution. But I think it’s also brilliant in its simplicity: the ritualization of checking daily where you are in the queue keeps customers engaged and excited while the company does what it needs to do to ensure that when it’s your turn to partake, the experience is a good one.
The waiting game enables Mailbox.com to effectively sustain word of mouth as it rolls out the service to new customers. Think of all the attention Apple receives when its new iProduct finally hits the shelves and loyal consumers wait patiently—often for days—to be the first to get in.
I’m guessing I have at least a few weeks before I’ll be able to experience Mailbox firsthand. In the meantime, the company has orchestrated a brilliant campaign to keep me –wait for it — wa-a-aitin’.
As marketers, we’re tasked with staying current on the ever-evolving social tools/apps/platform enhancements that relate to our industry. Let’s face it—it’s a lot to keep up with! So, if you’re still determining whether to incorporate Vine into an engagement plan or didn’t watch last week’s Facebook press conference in real time, I get that. However, all marketers do need to have a firm grasp on FTC’s Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising. If you work with an influencer or brand advocate program—and there’s a good chance you do—this is especially important to get smart about.
At ComBlu, we help major brands identify, recruit, activate, and engage advocates and influencers—and sometimes the engagement part involves providing a product or service for participants to review. This is where FTC compliance comes in. As of December 2009, when the FTC revised its regulations about endorsements and testimonials in advertising, bloggers (and Twitter and Facebook users) are required to disclose when they have a “material connection” to a brand. In layman’s terms: if a blogger receives cash, products, or services, they must make it clear to their readers.
There’s a fair amount of misinformation on the topic, which may make compliance seem confusing. But after working with hundreds of bloggers across several advocate and influencer programs, I promise that it doesn’t need to be. In fact, I’ve narrowed down my advice on the subject to just five do’s and don’ts.
1) Do familiarize yourself with WOMMA’s Social Media Marketing Disclosure Guide. The Word of Mouth Marketing Association is the authority on ethical word of mouth marketing. So it’s no surprise that they’re a great starting point when it comes to understanding the ins, outs, and expectations of disclosure. Their Guide is a “living” document, it’s easy-to-understand, and it’s legit. In fact, the FTC themselves often reference the WOMMA Code.
2) Don’t make it difficult for bloggers to comply. If you want to ensure that bloggers consistently follow disclosure guidelines, make it simple. At ComBlu, we offer bloggers several tools. We provide a variety of disclosure language so they can select one that best fits the voice and tone of their blog. For platforms like Twitter where space is at a premium, we create a branded bit.ly that directs readers to a landing page with full disclosure info. And we also provide program badges to include with each blog post. Here is a sample badge from one our programs:
3) Do provide training. Bloggers who have previously worked with brands are often already familiar with FTC disclosure. But that doesn’t mean everyone in a new program really understands how to be FTC compliant. Even experienced bloggers may not fully recognize their responsibilities. So educate bloggers at the start of every program. Emphasize the importance of compliance, review the brand’s expectations, give examples, and (gently) explain the consequences for repeatedly failing to comply. Ideally, training should be conducted in person or via a webinar so there’s an opportunity for Q&A. If that’s not an option, consider a welcome kit or “compliance checklist.”
4) Don’t forget to monitor activity. You’ve provided the necessary tools and training. So, you’re done now, right? Sorry to say, but the answer is a resounding no! Since you’re working with people—not an infomercial rotisserie—you cannot “set it and forget it.” Marketers are responsible for monitoring their campaigns and making reasonable efforts to outreach to participants whose blogs/tweets/Facebook posts don’t comply. This may seem overwhelming, but since you’re already tracking posts for measurement purposes and to identify potential problems (you are doing that, aren’t you?), be sure to build in a process to check for compliance at the same time. This brings me to my final tip.
5) Do put processes in place. Establish procedures for checking for compliance, recording activity, and communicating with noncompliant participants before your program or campaign kicks off. This includes creating an activity log and drafting communications to bloggers.
Have additional do’s, don’ts, or tips to add to the list? If so, please share!
March 15 edit: The FTC just released “Dot Com Disclosures.” This is the most significant update since 2009. Major takeaway is that disclosure must be clear—not cryptic—regardless of the platform. Rule of thumb: Does Grandma understand it? You can read the entire, example-filled guide here
A quick guide to social listening
If you haven’t been exercising your right to fast forward through commercials lately, you might have noticed a few IBM ads on TV about social analytics and how it will help ‘create a smarter planet’. Or you might have read Dell’s plans to expand their services offering with social listening for brands.
The adoption of social listening platforms has grown at a tremendous rate in the last three years, even though the technology has been around for a while. Dell didn’t unveil their famed listening command center until 2010. Why? Because it took early adopters like Dell, IBM and others to really understand how to use these platforms effectively and strategically.
When we started beta testing listening platforms back in 2006, our challenge was to cull out actionable information from a bunch of disparate data points. Key word mentions, share of voice and sentiment didn’t provide the level of granularity we needed to make actionable decisions. We knew that the human side could offer more insights than pure automation. Through trial and error, we developed a replicable process and approach to social listening that bridged technology and thought.
Today, brands have become much more sophisticated with social listening to drive engagement. A plethora of platforms are available to help with any number of the following programs:
If you are thinking about beginning a social listening program or recalibrating your current one, I offer a few tips to keep in mind.
Have a program goal in mind before you evaluate or adopt a platform.
Platforms have greatly improved their functionality and usability. However, they all have strengths, weaknesses and a breadth of offerings. Based on your goal(s), create a simple assessment tracker that allows you to look across and compare multiple platforms and evaluate them against your specific needs. I have included a sample below. Get your key questions answered along the way. Remember everything looks flashy and exciting in that first demo.
Don’t rely on data alone.
The output of social listening should be more qualitative than quantitative. Numbers give you a baseline, a cluster to investigate and a way to gauge if you are moving the proverbial needle. However, metrics in and of themselves are often interesting, but not always useful.
The real value lies in the interpretation of the results. Therefore assign a SME or partner to the project. Someone with deep knowledge and expertise on your products, services, target industries and audience personas will help make the leap from general observation à insight à opportunity.
Map out your approach.
I don’t know how many times I have heard, “Can I get a listening report?” Well, that could mean many things. Take the time upfront to figure out exactly what insights you’re looking for. Start by listing out your objectives for the program. It could be a simple list of questions you want answered so that you can:
Here is an example. Let’s say you want insights to drive your content marketing strategy for a particular product. Below are some key questions to ask:
Go beyond what is #trending now.
Mine content as far back as a year old. It may seem a little counterintuitive, but it is important to understand the development (or maturity level) of your topic areas so that your actions are relevant based on what your audience cares about. How has the social content on a particular topic or theme evolved over the course of the last year, compared to six months ago and compared to today? Have the conversations increased, stayed flat or dropped? This is where some of your metrics come in handy. Let’s look at an example below.
The goal of this particular project was to inform a content marketing roadmap in a specific industry. We wanted to create an effective content creation strategy relevant to specific points on the decision journey. We compared core topics by quarter over a year’s time. The numbers indicated greater traction for topics A and D, while B and C were emerging. By overlaying the context of the social conversation sample, we determined how they were talking in addition to how much. With aligned data points and context, we recommended that the content direction for A and D should be geared towards consideration and preference, while B and C would focus on promoting adoption and awareness. Below is a peek into what we found.
[Note: Some tools are limited in the amount of historical data they store so add this criteria to your evaluation checklist.]
Without question, social listening platforms are becoming business as usual. If you are currently struggling with your listening program ask yourself some key questions on your strategy and approach. If you are not currently listening, but know that you should have a plan in mind before you just dive in.
Have a question? I’m listening!
Considering that South by Southwest® (SXSW®) is the “premier destination for discovery,” why wouldn’t ComBlu be first in line to participate in this cultivating event? That’s why we have sprung into action and developed three intriguing proposals for this year’s event. From content supply chain methodology to ROI and decision journey considerations, ComBlu (we hope) is focusing on the right topics that will interest today’s content marketers. But, we can’t do it alone. This year the competition for speakers is fierce with more than 3,200 proposals submitted. Here’s where you come in: whether you are heading to Austin or not this March, we need you to vote for the session that would be most of interest.
Act fast – the voting process ends on August 31! Simply visit the highlighted link below and give your thumbs up for the session of your choice (don’t forget to register – it only takes a moment).
Today content is a critical component of enterprise value. It’s a key differentiator for brands that know how to source, create and distribute it effectively. Yet, few organizations apply the rigor of the supply chain discipline to the sourcing, creation, logistics, management, distribution and measurement of its content value. Companies that source raw materials for the manufacturing process apply granular discipline at every point in the supply chain and constantly seek ways to improve logistics and workflow, cut costs, find new competitive advantage, and get to market more effectively. This same approach applies to the content supply chain, which McKinsey estimates has a sunk cost of tens of millions of dollars in CPC, OEMs and technology companies. Panelists will discuss real world issues in putting a content supply chain methodology in place and give practical tips for each of the five basic steps of content supply chain:
For years, the major baking brands all optimized their content to rank high for the most frequently searched term: “Chocolate cake.” But the real opportunity lay in optimizing for a term that was “own-able”…like princess cake. Building the right content measurement system can help brands find their “princess cake.” This is what happens when brands move beyond “activity metrics” and develop “value metrics” that show how to calibrate and optimize their content marketing strategy.
Panelists, Kathy Baughman (ComBlu), George Palatine (Allstate), Ekaterina Walter (Intel) and Rishi Dave (Dell) will share the innovative ways they are approaching content ROI. They will share tips for:
• Developing content KPIs
• Determining which content contributes to sales and which is a drag on performance
• Building a meaningful content dashboard
Customers and prospects want different kinds of information at different points of the decision journey. The right mix of created, curated and social content differs at each point along the way. And, where consumers look for information and conversation differs at each point in the decision process. It all needs to be calibrated for different segments of decision makers and influencers.
Moderator Chris Silva (Altimeter Group) and panelists Ekaterina Walter (Intel), Joe Chernov (Eloqua) and Kathy Baughman (ComBlu), will help the audience understand how to deliver the right content at the right place at the right time. They will:
• Show how to map content along the decision journey
• Demonstrate the authority of different types of content along the decision journey
• Share how to gauge quality content for different points in the decision process
• Show how the content of three brands align along the decision journey
Thanks in advance for your support. Fingers crossed!!!
By now, everyone has seen this Infographic. Yes, it is complex and confusing and it should give you a headache.
The tools to manage and measure activity on a socially enabled web today are growing at substantial rate. Today, you can track and measure virtually any activity you would want to or deploy a tool to help you manage social campaigns of virtually any type. A tool or an app has been built to address almost anything you might want to do.
This explosion of social tool development, while innovative and necessary, does little to solve the bigger problems of social engagement, which essentially boil down to understanding why people act the way they act in a social brand encounter and then helping to facilitate the right engagement and then understanding in simple clear terms the value and outcome of that encounter. That’s the bad news. The good news is this will change.
If you follow any innovation curve in virtually any industry, things tend to get harder and more complex before they get simpler and easier. Why? Because, during the early phases of innovation, the processes and rules and infrastructure that will later support new inventions are getting built right along with what’s being invented. Solving any one problem on its own is the goal. Later, problems get grouped together and a new smarter solution addresses them all.
Take the Model T automobile for example. Building the car on a mass scale was one thing. Tough enough to be sure, but what about manufacturing and distributing replacement parts as those cars began to break down? Sourcing, distributing and stocking virtually every part on the car separately was likely a daunting, painful and expensive exercise at the outset, for the supplier and the consumer.
In the end, things improved. They had to for the fledgling automotive industry to remain viable. All the confusion, competing systems and supply chain gaps needed to be streamlined and refined and new smarter and more innovative solutions and options were layered on based on understanding and meeting customer needs.
Innovators moved from activity metrics (which parts are needed) to value metrics (when to make and distribute them so that inventories matched demand) as the industry evolved.
Making sure that the customer could get the parts they needed when they needed it AFTER they purchased the vehicle helped to ensure that that customer would buy another auto from that manufacturer rather than a competitor’s product.
Social Marketing today is going through the same innovation phase as the early auto industry (and every other one for that matter). It will get better. For the industry to survive and remain relevant to users, it has to! The focus will begin to move away from the tools and the activity to the experience and the value of the relationship we deliver.
As this innovation occurs over the next few years, look for consolidation to speed up and for tools become more expansive, robust…and simpler. Tomorrow’s Infographic will look drastically different than the one at the beginning of this post. It will be less about the tools available and more about content, relationship triggers and the decision journey. That’s what tomorrow’s tools will help to manage-relationships and decision journeys, not just data.
Remember, keep your eye on the prize of understanding what is driving your value metrics; what is moving your constituents through the decision process and what compels them to remain involved with your brand. The tools which help you manage your social marketing initiatives will get better, be more intuitive and easier to use, I guarantee it.
Knowing this, social marketing practitioners and their business peers need to start focusing hard on what makes good relationships work. You must now begin the process of blurring the lines between all of your brand experience channels and optimizing those channels for relevance and value.
Get ready, as the next few years will bring marketing innovation and opportunities you have never imagined were possible.
Now that I’ve got your attention (particularly my husband’s), let me explain. A few weeks back, I was researching a company who tapped us for an RFP on thought leadership and influencer marketing. After a quick listening scan and review of their websites and social activity, I knew a whole lot about what they do, but virtually nothing about who they are, what they know or what they stand for.
That initial online meeting is like a first date. It could fall flat. Or it could be the start of a beautiful friendship. According to PricewaterhouseCoopers, more than 80% of consumers go online to research products before they buy. So if you want a consumer to commit time and attention to you, then make that time well spent by giving them the kind of information they want and need at these early stages of the buyer’s journey.
In the Awareness and Consideration phases of the decision journey, the consumers’ focus is on being smart about their options and then having informed conversations. Much of that initial view is driven by the brand and a well-developed thought leadership program that integrates both the brand’s perspective and the influencers’ voices.
So what can you do improve the odds for making a great “first impression”?
Like any good relationship, it grows over time but it all starts with a first look.
Logging in. Linking In. Checking in. Pinning. Posting. For a social media marketer, it can be oh-so-exhausting. But, like a good social media doobie, you do it every day: Leverage your social media toolbox to bring to life compelling brand stories and perspective.
At times, the experience can seem daunting and disjointed for both the content marketer and the brand ambassador. Sure, we all have stories to tell, but how do we find the most relevant content and ensure that you are telling a cohesive story?
Fortunately, we’ve found a few nifty new tools that aggregate your content from multiple networks, creating portals in the cloud that help you curate the best content and potentially cut through the never-ending stream of status updates. While these platforms will certainly evolve as they mature, picking a favorite requires a bit of trial and error to determine the interface and approach that’s most appropriate for your brand. Our three favorites (in order of preference) are:
1. Storify puts the social web into context by curating the best story elements and content to create an embeddable, dynamic and shareable story highlighting the best tweets, photos, RSS feeds and videos about a particular subject. Say bye-bye to the time-consuming chore of cutting and pasting text and links and downloading and re-uploading photos. Instead, simply drag and drop the content that best brings your story to life. Storify initially took off with journalists who used the tool to quickly identify social media activity related to their news and then “storify” the most relevant findings. For marketers, storify enables you to engage authentically and in real time with industry news and real-world discussions relating to your product, brand or industry. Case in point: Avis’ customer appreciation campaign.
2. Glossi promises to create beautiful, living magazines about you. Think of it as a web-based version of Flipboard, only instead of creating magazines of your favorite content, it brings together in one place your activity on five social networks (Twitter, Facebook, Foursquare, Instagram and Tumblr). Each profile features a profile image, a Facebook-like cover background and immediately below, your shared music, videos, tweets, posts, check-ins and links. It’s easy to reorganize (or even delete) your featured content. Right now, it’s in its infancy (you can request an invite to the beta), but given its ease-of-use, it will likely be embraced by social influencers and brands in the months to come. You heard about it here first! Case in point: Yoko Ono’s Glossi.
3. RebelMouse, like Glossi, is also new to the scene and, for now, by invitation only. Started by Huffington Post’s former CTO, Paul Berry, the RebelMouse platform consists of a personal bulletin board à la Pinterest that is organized by headlines with stories underneath. Right now, you can only aggregate your Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest feeds. Tumblr and Instagram are coming soon. Case in point: FastCompany’s RebelMouse page.
While all of these tools certainly help you aggregate your content across multiple networks, their true power lies in presenting it in creative, compelling new ways that are engaging to your advocates. In a single package, these services bring together the simplicity of Twitter, the visual engagement of Pinterest and the blogging capabilities of Tumblr. The rest is up to you: you’ll want to promote creatively and consistently as you would any of your brand’s social properties. As Martha Stewart would say, “It’s a good thing.” What say you? Will you be test driving any of these new content management tools?
Repositioning a venerable brand needs to both honor its heritage and create a new reality that is credible and disruptive. The disruption breaks the schema that has previously defined the brand, but if the disruption is too far afield, the new positioning will lack believability and authenticity and ultimately will fail to connect.
When ComBlu was asked to be part of the team to reposition Encyclopaedia Britannica, we searched for a platform that blended the old with the new. Part of the process was learning both the brand’s history and grasping the vision of its future.
What surprised us most at the outset was what we didn’t know about the company. When we thought of Britannica, we thought of the multiple volumes of encyclopedias lined up on the shelf like toy soldiers. We all had fond memories of using the books during our own school days, but even those of us with kids and endless research projects (myself included), had no idea of all they had to offer today.
We learned that Britannica had spent the past two decades transforming the company into a thriving, global digital education and instruction company. Today, the firm is well-positioned to make an even greater contribution to education and gain a significant share of the $10 billion school curriculum and digital learning markets.
In addition to the encyclopedia—print and online—Britannica offers a diverse range of digital products and services, including instructional programs for the classroom, reference and education portals, language courses, and educator tutorials for knowledge seekers of any age.
With its audience-specific, segmented product line, Britannica is well-rounded and thriving. But who knew? We did not, and as we learned through the listening program we conducted, we were not alone. Our listening revealed that:
· Britannica was not included in much of the conversation about online access to information and research.
· Many mentions of Britannica were nostalgic in nature and not forward-looking.
· Conversations often reinforced a perception that the company is outdated.
So, we definitely had a challenge on our hands. We knew we needed to find the right news angle to reintroduce and reposition Britannica as a global digital brand.
The sunsetting of the print set of Britannica provided the perfect platform to present who Britannica is today, what differentiates them in the competitive online research arena, why now is the right time to go all digital, and showcase their plans for the future. We used this event as an opportunity to tell the story of the new Britannica to a mix of influencers who could tell the story and give it perspective, context and power.
It was a fully integrated social and traditional media campaign that used a variety of assets that collectively created “lightning in a bottle.” All of the elements we created to tell the story had distinct roles and made it “easy to care; easy to share.” People were very attached to the legacy print brand so we made sure they had plenty of images and stories that reignited a deep emotional connection to the brand. We also included assets that showcased the “new” Britannica as a powerful digital and social suite of products. The result? More than 2 billion impressions that told the story in a respectful yet disruptive way.
Our infographics were shared wholesale and tidbits from them were used in various stories; segments of the B-roll footage were used in a number of broadcast and online pieces; the blogs and social posts were quoted, tweeted and retweeted; and the photos we provided appeared literally everywhere. Check out some of our favorite clips, articles and social posts that we consider highlights of the campaign.
When we started this phase of the rebranding program, almost 2,000 print editions were sitting in a warehouse—today, none remain. But more importantly, many people now know the story of a 244-year-old print publisher that has successfully repositioned itself for a long and successful future as a digital learning brand. This campaign was just the first step on a new journey for Britannica.
I have to admit that I did get a bit nostalgic about the end of the print era. The memory it evoked for me: I was cleaning the room that our set of Britannica’s lived in, dusting them off, and getting pleasantly distracted by perusing a page and seeing where it took me. Do you have a favorite memory of your own? We’d love to hear it.
Why don’t fad diets work? Experts say that when dieting, people become fixated on what they eat, how often and the corresponding loss of weight. Once that weight goal has been achieved and the pants fit again, time to celebrate. No more hard-boiled eggs and plain boiled chicken breast. Whoo-hoo! Success! Let’s grab a burger and a beer, baby!
Five weeks later, the weight is back with a vengeance. Why is this? Simple. People place a short term focus on the tactics of the diet but totally ignore what is more important. That being a long term change in behavior. You see, it’s not just what you eat but how you approach the whole concept of health. It’s all tied together. You are tired. Don’t work out, you get stressed and you eat. That quick bag of Doritos as a lunch ain’t helpin’ things, neither is the diet soda for breakfast. Meals are things you get on the go. It is learned behavior that becomes engrained behavior.
Why is social marketing hard? Same reason as why dieting doesn’t work long term. It’s because, corporate teams have engrained behaviors which are focused on the short term. Campaigns and product launches. Beginning, middle and end; then onto whatever else is next.
Couple that mentality with a constant shuffle of teams and people through the endless re-orgs, attrition, upward and lateral movement of team members and focusing on anything long term becomes almost impossible…especially when we are measured and judged on the now.
Doesn’t losing five pounds by starving yourself this week sound better than losing 1 pound by taking the stairs instead of the elevator? More immediate gratification! Five pounds baby! One third of the way to my goal!
So how important is getting social marketing right? What impact will it have on the fundamental way we do business?
Social marketing is a disruptive model that will have far reaching ripple effects on corporate strategy that we cannot yet quantify. When Henry Ford refined and adopted the assembly line, when interstate highways were laid, when the light bulb became commercially available, the advent of the cellular telephone, the Internet, the growth in adoption of Twitter. These are all disruptive forces that no one fully understood or really appreciated at their outset. However, when taking the long view, you can begin to see how these things, well…changed everything.
Social marketing and ultimately, social business, which I define for purposes of this post as ‘collaborative engagement and dialogue which facilitate either common goals or common interests, done in ways that are transparent and communicated in languages, words and pictures we each understand and identify with’ are already beginning to change everything.
Remember the book Crossing the Chasm? The whole premise was around innovation and adoption of new ideas and process that allowed organizations, even big ones to become nimbler and allow their product and service evolutions to effectively go from early adopters to mainstream; which ultimately is the goal of every corporate entity, right? Organizations needed to adopt a process of change or fall into the chasm. IBM is a great example of one who made the crossing successfully. Zenith & Tower Records? Not so much. Ahhhhhhhhh, thud.
If your organization is still in command and control mode, if teams can’t or won’t be collaborative, if the silo walls of your organization are thick and without holes which allow for information, ideas and effort to pass through, you will never cross the chasm until a behavior change occurs-organizationally.
However, if you are attempting to evolve your business, over time, through new learned behaviors (which may be simply stringing a multitude of social initiatives or campaigns together to create the look and feel of what social marketing is really like) you are likely in either Step 2 or Step 3. See above chart.
Where ever you are, the important thing is getting through Step 2. Why is this? Well, social initiatives are based on relationships. Relationships are chaotic and ever changing. They are hard to plan around. They are not necessarily linear or fact driven. They are emotional and conversation driven. Try planning a traditional critical path around that. When you do, welcome to Step 2.
Everything you used to do doesn’t fit neatly into the new social model and that’s frustrating. The danger is giving up and going back to the old way of doing things (checking out).
However, when you learn to be truly collaborative with your peers, subject matter experts, customers and prospects that they aid in the planning and activities; outcomes and expectations magically align. The chaotic becomes more predictable. Welcome to Step 3, which is where you start thinking differently and acting differently and a new normal begins to grow.
Think about it. In any relationship, if you don’t approach the situation with mutual trust and respect, if you don’t listen and ask questions; if you don’t have a dialogue. Communication stops. Statements start. Trust evaporates. Usually, when that happens in any relationship, it ends badly. You are not being social. You are being obstinate.
Since social marketing is as new an idea as it is disruptive, we haven’t seen the full impact that these social ripple effects are having on organizations or industries. Therefore, few organizations, if any really, have moved into Step 4, but many are on their way! As more companies move across the chasm, this will force their competitors to follow suit. For everyone that makes the move, either by choice or by force, the new learned ‘social’ behaviors will eventually become engrained behaviors and that’s when social marketing becomes the norm and the power of social will be felt, understood and acknowledged.
Social is here to stay folks. That’s a fact. What the impact is, no one yet knows; only that it will be substantial. So where are you on crossing the social chasm? Is the cliff ahead of you or behind you?
Upon reflection, perhaps I shouldn’t have second guessed the significance of our encyclopedic announcement revealing the end of the publication’s iconic print set and the company’s pursuit of all things digital.
But I did.
True, everyone involved was passionate about our story. We believed in it. We prepared for it. Still, I worried (I’m a bit like Woody Allen that way). Will people care? Will they understand its significance and why it truly matters?
Turns out they did–beyond our wildest expectations. Breaking news from the front page of the most influential of newspapers (New York Times, Wall Street Journal, USA Today and Financial Times), the global news wires, and national and international news programs were liked, tweeted and commented on around the world. We were number one with a bullet on Google and Twitter. Stories popped up where least expected—on iPad apps, in elevator screens, even after an oh-so-fascinating conversation about Kathy Lee’s new hairdo on The Today Show. I knew we were part of the zeitgeist upon seeing us featured on the RidicuList segment of Anderson Cooper 360 and becoming the answer to a question on “Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me!” I chuckled at the resulting banter:
“If you don’t understand why it’s a big deal that we’ll no longer be able to buy a whole shelf of leather-bound encyclopedias for more than a thousand dollars a set, go find your parents and ask them to ask their parents to find an Ouija board to commune with their grandparents, and they’ll tell you.”
While it’s true that this story was 244 years in the making, nostalgia for the iconic brand is only one reason why it has become one of the most talked about topics around the world. While I’m sure this list will grow as the news becomes a day eight, nine and 10 story (it’s like the Energizer bunny in that it keeps going and going), success secrets certainly would include:
· Be prepared—be very prepared. Telling a compelling story requires more than a press release. First and foremost, compelling messages must be developed that are accepted and internalized by anyone who communicates with customers, the media, analysts and influencers. Once in hand, these messages serve as the foundation for all of the assets developed to tell and share a story. Britannica did this quite well, as you can see from the videos, blogs, infographics and social assets leveraged for our announcement.
· Relentlessly tell the story you want to tell. Time and time again, the influencers we spoke with wanted us to express sadness for the end of the print set. We wouldn’t go there, no matter how hard they tried. Rather, we were passionate about using this milestone to effectively communicate that Britannica today is a very different company—it’s digital, mobile and social—and its reach and relevancy today is undeniable. In fact, our announcement is something to celebrate.
· Make time for the influencers. Critical to our success was the strategy to arrange one-on-one briefings with the people that ultimately shape what we talk and tweet about. We were quite successful in lining up nonstop meetings on the days prior to our announcement, yet ultimately it was up to Britannica’s president, Jorge Cauz, to bring it home for us. And bring it home he did by knocking it out of the park every time.
· Then, make time for everyone else. Once the news broke, the requests for interviews were fast and furious. And, we were ready. We kept at it, in fact, until the wee hours of the night, for three straight days. And we delivered responses to questions such as, “How much does a complete set weigh?” like it was the first time they were asked (129 pounds—more than my colleague Pam weighs, incidentally).
· Don’t take yourself too seriously. News like this takes on a life of its own as reporters and bloggers look for new ways to tell the story. Embracing the process and having fun will keep the news engine running—even when you are running on empty.
What did you think of Britannica’s announcement? Who knows, we might be able to share your story.