Archive for July, 2010


Why I blog (nearly live and in-person)

This is my first video blog.

I hate it.

But we all need to push ourselves and experiment, right?  This is WAY out of my comfort zone.

I intended to edit out the turning on and off parts (why doesn’t this camera have a remote?), add a title etc.  but the video editing software is too complicated and I just don’t have the time or patience to mess with it. If somebody wants to make a title with a scorching rock theme and teach me how to paste it on there, I will gladly pay you to do it.  Also show me where the “make it look like he lost 10 pounds” button is.

In the end I decided just to post it as-is — one-take, mistakes and all — because it was just turning into more excuses to not  do it. I’m trying to encourage you to stretch yourselves and {grow} so I’m taking my own medicine on this one.

I appreciate all of you who have encouraged (pestered) me to finally do this.  Sort of.

The clash of the social media know-nothings

The know-nothings.

You know who I’m talking about right?  Social media “marketers” who have never practiced marketing.  Maybe have never even had a sales job or a college-level marketing class. But they’ve created a Facebook page and have 500 followers on Twitter so somehow that makes them a guru.

“You can’t walk out your house without bumping into a social-media expert today, said Forrester Analyst Sean Corcoran in a WSJ article. “The reality is the space is still very much a Wild West.”

I’m not going to dwell on the shake-and-bake “experts” and their webinar info-mercials promising to unleash profits through the magic of follower lists and multi-level marketing scams.  Enough has been written about that. The point of this post is that there is a clash in the marketplace because there aren’t enough true social media marketing experts — with the emphasis on MARKETING — to go around.

[SOCIALADS]

Look at what’s happening on the demand side.  Ad spending on social networks world-wide is expected to rise 14% this year to $2.5 billion. Every advertising, marketing and public relations firm in the world wants a piece of the action and is looking for talent.   Consider these news bites from the past week:

  • Universal McCann, is launching a social media practice this month called Rally.  “Social media is now part of all our clients’ plans; we can’t not be in this space,” says Matt Seiler, chief executive of Universal McCann.
  • Publicis Groupe‘s digital umbrella organization, VivaKi, says it also will open a social-media consulting practice this year.
  • Pepsi‘s Gatorade brand created a “Mission Control Center,” which is set up like a broadcast-television control room, to monitor the sports drink around the clock across social-media networks.
  • Kraft hired 360i, a digital ad agency owned by Japan’s largest ad company, Dentsu  to monitor brands like Oreo and Jell-O.
  • Microsoftis currently searching for a social-media firm to handle duties for its Xbox videogame system.

In other words, social media marketing is white freaking hot.

Now for the supply side of the clash.  Who is going to fill all these positions?   Unless you define success by the loosey-goosey standards of “engagement” and “conversations,”  there just aren’t many individuals out there who have actually demonstrated an ability to use social media to move the needle for a business.  And I don’t mean new “followers.”  I mean sales. Cash flow. New customers.

If you have the fire-power and mega-budgets of Microsoft, Pepsi and the other big brands, you can certainly buy your way into success on the social web.   But the vast majority of businesses out there are going to be stuck with the no-nothings instead of the exceptional marketing talent they really need to grow their business.

The dirty little secret the know-nothings are keeping from you is that, with the rare exceptions, nobody wants to be Facebook Friends with your company. You’re going to need much more than an intern tweeting earnestly about your latest coupons to impact your bottom line.  We live in a society that is absolutely sick of being advertised to, sold to, and marketed to, which is why most people turn to Farmville and the social networks to ESCAPE commercialism. So if a know-nothing is promising that they have this figured out and they’re going to help your car dealership or clothes boutique be the next Old Spice succcess story by “listening” to the Twitter stream … well, be afraid.

At the end of the day making money on the social web — or anywhere — still gets down to MARKETING FUNDAMENTALS.  Research, strategy, planning.  Creating points of differentiation. Finding a unique way to delight your customers and out-smart  your competitors.  And then, using the social web as a channel. Maybe.

For most businesses trying to figure out what to do with all this social media stuff, forget about finding a social media expert. That’s a hammer looking for a nail. Find the best, most experienced marketing pro you can afford and let them figure out where it fits for you, if at all.

Can I hear an “amen?”

An interesting interview with SAP’s social media director

I pleased to present today an interview with William Robb, Director, Social Media Marketing for SAP.

SAP is the world’s largest provider of business software and the social media role is extremely complex. In addition to being a true B2B company, the many software users within these client companies act as consumers of the software and are essentially a B2C audience.  Although a global powerhouse, more than two-thirds of SAP customers are classified as small businesses and midsize enterprises (fewer than 2,500 employees).

If you want to see the social web serving communities in a powerful way, I’d encourage you to visit their site.  In my recent corporate blogging webinar, I cited SAP as best practice and the company is also a pioneer in user-driven training and support videos and the establishment of diverse and vibrant  user communities. Here’s Bill:

Bill, you hold a premier social media marketing position with one of the world’s largest companies. What’s your background and how did it prepare you for this role?

I worked at a full-service interactive agency for many years. We excelled in online direct marketing especially in B2B tech (Oracle & Sun were my main clients). I took a position at Cisco in 2005 in Global Demand Generation but while my colleagues were building traditional direct marketing programs, I was tasked with building the case that we could get greater return if our direct marketing was more customer-centric.

One of the guiding principles was to put our customers in control of our marketing. I built Relationship Email Marketing program that was more personalized, targeted, and often 20 times more effective than our traditional efforts.

With that guiding principle in mind, it’s not difficult to figure out how I ended up in social media marketing when a small team was assembled in 2007. Brand listening, crowdsourcing, etc. are all manifestations of that same idea. It didn’t hurt that personally I was a (relatively) early adopter and active participant in the social web. It’s much easier to understand your customers’ experiences when you’re familiar with the environment yourself.

You could connect to so many possible constituents through the social web. Customers, obviously, but also developers, partners, suppliers. How do you focus your efforts?

I sit in Marketing so end customers are the priority but “customers” at a company like SAP can comprise a variety of audiences (from CxO’s to developers). Depending on the product, audience, and objectives, we might focus efforts in technical forums for developers or build a thought leadership blog for a business audience.

The lame but honest answer is: it depends. Partners are also hugely important in B2B tech. Marketing’s role is typically in partner enablement, but at Cisco I developed a partner influencer program for a product group as a way to help amplify their launches.

Measurement is always a hot topic when it comes to social media. How are you held accountable for results at SAP?

We’re in Corporate so we’re responsible for the SAP brand in social. Our team is ultimately accountable for risk management so we’re doing our job well when there are 0 crises (i.e. detecting problems early and making sure they are addressed).

Otherwise, our objectives tend to be at the top of the funnel so we look at a variety of brand metrics such as competitive share of conversation in key solution areas and brand sentiment as a proxy for customer satisfaction.

At a more tactical level, our team manages the SAP brand social sites (e.g. www.facebook.com/SAPSoftware) where we track the typical interaction levels and drive-to-SAP metrics. On that front, we’re launching a pilot with a social media management tool (Sprinklr) that allows us to aggregate metrics for all SAP social sites and social media interactions. I envision this opening the door for some new measures that we’ll track.

Our bigger task is to measure more of the business impact of social and we are working on a unified view of measurement across three of the major groups engaged in SAP social strategy internally (Marketing, PR, and Communities). Stay tuned.

What has you most excited about your job right now?

Social CRM has some fascinating implications for marketing, sales, and service. As a social marketer, I enjoy thinking about how we need to organize and build processes to support it especially across departments. It’s a challenging but very rewarding part of my job. Working for a company that’s a player in the SCRM space adds yet another dimension to my interest.

You told me you really liked my recent post on busting social media myths. What myth would YOU like to bust?

It’s very popular for Social Media Directors at various companies to say this: “If we do this right, I won’t have a job in a year or so.”

OK, I can appreciate the idealism—social media is so important in so many areas of the business (internal and external) that it’s just going to be part of everyone’s job and having a social media “silo” is counter-productive to that end.  My career in marketing has shadowed the rise of the web and its offspring (email, search, social, mobile). These have fragmented the marketing mix to a level that requires deep specialization. And they evolve at such speed that it’s hard even for specialized practitioners to keep up.

Many marcoms still struggle with the complexity of online & email yet we’re expecting them to be social media strategists in 12-18 months too. I just don’t see it. You can build social DNA into every employee (and the business itself) yet still require a team of social media specialists who have deep expertise in the discipline — not to mention a more critical eye for bad behavior. I think roles like mine are going to be necessary for the foreseeable future.

Bill can be found on Twitter at @BillRobbSAP and on LinkedIn.

Twitter time-savers: Tweet success in just 20 minutes a day

“How much time should I spend on Twitter?” is a question I get asked repeatedly. And last week one person upped the game by asking, “But what if I only have 20 minutes a day?”

OK, I accept the challenge!  Here are my thoughts on being an effective Twitter-er in only 20 minutes a day. I’ve divided this into two categories — 20 minutes a day for beginners and then experienced folks.

The 20-minute challenge for beginners

In a world focused on “engagement” and “conversation” I’m going to give some unconventional advice — Forget about it for a few weeks. If you’re a beginner and can only spend 20 minutes a day on Twitter, concentrate on building a relevant tribe of followers. Two reasons for this:

  • You’ll become disheartened trying to engage with people if there is nobody interesting to engage with and
  • Twitter is simply boring if you’re only following 12 people and you’ll probably quit. Critical mass means following at least 150 active tweeters.

So in the first two months, tweet at least once a day so people see that you’re active, but spend half of your time finding and following interesting people.  Don’t worry if they follow back or not. That will come in time.

In this related post on building influence through Twitter, I’ve listed some easy ways to identify and follow interesting people who are relevant to your business and interests. And if you’re just starting out and need some advice on what to tweet about, here is some help on that topic.

Now for the other half of your time, spend it reading, and occasionally responding to, tweets from your new friends.  This will give you the chance to see what kind of tweets you like, which is instructive when you start tweeting more heavily yourself.  If you’re unfamiliar with the quirky language of Twitter, do a search for one of the many tutorials that are out there. Most people quit in the first two weeks, so hang in there and get help if you need it!

The 20-minute challenge for pros

Let’s face it, if you’re really immersed in Twitter, the challenge is probably how to not spend ALL your time on this addictive little channel!  Once you have surrounded yourself with an interesting tribe, it’s easy to “go down the rabbit hole” and follow link after interesting link.

Now that you have built up a critical mass of followers, it’s time to take advantage of this amazing resource and engage and build meaningful connections.  Here are a few time-saving corner-cutters:

1) Get in the habit of sharing. You’re constantly reading on the Internet any way, right?  It’s so easy to share an article, post or video these days by clicking on that little Twitter “share” icon.  Don’t worry what it’s about. If it’s interesting to you, it will probably be interesting to your Twitter friends, too.  Just be yourself and let your Twitter audience find YOU!

2) If you’re only spending 20 minutes a day, do it at different times of the day so you have the chance to interact with a broader range of people.

3) By now you’re using some kind of an organizing tool like Tweetdeck or Hootsuite, right?  It’s an excellent way to improve your efficiency by helping you focus on those who are actively connecting with you.

4) One of the most time-efficient Twitter strategies is to look for opportunities to re-tweet posts. This has two important benefits. First, you’re providing interesting and meaningful content to your followers with little time investment on your part. Second it is a way to connect with somebody and compliment them with a tweet.  And don’t just re-tweet the same people all the time.  When you can, glance through the whole Twitterstream and look for opportunities to connect to new folks.

5) Another great time-saver is using a Twitter app for a smart phone. Use those idle minutes waiting to pick up the kids at school!

Can you keep up with everything going on? No way. Not even if you spent 10 hours a day!  Being effective in 20 minutes a day means knowing how to use these time-saving tips and then having the discipline to prioritize. Here’s what works for me:

  • My first priority is to see who has mentioned me in tweets.  I don’t take that for granted. People are reaching out to me and trying to connect, so I want to engage with them, even if it is a simple “thank you.”
  • Next, I look at direct messages and quickly sift through the spam to make sure I don’t miss something important from a friend.
  • I have my TweetDeck set up with columns with marketing thought leaders, people who are active on my blog, local friends, and other topics.  I scan through each column to see what some of my favorite people are saying and look for opportunities to engage and re-tweet.
  • I’m constantly reading throughout the day and clicking the “tweet button” to share interesting articles. One problem I have is that I tend to share in chunks, so I will be inactive for most of the day and then send a flurry of tweets because I’m in reading mode. That may be annoying to some followers. Of course it is possible to schedule tweets to even things out through various services including HootSuite but that takes a little more time and the idea of “scheduling” tweets seems fake to me. A personal choice.
  • Don’t forget to show you’re human. If you’re in a queue some place, write a quick tweet to let people know what’s going on in your day.

Those are a few of my ideas for saving time and still being an effective citizen of the Twitterverse. What’s working for you? How do you spend your time most efficiently on Twitter?

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