Transitioning online contacts into offline friendships

I’ve made many wonderful connections through the social web, but the magic really happens when I’ve strengthened those bonds by turning those online friends into offline relationships. I had some cool experiences last week that I wanted to share with you.

Amy Howell and I have become fast Twitter friends and cemented our relationship a few months ago when she visited me during a business trip to our area. I was able to return the favor last week when she hosted Chris Brogan at a community event in Memphis. While it was great to meet Chris, it was even more rewarding to meet a dozen or so of my other close Twitter friends for the first time like Jeremy Victor, Kathy Snavely, Eric Fletcher, Glen Gilmour, Kent Huffman, Anne Gallaher and Ryan Sauers.  Who knows where new friendships like this will lead?

On my way to Memphis I stopped in Nashville to have lunch with another Twitter friend Laura Click. I was moved by the flooded devastation in this nearby city and Laura’s own personal story.  She agreed to write a guest post about her experiences and we are also exploring ways to work together on some other upcoming projects. I’m sure we would not have found these synergies without taking the time to meet face to face.

After my trip to Memphis, I drove to  Indianapolis to give a speech at the American Public Power Association conference. Yes, I spent a lot of time in the car last week! So I tried an experiment — could I use this time productively to “meet” even more of my Twitter friends?  I sent out a tweet inviting folks to call me during my drive to talk about any marketing topics on their mind.  Not only was this a pleasant way to pass the time, I was able to help one contact with a job lead and another call resulted in a possible consulting engagement for me.

Twitter is such a powerful networking tool but you can really unleash its power by connecting in the offline world too! Have you had similar experiences?

My week in pics: 1) Laura Click 2) Jeremy Victor 3) Eric Fletcher, Amy Howell, Jim Howell, Glen Gilmour, 4) Trey Pennington 5) Amy Howell 6) Kathy Snavely

Are new business grads getting an “F” in social media marketing?

A fresh crop of marketing students is about to be graduated from the nation’s universities so at this time of year I normally get calls from friends, and friends of friends, asking me to talk to their kids about careers in marketing. I’m happy to oblige, but the conversations this year have been disheartening.  They have gone something like this:

ME: So do you have any experience on the social web?

STUDENT:  No. Well, I do have a Facebook page for my friends. Have about 3,000 of them.

And it goes downhill from there. I have spoken to five marketing seniosr from very good schools and only one was on Twitter or LinkedIn and none of them had ever blogged or done social media marketing on a job or internship.

I just have to ask … what is going on? My own daughter is entering her senior year, majoring in journalism and business at a very well-respected university, and has yet to have any significant mention of the social web in her classes.

I realize this is a difficult subject to teach … there is no text book on it and there probably never will be. Still, aren’t business schools totally amiss if they don’t at least teach students enough to help them land a job? Forget that … enough to to help them LOOK for a job?  I mean really … looking for a job and they’re not even on LinkedIn?

I haven’t seen any stats on this but if I had to guess, I would say 80 percent of entry level marketing jobs today involve some element of the social web. What the heck is going on in our colleges?

Do you have opinions from the field?

PR versus marketing: The final battle over social media


ShareLast week Vocus, a provider of on-demand PR management software, announced the results of a survey which found that the turf battle between PR and marketing rages on, especially over ownership of social media initiatives.

Key survey findings include the following:

  • Lines between PR and marketing continue to blur.  78 percent report to the same boss.
  • Turf battles still evident.  34% cite organizational structures, functional silos or turf battles as the single largest barrier to integrated communications.
  • Ownership of social media and blogging up in the air. 43% of PR professionals say they should own it, while 34% make the same claim.
  • The two groups come together on the need for measurement. 56% of both marketing and PR professionals agree that an integrated communications increases overall effectiveness of their programs and 48% cite sales and ROI as the most important metrics.

Honestly I’m weary of this discussion over ownership. It doesn’t matter who “owns” the actual social web communication activities as long as it is clearly and precisely supporting the marketing strategy.  On most big strategy questions, I usually think the answer is “it depends.”  But this is one of the few cases where the answer seems beyond doubt: Marketing should ultimately own the integrated communications strategy. Here’s the logic:

1) A company exists to attract and retain customers, thereby creating shareholder value.  Peter Drucker famously said that the “purpose of a company is marketing and innovation. Everything else is overhead.”

2) While there are many useful PR-related social media applications, directly or indirectly these activities are enabling a civic, political, labor, and business climate to make it easier to manufacture and sell products to customers. If they are not supporting this central goal, the activities should end.

3) Everything a company says or doesn’t say — on the social web or otherwise — affects the brand image, which must be singularly controlled with laser focus by marketing, without question.

I cannot fathom a situation where a communication channel like a corporate blog is not ultimately considered a marketing function … even if the PR department is writing it, which is perfectly fine.

For my PR friends who are feeling testy at this point, I would like to proudly proclaim that I started my career in your worthy field, so I do not have an anti-PR bias. I have an anti-ridiculous-strategy-bias.  And to claim that PR should lead customer-facing activities is ridiculous.   Support, complement, even help devise … yes.  But lead, no.

Further, while this “battle” rages on supposedly, I have not seen one coherent explanation as to why PR should not defer to marketing on overall strategy issues.

Please, can we end this debate?

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