The key to social media mastery?

I’ve been teaching classes on social media marketing to business professionals for about a year now and I’ve found that there is definitely a group that “gets it” and a group that doesn’t.

The successful ones keep in touch with me long after the class is over and tell me how the social web has dramatically changed their lives through exciting new connections and business opportunities.  For others, I can usually tell by the end of the first class that it isn’t going to “take” no matter what I say or do.

I’ve thought a lot about what separates these two groups because I care about my students and I want them ALL to succeed.   Both groups start out motivated enough to plunk down their money and attend a class.  Everybody is attentive. They take notes and engage. They’re all successful business people receiving the same content with an equal opportunity to learn the strategies and channel tactics. So what’s the difference?

I’ve decided that it boils down to one important difference: MINDSET.

Meet Social Sue. She’s urgently trying to get on Facebook and Twitter because she’s heard all about social media and she’s afraid of falling behind.  Her marketing budget has been cut and she needs to find a way to sell more with less — fast!  She’s already overworked and sees the social web as just another source of pressure.  That makes her a bit skeptical — and even afraid — of opening up this Pandora’s box. Her customers have been complaining about her business on various sites and she wants to find a way to contain the damage and even eliminate the negative comments if possible. She thinks life will be so much easier if she can just find somebody to set up a Facebook fan page for her … like me : )

Sitting next to her is Social Sam. Sam is open-minded and excited about exploring the possibilities of an entirely new communication channel.  He realizes that he needs to focus on the bottom line, but he’s eager to immerse himself in this new platform and learn more about his customers and marketplace. He wants to meaningfully connect his business to customer wants and needs.   Sam knows it will take time to learn, listen, experiment and master the channel, but recognizes this is a wise and necessary investment if he is to be relevant in his marketplace — traditional advertising measures seem to be less and less effective. He’s heard a lot about Facebook of course, but is open to matching the appropriate marketing ideas with his business strategy.

There is a subtle difference between these two folks.  Both of them have an urgency to learn and an obvious business case for integrating the social web with traditional channels. But the difference in mindset seems to make all the difference in the world. At least that’s my experience but I’d like to hear from you of course.

A challenge for me — finding a way to work on this mindset with students upfront in the class.  Is that possible?  Some people seem to have a pretty strong bias toward “Sue” from the start. Maybe I’ll even use this post as a teaching tool!

What about you?   How would you convert a Sue to a Sam?

What does the future hold for blogging?

In the rapid-fire world of the social web, blogging will surely evolve. What might the future hold for our beloved blogs and how should companies prepare for inevitable change?

Will blogging die? It was trendy a few months ago to predict that micro-blogging (like Twitter) would kill blogging. But Twitter NEEDS blogging. Twitter is like the movie trailer but you still want to watch the movie. About 70 percent of all tweets link back to a blog.  Content publishing through blogs is important.

Publishing platforms tend to last for a long time and I think in many cases blogs have supplanted newspapers, magazines and even books. It’s not going anywhere but it will evolve.

Make me laugh – Blogs won’t die, but boring blogs will. The pressure to produce entertaining content will be keen as the roar of competing content on the social web becomes deafening.

Consolidation — There are too many blogs and it’s becoming difficult for individual bloggers to compete against companies with a staff of paid bloggers.  Look for consortiums to emerge and thrive.  An example of this is the Social CMO blog. A group of individual bloggers contribute to the content of one themed-site.

This approach also creates diversity of thought, consistency of quality content, regularity in publishing, and a greater opportunity to get the critical mass needed to monetize. For corporate blogging, this might mean deputizing many people in your company to blog (IBM is a best practice), or joining others in your industry to contribute to online “trade” content.

Aggregation — Sites that aggregate vertical-themed content are becoming popular time-savers for readers. For example, aggregating top industry headlines can make your blog more attractive as a customer stopping point.

Integration — If you’re working the web well, you probably have content in a number of places like YouTube, Twitter and Slideshare.  Provide a mechanism on your blog for readers to find your content wherever it might be. Look to integrate  features like video, podcasts, forums, job boards, classifieds, chat features, and voting tools to increase value for readers.

 

Mobile — Today, consumption and creation of content happen not just on traditional computing systems like a laptop, but also on highly mobile devices. Imagine the volume of information we’re going to create and consume when we have ubiquitous broadband speeds on our on-the-go devices.  This trend is making creation even more immediate  and collaborative.  Posterous and Tumblr are trying to tap into in-the-moment blogging but who knows where it will lead? How about instantaneous video blog comments?

New journalism — Blogging is already filling legitimate journalism niches left vacant by the decline in traditional media.  The edges of what is, and isn’t, blogging continue to blur. What does this mean to the corporate blogger? Blogs will increasingly be an important source of news stories, leads and product placement.  How does your industry traditionally get information? If it is through dying institutions such as trade shows and publications, can your blog help fill the gap?

Facebook — No discussion of any aspect of the social web can exclude a mention of Facebook.  This platform has leveraged partnerships, momentum, and an intuitive interface to become the web’s most important social networking property.  For millions of people. this is their ONLY home on the web. How its ubiquity and growing power will affect blogging remains to be seen … but it probably will.  A presence on Facebook has augmented — and sometimes replaced — traditional websites. probably the only thing keeping Facebook from being a dominant blogging platform is the issue of ownership — Facebook’s terms of service dictate that they would own the content.

What ideas and trends do you see out there?  Will blogs evolve or die away?

Hilarious video, serious marketing lessons

I wanted to show you this awesome music video because it’s creative, hilarious and it also reinforces a theme I’ve been writing about over several months …

Toyota paid big bucks to produce this YouTube video. It’s not meant for TV. It’s meant for the viral web … and viral it went. Point one: The big guns are pouring on to the social web. And they will dominate.

This video is about a minivan. But it is a ton of fun.  Doesn’t it just make you forget all those annoying little Toyota brake problems? Point two: To cut through the clutter, you have to be entertaining. In fact, the pressure to be entertaining is going to intensify for all of us if we want to cut through the clutter. The actual car is secondary in this piece.  In fact, not a single product feature is even mentioned.

Point three: Small businesses are not necessarily going to be squeezed out of the social web, but the expectations for quality content are going to be high.  Get ready.

Final point: Content is king baby.  Yeah, you have to develop relationships but you get there through content. Send your kids to journalism school. Seriously. The future for writers is bright.

By the way, my buddy Ike Pigott turned me on to this little video gem. We’ve never met but we’re going to see Rush in concert together in September. Viva La Twitter.  Rock on.

What do you think about this trend?  What would you say if your ad agency came to you and suggested spending $500,000 on a two-minute video that actually makes fun of your product?  How does this build an emotional connection to mini-vans?  To Toyota?

Is the social web heading for a meltdown?

Consider …

When the financial system collapsed, the national spotlight turned to banking practices and regulations.

When drunk drivers could slip through the system and get  back in cars to injure or kill innocent people, a national movement was created.

And when the safety procedures on a Gulf of Mexico oil rig failed, plans for offshore drilling came to a grinding halt under the glare of public alarm.

All it takes is one crisis, one crime, one whopper of an oil slick, to change public perceptions forever.  What does this have to do with marketing?

Here is the first prediction I’ve ever made on this blog: In the near future, we will have a social media crisis that will turn enough negative attention to the social web to arouse public alarm to the point of a backlash and perhaps even legislation. It will be our very own oil slick.

Specifically, I believe there will be a crime or tragedy that shines a spotlight on the incredible flaws and dangers inherent in the social web. Perhaps it will be a Foursquare stalking crime.    Maybe new research will emerge that demonstrates the shocking effects when teens live their lives through text messaging.  Perhaps a significant database or privacy fail.  A Twitter-delivered virus?  Or perhaps it will be a financial scam that dupes the elderly … the fastest-growing population on Facebook.

There have already been several documented cases of social-media-related robbery. One U.K. woman was recently burglarized after posting that she would be attending a music festival.

We can look to recent events in South Korea as a precursor to what might happen in the Western World.  A 28-year-old South Korean died from his video game addiction. The man literally killed himself through exhaustion-induced heart failure by not stopping game play long enough to sleep or eat. So the South Korean government is responding with legislated curfews on video games. The gaming industry has an oil slick.

Facebook is teetering on the edge of a privacy disaster. The social network has come under fire for a series of recent changes to its policies that have limited what users can keep private, as well as embarrassing technical glitches that exposed personal data.  And yes, privacy advocates have called on regulators to intervene.

So far, the benefits of the social web have outstripped potential dangers. But when will the line be crossed?

What’s your opinion on this?

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