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?”

Social web and new story-telling

Watch this video. It’s less than a minute long.

Would this story be told more effectively through

a traditional video of this couple?

a written story?

an audio podcast?

There is something about the way voice, type and movement make this a very effective way to tell a story.  Did you hear the girl gasp at the 10 second mark? It was almost more dramatic imagining her face instead of seeing it. Like a book.

Maybe something to think about. Are there ways to mash-up these social media technologies to tell your story in a new way? I wish I had time to play around with these ideas!

Social media bloggers who hit it out of the park

Once in a while you read a blog post and think, now that was great … this blogger REALLY hit it out of the park!  I thought I’d share a few of the most outstanding posts I’ve read over the past few months.

By the way, none of these posts are tied to favors, affiliate links or any other kind of kick-back. In fact, a few of these people I’ve never even interacted with so I’m sure this post will be a complete surprise to them!  Here we go …

Kelli Schmith offers so many great posts on her Dig Deep Thinker blog but I found this one extraordinarily useful.  Here are some great resources to turn the head of even the toughest, most stubborn executive social media skeptic:

Advice for execs and social media hype

Kent Huffman provides this gem of a post: Do you need a social media policy?  I know this is a well-worn topic but Kent provides the definitive article on this important subject, courtesy of The Social CMO. If this is a subject in your company (and it should be), save this important post!

A corporate social media policy: Do you really need one?

The merging digital divide has been a personal interest of mine and Anthropologist Krystal D’Costa hits the nail on the head with her excellent post.  She declares that “having the means to access information on the Internet goes just beyond access to the hardware; it also depends on the individual’s ability to understand how to use the tools at her disposal.” That’s an important perspective many people miss. Her blog Anthropology in Practice is on my daily reading list.

Digging into the Digital Divide

Occasionally you come across a post that takes your breath away. This one starts “I am 12 years old, sitting in my father’s apartment.”  This beautiful, personal reflection by Elizabeth Sosnow of Bliss PR made me think about on my own relationship with my father … and frankly, feel some regret. Elizabeth is a gifted writer.

Why did I choose to work for my father for twenty years?

Size does matter. Somebody had to say it and Sidney Eve Matrix, one of the most consistently excellent social observers on the scene, finally did.  She compares sheer size of your audience versus authenticity in this thought-provoking Cyber Pop post:

Size matters

Autom Tagsa doesn’t blog very often but when he does, my blog reader starts to rumble. Autom consistently offers up different ways to present the issues of the social web.  This post is a good example of his creativity.  I like the way he literally turned the microphone to his audience.

Organic minds: Notes from the social front

Apps, apps, apps. But why?  Neicole Creapeau is one of the very best thinkers on the social media scene and I never miss her posts. In this article, she looks at the real business models and strategies behind the creation of creating mobile apps for your business:

Business Model Principles: iPhone, iPad, and Web

There are so many tremendous writers on the web today that it would be difficult to name them all. I hope I’ve at least introduced you to a few new bloggers who weren’t on your radar screen before. I’m thinking of doing a post like this every six months or so. Let me know what you think!

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.

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