Second Internet: Charts and Bubblethink

3 04 2011

I’m on the record as saying I have my doubts about the future of Facebook and that when I read Lou Kerner it sounds like pure, undistilled bubblethink.

But if you can get past the breathless hype (and keep a tight grip on your senses and your wallet), there are some useful charts in this slideshare piece.

Is it 1999, as I think? Or 1996, as Lou Kerner thinks?

Only time will tell.





Nestlé Social Media Nightmare

19 03 2010

I’m watching what’s happening at Nestlé with a lot of interest. I think we should all be watching carefully.

If you’re not up to speed, here’s what’s happening.

Greenpeace has targeted Nestlé in a campaign against palm oil. Here’s the Greenpeace Orangutan web site. And here’s some good background on the story.

Twitter is aggressively and gleefully helicoptering in enormous vats of gasoline to pour into the anti-Nestlé firestorm.

And, precisely on cue, the Internet’s townspeople have gathered their pitchforks and torches to storm the castle.

Here’s the Nestlé “fan” page on Facebook. Yikes.

Some of the snarkiest anti-Nestlé voices are from self-appointed social media experts. There’s a little too much glee for my tastes about picking on a company that has found itself in trouble.

Has Nestlé handled this unexpected attack flawlessly?  Perhaps not. But none of us are perfect. And that goes double when the stakes are high.

Before You Break Out Your Own Pitchfork…

The attack on Nestlé is not entirely fair.

They are not the only company on Earth that buys palm oil. Palm oil is widely used in the production of food and cosmetics.

And it’s not like they’re callously ignoring the issue, either.

As The Guardian points out, like Unilever and Kraft, Nestlé is a member of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), a consortium of buyers and producers promoting sustainably produced palm oil.

It’s all unfolding now, but a few lessons seem clear:

  • Social media gurus advocate “giving up control of your brand” and “conducting business transparently”.  This can be fun when people are on your side. Nestlé is learning that it’s a lot less fun when they’re not.
  • When you give up control of your brand people may not treat it the way you would like.
  • Transparency means people will see you naked sometimes. You will not always look good naked.
  • It’s a bad idea to “engage with consumers openly” when it suits you, and then slam down the castle gate when the mob turns ugly.
  • When the crowd turns against you, all the “sharing” tools you have given them can — and will — be turned against you too.
  • There are a group of people who relish “sticking it to the man”. They will always be first in line handing out pitchforks and torches.

I’m not suggesting that companies should avoid social media entirely.

What I am saying is that companies that do go there need to go in with their eyes wide open.

 Social media is like anything else in life. There are risks and rewards. And it’s not always easy going.

Lastly, beware the advice to abandon control of your brand. You are responsible for your brand’s success or failure, and you can’t crowdsource the job or make excuses when things get tough.

To borrow a line from an old song, “it’s a thin line between love and hate”.

Nestlé is a great company in a tough spot. I’m rooting for Nestlé to get this right, in every sense: not just the crisis management issue but the longer-term product issue.





Social Media Venn Diagram

23 11 2009

George Bernard Shaw famously said, “When a thing is funny, search it carefully for a hidden truth.”

Today, would he have Tweeted it, put in on Facebook or MySpace or shared it through Google Reader? Or would he try to monetize this news like Rupert Murdoch?

Image via the Huffington Post who (I think) borrowed it from (I think) its original source at Despair.

Social Media Venn Diagram





Is Social Media Too Big For Its Own Good?

18 09 2009

If you believe the buzz, social media will be huge. But is it already too big for its own good?

In marketing, you can’t be all things to all people. It makes it too hard for people to know who you are and what you stand for. Could Social Media be a victim of its own PowerPoint?

How To Learn Social Media In Just 5,000 Easy Lessons

Swhatissocialmedialideshare.com has 5,000 presentations and counting, trying to explain social media. Why?

I suspect it’s because explaining social media is like trying to nail Jell-O to the wall; it won’t stay in one place.

Is Social Media online customer service? Or a way for angry consumers to complain? Both.

Is it online PR? Or online market research and crowdsourcing for innovation? It’s these, too.

Is it a Facebook brand page? Or is it a Facebook-like community, but ONLY for one brand? Yep.

Is it a video sharing page for brand communications?  Or a viral video? Yes, it’s all those.

Or is it one of these 1500 (and counting) examples? Definitely.

It wobbles randomly from PR to customer service, then leans diffidently toward advertising before wobbling back toward market research. The more we struggle to make social media make sense as “all of the above” the less it seems like we know what we’re talking about.

Social Media, Translated

What If Social Media Isn’t An Elephant?

I’m sure you all remember the old parable of the blind marketing MBAs and the elephant?

They thought each individual part was a separate thing and didn’t understand that it was part of a larger animal.

What if each distinct part of what we thought was an elephant turns out to make a lot more sense on its own?

Maybe it’s time to stop treating Social Media like it’s a whole different animal. Maybe we can just incorporate what we’ve learned back into the distinct and easy-to-explain disciplines of PR and market research and customer service.

If we did, we could expend a lot less energy trying to explain what Social Media is, and just get on with it.

What am I missing? What are the drawbacks to this way of seeing the elephant that I’m blind to? Can you offer a better solution?





What If Your CEO Is Right To Be Afraid Of Social Media? (Part Two)

17 08 2009

Continued from an earlier post. Part One is here. Here’s my take on some of the other fears a CEO may have.

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SOCIAL MEDIA FEAR: So much of what’s discussed online is shallow and we have real work to do

BE FEARLESS: Opportunities aren’t always where we think they are.  Encourage the passionate people in your company to find time to learn about social media, without neglecting their current duties. Ask them to report back what they’ve learned.

==

SOCIAL MEDIA FEAR: We don’t have the time/resources to contribute and moderate

moneyBE CAUTIOUS: There are ALWAYS a lot of things a company can do, and NEVER enough money and attention to do them all well. Leaders have to choose which activities they believe will have the strongest payout, and focus on those.

Sometimes the fun, sexy stuff is the PERFECT place for a company to focus their efforts. Sometimes not.

==

SOCIAL MEDIA FEAR: Our customers don’t use it/It doesn’t fit into current structures

BE FEARLESS: Listen and find out if your customers use social media, and how they do it. Once you know more, you can decide whether it’s smart to overhaul your current structures or not.

==

SOCIAL MEDIA FEAR: We are in B2B and who wants to hear about our boring product on a blog or twitter

BE FEARLESS: I think Social media may be stronger for B2B than for B2C, because it’s typically a more intimate sale and the needs are more clearly articulated. Listen first — you may be surprised by what you hear.

==

SOCIAL MEDIA FEAR: Traditional media is still bigger, we will use Social Media when it is more mainstream

BE CAUTIOUS: A recent Forrester report says that 80% of the ad spend in 2014 will still be in traditional media.  tvWe’ve been trying to bury TV since the early 1990s, and it refuses to stay dead.  Why?

From a consumer POV, it’s because it’s still pretty good. Have you seen “30 Rock” lately?

From an advertiser’s POV, it’s because it offers scale and message control that social media can’t possibly provide.

It doesn’t mean social media isn’t important. But it’s important to keep its size and role in perspective.

==

SOCIAL MEDIA FEARS: No guaranteed results/tools to measure and analyze Social Media aren’t mature enough yet

madoffBE FEARLESS: There are no guaranteed results in business anywhere. Beware of Madoffs who promise you there are.

Also, tools to measure and analyze will NEVER be good enough.  I believe we’ll ultimately learn that it is as difficult to prove ROI for social media as it has been for traditional PR.

But just because something can’t be quantified to the micro-penny doesn’t mean it can’t add value. All business is a bet on the future, and not all bets pay off.

We can’t steer the world by sitting in front of Microsoft Excel. Our what-if scenarios must meet the real world at some point, if they are ever to deliver results. If your gut says social media can help you reach a goal and you understand the risk-reward equation clearly, go for it.

==

SOCIAL MEDIA FEAR: We will lose control of our brand and image

BE CAUTIOUS: Gurus love to preach about how “the consumer is in control”, and in many important ways that’s true.  But a company’s brand is a precious asset, and not something that any company can afford to simply turn over to a mob that will seek to damage it just for LULZ.

CEOs and CMOs still have a very real responsibility to grow and protect their brand’s image. There’s a difference between understanding that the customer is boss and abdicating your responsibility for protecting the brand.

==

The Bottom Line: Balance

All real growth comes from trying something new and different. But, that’s not the same thing as taking a flying leap into the darkness.tide-loads-of-hope

Companies and brands need to find a way to balance the need for learning with the need for appropriate caution.

I think companies like P&G are doing a good job of immersing their execs in digital culture and testing the waters.

You may not be as big as P&G, but there’s still a lot you can learn from watching how they have approached social media.

How are you finding your balance in social media?





What If Your CEO Is Right To Be Afraid Of Social Media? (Part One)

17 08 2009

UPDATE 9/3/2009: Good related post: “7 Things To Think About Before Jumping In”

===

Jeff Bullas recently wrote a smart post: “28 Reasons Why The CEO is Afraid Of Social Media”.

I might have titled it “A Few Questionable Reasons Why The CEO is Afraid of Social Media, and A Bunch Of Really Reasonable Ones.”

kool-aid

Being afraid to turn on the lights in case there are monsters under the bed is pretty silly. But thinking twice before you guzzle Jonestown’s favorite powdered beverage — “gee, when did they start making a cyanide flavor?” — is actually a pretty good idea.

Some CEOs are afraid of social media. Where can you afford to dive in, and where should you be cautious? Every business/brand has their own criteria, but here’s my take.

==

SOCIAL MEDIA FEAR: It is detrimental to employee productivity

BE FEARLESS: Employees who waste company time will do it whether you shut down the internet or not. Trust that the improved knowledge and networks of the employees who use social media for the right reasons will more than make up for the slackers.

==

SOCIAL MEDIA FEAR: It could damage the company’s reputation

American_Cancer_Society_LogoBE CAUTIOUS: Experimenting with social media is not without risk.

Have you read about the American Cancer Society Facebook debacle? How much hard-won brand equity did this naive mistake cost?

Was it worth it?

==

SOCIAL MEDIA FEARS: Security risks, Unwillingness to be transparent

BE CAUTIOUS: It’s easy for social media gurus to preach transparency — there are no real secrets to protect.  But in most businesses, confidential information is a source of competitive advantage. Many secrets — product formulas, new product launches, plans to enter new markets — are important to keep secret.

Careless Tweeting can cost millions of dollars. If social media ‘experts” have sometimes had costly lapses of judgment, time and again, how can a CEO be confident that newbies will do better?

When the risks are clear (see above) and the rewards are not, a responsible CMO or CEO must ask his or her people to go slow. Look before you leap is a hopeless cliche.  But it doesn’t mean it’s bad advice. If your people are passionate about social media, invest in some listening tools. And, set clear goals about what you need to learn.

==

SOCIAL MEDIA FEARS: We already have information overload/Terrified of feedback and truth

BE CAUTIOUS: Listening to what consumers say about you isn’t going to hurt you. In fact, good feedback can help you improve.ears

Still, we need to take this with a hefty grain of salt.

I’m intrigued by Tim Marco’s notion of Voluntary Selection Bias. Are we really listening to everybody (e.g. a truly representative sample?), or the ravings of a small but vocal group? More important, are we listening to likely buyers?

If we’re going to treat social media as research, we need to be as rigorous about understanding the sample size and composition as we are when looking at any other consumer research.

====

Go On To Part Two.

Photo Credits: “No” Sign from Biscuitmip on Flickr, Ears from Banlon1964 on Flickr





How To Create A Facebook App That Won’t Fall On Its Face

11 08 2009

I like Ben and Jerry’s new Facebook app, a lot. It’s smart and fun.

And, it offers some good lessons about how to get a Facebook app right.

1) Don’t Think Too Much

A smart Facebook app does something different, fun and social.  But, it also has to be really easy for the user to understand and use.

Ben and Jerry’s FlipMyText app lets you create upside down messages, effortlessly.  Different, fun, social, easy.

Ben and Jerry's new app turns social media on its head

2) Be True To The Brand

The app is silly and weird for the sake of being weird. cherrygarcia

This app is pitch-perfect for a brand with a rich history of celebrating weirdness with flavors like Cherry Garcia, Imagine Whirled Peace, and Karamel Sutra.

Ben and Jerry’s has always had a distinctive voice. It’s great to see them have an app that speaks their language.

3) Promote Something Actionable

Flip My Text isn’t a Facebook app for the sake of having a Facebook app. It promotes Ben and Jerry’s Flipped Out Sundaes, which are designed to be tipped upside down before you can eat them.

Weird but true: the app is easier to use than the Sundaes.  There’s at least one website with a tutorial about how to eat one.

benjerryfbook

4) Leverage Something That Already Works

Flip My Text isn’t new. I think it was really smart for Ben and Jerry’s to find something that already works and leverage it in a new and different way. It’s a good deal for everybody, including Flip My Text.

5) Be Worth Talking About

Getting an upside-down message immediately provokes two questions:
  • How did you do that?
  • Can I do it too?

If you’re thinking about creating a Facebook app, think about taking a scoop from Ben and Jerry’s:

  1. Don’t Think Too Much
  2. Be True To The Brand
  3. Promote Something Actionable
  4. Leverage Something That Already Works
  5. Be Worth Talking About







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