Swallowing the Truth

Mary PoppinsAnyone involved in marketing, in transformation or change management knows that there is a simple fact – change is hard. Getting someone to understand that their product, job or world has changed is an enormous challenge. It requires not just logic, but also an emotional response. We need to change our hearts as well as our minds – and it is easy for us to KNOW something but very difficult for us to ACT on that knowledge.

What we need to do is swallow the truth. We need to consume it, to bring it into the depths of our beings. We need to give “new truth” the chance to spread through every fibre, infect every synapse and tingle each fold of skin.

And you know what? Our “gut” tells us a great deal about the “truthiness” of truth. Items that are unsavoury are expelled quickly in an impulsive response. “Heavy” items are digested slowly and over time.

Seth Godin suggests that the future is just like the past, but shinier:

Your industry has been completely and permanently altered by the connections offered by the internet. Your non-profit, your political campaign, your service business. Not a little different, not just email enabled or website marketed, but overhauled.

But the future – or more precisely, the true future, is not just shiny. It is tasty. We are hungry for it and for the sustenance it brings. Ask yourself not just how you are forging a future for yourself, your business and your community – also ask exactly what it is that we should swallow. If it’s not the truth, it won’t stay down for long!

Five Must-Read Posts from Last Week

Peace be with all of us!I am a little out of sync after the energy and excitement of the MarketingNow! conference in Melbourne (I will be writing up my thoughts over the next few days – so make sure to check back).

But here are five excellent posts that I missed – and thought I’d share with you:

  1. The Plague of Plagiarism – what happens when your blog posts and ideas start appearing across the web – without attribution? Peter Kim delves into the subject and creates a dynamic conversation around this tricky and touchy topic.
  2. Mack Collier looks at Seth Godin’s launch of his fancy brand-version of Squidoo – or what Mack calls the “fast food version of social media engagement”.
  3. As if to prove that the future of your brand is social, Google unveils SideWiki – a new tool that allows ANYONE to comment on your website. Jeremiah Owyang explains why it changes the game (and if you have it installed, you can see the message that I left for you on my home page!).
  4. Francois Gossieaux suggests that we should look more deeply at the behaviour of our customers – and tap into the signals, symbols and rules to promote engagement.
  5. Gordon Whitehead goes from rant to activism in his efforts to get people voting in the NSW AMI election. If you are a member, check out Gordon’s voting recommendations!

Getting Started with Social Media at #mktgnow

dialupbloggingbook-210x300 I have had a great day speaking at the MarketingNow conference. I have also had the great opportunity to hear Darren Rowse, Laurel Papworth and Simon Young. Later this afternoon, Jim Stewart will talk about video (looking forward to this!).

Tomorrow we will be treated to four hours of David Armano, a workshop from Stephen Johnson and a panel discussion. I think there are STILL tickets! Come on down if you can make it.

After my talk, I was asked about the nuts and bolts of getting started with social media. While I will be posting my slides to slideshare in the next day or so, not everyone wants to read slides or spend time clicking through online decks. For those who would prefer to read a book – you can take a look at my Dialup Guide to Blogging book. It is a short, focused read and could be just what you need!

Social Media Governance

Originally uploaded by rayboB

When it comes to actually implementing social media within an enterprise, the conversation often starts with control. Who can, should and will run with your social media activities? How are the reviewed and managed? What happens when things go pear-shaped? And how does it dovetail with the various other outreach activities?

One of the easiest ways to kick start the discussion within your organisation is to take a look at what others in your industry are doing. If you can’t find an example from your industry (hooray, you’re the first!), then look for organisations of a similar size and scale.

But where do you look?

Why, here in the online database of social media policies. Or, for those execs who don’t yet frequent online spaces, order them the book.

Branding is a Marathon

Running BunnyOne of the greatest, and perhaps hardest to quantify, benefits of social media is in the area of branding. But then again, this is nothing new. Trying to quantify the value of your brand is exceptionally difficult – just ask yourself how many businesses actually have their brands’ value represented as line items on a balance sheet?

One of the crowning achievements of the marketing industry over the last 50 years or so is the general acceptance of the value of branding. For despite the slipperiness of brand “valuations”, businesses AND consumers clearly “get” brands and branding. On the business side, solid and established brands provide a ready platform for our demand generation and other marketing activities. And as consumers, we are more than ready to mould our lifestyles around those rare brands that we have come to love – indeed, in some instances brands are intrinsically linked to the way that we create our identities (just think, for example, of the tribes of car fans).

Yet despite branding’s elusive nature, a well planned and executed, continuous digital strategy can create a very real, very tangible brand platform. And this is where social media presents a powerful opportunity. As you begin to execute on your strategy, you create multiple points of conversation across your business ecosystem – what can best be called your “digital footprint”. The more points of interaction that occur across your ecosystem create points of connection and exchanges of value. And as these are personal networks (not broadcast), there is a weighting – with one-to-one relationships the exchange involves trust and reputation. This is FAT VALUE.

And the more Fat Value that is created in an ecosystem, the faster GRAVITY begins to take shape. So every piece of content that you create, every link that you share and every idea that you set loose allows someone else to benefit from their interaction with your brand. And in this exchange of benefit, you are fulfilling your brand promise and creating branded experiences. And if you have your strategy right – this gravity will eventually begin to pull participants towards your brand.

This sounds great in theory, but making gravity takes a great deal of effort. In fact, branding in the social media space is more like a marathon than a sprint – hence the need to beware of those selling or offering quick viral wins. As Amy Mengel suggests, while the lure and attractiveness of a quick, viral hit is great for the adrenaline, the subsequent fall from attention is usually just as fast:

Despite the excitement it generates for a few days, the video your brand launched that “went viral” on YouTube may be entirely forgotten in a few months or weeks and ultimately do nothing for long-term growth.

A great example is Skittles. Remember Skittles.com? For a day or two – maybe even a week, Skittles.com was hotly reported across the web. Blogs were alight with idea that a brand would reflect not itself, but the consumers who were talking about the brand and their products. They did this by featuring their Wikipedia page, Twitter stream or Facebook group. David Berkowitz explained:

Here’s the message Skittles is sending: What consumers say about the brand is more important than what the brand has to say to consumers.


But where do brands go after the high? Freddie Laker at Ad Age wondered what would happen next, and this chart from Google Trends seems to indicate that this great experiment went nowhere. Then again, the Facebook fan page boasts 3.5 million members. It makes me think that FAT VALUE – those brand exchanges that take place between PEOPLE networks happens in places that even Google can’t adequately penetrate.

Now that is a fascinating thought.

Paid or Earned Media – Making Gravity is Hard Work

Whether you are walking down the street, watching the TV, surfing the net or even driving a car, you are the subject of some form of advertising. From the branded cap on the boy walking down the street to the billboard behind him – marketing is hard at work trying to capture your attention. Constance Hill and Bruce Henry suggest that we see around 3000 marketing messages each day. But no matter whether we see 100 or 10,000 messages – clearly we are exposed to a significant number. But how many do you recall? How many seep into your unconscious, adding a negative or positive neuron to your thoughts around these brands?

Now, add into this mix the dozens or even hundreds of blogs that you read and the tweets that you view on Twitter each day. Combine this with podcasts, music streams via blip.fm, videos on YouTube and email – and suddenly you have an abundant media stream that can appear overwhelming. As Sean Howard says, “In today's world everyone is a publisher, everyone has some level of influence, and everyone has a network of influence that is difficult to define let alone measure”. It makes the life of the media consumer rather complex.

As a marketer, however, you do have a specific objective. What you are aiming for is MAKING GRAVITY. With paid media you are using your marketing budget to have your content inserted into spaces that your audience inhabit. It is an expense which you measure in terms of how many people you have reached with your communication.

Earned media (or what Craig Wilson calls engagement marketing), on the other hand, is both different in nature and in measurement. Rather than being an expense, it is an investment. Its effectiveness is directly related to what you DO rather than what you SAY, and the value that is exchanged is not currency, but trust. As I have explained previously – it is about changing behaviours:

Every time we forward on a link, retweet a message read on Twitter or any other type of social network interaction, we are CHOOSING to act. We are not just using our network of connections to FILTER the noise, we are using it to SHAPE our experience. It is a choice. And understanding this distinction places us in a context where STORYTELLING emerges as vitally important?

Paid media has been an effective marketing approach for hundreds of years (if not longer). But it thrived in a time where attention was abundant and our media consumption choices were limited to a set number of channels. These days, media is abundant but our attention (and maybe more importantly, our respect) is scarce. Graham Brown has an excellent five minute piece on the challenges presented by these changes.

But the fundamental difference with paid vs earned media is the refocusing of effort. No longer do you spend your creative energies (and budgets) on producing executions that gain attention – you spend it on building trust and creating Auchterlonie Effects (stories that can be easily shared). Indeed, in the best traditions of storytelling, earned media propagates itself – becoming promiscuous in the process.

The reason that promiscuous ideas are important to your brand is that you WANT them to be shared. In social media, every shared idea, link or concept creates an exchange of value within a PERSONAL network – so the act of sharing is a recommendation of sorts. Over time the person who “adds value” to their network builds an abundant store of social capital. It is like branding – we can’t necessarily point to a PARTICULAR item – but to the recurring and ongoing sense of positive exchange relating to that person.

When YOUR brand story or content is the subject of that exchange, you are effectively providing a reason for connection between people in a network. And as these connections grow, as they are passed from person to person, you are creating points of gravity around your brand ecosystem. Your challenge then is to work with a continuous digital strategy to “share the message” but “own the destination”. The thing is, gravity can only be earned. And while you can employ paid media to complement your earned media – you need to make sure you have a compelling story to tell and to share.