Social Media ROI and Obliquity

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image via FlickR courtesy of LucyFrench123

image via FlickR courtesy of LucyFrench123

“The problem with brands in social media is that they act like 19 year old dudes”.
Yelled Gary Veynerchuck at SXSW, excited as ever.

His point was that there is a tendency to approach every interaction with a single goal - sex for the dudes, sales for companies. And to rush towards that goal without pausing for breath.

I have been reminded of Gary’s comment a few times this week. Mostly by the economist, John Kay.

John has a new book out: Obliquity – why our goals are best pursued indirectly. And as a result he’s cropping up everywhere at the moment.

The premise of his book is that the greatest, most profitable companies achieve success as a result of focussing on higher ideals than cash generation. This is not an especially groundbreaking theory - I’ve rarely met a successful entrepreneur who was primarily money-motivated. However I do think he has coined a super phrase and one with a distinct social media relevance.

Obliquity - why social media goals are best pursued indirectly
Success in social media rarely comes from being the 19yr old dude. Sustained social media ROI relies on building realtionships, not converting one-night-stands. The tools of social media provide a new form of communication. As a result they can help you improve products, processes and customer relationships. An indirect, or oblique benefit, might be more sales.

However, obliquity is a tough message when you’re a nervous marketing manger who only likes to spend money on safe bets where ROI has been proven upfront or in advance.

The tragedy of social media is that “digital can be measured”. This drives a desire is to spend £1 and get £1 and 10 pence back before investing more. Whilst such an approach is fine for Google Adwords or other search marketing, social media plays by different rules.

Please don’t act like the 19yr old dude. Customers can spot it a mile off. You’re far more likely to achieve social media ROI if you focus on a different (oblique) business goal first. Use social media to engage customers. Use social media for deeper customer insight or to improve your customer service. The cash will follow.

16 top podcasts - social media, marketing and more

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Image via FlickR - by Gideon TsangI’m a podcast fanatic. I listen in the shower, on my cycle to work (sorry mum, I know that’s not safe) and when swimming (using the excellent Speedo Aquabeat). I have tried hundreds of different podcasts to find some that are consistently good. I thought you might like to know my favourites I’d love to hear about yours.

Social Media Podcasts

  1. Jaffe Juice and JJTV - author of “Join the Conversation”, Joseph Jaffe is a coherent and straight-forward social media commentator. Some of his podcasts are conversations with other industry leaders which can take occasionally random, but generally interesting paths.
  2. For Immediate Release - by Neville Hobson and Shel Holtz. Recorded in the US and UK, this podcast provides a frequent deep dive into weekly events in the PR-focussed social web. I enjoy listening, but always do so at double speed - it’s very long and I feel they can spend more time on issues than necessary.
  3. CMO 2.0 Conversations - Francois does an excellent job of securing some superb client-side interviews for these podcasts.  He has a very relaxed style that gets people talking, but sometimes I wish he’d push them harder for more detail or hold them to account on some of their statements

Marketing and Digital Podcasts

  1. 3 Minute Ad Age - short and snappy. Often a video from a marketing conference. Wide subject area so it can be hit-and-miss, but great for filling that few minutes of a journey.
  2. HubSpot TV - a digital marketing weekly TV show from the lovely people at Hubspot. The show is full of great guests and bristling with sexual tension. I often think I’d like to listen in double time, but being a video, I have not worked out how to do that yet.
  3. DishyMix - I’ve been listening to Susan Bratton since meeting her during the Travelling Geeks trip to the UK. She’s an excellent interviewer - never lets her subjects off the hook with wooly statements. Some of the topics veer off into self-help and I do find myself having to fast through the adverts, but in general she gets strong guests and uncovers interesting insights.
  4. NMA podcast - now only monthly. A useful overview of what’s been going on in the UK digital marketing scene

Other good podcasts

  1. David Maister’s Business Masterclass - everything you ever wanted to know about running a successful services business. I always listen to Maister in the week leading up to my board meetings because he gets me thinking. It’s a bit like having a virtual (and free) non-exec.
  2. More or Less, Behind the Stats - Before FreshNetworks I started the research consultancy, FreshMinds. I suspect it’s my background in research that makes this my favourite podcast. Tim Harford, FT journalist and author of The Undercover Economist, brings an indepth analysis of every-day statisitcs and seeks to uncover dodgy analysis.
  3. The Bottom Line with Evan Davis is another BBC Radio4 podcast. Some excellent business guests (usually UK CEOs) and gentle probing from Evan make this a good listen. For some reason I find this is always where  start with when going for a run in the park. I particulary enjoyed the recent argument about PR
  4. Business Week - Behind the Cover Story - This is the best Business Week podcast. There is also a good innovation one and the Welch Way with Jack Welch. Sadly John Byrne, Executive Editor,  seems to have handed over his host role to others in the editorial team. That’s a shame as he had a wonderful style and eclectic music choice. But it remains a good topical podcast.
  5. Economist podcasts - I never find time to listen to all of these. A great shame as The Economist’s journalists deliver sharp insight and a beautiful turn of phrase at every opportunity. Recently I have enjoying their new book of the month episodes.
  6. Great Lives - Matthew Paris piecing together some womderful biographies of famous folk with celebrity guests
  7. Harvard Business Ideacast - useful overviews of the books that HBR authors are about to publish.
  8. TED talks - no list would be complete with out mentioning these amazing set of downloads. some of the world’s most interesting (and random) speakers on topics that range from global finance to microbiology. Ken Robinson is a must-listen.
  9. Listen to Lucy - Lucy Kellaway of the FT taking an entertaining swipe at corporate bullshit. If you’re after something more heavy-hitting, Martin Wolf the FTs Chief Economics Commentator, is excellent. But you really have to concentrate. Sadly I’ve had to stop listening whilst cycling as I almost crashed twice trying to decipher his arguments.

That’s my listening list. What’s on yours?

The Dangers of Social Media

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Trojan Horse via shutterstock

Trojan Horse from shutterstock

A post on the econsultancy blog this week told the story of Jason Calacanis’ iPad hoax. This is the most recent example of social media spreading lies at pace.

The viral potential of social media makes it a powerful tool for seeding and rapidly diseminating information. Sometimes that information is accurate and sometimes inaccurate. And it’s a sad indictment of human gullibility that messages originating from a seemingly respected source are too often believed first and questioned second.

There are also numerous examples which show that well-packaged information, shared on social networks, can make patently false statistics seem plausible.

Below are two videos that did the rounds last year. Thanks to good production skills, the videos appear to be professional and as a result they were believed by far too many people. The first video is pretty harmless - a riff on the Did You Know video mixed in with a little Social Media Evolution.

Did You Know 4.0


The second video is more worrying. It’s a politically motivated anti-muslim film that masquerades as balanced (it was apparently uploaded by “firendsofmuslim”). However it is highly charged and many of the key statistics are false.
Muslim Demographics

Sure, it’s the message, not the medium that is the real issue here. And social media ought to be capable of quashing the incorrect information, fallicies and hoaxes just as it lets them propagate in the first place. The online community from Snopes is a great example of social-media-driven crowdsourced fact checking.

And, I’m glad to say there were a few responses to the Muslim Demographics video that tried to set the record straight. For example, BBC Radio4′s More or Less team probed (as they always do) the claims in more detail and posted the following response to clarify inaccuracies.

Muslim Demographics: the truth

Yet there is still reason for concern. Over 11million people watched the sensationalist version and only a few thousand saw the responses. I think the makers of this video have achieved their aim. They successfully used social media marketing to spread anti-muslim feeling and distrust.

Traditional v’s Social Media
But we live in a world of dodgy dossiers. Just because social media can spread lies, does that mean we’d have been better off sticking with traditional media?

Traditional mass media does have a reputation to protect: newspapers may have built up their brand equity over decades, they face a higher risk of lawsuits and have to answer to ombudsmen, shareholders and advertiser pressure.  Compare that to an upstart video-jockey with a good idea for making a splash and you can see that there is a lot less to lose.

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Media140 - Social Media in London

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Media140 Social meetup in London

Media140 Social meetup in London

Almost every event organsier talks about creating an engaged and involved audience. Sadly it rarely happens.

On Thursday I spoke at the Media140, a Social Media Meetup in London. The event was mostly dominated by Social Media agencies and consultants. There was a lively atmosphere, a loud shouty man and most of all, lots of energetic interaction.

I am still trying to work out exactly what the magic formula was. Perhaps because only a hardcore bunch made it through the snow; so they were determined to speak up. Or maybe it was the free drinks that created a positive and friendly Twitter back-channel from the off.

So what can event organisers, searching for elusive interaction, learn from the Media140 event? One factor that definitely made a difference was the style and approach of Guy Stephens (Carphone Warehouse) and Richard Baker (formerly General Manager, Virgin Trains). They kicked things off with an informal open conversation about Social Media. And they brought two key things to the debate:

1. A specific angle, social media for customer service, in which they had clear expertise

2. An openness to debate. Their style was non-lecturing, they didn’t pretend to know all the answers and it was clear they wanted to be challenged and learn from the audience.

Perhaps it’s something about Social Media - we’re all learning together - that makes interaction more likely. But clearly personal style goes a long way. And I suspect it’s especially important to make sure your first speakers have the right tone.

If you’re working in social media in London then I recommend you sign up for the next Media140 Meetup Thanks @andegregson and @KatePickering for organising it and for @Guy1067 and @Richard_Baker for the engaging conversation on Social Media for Customer Service.

Oh and my favourite Social Media takeaway of the event was that Social Media Agencies need organisational change management skills as much as they need marketing, PR or customer service capabilities.

Image courtesy of Iain Weir

The unnatural lingo of the online world

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The composition of two point reflections is a ...
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As online professionals, like any profession, we have a set of words and terms relating to our job. We talk about moderation and trolls and forums.

We talk about features and modules and fields. But unlike many other professions, we also expect the lay people using all those things to recognise what they mean.

We use a very unnatural language, and I’m concerned that it puts up false barriers between users and the platforms they’re engaging with.

Why do we use these funny, clunky words?I think it’s two-fold. The first adopters of online communities were tech-enthusiasts, of course. They were – and I use this term fondly – geeks. And as a geek I can attest that geek-language is not Joe Bloggs’ language. But the early lingo got stuck, and when the Joe and Joanna Bloggs’ of the world started to find their way to email discussion lists, instant messenger, and ultimately online communities, the lingo was set.

Early community managers tended to be the person that had been their longest or showed most interest (again, likely to be a geek), and naturally, the lingo would remain and be dished out top-down. Let’s start with ‘community manager’.

On our recent blog, What does a community manager do? I included a word cloud of all the one-word suggestions we’d had in answer to that question.Not one of them was ‘manage’.

So are we really community managers? Am I really Head of Community Management? Do we manage communities, or do we do something else? By far the most popular words were ‘facilitate’, ‘enables’ and ‘connects’.

None of those are really anything like management.

What would be a better job title? What do we really do?

Community Connector?
Community Enabler?
Communication Facilitator?

All rather ugly… what do you think?And then we have ‘Trolls’, as @SueOnTheWeb suggests. Yes, offline we have insults of course, but these don’t normally become professional parlance. I’m sure the police don’t have handbooks about dealing with ‘crims’, even if they say far worse than that in the locker room.

Trolling apparently dates back to early 90s Usenet group, alt.folklore.urban, but its meaning has been adapted and is standard community/moderation speak. It doesn’t – and shouldn’t – mean anything to a happy community member though, perhaps time to give up the geek-speak?

Moderation, of course, is the backbone of a healthy community. Whether it’s reactive-moderation, post-moderation or simply a culture of self-censorship amongst users, such as with many mature email communities, it’s vital.

But does the word ‘moderation’ really mean anything to most people? When we write our disclaimers and use the word, does it mean what we think it does to community users or is it just another word to gloss over?

Do we not need something a bit better, a bit more ‘human’?

Of course we have the abbreviations, the ROTFLMAOs and the LOLs and the IYKWIMs… and that’s fine, that’s a snowball that’s melted across all social media and even seeped into emails and txtspk so that non-community connected people (like my mother-in-law and mum) will use it.

And for many people that’s part of the fun of using social platforms. But it can also be very exclusive to people new to the experience. We probably can’t do anything to prevent the spread, in fact, embracing it is part of the community management experience at many communities, but if we run abbreviation-heavy communities, the least we can do is slap up a dictionary, like iVillage do on their message boards.

So again, what’s missing? What lingo remains solely to divide people? What should be replaced with more human words and what can community managers do to ensure language-use doesn’t create unhealthy cliques?