Don’t You Know Who I Think I Am?

Posted on November 20, 2008. Filed under: blogging, Observations, Social Media | Tags: , , , , , , , , |

Personal Branding was long the preserve of the Hollywood celebrity. To have a personal brand one needed a publicist, a manager, a PR agency and of course the ubiquitous “People”, as in “I’ll have my people talk to your people”. Social Media is changing all of that. People who would have once gone unnoticed now have a channel through which they can reach thousands of people.

With a million new blogs launched everyday in the US, the competition for audience share is ever more challenging. Skills & tasks that were once only aqcuired by and the concern of product managers, brand managers & marketing managers are now being acquired, honed and practiced by everyone from school teachers, stay-at-home parents, to police officers and computer geeks.

I Know How You Did That

There are two main implications of this change that Social Media is bringing. Firstly, everyone taking part in this surge in communication now wants, not only their 15 minutes of fame, but enduring celebrity and they want it now. The second implication is that having started to realize how brand’s are built the curtain has been drawn back and so these same people are less susceptible to traditional marketing techniques, after all they are using them themselves to attract their own audience.

I have seen recently, a undertone of what could be described as “resentment” against Social Media stars. In some cases I believe that people look at these so called stars in the same way that people sometimes view musicians who gain a place in the public consciousness. The term “overnight success” gets thrown about because people don’t realize the years that a musician might have spent playing spit & sawdust bars, for little more than beer & tips. In the same way a lot of the so called Social Media stars have in fact been practioners of their craft for years. Dorian Carta (aka Paisano) recently celebrated his 10th year as a blogger, hardly a Johnny-come-lately.

A recent NPR interview contained the snippet that it takes about 10,000 hours to become good at something. 10,000 hours that’s just over a year. So if you haven’t been blogging consistently (e.g. more than once a week) for at least a year, you haven’t even begun to get good at it.

Credibility is Key

What is missing from a lot of these Personal Branders is the sense of differentiation. Its a clear case of a little knowledge being a dangerous thing. The desire to achieve some form of recognition is a natural human instinct, but Social Media is allowing some to seek recognition well outside of their normal circles. This is not necessarily a bad thing. It allows all of us to experience points of view, to share knowledge with people we would otherwise be very unlikely to encounter. That differentiation is and has always been, credibility, whether blogging or branding, building consumer trust is central to developing a brand as opposed to building celebrity.

However, this has to be tempered with the knowledge that not everyone will be, or should be recognized as a rock star. Even those who are admit that they are human first, they have good days, they have bad days. Chris Pirillo famously ranted about Microsoft on his blog, given that he had been a high profile employee previously and that he was saying everyone should go and buy a Mac, it had the potential to be quite influential. When asked about it, he admitted, he was just having an off day, he was frustrated by things he saw at Microsoft and shared that frustration with the world through his blog. More now than ever, we can’t believe everything we read.

So when people embark on a blogging career, whether professionally or personally, they need to understand that building a brand is not an over night event. Popularity might come quickly, but it also has the ability to fade quickly, the test of brand success, whether it is corporate or personal is its ability to endure. How many of those 1 million blogs that will launch today will you be reading in a years time, let alone 10 years time?

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Don’t Cage Twitter

Posted on October 21, 2008. Filed under: Business, Marketing, Observations, Social Media | Tags: , , , , , , , , |

Talking Web 2.0                                

There are endless posts that cover the taxonomy of Web 1.0 and Web 2.0.  Most of these are technical or at least technology based.  They describe the use of API’s, codesets, javascript, browser apps, cloud computing, user generated content and on and on.  About halfway through that last sentence your average marketer had already either fallen asleep, zoned out or was thinking about their next branding statement.  In other words it really doesn’t mean anything to them.

Of course all the “right” people are using the expression Web 2.0, so it becomes a case of the Emperor’s New Clothes.  The CEO wants to make sure everyone knows he is aware of the latest trends and so he turns to his marketing team and tells them to implement a Web 2.0 strategy to make sure they stay ahead of their competitors.

At Innotech in Austin last week, Scott Ballantyne (VP & General Manager, Personal Systems Group, Hewlett Packard) very succinctly summed up what that statement means in real terms.  “Telling someone to go do something Web 2.0 is like telling someone to go and pick the winning lottery numbers”.  I have to agree with him.

I stood with a group of marketers and business development folks at Innotech and watched while they tuned out during a conversation about using Twitter.  Two of them openly admitted that although they had heard of it they had no idea what it was or how to use it.  Innotech is a technology based conference and the marketing piece was the “e-marketing” summit!

It Isn’t About Technology

Today I read a release from a company that is looking for partner companies to “test its new beta platform for facilitating consumer engagement on Twitter. The technology allows brands to build and manage Twitter updates across multiple accounts and integrate Twitter activity into overall marketing campaigns“.

If ever a statement was made that showed a lack of understanding of the paradigm shift that is Web 2.0 then this is it.  This statement reveals that to traditional marketers Twitter and tools like it are simply another messaging channel that can be exploited by brands to raise awareness, send brand messaging, and pitch products to the Twittering masses.

Don’t get me wrong, I understand the pressure that some marketers are under, with reduced budgets, to gain a foothold and take advantage of this “Web 2.0”.  But the method of closing the gap between what they are doing now and what they could achieve isn’t to throw a big tool at it, open multiple Twitter accounts and Tweet your product or brand up.

Web 2.0 isnt about technology at all.  It isn’t about Twitter or blogs or FriendFeed or whatever the next thing that comes down the pipeline. Web 2.0 has simply broadened the scope of customer behavior and allowed marketers to not only put a glass to the wall, but get an invite into the room and listen to the conversation.

Customers have always commented on products & services to friends and family members.  Now the circle of people that they comment to has broadened. In the past focus groups were the method that marketers used to get in on that conversation, feedback forms on websites, email address, phone lines they have all served the same purpose.  Web 2.0 hasn’t changed that.  Marketing is still about developing a relationship with the customer, brand awareness is still a challenge, Web 2.0 doesn’t make it easier, it isn’t the silver bullet. Twitter is not the social media tool you are looking for.

Creating multiple identities and “pretending” to have conversations through a tool that ensures communication meets an overarching strategic messaging paradigm (or if you prefer to insert your own corporate phrase please do so), will not build a relationship either with key influencers or general users, both of whom are a lot more aware than that. 

Some Are Doing It Well

I am not saying that Twitter isnt the place for corporate America to be, in fact just the opposite.  There are organizations that are using it very well.  Zappos is a great example, Dell, GM and JetBlue are others.  Its the manner in which these companies use the tool that differentiates them.  Some users are a little freaked out to find that one of these companies is following them.  Usually its a response to a particular post made by the user that triggers it.  The companies set up monitors to ensure that anytime someone mentions their brand they are aware of it.  There are a lot of different tools that can be used for this, from Google Alerts to the Twitter search.  The point is they aren’t using Twitter or other Social Media tools to push a particular service or product they are using it to engage.  Michael Dell has a presence on Facebook, about once every two weeks he makes a post about a new Dell product or service, people respond. Dell admits it has around 30 staff members involved in their Social Media engagement this is the cost of doing it properly. HP reached out to 31 bloggers earlier this year and built a campaign called 31 days of Dragon (google it, you will still find plenty of references to it).

When I say built a campaign what they did was give one $5000 laptop to each of the 31 bloggers and told them to give it away.  That was it, no guidance, no rules, just run a competition give the computer away.  HP saw an 85% increase in shipped units following that competition and it cost them only the laptops.  No fancy tools used, no “fake” blog or Twitter accounts.  That is marketing in Web 2.0.

Thanks to JackLeblond for the Twitter in a Cage graphic

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