Thank god for the recession, as now the social media gurus are on the way out.
One of the challenges of the social media industry, oh, and in case you haven’t noticed, there are a lot of challenges, is that self-proclaimed gurus have appeared from everywhere. In fact, the recession is going to cause those who are unemployed to experiment with the tools on a personal basis, giving them ample ammo to update their linkedin profile as a social media expert category.
But isn’t that the point? Shouldn’t everyone be able to get into the action? Of course, yes. However times are different now, with budgets under scrutiny, layoffs at hands, companies don’t have time for gurus filled with opinion, over-used case studies, and empty books. I was inspired by this charged article: ‘Like pedos in a playground‘ from the Register that exposes some of the weaknesses of the space.
[The recession will force practitioners within corporations to start to focus on measurable results, as a result, they will seek advice beyond opinion and gut instinct]
The recession. This is going to cause a purging of the opinion-makers, pontificators, and the gurus to be passed up as companies need to make decisions based off intelligence, information and references of previous success. Why? their very jobs are on the line, as they have to be accountable for their budgets within their corporations, and demonstrate a return on investment to their management beyond ‘awareness, buzz or thought leadership’.
Aren’t I being a hypocrite myself? Yup. I’m no longer a practitioner as a community manager at a large corporate, nor do I work at a social media vendor helping brands, so in many cases, I too, am looking in the mirror. I write this with a lump in my throat, and it’s a constant reminder that if I’m going to give advice it’s important that I back it up with fact, data, insight, for business people to make business decisions.
So, expect the real practitioners (you’ve see the list right?) to focus on moving the needle to create actionable programs that generate leads, increase sales, decrease support costs, or make innovation more efficient–their jobs are on the line, and they don’t have time for “Gurus”.
Some companies are wary of personal brands
Last week, I spoke to a social media strategist as a very large consumer packaged goods company, he expressed to me over this client call (called an inquiry) that he was concerned about employees getting too popular due to their personal brands and as a result, getting pulled right out of the company.
[Despite that social technologies can improve customer relationships, the risks may be too great for some companies to bear, as a result, some corporations will shy away from allowing employees to have personal brands]
Personal brands can bring trust to monolithic corporations
In the age of transparency and conversation, brands know they need to join customers where they are, and that often means in social sites where real people are having real conversations –it’s about building trust. As a result, social media marketing continues to be adopted by brands; I help them daily.
Examining the risks of personal brands
Personal brands are indeed a powerful tool, for one, it’s helped me get my current and previous job, and it will likely be a factor for my next, however there are a few risks to brands:
Risk 1: The personal brand is a cost to the company: Why let employees build their own brand on the dime of the company or leveraging the brand of the employer?
Risk 2: The now popular employee is likely to get poached: Perhaps a common concern I hear is that competitors can easily identify the stars, and hire away these folks along with their market reputation and google juice.
Risk 3: Employee exits leaving a chasm to fill: In the modern workforce, we hear less of lifetime employees seeking pension than we do of job migrants, or career gypsies that move from company to company every few years. As a result, after they’ve built up trust with the market using social tools, they leave the company, and a gap is left that the brand can’t fill.
How companies respond
Brands respond to these risks in a number of ways, I’ve categorized them based on level of sophistication.
First Reaction: Keep marketing faceless: Lean on traditional marketing, avoid human voices to come through.
Second Reaction: Approach with team or hybrid approach: Rather than encourage personal brands, you may instead see corporate team blogs that have an equal weighting to employees. Another example is with Dell and Oracle employees who fuse their name with their employer –it’s both personal and professional.
Third Reaction: Let the customers be the product face: Perhaps the most sophisticated way to market a product isn’t to put your employees on the product blog, but instead, your customers. I don’t see too many examples of this currently, but you can expect this to be an approach in the future.
Fourth Reaction: Allow personal brands to proliferate: Some companies allow for employees to create their own blogs, generate revenue on their blogs, and be who and what they want.
Portable brands desirable in the age of career gypsies and job migrants
It’s rare to hear of the life long employee who retires after 40 years of service with a fat pension, in fact many workers today move from job to job –even more frequently in the tech industry. In the end, personal brands within the enterprise are inevitable, just ask Dan Schawbel if anyone wants to track new talent, or hire Generation Y, they’ll have to accept that individuals will have personal brands and they are portable. In fact, recruiters are often seeking on forums, blogs, and social networks to seek out talent.
Personal brands here to stay, with increase in adoption during recession
In my recent post, I pointed out that no matter how hard you work, or how smart you are, you can still get layed off. As a result, expect an increase in professionals to be on social networks like Facebook or LinkedIn, and using conversational tools like blogs and twitter to promote their offerings. The savvy career gypsy will build this up before they need a job.
Now that I’ve put all the options and variations out there, I’d love to hear what you think corporations should do to protect their resources (brand, talent, and time), as well as build trusting relationships with customers?
A few weeks ago, the Motrin Moms kerfuffle blew up and I tracked it by the numbers just a few days after the explosion. Nearly three weeks later, it’s time to revisit the incident to see what’s happened.
[Brands that get punk’d by social media have an opportunity to quickly respond and enable the groundswell to pirouette the energy towards a positive direction]
Running the numbers you can see interest has piqued for Motrin:
People are curious: Google insights indicates a spike in searches for the term “Motrin”.
There’s more interest in Motrin than other competitors: comparing terms “Motrin” to “Tylenol” and “Ibprofen” other brands in the space, there’s a peak that outperforms the market.
Alexa, a third party traffic monitoring tools, shows a lift in traffic to motrin.com
Compete.com, a third party traffic monitoring service, also shows a lift in traffic to Motrin.com
Despite this interest the Motrin has generated the corporate webpage still has an apology dated from Nov 20th (today is Dec 4th)
Motrin misses an opportunity by sulking in the corner
Unfortunately, not much has happened from Motrin’s behalf. The motrin.com corporate homepage is dated with an apology from Kathy Widmer dated Nov 20th and referencing an apology “4 days ago”. Whether or not you think that Motrin did something wrong with their ad or not it really doesn’t matter, as there’s an opportunity being wasted that Motrin should leverage. My job is to help the largest brands in the world understand and benefit from connecting with their customers using web tools, and if motrin were my client, I would advise them with the following:
[Rather than wallow in sorrow, Motrin should leverage global interest in it’s brand. Rather than telling customers what pains them, Motrin should benefit from word of mouth by asking the community “what pains you?”]
Rather than cower in the shadows, Motrin should:
1) Stop Reacting and Develop a Strategy To Lead: Learn how to Judo throw by using the weight of the Groundswell to aid you. Before deploying any tactics, first understand that there are many eyeballs now on Motrin and in some PR circles this is good press from bad –leverage it. If you’re listening to a recent podcast episode of For Immediate Release there’s global attention on Motrin within the social media circle that is quite amazing since the product is only sold in US.
2) Remove the Apology: Suck it up and take that down the mea culpa. In the scheme of things, not every mother was insulted, and the Motrin moms is not indicative of what’s being said by moms that didn’t even see the video ad. Motrin has responded quickly, removed the ad and given a sincere apology in my opinion. Great, now it’s time to move towards the path of recovery.
3) Listen to the Community by Asking “What Pains You”: At Forrester, we use the term “Listening” as one of the objectives for social computing, suggesting that brands can better understand their customers by gleaning insight to what’s already being said. Here’s the opportunity for Motrin to leverage the Groundswell, since many members have already created their own ads (such as this clever play on big boobs), build off the momentum and develop a program to ask mothers what pains them. Obviously telling them what pained them, and playing the empathy card backfired, so instead, just ask them. Allow them to tag the videos, photos, and blog posts with #whatpainsme.
4) Allow the Groundswell to Advertise on Your Behalf: Now that this content has been created by the community, aggregate the popular posts, tweets, video and images on your blog, or corporate homepage, and allow the discussion to continue. Fortunately for Motrin, the worst criticism has already occured, so by even including negative submissions shouldn’t be a problem. By doing this, Motrin will be the center of discussion around pain –which can offer a solution with their relief products.
The above example is advice I would give Motrin if they were my client, but I’m sure there are plenty of other ways to allow both the community and brand to win.
That’s just my take, if you were reporting to the VP of Marketing at Motrin, what would you recommend they do?
This post is a response to last night’s event at the Horn Group called Is Social Media Killing PR? Sam Whitmore moderated Kara Swisher (media), and Susan Etlinger (PR) and me (analyst) for a lively debate, which resulted in the crowd chiming into the issues. I don’t think the conversation evolved as far enough as I wanted to see it go, so here’s what I wanted to share.
For years the Public Relations industry has ironically one of the worst reputations –esp since they are hired to look after the reputations of their own clients. Things only got worse as some brands got punk’d; the introduction of self-publishing tools that allowed anyone to connect to each other using social technologies, causing a shift in power. We’ve already talked to death about the risks and the changes that are happening to this industry, yet I’m hoping to elevate the viewpoint out of the gutter and focus on the larger opportunities –and risks at the industry level.
Four Business Opportunities for the Evolved PR Agency:
1) Enhance Existing Functions
First of all, some things that are already in place need more focus, for example, it was discussed last night that now that influencers (press, media, bloggers, analysts, customers) can directly be reached by clients –PR professionals can be bypassed. In fact, when you look closely, everyone’s doing press, analysis and media.
A) Be a filter for clients: There’s a tremendous amount of noise now being created, creating an opportunity for PR folks to filter, sort, and prioritize what matters. You’ll need both access and understanding of brand monitoring tools as well as the ability to see patterns in the noise.
B) Council rather than conduit: Although strategic council has been happening for many years, now that clients and influencers can connect directly, this could result in a business shift resulting in more focus on coaching, less on pitching. Mary Trigiani suggests the same.
C) Extend Social Strategy: Most firms don’t have a strategic response to social media across the whole firm. While the young digital natives may use these pervasive tools, they lack strategic insight, yet the immigrant executives don’t fully understand how these tools change the communication lines.
Two potential customers were at the event, and both lamented that they can’t tell the difference between one firm to another –they all offer similar promises and relationships. The opportunity for PR firms to be more vocal in the areas of expertise they provide are at hand. PR firms should become part of the community they serve –regardless of the client they have on the accounts receivable. Instead, be known as the expert firm in your industry, not just pitching, but also serving and helping beyond your clients needs. There’s a business opportunity here for some smart entrepreneur to create a VRM system that allows clients to recommend PR firms to other brands.
3) Extend to the Entire Customer Lifecycle
I alluded to this yesterday in the panel, but this is perhaps the single largest opportunity for the evolved PR firm. As we know “Public” relations involves prospects and customers, social technologies mush up the lines between when this starts and stops. As a result, PR firms how learn how to offer value to other areas of the organization beyond corporate communications can find new revenue buckets in product marketing, product management, product support, and beyond.
4) Fix Your Own Damn Reputation
I’ll hit this again: it’s very ironic that an industry so focused on keeping the image of their clients reputation pristine is unable to shine their own shingle. Use these social tools to tell your story –and to get your clients to tell your story –on your behalf. Although the HORN group was the only firm to take this challenge head on, the industry as a whole needs to fix this, but it can’t be insular within the PR community, but looking outside the circle of pros.
Related Resources (I’m updating this list)
Nov 14th, the next day: There’s really a tremendous amount of different voices, angles and perspectives on Wed’s discussion, read below.
Do read the responses from the attendees in twitter (the audience has the control), they tagged it with #prblog.
Ravit Lichtenberg Live blog: Is Social Media Killing PR? Live blogging from girls in tech and Horn Group.
Kara Swisher was taking video, and posts her thoughts, although she can make execs shake in their boots, she really makes me smile. Find out what the CEO of Yahoo and I have in common.
Cece (a marketing stakeholder) said we were taking on baby step topics and missed focusing on how PR should meet the need of marketing –and the business. She’s right.
Susan Etlinger, our host and panel mate gives her thoughts
Sam Whitmore the moderator poses some additional questions, I think we’ve all concluded last night’s event really just opened up far more discussions, this is all healthy.
Jennifer Leggio was covering this for ZDnet, and has published why PR is not dead, but shows it’s weaknesses.
There are photos coming in tagged Horn Group, it’s a thrill to see how all this feedback and media comes in real-time.
Charles Cooper from Cnet says that PR is killing PR, and that I focus to heavily on Social Media (which is my primary focus, yet he has a point)
Charles Cooper from Cnet says that PR is killing PR, and that I focus to heavily on Social Media (which is my primary focus, yet he has a point). Thanks to Chris Kenton for backing me, appreciated, thanks.
Kenneth suggests that Marketing and PR still has a core strategy –social should be left to the side
Adrian Chan publishes an email he had with a PR pro at Edelman discussing what we did and didn’t get.
Leave a comment below if I’ve missed anyone, sometimes trackbacks don’t show up
Photos from last night’s event:
I started out my social media career as a community manager, and can see why several community managers have expressed some concerns about our over connected world. It seems that some of them are cursed with the very technology that gets them paid.
You see, some community managers have a hard time separating their personal and their professional lives. In some cases, I’ve heard that the members of the communities they serve become so comfortable with them as a social contact that they send them friend requests in Facebook, (where some community managers may have personal and family info) follow their tweets, and connect with them in many ways.
As a result, the work of the community manager is never done, they’re now completely connected to the community they serve. While sure, an effective for way to build trust and really know your community at work, this leaves very little personal space. In some cases, I’m sure that community managers will get requests in Facebook to solve issues, or take feedback, as well as exposing their personal life to their customers.
Perhaps one of the most scary cases are those of troublemaker community members that become so livid when they are reprimanded or removed from a community that they seek personal revenge against the community manager, and are able to find out way more information than any phone support person would have supplied.
As a result, expect community managers to create more than one personal identity, withhold personal information, and potentially suffer from burnout or frustration at work and at home. These are the challenges of being connected to the community you serve –even during off hours.
Love to hear from the community managers out there, what are the other hazards of the job?
Left Image: I was stunned by the diversity and co-existence of thousands of species at this tropical reef exhibit
Change is coming, whether you like it or not. Jive software, a company I formerly cover slashed 1/3rd of it’s workforce (see update below), likely in response to it’s own VCs suggestion to slash costs to become cash flow positive in the now famous RIP Good Times preso. Cutting
33% closer to 20% of your body off to make sure you can still float in a few years is cutting very, very deep, no doubt customer service will be impacted, and a slow down in the product roadmap.
(Update: I spoke to Sam Lawrence of Jive’s marketing last night, and learned that the layoffs were actually closer to 20%, not the 33% that was reported, I’ve since updated the post)
Coincidently, I’m having a meeting with a VC over at Sequoia (have had this planned for a while) and believe me, the economy is one discussion we’ll be having and how it applies to the social media space. I’ll also discuss how this one is different from the dot com bust.
On Monday on my “day off” I went to the brand new California Academy of Sciences in SF, and was amazed and stunned by the phillipine tropical reef, one of the largest of that kind. There were thousands of species of fish within this exhibit, that many were co-dependent, co-operative, symbiotic and in some cases –parasitic.
I see the world through an ‘internet lens’ everything I see or do relates back to my passion, web strategy. I saw a quote that was gilded to the floor that completely resonated with me, and the changes in our reef.
[It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change -Darwin]
Expect to see more slashes and cuts, even from strong and intelligent companies who are gearing up for the long haul, In a morbid (but necceary function as an analyst) I’m keeping track of these layoffs, but also feature new hires and jobs.
Here’s a few opinions and news that I’m reading that discusses the impacts of an economic downturn and it’s impact on social media, and the web and general. Really take the time to read these.
O’Reilly Media: Effect of the Depression on Technology
Video: Tech Players that May Benefit from the Financial Crisis
Richard MacManus of RWW What’s Next After Web 2.0
Adage: Even Search Not Immune to Financial Malaise
SFGate: Venture capital slashed $476 million in quarter
Fast Forward: In uncertain times, Enterprise 2.0 takes the stage
Direct Marketing News: To gain market share in a recession, try social marketing
Dave McClure: Fear is the Mind Killer of the Silicon Valley Entrepreneur (we must be Muad’Dib, not Clark Kent)
If you have any reactions to any of these articles, or want to submit a related one, please leave a comment below.