Yesterday, I spoke to a room full of Analyst Relations (AR) and Public Relations (PR) professionals at a large tech vendor. I was asked to lead a discussion about the impacts of social media to their daily life.
I’ve been hearing about these questions from AR folks themselves, as well as from Forrester’s AR services team, and analysts such as Ray Wang . Hopefully, this will kick off a discussion and we can collaboratively share and learn.
10 Questions Analyst Relations Professionals Have About Social Media
1. Is social media a medium to influence the influencers?
2. Are influencers impacted by social media usage of clients, vendors, and media?
3. Now that many are creating their own messages is message control realistic?
4. Can AR and PR benefit from listening to social media?
5. Can AR and PR benefit from using social media to talk?
6. How do AR folks, who are traditionally accustomed to deep, often in person relationships benefit from this?
7. Does this really mean more work for me?
8. If our competitors use this, do they have a leg up on us?
9. How to we quantify the ROI of our efforts?
10. Leave a comment if you’ve got a point of contention.
Self admittedly, I’m new to this topic, and many others have been thinking this through more carefully. I do however represent a new type of analyst that uses these tools to support, promote, and enhance, some parts of my research (it’s not good for deep analysis nor accurate trending), so you’ll want to observe my behaviors carefully as I make mistakes and also figure things out.
If you want to learn more, subscribe to Jonny Bentwood, SageCircle’s Carter Lusher, or talk to the Forrester AR folks that are thinking this through much deeper than I am. Also, see this List of Resources, Profiles, Indexes, Blogs, Companies and Information for the Analyst Industry.
Update: Carter Lusher just pointed me to this list of Analyst Relations pros that are on Twitter, half are from Tech, and half are from agency.
Update 2: Carter responds to my questions, with his take on the answers, read part 1 and part 2.
When I first started this list, there were about 8 names on it, just about every day, I continue to add more names, and I’ve thus had to segment the list out by verticals. What is this list? It’s a list of full time social media professionals at Enterprise size companies.
As noted in my recent research report, there are two main roles that are appearing, the social computing/media strategist (I count 54 folks on my list), and the community manager (I count 47 folks). When I wrote the report it was focused on interactive marketers, so it didn’t include an R&D viewpoint, as such, I’ve now added a third category to the list of product managers that create social media products (no surprise they are all in the tech industry)
So what does this mean? What we’re starting to see is that companies are putting actual resources (headcount, programs, budget) around social media programs, it’s no longer a toe-dipping exercise that someone does part time in their role.
A while back Steve Rubel suggested that these skills will fold into everyone’s role, and there will be no need for these single specific roles. In the long run, yes, he’s right. We should note that there are currently web marketing managers, (web strategists) email marketing managers (called direct marketers), and advertising managers –all of which are focused on being efficient in their mediums. So unless those specific roles go away, there is no indicator that these full time social media roles will go away.
So, if you’re trying to indicate to your management or client that this movement is indeed happening, forward that list to them, and let them see the trending for themselves. Do note that many in the non tech industry will discount this as mainly as a tech industry ‘thing’, I’ve heard from multiple clients that when tech companies adopt new technologies, traditional companies like consumer goods, finance, will often retort “yeah, but that’s the tech industry, it’s not reflective of our space”. Quite possible indeed, but you should watch the tech industry in order to anticipate early adoption of technologies, and as it moves up the curve, you should be prepared to adopt.
Also, if you plan to submit, please carefully read the requirements, I screen each submission for accuracy, description, to ensure a solid, defensible list. Frankly, a wiki, just wouldn’t result in the same vetting quality.
I’m in the unique position as a blogger who interacts with journalists, popular ‘A-list’ blogs, and PR firms who present new stories and I’ve observed a trend that Popular Blogs and Mainstream Media appear the same I first started this discussion on Friendfeed, and now it continues here.
In 2005-2006 the discussion around blogs was it’s potential threat to ‘kill’ mainstream media, newspapers, and magazines. As a result, mainstream media responded back, sometimes with negative attacks like ‘attack of the blogs‘. Segregation was impossible and eventually groups within mainstream media outlets started to create blogs on their own, often covering the technology sector or political arena, and many were used as a ‘personal column’ or a place to get more millage out of stories that were cut from editorial.
Taking a closer look at the bloggers themselves, while there is certainly a longer tail of content (specific and niche blogs that will barely get a mention in niche magazines) yet the top blogs (A-listers) resemble the same editorial structure as mainstream medium or an editorial columnist. For example, some of the top tech blogs have a team of journalists/bloggers who cover different areas, there’s often a senior editor who reviews, shapes, or verbally let’s the authors know the direction of the site.
See for yourself according toTechnorati’s top 100 blogs, you’ll notice that a majority of them are written by teams. Only a few are written by individuals, for example, out of the first 50, I only recognize Seth Godin, Robert Scoble, and Heather Armstrong’s Dooce.
Godin, Scoble, and Armstrong’s publishing styles really that unique, as for decades, mainstream media has had editorial columns ‘opinions’ from senior editors, to write rambunctious, irreverent articles. Why? Unique opinion drives controversy –or at least new perspective– that attracts eyeballs. In many cases, the top blogs (either by team or individual) reflect that same editorial slant, in this case, we just call it “opinion”.
Taking a look at the Public Relations industry, who are often asked to help influence coverage of their clients announcements, many times, they build relationships and interact with the top blogs just as they would SF Chronicle, the Mercury, or NYTimes.
So what’s the difference between today’s mainstream press and a-list blogger ‘teams’? Is it quality? Not always. Is it timeliness? It varies. Is it the ability to leave comments? both styles have comments available. Is it personality? It depends.
Perhaps the primary difference is the difference in niche (long tail) content written from first hand sources, and secondly, who will respond and leave comments on this post, I’ll be it’ll be primarily bloggers, not mainstream media folks.
I prescribe to the believe that this evolution is natural, a new medium has been born, and with it comes a shift in power –human traits to organize and band together stem from our earliest tribal instincts. Not much has changed
Peter Kim connects the dots in the comments, and notes that the blog PaidContent was just purchased by the mainstream media group Guardian for a cool $30MM.
My CEO, George Colony lists out a few products and services that have ‘disappeared’ due to technology in his latest blog post. He lists out encyclopedias, classifies, records, actors and even trans-continental flights. He asks what could disappear next. I’ll throw out some hypothetical situations that could cause some of the following dissipate:
Support for products could be transplanted by peer to peer support tools like GetSatisfaction where passionate customers self-support each other bypassing corporations
“Outside” Sales teams could be replaced by Vendor Relationship Management (VRM) s where customers define what they want, companies respond.
Printed photos/photo centers, at least in the eyes of Generation Y are already falling by the wayside
Physical printed maps are already being replaced by digital GPS systems in many cars
Restaurant review companies like Fodors and Zagat, instead replaced by peer review sites like Yelp.
Digital book readers, like the Kindle, although still in early generations could replace distribution of printed books
Keyboard and mice, what a slow and archaic way of input, which needs to evolve from voice/eye recognition
Movie Theaters can go away as home entertainment systems get bigger screens in HD, with great audio at lower costs. Coupled with streaming data, HD movies can be piped directly into the home
Gasoline powered cars
Leave a comment with your prediction –or refute mine
Thanks to Carter Lusher who spurred on this discussion.
A few days ago, I ran a contest for two winners to receive free tickets to the Internet Strategy Forum Summit in Portland. The winning responses, based on insight, ability to back up their predictions and being succinct were Christopher Smith and Kristie.
I’ve selected the two winners, here’s their submissions:
Kristie Connor, a Marketing Consultant, submits on the concept of ‘fluidity’. I like this concept as the corporate website won’t be the only container of brand and product content but also this content will spread to wherever the conversations flow on the web: Social networks, blogs, friendfeed and wherever else. She writes the following:
“Corporate websites of the future will be less about canned content and more about fluidity. Meaning, the consumer will demand websites that are connected to the ‘users’ and ‘consumers’ personal networks which will promote and instill word of mouth as a best practice for business development and ultimately sales. The infrastructure will be designed in a way that company developed case studies, webinars and such will be replaced by real consumers leaving messages and user created video’s. The back-end will be light and built to accommodate the interactivity of users and social networks. Customer generated content will be ranked higher in search engines and push the website owner to move in the direction to capture mind share.”
Additionally, this evolution will put the consumer in the driver’s seat which will drive accountability from outside in.
Christopher Smith, VP of Digital Media Marketing and the Creative Director at MediaTrust submits an excellent piece highlighting that people, real humans will be front and center, rather than the stock photo and corporate happy talk, I couldn’t hope and agree more. Perhaps the future holds a ‘customized’ social network where people you actually know that work at the company are front and center on the website, or customers that are connected to you on your social graph:
“Jeremiah, in response to your contest I submit the following:
I actually believe in 5 years the “corporate website” as we now it will no longer exist. Gone will be the days of the static brochure site, supported by a “dynamic” sub-branded social community. There will no longer be the “self-service” document download centers, or the video case study hiding the infomercial inside.
I see the corporate website as hub of individuals that become your first point of contact, and guide you through your search for products, service or support. Consider the example of the Apple Retail Store experience and extend that to the web. You are going to the corporate site for a reason. Even casual browsers to a corporate site have a passive agenda. Virtual corporate ambassadors will assist you in your interaction with the company, blurring the lines of sales, CRM, and support, with the use of chat, video feed, guided browsing, VoIP… the list goes on.
How will this happen in 5 years? I have already begun this work for my company’s new site, and have begun working with our customer experience team from the tech side to insure that we begin building the opportunity today and defining the process in design and test.
And yes, I already have the date in my calendar, and plan on attending as much of the conference as I can. The downside of winning your contest will be that I am required to visit my mother in law if I am Portland.”
Doh! Have fun with your mother in law Chris. For additional reference, do read my post on the Irrelevant Corporate Website, and how to evolve it. Although over a year old, we’re just starting to see websites evolve.
I just visited a client who had several groups in their company doing quite a bit around social media (they are trying to answer the 4th and 5th question). They were what I call “walking” and were on the verge of “running”. Often, when I meet companies for the first time, I try to find out which of the following questions that they are answering, as it determines their level of sophistication.
As one might expect, brands in tech, media, and some consumer goods are more advanced, and finance, insurance, and sometimes government are trying to answer the first questions.
Five questions companies ask about social media:
What is Social Media?
For many folks, corporations, the question to answer was “What is a BloB”. Blogging was the primary tool that we saw in the marketplace, for some, it wasn’t taken seriously, for the savvy, they quickly adopted. We saw scare tactics from the threatened mainstream media, such as “Attack of the Blogs” and light of amateurisms, angry customers and crazies were painted. For many, we wanted to know what are these tools, how to they work, and what’s the impact. Early on, this impacted corporate communications, PR, and mainstream media.
Why does it matter?
As we’ve evolved, many were realizing the impact of exploding batteries, brand hijacking, and blog evangelism. Savvy companies were starting to adopt these tools, a few provided integrated communities that were scrapped together or built from existing platforms. For the majority, trying to understand why these tools matter to a business. In addition to corporate communications, PR, we started to see other marketing and business units being impacted by these tools, as well as adoption.
What does it mean to my business?
We’re here now. This is the year of ROI, measurement, and experimentation. Many corporations have deployed resources, headcounts and budgets. Corporations are afraid to make mistakes, so plans are created, and measurement is critical to help manage and prove the worth of new programs. ROI was proven, new social media measurement attributes were defined, and many new tools were deployed, I did what I could to further this industry (see all posts). In addition to Corporate Communications and PR, business units are starting to experiment with these tools, often out of the PR budget. A new role started to appear more frequently, the digital marketing manager, the community manager, the social media strategist.
How do I do it right?
Now that experimentation is done, and business units are starting to apply these tools, like advertising, PR, field marketing, and customer references, companies will want to do it right. Frameworks will be developed, consultants will offer packages, and a loosely developed process will be used. For companies that don’t have enough internal resources to listen, manage, and deploy, consultants will be a very sought after service. Nearly every brand will start to have an ongoing budget for social media, the new role to manage these tools will appear. IT departments will start to deploy enterprise 2.0 tools.
How do I integrate across the Enterprise
Normalization is happening, A checkbox for ’social media’ on every announcement, product launch, product development and support will be using these tools. Social media tools to listen, converse, collect knowledge, and build new products will integrate across the customer cycle. It’s not just external, intranets will start to deploy suites for collaboration, such as blog accounts issued to many internal and external employees. Product Teams, IT departments, HR, Finance, Executives, and of course Marketing will be using these tools.
This post, for the most part is a rehash of what I’ve posted nearly a year ago, but I think it holds merit to discuss again
Update: June 10th. I’ve scheduled 52 inquiry calls with clients since April 2008. Inquiry calls are 30 minute discussions with clients that want to pick our brains, and I tell them everything I know that will help them meet their business objective. While the range of questions wily varies, most are asking questions 3, 4, 5.
What question is your company, or your clients trying to answer, this is often a good post to send to your internal teams and try to trigger a discussion.