Posters of Yore.

A Social Media Tip

Twitter Is the News.

Social Media

Corporate Social Media Departments.


I met with someone smart yesterday and shared my view that in the future large corporations will have their own social media departments — staffed with writers, videographers, photographers, coders and digital editors.  This senior strategy and innovation officer processed the thought, nodded in partial agreement, then noted that the level of creativity likely to come out of this type of group would be modest.  He was right. 

An internal social media department will do a good job of relating the corporate viewpoint, organizing proof and demonstrations of product value, and it will do so accurately… but in the end it will lack that creative oomph provided by an agency. And here, I mean a digital or a brand agency. 

That’s not to say internal social media departments won’t happen, they will. They already are.  But the talent level required to do it BIG, won’t be found on staff.  Sure, some implementation can be handled inside, but not the big honkin’ creative idea. Not the polished sight and sound. And agencies need to figure out how to charge for that idea? Beyond production and mark-up that is.  Does the answer reside within Google?  Hmmmm. Peace!

An Unexpected Show of Caring.


My wife does Yoga at Fitness Incentive in Babylon a couple of mornings a week and she just retuned asking if I would smell her.  The instructor, you see, had sprayed some lavender on her at the end of today’s session, saying something about its soothing properties.  This was an unexpected show of caring on the part of the instructor. 

Marketers would do well to learn from the instructor and offer unexpected demonstrations of caring to customers.  Bob Gilbreath, chief marketing strategist at Bridge Worldwide, is building a brand and a movement around Marketing with Meaning.  Is an unexpected show of caring marketing with meaning?  Most certainly.  


When leaving a store and someone says “thank you for shopping at ____” it’s nice, but not unexpected.  While at a restaurant with spoon to mouth and the proprietor sticks his smiling face in asking “Everything alright?” — this may be unexpected but it is not a real show of caring. While at Mary Carrol’s Pub and the bartender buys back after your third quaff, unexpected?  Not really. Good business, yes, but not necessarily a show of unexpected or caring. 

Caring and thank you are two different things.  The latter requires thought; it’s a skill actually. Twitter can be used as an example of unexpected caring, used correctly.  A coupon dispenser is not caring.  Customer service is not caring, it’s the price of doing business. When Steve Jobs, as was reported in the news yesterday, answers an email to a customer it is unexpected. And it’s caring.   

Let’s get on with it marketers!  When you leave the building each day ask yourself “What did I do to show a customer – not every customer – I care about them in a surprising way. Lavender anyone?

Rubel, Facebook and Fruit Cocktail.


There’s a pretty interesting debate going on over at Steve Rubel’s Posterous stream.  It revolves around his moving his stream (sorry, guys of a certain age) to Facebook.  He’ll continue at Posterous but feels Facebook gives him more visibility, a bigger audience and a richer discussion. 

Mr. Rubel initially moved to Posterous because it was a place for him to aggregate his musings. Plus it was an easy and elegant interface.  (The aesthete in me likes the Posterous look better than the templatized Facebook frame.)  Sequestering most of his business and digital observations on Posterous and moving everything  else — business, personal, real time — to Facebook seems like a good strategy. But is it? Time will tell.


In America and countries that look to America for tech and taste, specificity rules the day.  No one ever became president (of anything) being a generalist.  Let’s leave Mr. Rubel for a moment and use Ms. X as an example.  Say you’ve never met Ms. X but you think she’s a brilliant marketing mind. She may be a lousy partner, driver, dancer and cook but she can really mesmerize a room filled with marketers. You may be marginally interested in her meatball recipe but it is certainly not the driver of her attention.  The more meatball recipes in her stream, the less likely she is to be unique. By mixing all of her postings into one stream, Ms. X is not managing her brand very well. Her fame is diluted.

Moving Toward the Middle.

This is another example – common a couple of years ago when social computing companies were all trying to match each other’s feature sets – where everyone is moving toward the middle. It should not be. LinkedIn is about business relationships. Twitter is about real time info and immediacy.  Facebook is about friends and self and entertainment.  As Facebook moves to the middle, attempting to be all things to all people (brand fan pages included), it becomes like fruit cocktail — that can of fruit in the back of the cabinet where everything tastes like peaches. As quickly as Facebook is growing, I’m afraid it will mirror Google and turn into nothing more than an amazing advertising platform. (And then divest.) Peace!

Twisted Juice.


Mitch Joel and Jaffe Juice’s Joseph Jaffe squared off yesterday in a podcast that was a good deal of fun.  Each agreed they were good friends but that was about all they agreed upon — save for the obligatory strokefest at the end.  Mr. Jaffe is a principal at Crayon now owned by Powered and Mr. Joel is president of Twist Image a leading digital shop based in Toronto.  Both are published (books, blogs and pods) and practiced “duelists.”

The discussion with which they played pong was “Is social media a discrete marketing practice?” Mr Jaffe says “yes,” Mr. Joel “no.” 

The crux of the debate is this:  Social media needs to be well integrated into the marketing and digital practices of corporations. Today, it’s not.  Mr. Joel says there are smart companies doing so and he’s right.  Mr. Jaffe says those companies are the “exception not the rule” and he’s right. Powered is betting that specialized shops – best of breed social shops – will be better positioned to make waves and earn low hanging engagements.  Mr. Joel believes that cleanest most likely social successes will come from integrated digital shops, and in the long run that is probably more correct.  But his approach is less promotable and less newsworthy.   Social media is the haps today.  There is demand for it and a social marketing swell surrounding it. 

Da Monies.

So where is the money in social media?  Tweeting buy the pound? Friending by the hundred? In strategy?  Yep.  Where is the money in the integrated approach? The answer is tweeting by the pound and building websites – a more lucrative approach.  

Win by Knockout?

No. Both arguments are very compelling. Mr. Jaffe and Powered CMO Aaron Strout are loudly breaking new ground. (There are supposedly scores of quiet social media agencies in NYC alone.) Mr. Joel gets it for sure, and though his sound bite is not as powerful he will probably have higher margins this year. Were I a marketing director and these two pitching my business, I’m sure the last one to present would win the business.

Claim and Proof.


Last week at the DMA/PMN social media conference, Steve Rubel, a digital honcho at Edelman, said “information scales, attention is finite.” He couldn’t be more right.  As social media adds more and more conversation to what is already being said about brands in the marketplace, the cacophony grows louder.  It is in this environment that brand planners become even more important.

Creating a brand strategy that is easy for corporate officers and consumers to articulate is job one for today’s planners.  Once that strategy is in place, “proving” it and refreshing it is the real work.  Simply repeating the brand strategy — using words, pictures, speeches or song — is not marketing.  Proving it is marketing.  Proof through actions, deeds, and product innovation is what makes a brand strategy and what makes people pay attention…and remember.  If you have a great strategy and no proof, you fail.  Peace!

Direct and Participatory (Tee-shirt Saying?)


I attended a really great event in NYC yesterday put on by the Direct Marketing Association and Participatory Marketing Network (shout out to Curley, the DMA’s receptionist of 26 years).  Called Social Media Spotlight, it really exceeded expectations. Steve Rubel of Edelman Digital got things started.  Steve is the Obama of the social media space.  Unlike most speakers about social media, if Steve trots out a statistic, it’s a good one. “More digital information was created last year than in all of history combined.”   Steve, thanks to his PR training, talks in tee-shirts. About the growth of Tweeting vs. blogging he said “A lot more snacking, a lot less meals.” He’s memorable and inspiring.

Rob Krin, a digital dude from Castrol, showed great élan and marketing smarts by suggesting a strategy to “Be everywhere his customers are.” Is that a strategy?  Oh yeah.  A media strategy – but a strategy nonetheless. Castrol has an on-staff photographer who takes awesome action shots at car races and posts them to Flickr.  That’s what car heads want, that’s what Castrol gives them.


But one of the biggest surprises of the day was @rahimthedream. I’m not going to undignify my send-up by talking about his age—but Rahim Fazal, CEO of Involver, is da monies. I walked into the meeting not getting Facebook Fan Pages, thinking they were a time kill where people went to build their friend lists (which is still partially true), but I left eating some serious crow. Involver is the “app store” for Facebook marketing tools. Think of Facebook as television and there is only one ad agency.  That’s Involver. It’s pronounced Rah-Heem.  Peace!

Social Media Talent Scouts



In Jaron Lanier’s new book You Are Not a Gadget,” he discusses how the Web has spawned an almost mob-like behavior favoring Pasters (those who copy, paste and mash other people’s content) over Posters (original content creators).  The “wisdom of crowds” (James Surowiecki) mentality, he writes, supersedes individual wisdom…and that’s a shame.  

Readers of “What’s The Idea?” know I write about the proper care and feeding of Posters and Pasters in social media marketing.  Understanding the theory is easy, making it happen, not so much. The key to successful, extensible social media marketing initiatives is in finding the right Posters to pollinate the Web.  That’s the heavy lifting.  One needs to be a good talent scout. Finding Posters (in your product category) before they become too big is also key. Find them on the way up, in other words.

How will you know a good Poster when you find him/her? Here are a few hints.  They are doers — they get out of the house or building. They’re creative — experimenting and solving problems in new ways. They are not shy, though their posts and content are not “me, me, me ,me” focused. They blog and have a following. They inspire respectful comments on their blogs or conent channel.

Find a good Poster in your category and learn from her/him. Don’t seek out wisdom in the crowd or hive.   Peace!

Staples on Twitter.


 staples logo

A “social” friend of mine, Julie, turned me on to a Twitter site today that kinda follows one of my best practices for commercial tweeting. It’s Staples.  I preach to clients and friends that corporate users shouldn’t just broadcast promotional info and/or respond to help questions on Twitter. Rather, they should create a persona for their Twitter presence that embodies the brand and inspires positive thought and action. Think of it as a role in a movie with a motivation. The motivation should track to the brand plan and push the brand planks.

In the case of Staples, the “tweet team” consists of five people, each with their own tag. Michelle is MO, Kevin AB, etc. This allows them to be identified and personalized, plus it shares the workload. At this point, I’m not yet sure if these people are SMEs (subject matter experts) or generalists.  It would be a smart if they had discrete areas of expertise and personalities to fit. 

Buy and Multiply.

More and more companies are hiring people to handle social media.  Some are outsourcing (stopgap), others using interns (big gap), the smart ones employ senior management who get the brand strategy.  The big promise of Twitter is not to make customers happy – one at a time – but to inspire customers to buy, share and multiply.  The key word here is inspire. Tweeters have to be engaging individuals…with personalities.  And just like in a retail setting they can’t be shills. They must be sensitive, funny and friend-like.  If you are on the receiving end of a commercial tweet you need to “feel” the company tweeter – and like her/him. The persona is key.

Staples has made a good start here, let’s see hat they do with it. Peace on Haiti.

Listening Starts at Home



So (today everyone starts their pontifications with the word “so”) the talk on the marketing street these days is all about “starting the conversation” and “being a good listener.” These are axiomatic teachings of the social media movement.  I appreciate this view and love listening to consumers, but I’d like to throw a trump card on the pile: Listening to employees. What is often forgotten in the social media world today is the role and input of employees.  Employees touch customers.  Lots of them. Employees know the product inside and out (if the company is well led). Employees have a stake in the performance of the product. Companies need to mine their own people for product and selling insights, because employees are the aggregators of smart marketing intelligence.

New Product Ideas

If you look back through time, I’d bet that 75% of all new product improvements, line extensions and new product ideas have come from within the company. Add to that all the new ideas and suggestions made off-the-cuff by employees that never saw the light of day and you begin to see a bigger opportunity.

Smart social media software companies, building enterprise 2.0 applications through which employees share, commune and contribute business building ideas, are what’s up in 2010. Listening to employees through social media will be a marketing breakthrough to Tweet about. Peace!