Archive for May, 2010

Four Reasons Your Social Media Marketing Campaign Sucks

Listen; engage; develop.

That’s the three-step approach we recommend companies take when it comes to approaching social media marketing activities for their organization. While you’ll hear nuances in terminology and small differences in approach, you’ll see thought leaders in our industry take a similar approach. Brian Solis, for example, talks about “listening, observing and learning” as the bedrock steps in organizational use of social media in his book “Engage” (which I’m currently reading).

You know what you don’t see anyone recommending? Build, promote, abandon.

However, we’re still seeing social media marketing campaigns built with this implicit process. A few tell-tale signs when we encounter them:

  • A short-term focus, often manifested in a desire for “disposable properties” and a reluctance to sustain any kind of presence after the end of the campaign.
  • The desire for campaign-based tactics with no existing presence of any kind.
  • A one-way broadcasting focus, aiming to blast messages out to the target audience.

Granted, a campaign-based approach can work with specific influencer outreach, but it’s far more effective if the team doing it is able to reach out to those people consistently over a long period of time and hence is able to build a relationship with those people. In general though, the problems with this approach, and the reasons that you don’t hear anyone advocating for it, are four-fold:

1. It takes time or money to attract an audience

Social media tools don’t just let you flip a switch and reach thousands or millions of people. TV, radio and print advertising lets you do that; Facebook, Twitter and blogs don’t.

Social media lets you identify, create and tap into communities of like-minded people. However, this doesn’t happen organically overnight. So, any campaign that starts from scratch and aims for quick results needs to be supported by other forms of media in order to drive people to the social properties in the hope that people engage. This is often counter to the organizational goal of a campaign: driving to a single conversion point, requires resources to be diverted from the primary goal and in doing so reduces the ROI of the campaign.

2. You build an audience, only to throw it away at the end

As I just mentioned, it takes either time or money to build an audience through social media tools. By scrapping the properties you’ve developed at the end of the campaign, you’re throwing all of that investment down the drain. That’s like building an email list then deleting it as soon as you’re done building it.

A much better approach would be to drive people to a long-term property which you can adapt and tailor for short-term purposes, for example a long-term Facebook page or a corporate blog. That way you can foster and continue to engage your community over the long-term, with the benefit of increased loyalty, further conversions and improved perceptions of your brand. What’s more, next time you have an announcement or campaign, you’ll have a pre-established group of people there who have opted-in to receive your updates.

3. Social media is earned media, not paid media

Much of the problem stems from the mindset of the people who often drive the social media bus in corporations. If you think back to our social media marketing ecosystem and Forrester’s breakdown of media types, marketers are often most used to paid media – immediately scaleable and controllable.

Social media isn’t primarily paid media – it’s owned and earned media. Often these lines may blur – you may do interesting things with your owned properties (which are long-term relationship builders) while earning attention in other forms of media with your approach there.

Trying to fit a paid media approach to earned and owned media is akin to trying to saw a plank of wood with a hammer. You’re doing it wrong.

4. It’s one-way, not two-way

These campaign-based approaches still take the old one-way approach to engaging online – do something funny or interesting in the hope that it will “go viral” and reach thousands of people. There’s some value in doing that, but there’s so much more potential to social media that companies really only scratch the surface if they take a purely campaign-based approach to social media.

For example, where’s the potential for business process redesign, product enhancements or customer service improvements in a siloed promotional campaign? There’s very little – which means you’re missing the bigger picture. You can use these tools as one-shot promotional tactics, but you’re missing the forest for the trees if you do so.

Do you agree?

Simply put, campaign-based social media without the basic foundation of an ongoing presence to support it is, more often than not, doomed to fail.

What do you think?

Forrester Outlines Seven Things Your Organization Must Do Because Of Social Media

Forrester analyst Augie Ray posted a list of seven things he recommends organizations do to avoid the recent problems of Nestle and United Airlines. The list makes for interesting reading:

  1. You must be proactive: Nestle knew the palm oil/deforestation issue could blow up, but did nothing about it until it did
  2. You must improve customer support: Poor customer service now has the potential to do widespread damage to your brand. As Ray puts it,  “Marketers must view their customer service organizations as a key component in brand-building efforts”
  3. You must listen: It’s becoming more and more important for organizations to monitor online discussions to avoid escalating issues. There’s no risk – if you’re not listening to online conversations about your brand, you’re neglecting your brand
  4. You must participate: You don’t lose control when you participate in online conversations; you gain the opportunity to be heard. What’s more, it’s easier to address an issue on a central property than in a fragmented environment, which you may have to do if you don’t have a place to engage
  5. You must respond: As Ray writes, “how can you ignore damaging accusations that accumulate within your own Facebook group?  You can’t; inaction breeds frustration, annoyance and distrust”
  6. You must move faster: Responding to an issue in days risks the accusation of moving slowly. Expectations have shifted, and people expect organizations to respond quickly
  7. You must realize every employee is a marketer: Your employees can affect your brand messages just as much as broadcast messages in traditional media

I encourage you to head on over and check out the post in full.

How does your organization shape up? Are you encouraging your clients to move in this direction?

Why Facebook’s Community Pages Could Give Brands Headaches

A couple of weeks ago I received a worried call from a friend working in PR for a large company. Her opening question went something like:

“What the heck are Community Pages on Facebook, and why is there one for my company?”

Community Pages 101

Facebook’s Community Pages are an initiative from Facebook to create “the best collection of shared knowledge” on a wide variety topics. Right now the content from the pages is pulled from Wikipedia (if available) and from your friends’ updates, so they’re often pretty bare but apparently Facebook plans to enable users to add content in the future. The social network launched roughly 6.5 million of these when they first launched.

In theory these pages should be a good thing for companies. The intent, according to All Facebook, was to take generic topics that aren’t necessarily brand-focused and to create Community Pages for them. Facebook states:

“Generate support for your favorite cause or topic by creating a Community Page. If it become very popular (attracting thousands of fans), it will be adopted and maintained by the Facebook community.”

So, if your Facebook Page falls into “owned media” in our social media ecosystem, Community Pages would fit more into “earned media.”

Over time, Community Pages would reduce the number of errant brand-related pages set up by individuals – a good move from a brand’s perspective. As Christopher Heine at ClickZ wrote, “Big brands that have seen their official Facebook fan numbers hindered by third-party fan pages will likely welcome the move.” The piece also noted that “community pages will indeed help make official brand pages more distinct from third-party pages and groups on the site.”

Causing Headaches for Brands

Here’s the problem, though – alongside generic causes and topics, Facebook has also created Community Pages for many well-known brands. As my friend put it:

“But we already have a Facebook page! What do we do with this?”

Right now, she can’t do anything.

As Facebook states in its FAQs:

“At this time, there is no way for people who choose to connect with a Community Page to add their own pictures or edit the information.”

Many companies have spent time and money building sizeable communities on Facebook through their curated fan pages. Now they’re seeing Facebook roll out yet another form of pages which undermine their efforts. As it it weren’t confusing enough already, we now have:

  • Pages – representing an organization or person
  • Groups – for communities of interest
  • Community pages – theoretically about topics, causes or experiences but seemingly also about brands

These Community Pages also create an additional challenge for companies – they’re a monitoring nightmare. Community Pages are pretty much impossible to monitor effectively, as right now each user only seems to see content posted from their own network. That means everyone sees a unique page driven by their friends.

As if there isn’t enough noise on Facebook already, companies now have to deal with a third wave of pages about their brands – and this time they have absolutely no control over them.

Let’s take Roots, for example (not where my friend works). They’ve created a reasonable-sized community of roughly 14,000 people through their Roots Canada page, and they maintain it regularly. They run contests and promotions, and have a solid level of engagement from “fans” (or whatever we’re calling them now – “likers”?).

However, that page now has to compete with other Community Pages including Roots Canada and Roots. These pages are effectively off-limits for the company, and compete directly with the community the company has already invested in developing.

This isn’t unique to Roots – do the same for Microsoft, for example. When I searched for Microsoft, for example, four of the eight results shown in the drop-down were Community Pages, at the expense of Microsoft’s own pages for students and for Windows 7.

On Control…

Now, I’m of the view that companies don’t “own” their brand – that brands are really the sum total of peoples’ perceptions about the entity in question. This isn’t about that.

I also get that companies don’t “control” their online presence – I work in social media; I actually appreciate the fact that people talk about things that interest or are important to them .  This isn’t about that either.

This is about the world’s largest social network encouraging companies to set up shop on their network and to invest in their presence there, then pulling the rug out from under their feet and launching a new aspect to the network that dilutes the investment for those companies.

It’s funny if you think about it – in the past Facebook would hand over control of fan pages to companies; now they’ve launched a new type of page that’s designed specifically so that brands can’t control them. It’s quite ironic given Facebook’s repeated moves toward enabling businesses to interact more and more with its users.

Managing Risk For Your Community Page

As for my friend and her concern about her company’s new, unsolicited Community Page, I had limited advice to offer. Most of the content, at least initially, is pulled from sources out of the company’s control, so I really only had two recommendations:

  1. Keep a close eye on your Wikipedia page – your company’s information is pulled from there, so brand-jacking efforts may shift there even more if Community Pages take off.
  2. Enter your company’s official website if it isn’t already included on the page – Facebook lets you enter that, at least.
  3. Pay even closer attention to monitoring other social sites. Facebook still offers no effective way to monitor your brand; however as more and more Facebook content is made available on the wider web, you may see more spill-over if an issue does bubble up, and these pages make it more important than ever to catch those issues when they do.
  4. Prepare in advance for how you’ll react if a crisis does emerge. How will you decide whether to respond? Where will you respond? How? Who will do it? Picture Nestle’s recent Facebook issues but in a forum where, even if you wanted to respond, you couldn’t.

What do you think? Is this move good or bad for marketers, and what other tips would you offer to help organizations manage their Community Pages?

How To Ruin (Or Build) Your Personal Brand

A little while back I was invited to keynote at a young professionals’ event in Hamilton, on the topic of personal branding. I presented at the event this morning, and thought I’d post it here for you, too.

Rather than taking a single view on the presentation, I shook this one up a little by dividing the topic three ways:

  • How to ruin your personal brand
  • How to build your personal brand
  • Things you can do today

I’ve embedded the presentation below; the primary talking points are summarized beneath.

How to ruin your personal brand


  • Ignore the Internet – Reputations are made and broken online nowadays. Even if you think social media is a fad, the fact remains that the Internet is a significant driver of business in today’s economy. Even if you don’t care about that, know that employers will Google you. Ignore the Internet and lose the opportunity to manage other peoples’ impressions of you.
  • Go negative – Few people like trolls. No-one wants to work with someone who only tears people down without providing anything constructive
  • Broadcast without engaging – The 1990s web let people with technical expertise publish in a one-way fashion. Today’s technologies enable two-way conversations; use them for one-way broadcasting and you’re missing out.
  • Think no-one is f&$#ing watching – It doesn’t matter if you think your Facebook profile is locked down – lots of people have found the opposite to their cost. If you wouldn’t want your boss or future employer to know about it, don’t post it. Want to ruin your brand? Swear away.
  • Trigger-post - If you’re feeling emotional about something, hold off on posting. Sleep on it.


  • Know everything or nothing – You don’t know everything. Don’t alienate people by thinking that you do. On the flip side, you’re hired for your skills. Put them to use and contribute when you can.
  • Write sloppily – Writing is a critical skill. This is especially so in communications, but true in any field. Be honest with yourself – if your writing isn’t up to scratch, take steps to correct that.
  • Be “that person” – Don’t be the guy who leads with a business card, or who is constantly looking for the next person to talk to, or who asks for favours before getting to know you properly. Don’t know that guy? Then you probably are that guy.
  • Do the bare minimum – Be hungry for more. Seek out work. Cruising is a path to mediocrity.
  • Let up once you’re let in – Landing that dream job isn’t the end of your journey – it’s the beginning.

How to build your personal brand

  • Build your brand before you need it – The time to build your reputation isn’t when you need it – it’s before. It takes time; start now.
  • Be a sponge/say yes… enthusiastically – Spend the early part of your career in general, and of any job, being a sponge. Take every single opportunity to learn everything you can about your role and the organization. Try to continue that learning orientation throughout your career.
  • Create opportunities at and outside work – Volunteer; participate in extra-curricular activities; organize sports teams; get out in your community. The more you do, the more opportunities will present themselves. They’re unlikely to come if you do nothing.
  • Follow your passion; be yourself – Be authentic, both about your passion and about you as a person. Authenticity is critical, especially in online channels where one example of a lack of authenticity can hang around for a long time.
  • Define your goal – If you don’t know where you’re heading, you can never get there. Figure it out early.
  • Under-promise; over-deliver – Always aim to exceed expectations – delight rather than satisfy.
  • Kill people with generosity – Give to other people more than you take. Help other people more than you ask them for help. Build social capital for the times when you need it.
  • Find a mentor; don’t be afraid to connect – Find a mentor. Don’t let someone else assign them to you; find someone you gravitate to, who you respect and to whom you can relate.
  • Network like crazy – Get out there, online and offline, and meet people (without being “that guy”).
  • Be willing to fail – Failure drives learning. Find a supportive environment which encourages failure so you can develop.

Seven things to do today:

  • Google yourself – Find out what people are saying about you. If you haven’t done this before, you may be in for a surprise.
  • Monitor yourself – Use Google Alerts, Twitter Search etc to make those searches persistent so you know whenever someone posts something about you online.
  • Scatter breadcrumbs online – Having your own online properties can be a great asset. If you’re not ready for that, scatter breadcrumbs – comment on other peoples’ work; upload photos to Flickr; find small ways to spread your reach online.
  • Build-out your LinkedIn profile – Your LinkedIn profile is one of the easiest online properties to build out (you have a resume, right?) and can likely become one of the highest-ranking results in search engines. If you don’t have a profile there, get one – it’s quick, risk-free and free.
  • Find similar people – Whatever your passion, there’s probably a community for it. Search for similar-minded people and connect with them.
  • Reach out to someone you admire – Think of someone who you respect, who you’d like to meet or connect with – for whatever reason. Reach out to them today.
  • Get out and meet people – Online media are great but offline connections are just as powerful. Get away from the keyboard and meet new people.

What do you think?

(Hat tip to Jeremy Wright for the idea for the videos)

Adapt Your Social Media Channels To Fit Your Capacity

It’s a common dilemma in social media – so much to create, so little time.

I’ve written before about how compulsive social media can be; how, even when you’re rushed off your feet, it can feel like you should be doing more to feed the beast that is your blog, or Twitter, or Facebook, or whatever other sites you maintain. It can be tempting, at times when you find yourself too busy to write, record or otherwise create content as you usually would, to just phone it in – to post content that’s not up to your usual standard.


As with any form of communications, corporate or otherwise, it’s all about your audience – the recipient of (or participant in) what you’re saying. As you build your audience, you also create expectations. Expectations of frequency, yes, but also expectations around other things, for example:

  • Approach - the way you go about crafting your posts an analyzing your topics
  • Quality - your level of thoughtfulness and attention to detail
  • Theme - your topic scope

While shifting from your publishing schedule can be disruptive, it can be more disruptive to stray from the type of content you publish. If you’re running into this problem, it may be worth assessing your owned content channels to see if you can adapt them to incorporate an approach that better fits your context.

A personal example

In recent months  I’ve been finding it hard to create new content at the same rate I could in the past. I just haven’t been able to find enough hours in the day to craft the kind of thought-out, in-depth posts that I like to write.

So, I’ve shaken things up a little (just a little). This blog and Twitter have been my primary places for creating content for the last few years, and will continue to be. The way I use those places isn’t changing. However, I’m adding a third place to the list (and no, by “third place,” I don’t mean Starbucks):

  1. My blog will continue to be the place I post long-form content focused on the intersection of communications, PR and social media.
  2. Twitter will continue to be the place I have conversations with people in my network, share links and occasionally goof around.
  3. I’m adding a Tumblr blog for the interesting things I find which either don’t warrant an entire post here, or have been well-captured by someone else. It will sit between the blog and Twitter in terms of brevity and subject matter – shorter and more diverse than my blog posts; longer but more focused than Twitter.

Why Tumblr and not just shorter posts here?

  1. Audience: The people who come to this site come for the kind posts I’ve been writing for the last few years. I don’t want to alienate people by mixing the content styles.
  2. Community: There’s a vibrant community of Tumblr users. I haven’t explored it much in the past, and am looking forward to exploring it.
  3. Functionality: Tumblr makes it easy to capture quick thoughts regardless of their medium. Text, photos, video – they all just take a couple of seconds.

For me, this just makes sense. I frequently find myself with 20 tabs open in my browser, full of interesting content that I really should write about, but which I usually end up losing because I don’t find time to do so. Now, rather than losing that opportunity, I’ll throw that content (or links to it) into a Tumblr post. Whether it’s a new tool that’ll make you more productive, a neatpresentation that can get you thinking or an eye-catching ad, it’ll all be there. Sometimes that will evolve into a longer post later. Other times it’ll remain within that site. Either way, it’ll help me to share more content with you.

Make sense?

You can find the new site at, or via the “Tumblr” link at the top of this site. Again, my main blog will remain my primary place to post; I’m just layering more content in.

“Millenials In PR” Debate Goes Both Ways

In recent days, several smart people (Bill Sledzik, Todd Defrenand again, Ryan Stephens) have written posts either addressed to or about millenials – loosely defined as people born between 1980 and 1995.

I’ve watched these posts with great interest, for several reasons:

  1. I’ve hired several to work on our social media team
  2. I work with several others more broadly within our agency
  3. Although my ever-deepening crow’s feet may not suggest it, I’m technically one of them (yep, I’m 29)

The posts generally revolve around three themes outlined within a presentation Bill Sledzik linked to in his original post:

  • “High expectations” – they want to be valued for ideas and abilities, rather than years of experience. They look for immediate gratification
  • “High risk” – millenials will jump ship if a better opportunity presents itself, and have little default loyalty to their employer
  • “High maintenance” – expect reward and recognition on a regular basis; define their workday differently and want flexibility in it

In general, the reaction to the posts tells me there’s a large grain of truth in there (although many people took exception to Todd Defren’s suggestion that people should always hang around for 3-5 years in one job).

On the flip side, I have immense respect for the young professionals I work with. They provide wonderful energy, enthusiasm, creative thinking and dedication to their work and their colleagues, among many other great qualities. Every day, they make an immensely valuable contribution to our company and to my own working life, and I love working with them.

Here’s my take on this topic:

On Expectations

There’s no doubt that millenials can make valuable essential contributions to a team. Many of our best ideas have come from entry-level folks on the team. With that said, those contributions do need to be balanced with experience. As a new entrant to the workforce, you need to know that you won’t always be right and that your idea won’t always be accepted. That’s ok – we don’t expect every contribution to be a winner… but they’re all appreciated.

You should also know that you don’t always have to be heard.You’ll get invited to two types of meetings:

  1. Meetings where you’re expected to contribute
  2. Meetings where you’re expected to learn

Make sure you know which one you’re in. If you’re not sure, then ask ahead of time. If you’re there to contribute, don’t pass the opportunity up. If you’re there to learn, don’t risk putting your foot in it by contributing inappropriately.

I don’t agree with Todd’s statement that,

“It is supposed to suck.  There are supposed to be crummy days when you feel under-appreciated…”

(I don’t think that any PR job is supposed to suck)

However, it’s a fact that from time to time the job will suck. Clients will want work that requires mundane activities, or set deadlines that require you to work until the wee hours of the morning. When it happens, know that it is part of learning the ropes and that we’ve all been there (I spent a couple of years producing reports on news release quality before I ever got my hands on one). Know, also, that you’re learning from it and that you’ll be thankful for the knowledge you’re gaining later in your career. Also, know that if you’re in a good team, your colleagues will be there with you.

Don’t expect to advance without paying your dues – it’s not just for the sake of it; it’s the way to learn.

On Risk

I don’t necessarily agree with Todd that everyone should stay in their job for 3-5 years expectation for everyone, but that really is what, as hiring managers, we’re shooting for when we bring someone on-board. Of course that doesn’t always work out, but it’s the goal – we want people to grow with us and, ideally, we want to promote from within our existing team. What’s more, while job hopping may help you in the short term, but it likely won’t in the long-term. I’ve certainly thought twice about hiring people with a history of jumping frequently between jobs.

On the flip side, I understand the idea of loyalty being driven by challenges and what’s interesting, rather than by institutional loyalty. I know that one of my own core values is constantly being challenged – without it I wouldn’t be interested for long.

To an extent, it’s down to the employer to try to keep working challenges into peoples’ roles. However, the responsibility for finding challenges also rests on millenials shoulders. For example, having done a fairly mundane job before doesn’t mean you can’t make it better. If you set your own standards high, you’ll find that you challenge yourself as much as other people challenge you.

On Maintenance

“High maintenance” can have multiple meanings. I have absolutely no problem rewarding and recognizing good work from colleagues; in fact, it’s one of my favourite parts of my job. Of all of the “challenging characteristics” (wording in the presentation, not my own) posed by millenials, this is the one that I have little problem with.

On the flip side, the CRT/tanaka presentation suggests that parental coddling has led many people to feel like they can do no wrong. I remember a news clipping pinned to a board in a past job, with a headline reading something like “note to parents: not all kids are created equal”  – a bit of a reality check for parents who thought that everyone was “above average.” It’s just not the case, and people of all ages need to be comfortable receiving feedback on their work.

Some people get defensive at even the smallest feedback; I’ve found that the opposite works well – Terry Fallis can testify that, even if a project goes extremely well, I’ll come to him asking what I can do better next time. As new professionals, millenials need to prepare to receive feedback frequently, and to take it constructively. If they don’t, they won’t get far. (Of course, it is again down to the manager to deliver it constructively too)

Bottom line

Employment is a two-way street. There are significant nuggets of truth in the various recent blog posts on the issue, and many young people have something to learn. However, employers also need to understand that people can’t undo twenty-plus years of cultural conditioning on the spot.

The employer needs to adjust to millenials’ expectations, but the millenials need to know it won’t always be as easy as they’d like. That’s life – there’s give and take.

What’s your take on this?

(Image: Shutterstock)