Tag Archives: social media

Face it. You Are Addicted!

Having neck pain?   Walking into people on the sidewalk?  Experienced a near miss crossing the street?

img_0792Sometimes I think the “DON’T WALK” signs should read “STOP TEXTING.”  We are not only more connected than ever, many of us have a tinge of “connectivity addiction.”

The more devices we have, the happier we are. In fact, we have more devices and spend more time on them than any other device prior. With computers, laptops, television and radio, the on/off button was something regularly used. Not so with our devices today. Always-on is a badge of honor. And who doesn’t feel the onset of anxiety setting in when the juice runs low or heaven forbid, runs out?

We think we are “connected” because we are “always-on.” We see a tweet, a post or an update as soon as it occurs from friends, family, colleagues and even world leaders. But are we? Are we truly connected to what matters most to us? Moreover, do we really want to be that connected? Is it healthy? Is it productive? Am I really more informed or better off because I can share a photo of my pancakes, the skyline, a dog or cat or whatever I fancy right now?

Anectdotal evidence suggests there are cracks in the connectivity dream. In some circles, disconnecting is the new black. And yes, you guessed it, there’s even an app for that.

Companies must better understand the dynamic between man, woman and child and their devices. And we all need to be connected in different ways. Real-time data gives us the ability to get more of what we want and less of what we don’t want and do so when and where we want to receive it. Today, uber relevance reigns. There is simply too much competing for our attention. I ask again, to what end? Is all this connectivity leading to better, more targeted, more relevant communications?

The Wisdom of Lester Wunderman

lesterI learned a valuable lesson from Lester Wunderman, the father of direct marketing, years ago: “Just because you know my name doesn’t mean you know me,” he said. Taking that a step further, it also doesn’t mean I want it now (even though all the data suggests it) or I want to do it with my phone.

In the world where we can access any and everything with a swipe or command, a “connectivity gap” is emerging, and it is getting in the way of communications that really matter to consumers, businesses, employees and even our friends.

We think we have communicated something because we just “sent it” or “posted it.” But unintended consequences are real. Delivering bad news in a text doesn’t work. Un-vetted blogs, tweets, posts (light on facts), do more to un-inform, than inform. Hashtag photo opportunities too often backfire. And the list goes on.

There simply is no substitute for well-conceived communications strategies that close the connectivity gap and free us from our connectivity addiction. Integrating new media technologies and an understanding of how social media channels wield their influence are part of it. But make no mistake, nothing happens without a plan and a commitment to stick to it.

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Social Media – What’s the Fuss?

It’s happening again, this time with social. Before that, it was digital…. Websites…. Internet… email… infomercials…. radio… You name it. Marketers always look to the latest communications craze to get an edge.

imagesBut, is social media different?  Yes… and no.

To the delight of customers and corporations alike, it offers speed and the ability to share with incredible efficiency. Hence, it delivers the conversations with customers that our communications and marketing predecessors only dreamed about. To the horror of marketers (and the delight of some customers), it has the ability to bring down brands, companies and politicians alike in just one tweet or post.

That’s why it keeps getting special attention. Moreover, it’s why social media must be an integral part of the organization as a whole— not just something that resides in a marketing or communications silo. Social media tentacles must reach beyond marketing and communications to embrace the other major business functions, including sales, HR, R&D, product development, legal, and IT. To my mind, it needs to be on every department’s radar screen.

The degree to which other departments are involved depends on how communication flows in each organization, as well as the individual objectives to be achieved. Yet, in many ways, social media is not different at all.   Social media is the logical extension of technology-powered communication that makes two-way dialogs easier and faster. Successful implementation, in many ways, parallels how we use other channels, but with a hyper sensitivity to the ease and speed it elicits a response.  So how should we proceed?

Common Sense, Content and the Dowager Countess

Whether you are a billion-dollar-corporation or a first-time author, anyone using social media should apply a bit of common sense.  Here are five things to keep in mind.

goalsettingbriantracy1. ObjectiveDefine it clearly and from the outset. Whether you want to increase awareness, encourage customer engagement, stimulate event or survey participation or generate sales, know what you want your social media plan to achieve from the start. Too often, social media initiatives are started without a clear goal in mind. So it’s no surprise, those responsible have a hard time articulating the value it brings to the organization. When you start with defined, measurable objectives, such as increase event registrations or prompt a specific call to action, you will derive greater value from the entire effort. Set goals and expect results.

2. Relevant ContentIt’s the lifeblood of any social media campaign. All the videos, white papers, surveys, research, photos, experts, in the world will not meet objectives unless it is uber relevant and easy to access. Content is information and entertainment. It’s long form; it’s short form, and often it is both. It’s consumed now or later. It’s discarded after one look or saved forever. It’s accessible when and where I want it to be. Given all this, the operative word here is relevance. Hence, at all costs, avoid “ready, aim, post!”  Calendar it!

miWRodh7_400x4003. Authenticity – Don’t try to fake it; you’ll fail. Just take a run through Twitter and you’ll easily find the celebrities (or their characters) and politicians who have hired hands write their tweets. Downton Abbey’s Dowager Countess (@theLadyGrantham), among my favorites, is successful because she tweets in character, even when she is not talking about the show. Others have met the wrath of the delete button because they simply use Twitter to self-promote. Similarly, successful @brand or @company handles (manned by company surrogates) speak in the brand/company voice that customers have come to know. When executives take to social media, customers, employees and investors want to know they are the real deal, not understudies. Don’t disappoint.

4. PlatformChoose wisely, they are not all the same. True, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest and all the rest yet to be developed, are social media. But they are very different in what they can do for you with respect to your stated objectives. Each can attract a different audience and in a different state of mind, with varying amounts of time they are willing to spend with you. That doesn’t mean you need to create more and more content; it means you slice it up differently, depending on the platform. You would be surprised how much relevant content you can create across a myriad of social media platforms using just one industry white paper. Divide content and conquer.

5. MeasurementThere’s no excuse not to do it. Data from social media offer great insight into what matters most to your customers. The beauty of social data is that it is both quantitative and qualitative. Interactions in the form of Likes, Shares, Retweets, Favorites and Pins tell you what resonates. Look for spikes and lulls and adjust your plan accordingly. Direct feedback in the form of comments and mentions can be positive or negative, but they give you real insight into sentiment. Create a rapid response mechanism to assess/manage negative comments. And be open to acknowledge the positive sentiments too. The engagement rate reflected by the cumulative number of social media interactions is important too as a way of assessing the overall effectiveness of your content plan.  If you post, you measure!

A few facts:  By every measure, social has gone mainstream. According to University of Massachusetts study released in 2013, 77%, 71% and 69% of Fortune 500 companies are already on Twitter; Facebook and YouTube, respectively. And the participation rate for Twitter is sure to rise to 100 percent in just a couple of years. But by that time, sure enough, we’ll all be talking about that next new communications craze.

What’s your view?

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The Rise of Fishbowl Journalism

As a young account executive at a big PR firm, one of the things I looked forward to was prepping a client for “media training.” There was a certain delight in knowing that no matter how senior, seasoned or savvy our client was, there was no way he or she would ace the mock interview that opened the session. And they never did.

Without fail, “trainees” fell for every trap our faux reporter threw at them. The resulting story was filled with quotable quotes, unofficial information or unflattering commentary that made for a good gossipy read. It was a humbling experience, which paved the way for a productive work session. Fast forward to the session’s end, clients learned their lessons—among them, don’t say anything they would not want to see plastered on a newspaper’s front page—and they were proud of their progress.

fishbowl2One of the reasons behind the disastrous interview exercise is that society embraces the false premise that modern day news is actually news. It’s not. It never has been. Broadcast and cable news, newspapers, blogs, online platforms and social media are now, always have been, and always will be forms of entertainment.

“Breaking news” scandals are virtually hourly occurrences; and, what I call “fishbowl journalism” has become the “news” genre of choice for millennials and generations to come. Moreover, technology speeds up the “news cycle” so much so that we have developed an insatiable demand for this brand of entertainment.

With fishbowl journalism, “facts” are pictures; everyone has a camera in his or her pocket; and, people have a burning desire to share “experiences” in the moment. World events, tragedies and triumphs are communicated via “gotcha”  video, audio or photos that can be accessed on-demand and shared anywhere in an instant. A photo or video doesn’t just enhance the story, in many cases, it is the story.

Recent “top trending stories in social media” (have you noticed how news organizations are using that phrase which further feeds the frenzy?) include: Uber’s not-so-brilliant idea of digging up dirt on journalists; Bill Cosby’s on air request to “cut the tape from the interview”; Black Friday shopper brawls; Ray Rice’s legal victory; Janay Rice’s media blitz; and the list goes on.

It is truly amazing how naïve executives, celebrities and everyday citizens can be. Don’t they realize the devastating reality that the Internet has given rise to the permanent, sometimes not so flattering, record? Are these news stories? Sure, there is a kernel (or more) of news value in each of them; and, in my view, that is what should be explored, researched and reported. Yet, we hear little beyond the imagery.

Fishbowl journalism is here to stay. Yet, I wonder whether people actually like it, or whether people merely accept it as the norm, and are too busy to look beyond the picture or read beyond a tweet before it is shared. Will it fade away in favor of more responsible, credible news reporting? Doubtful, but one can dream. We get what we tolerate.

Today, the lessons of my early days of media training not only remain true, they have become more expansive and apply to everyone–executive and citizen alike.  Simply stated, never, ever say or do anything that you would not want to see, hear or shared everywhere. In a fishbowl, everyone is watching, recording and sharing.

News and entertainment have their place in our society but when combined, both suffer.

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