In this episode of the FIR B2B Podcast, Paul Gillin and I discuss the critical role online advertising plays in building demand for products and services with Greg Johns, SVP, Senior Director Digital Strategy at Initiative and new research by Joseph Turow (@joeprof) and Michael Hennessey from Annenberg (@APCCPenn) and Nora Draper (@NoraADraper) the University of New Hampshire that finds most Americans do not believe ‘data for discounts’ is a square deal.
“It’s a misnomer that people don’t trust the media,” says Greg Johns. “The truth is that people rely on paid media quite a bit to make decisions, and they rely on brands to help guide them.”
Social media policies aren’t typically the first things that come to mind when you’re developing a social media marketing strategy.
But they should be.
Without social media policies in place, social media marketing plans are unsustainable. On social networks, reach is a function of engagement. Without engagement, there is no reach.
Thus, in order for social media marketing messages to get noticed, they need to get passed along to friends of friends and their friends. That means other people have to like, comment and share.
Drafting a social media policy may not seem as important as creating great content to share; but, if your addressable market – your employees, resellers or members – haven’t been given clear, easy-to-follow social media guidelines on permissible use, they’re much less likely to participate, so you’re much less likely to reach their friends.
When critics use social networks to focus negative attention on a company, brand, product or service, social media pundits call them social media horror stories
But before you assume that what you’ve got is an actual, bona fide social media horror story, use this litmus test for gaging the severity of an online crisis
What Are they Criticizing?
Outspoken criticism on Twitter is not, necessarily, a social media crisis. What are they criticizing exactly? Is it product performance or something else? The Motrin ads which offended a few, vocal moms and dads in 2008 got huge media attention. Social Media pundits lined up with case studies cataloging what they called the Motrin Moms social media horror story. But sales and the company’s stock performance was unaffected. Before you assume you have a crisis on your hands, ask yourself whether or not the criticism impacts the actual performance.
Are You Guilty by Omission? Nothing gets under the skin of free speech activists more than a company that is trying to hide something. The reason people support such a controversial project like Wikileaks is because they believe sunlight is the best disinfectant. If your social media horror story is the result of a perceived leak, unless you acknowledge the problem, you may have a real crisis on your hands. But if your perceived crisis result of an errant tweet by a misguidedemployee, a sincere apology my be good enough. But don’t over react. Everyone makes mistakes.
Mountains and Mole Hills
Mistakes are part of innovation. Trial and error are the mothers of invention. You cannot innovate unless you’re willing to fail. Social business is innovative. So unless you’re willing to be tolerant of your own mistakes, as well as the mistakes of others, you’re not supporting innovation.
If your social media crisis is real, there’s plenty you can do, but only if you’re aware. So monitor social networks and respond quickly. And make sure your employees have social media training accessible so they know not just how to use social media, but how to use it responsibly for business. Social media policies alone are not enough. People need formal training on those policies as well.
How do you judge what constitutes a social media crisis? What aspects of online crisis communications management are most important? If I use your comment in the panel discussion, I promise full attribution.
Inbound links determine search, likes determine Edgerank and retweets determine reach. So if no one links, likes of retweets your share, no one hears it.
Those who aren’t new to social marketing have realized that social media is a team sport. It’s not what you say, but what the community says, that matters. Because whatever most people are liking rises to the top of the newsfeed, and whatever people are ignoring goes unseen.
Once you come to this realization, you begin to appreciate that your objective is not to get information out, but rather, to start conversations. When people talk back they bring their online social network with them.
We call this scaling engagement.
It’s about getting as many people as possible involved, so we can move our message through them to their friends, fans and followers.
This poses a conundrum to organizations which in the past were able to control their communications by using a public relations, public affairs or marketing communications professional to manage external communications. These folks are trained in the business of public disclosure. They have experience creating a public record.
What happens when you invite those employees, volunteers and constituents to participate in discussions that automatically become part of the public record? How should those employees who are not part of your marketing and PR apparatus respond when their Facebook friend asks them a question about your products or services?
Hopefully you have a social media policy in place to govern that type of usage. But remember, few take the time to read your employee handbook. And you can’t expect someone to comply with a policy they don’t understand.
Social Media Training
Social media training programs are a practical way to scale engagement because they ensure everyone on your team has the same understanding of key concepts, best practices and the actual mechanics of the various social networks so they can work together to bring your message to a broader community.
Live social media training makes good sense for marketing and PR practioners, but is isn’t always possible to train everyone at face-to-face workshops.
Online Social Media Training
When it comes to teaching social media best practices, online social media training offers 4 distinct advantages.
All the material is recorded. So participants don’t have to retain it all themselves.
Content is broken down into bite-sized chucks, so they can laser in on what’s most useful.
Stop and rewind the demos as many times as they like and learn at their own pace.
Time-shift and place-shift their professional development where they want, when they want.
Unless you train workforce, even the best social media marketing programs are unlikely to reap significant rewards.
With all the talk about the complaint PhoneDog.com filed against Noah Kravitz for “misappropriation of trade secrets and damaged the company’s business, goodwill, and reputation” some companies are liable to update their social media policy.
But those that do are making a mistake. Because if they’re going to be heard through social media, they’re going to need as much help as they can get. And they’re not going to get it by imposing ownership claims over their personal social media accounts
On social networks, crowds direct our attention. If it trends, it upends. And if it doesn’t, it just ends.
What one person tweets matters only a little. What the crowd retweets, matters most. The same social gravity applies on Facebook, Linkedin and G+. An effective corporate social media policy protects the organization and its employees alike. Afterall, why would your employees retweet your message on their personal social networking account if they’re concerned it might get them fired, or if they’re concerned you might someday try and take it away from them?
Imposing strict ownership requirements over an employee’s personal social media account discourages them from using social media for on theior employers behlaf, which means they won’t be retweeting your message. And in nowadays, you need retweets, Likes and +1s to get noticed. So a good social media policy must encourage employee participation.
…many industries had policies that required sales staff to leave their Rolodexes behind, but that these policies were as relevant to social media as Rolodexes are to the modern office. After all, social media accounts are, almost by definition, personal.
He also said that the average Twitter account had less clout than many might think.
On social networks, we crowd source news and information. If companies want to get noticed, they’ve got to get crowds talking. And in most cases, their employees are going to be easiest place to start.
Do you intend to update your social media policy as a result of this complaint, or will you wait to see what legal precedent, if any, transpires?
The biggest search and social networking companies to date were born in America, so it’s easy to be seduced into thinking that the American way of doing things online is the best way of doing things online. But most netizens today are not Americans.
The majority of Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin users reside outside of the US. And in many of those places, commerce is not necessarily the primary objective of business. In some countries, the ambitious are suspecting of undermining the public interest. Profits are like air. You need it to live, but it is not the purpose for living. Surely, you can’t deny that in the US, there are corporations that profit at the expense of the greater public interest.
Maintaining sensitivity to cultural nuances outside the US is key to successful online communications. SXSW, the annual mecca for the global tech community, draws an international audience. But it happens in Austin, so the global perspetive is diluted through an American lens.
Le Web on the other hand, which happens every December in Paris, showcases the global tech scene through a distinctly European filter, which is extermely valuable to communicators residing inside the US. Produced by Loic and Geraldine Le Meur, it is the fastest-paced, most entertaining of the tech conferences — with the best food and the higest production values — and packed with hard newsbreaks.
Here’s some of the announcements at this year’s conference:
Release of the new, new Twitter with a new algorithm “discovery feed”
Live demo of Ice Cream Sandwich, the next Andriod OS, with desktop widgets and facial recognition
Facebook’s committment to HTML5, even though the BRIC nations won’t have the infrastructure to support it for years
Uber’s $32 million in funding for an app that makes cars services in most major cities available via mobile
Evernote’s deal with Orange which will give customers access to the premium version for a year for free
But the bigger, more strategic lesson I got came from experiencing the emerging online tech sector in a mature market like France. Consider the history. The French government has long been regarded as overly bureaucratic, contempous of corporate greed and downright arrogant. Here are a few examples:
Wirelss broadband is simply not available from any local provider in Paris without a one-year contract
Last minute scheduling changes at Le Web happen daily. It’s just the way they do things. Shut up and wait.
It’s easy to dismiss the French as aloof. But my take is, they just have different priorities. You may not be able to get online easily, but if you have a medical emergency, they’ll take care of you for free, with or without insurance. The French also have a much lower tolerance for anticompetitive practices and revile unchecked corporate power. They seem to legitimately want to put the public interest before commerce. It’s a noble goal. You don’t get ripped off on soap and you can get healthcare when you need it. But it doesn’t always work, especially when it stymies innovation.
In his keynote, Google Chairman Eric Schmidt said the role of government is to equip citizens with reliable, fast and affordable wireless and stationary broadband, so they can innovate themselves out of the current economic funk. Rome had roads. Then came highways. But today, if you want to spur innovation and commerce, you need high-speed broadband.
Easy, cheap access to the Net in Sweden lead to a number of breakthrough technologies including the peer to peer file sharing, which led to Skype, and more recently Spotify, a social network that lets user share privately, who’s founder also presented at Le Web. Silicon Valley needs a competitor, says Schmidt, and unless you want to live in Berlin or Stockholm, other European governments need to make it easier for people to innovate.
Some say unchecked corporate power in the US has led to an environment where corporations have grown at the expensive of individuals. Last week the Federal Reserve reported said household net worth declined 4% over the summer, while company holdings climbed for the fifth consecutive year.
The bigger lessons from this year’s Le Web is this:
It’s less expensive that ever to access global markets
The cost of doing business keeps coming down
The size of the market keeps expanding
Access spurs innovation
Incentives spur commerce
But cultural differences really do matter. Different cultures have different expectations which anyone selling to a global audience needs to be mindful of.
I rented an apartment in Paris through AirBNB while attending Le Web and after getting locked out, l was challenged to overcome a difficult situation without anyone to advocate on my behalf in a timely manner. I have since exchanged tweets with the company’s founder Brian Chesky inviting him to discuss my experience at On the Record…Online, and spoken to the company’s staff, but no one appears to be willing to talk to me on the record about my experience.
In my next post I’ll write about my AirBNB experience. I’d like to acknowledge AirBNB’s point of view of in my post, so I hope Brian, or someone at AirBNB, will agree to a constructive, civil dialogue about my Paris apartment rental experience.
Are you ready to win the war against digital illiteracy?
The first step is the toughest one. But it’s also the most important.
Provide everyone with clear-cut, easy-to-follow guidelines to help them distinguish between conversations that can happen in public, and conversations that need to be kept private.
Social media has become an integral part of our personal lives. Unless organizations take the time to specify how (not if) employees can use social media at work, they risk forfeiting the chance to:
Capitalize on social marketing opportunities
Attract and retain top-notch personnel
On social networks, trends direct our attention. We have more confidence in crowds than individuals. A Yelp restaurant listing with a 3-star average and 300 ratings is more meaningful than one with a 5-star average and just 12 ratings.
For the same reason, organizations realize the true value of social marketing when everyone gets involved. The more people there are discussing a topic, the greater the likelihood others will discover it.
A corporate Twitter feed and Facebook page driven by a PR department are nice to have, but they’ll never be as useful as the conversations of a diverse, engaged community. And the larger the community, the more confidence we have in what they say, and the more likely we are to give it our attention.
Whenever an employee uses social media to get their job done, they leave behind a digital record that can be found and shared indefinitely. If you have no policy, that notion is more than a little scary. But if you’ve thought it through, it becomes a productivity windfall, because marketing becomes the byproduct of using social media to get the job done.
Remember, your employees are using social media already in their personal lives. If you’d like them to use it for business too, they need to know what’s expected. Leadership needs to set clear-cut boundaries, so employees know what is and isn’y acceptable. Companies that fail to take this step, will most likely also fail to mobilize their personnel to make the best use of social media.
It’s critical that the social media policy leadership sets be fair and just. Blocking access to Facebook from the corporate network while expecting employees to respond to email outside of business hours sets uneven standards. In fact, blocking access to social networks is both unfair and futile, because workers should have the right communicate with their friends and family, as long is it doesn’t interfere with the quality of their work.
Social media blackouts are the result of digitally illiteracy. They are enacted by misguided leaders from an age when the restricting information flows was possible and effective. But as Wikileaks, Twitter and Napster have proven, the internet interprets censorship as damage and routes around it. Or as Esther Dyson said back in 2006, companies that profit from inefficiency will die, and for many types of communications, social media is simply more efficient.
Once the boundaries are in place, and everyone knows what can be public and what should be private, social media becomes a productivity gain, not drain.
In this environment, the organizations that can draw a clear line between public and private have a huge advantage. The road to getting there runs straight through policy, because you can’t draw that line between public and proprietary unless you do the homework to figure that out, and you can’t teach others to respect boundaries if they don’t know where they lie.