Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Social media is not maturing, marketers are just getting lazy in their application of it.

In the last few months we've seen a couple of high profile brands not learn from those before them and subject themselves to the social media pisstake. They make a statement about their brand and the community takes them down, peg by peg. It's a game, it's over pretty quick and people don't hold their breath for the next one but they engage when it does.

Here's Qantas

Here's Woollies

Here's Coles.

And I don't think it's a case of marketers giving everyone else a go, nor is it the idea that the market has matured as Matt Burgess from iReckon reckons.
Social media hasn't matured. The idea that all businesses should be active in social media has, but the use of the channel is pretty two dimensional.

We see the same types of activations within social media repeatedly- content posts for engagement, promotions/deals, gamification and maybe some infotainment. It's so repetitive and people know what to expect.

The biggest flaw is the overarching idea that these brands should integrate themselves into people's spaces to get them to engage and talk about the brand with no reward at all. It's also why so many of the mistakes/pisstakes happen. Social media came about in the first place because of people's needs for transparency and these brands' content posts reinforce that need for transparency via the consumer backlash. The one good thing to come out of these pisstakes would be for brands to acknowledge their bad practices that consumers refer to and rectify them.

It also tells me that most marketers are being lazy with the platforms. Especially since we're already seeing wear out with the engagement/deal model that so many companies are using on Facebook in particular. The approach brands are employing should be more about how they can create better experiences for their customers based on the business offering. That's less about how can brands engage with customers to get them to talk about the brand but more about how to use new media tools/platforms in a way that marries consumer engagement to solid business offering.

Mature?! pffffft.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Creation of a celebrity Prime Minister in a 2.0 world

We all know John Howard loves cricket, Paul Keating loves french antique clocks, and we all know KRudd loves to hobnob with celebrities to give himself increased self importance. But Julia, she just wants to be a brand. A brand of PM who is marketable and appealing to all walks of Australian life with her voice, image and message paired with every kind of interest group she can dabble in.

The main theory behind social media strategy is fairly simple:- to tap into relevant interest groups it’s important to engage in the right passion points. For example, if a brand wants to get the mums, the brand picks a passion point that mums care about and then develops an engagement strategy around it. For example, Kleenex create PooPoo island to help mums teach kids how to be toilet trained and Kleenex sells more toilet paper.

To illustrate, these are the handful of associations and parlaying I have seen over the last year that are all aboard the express PooPoo train:

  • Junior Masterchef guest appearance: Yet to air but the PR machine is set at full power. The show has a huge reach and will hit a large proportion of voters. My pick is we’ll see the Julia brand tick off the issue of “I don’t have any kids but still love ‘em”.
    Textbook ALP strategy.

  • Cover of Australian Women's Weekly: Michelle Obama and Jackie O take easily to Women’s leisure Magazines because they are the more traditional image of a woman, wife and mother. Michelle Obama does not make political decisions, she is a presence who uses her notoriety to draw attention to issues she feels are important to her country. Issues which don’t require a vote or bill to be passed for them to take effect, only the need for the individual to participate.
    In contrast, Julia Gillard appearing in these magazines spreads herself too thin and removes focus on her policies. She tries to create an image of herself as the woman who cares about the home and family, making herself relatable to a similar kind of audience. However it’s fake for the time being, her time is spent being PM. It’s not the real Julia and she still reads as unrelatable.

  • World cup bid: If John Howard were still PM, maybe he would have endorsed the World Cup Bid. Maybe. You know for sure he would have endorsed anything cricket related, but that would have been it. He has a huge passion for the sport and is honest about it. Here again it seems Julia is trying to appeal to another code’s demographic to be more relatable and respected amongst the audience.
    With ever increasing audiences and interest points it seems Julia Gillard just wants to appear in front of another camera to get more Australian eyeballs to see her outside the backdrop of parliament.

  • Western Bulldogs Supporter: This at least is a little bit authentic. The Bulldogs are her team, she wants to support them. Go Julia. There appears to be a time and place where politicians can participate in down time and subscribe to their passions and interests. It’s not about getting in front of the cameras, it’s about allowing that person to enjoy what is important to them. A stark contrast to Gillard’s additional forays.

  • Kicking the footy with President Obama: They’re both at fault here. An unnecessary photo op that leaves bad taste in mouth. It was purely designed as a stunt to get news coverage. You could even call this a viral. But like any viral, it made you mildly happy for half a second and at the next inhalation it’s forgotten.
    Gillard’s team needs to realise that the strategy they have in place needs a solid story and flow to maintain momentum and build the cohesive image of a Politician, rather than some ‘happy go lucky’ type who knows how to have a good time with other politicians when they have down time.

  • Blue September: Gillard won’t paint her face blue, but she is certainly amongst it supporting awareness for cancer suffered by men.
    I’m not sure why this organisation requires Julia Gillard to endorse it? She is a known Australian personality, but her reputation as a PM is sinking fast. The only connection is that Tim Mathieson endorses the cause and for valid reason. Here is an appropriate endorsement and one Gillard should take a lesson from.

  • Gillard begs the Wallabies to do her proud: Another sport endorsement. Tapping into the Australian male audience across the country. Yes, Gillard can make a good joke about sledging and ammunition against her Kiwi counterpart, but because it isn’t isolated, and not part of her fabric as an individual, it again seems shameless, forced and unnecessary.

  • Playing Pool at a retirement village: What?!

  • 60 minutes appearance: Tapping into the voyeuristic celebrity culture that we live in, Julia Gillard aims to become more accessible. 2.0 attributes includes the increased accessibility to brands, celebrities or spokespeople, so there is no wonder her team have suggested this.

    Tim Mathieson is presented as the homemaker and you’re meant to feel more connected to Julia because now you know who she is at home. But is there a reason to know who Julia really is? Not really. As a tax payer and with the ability to vote I’d rather see her act more like a politician in political channels. Janet Albrechtsen of The Australia, articulates the appearance much better than I can.

  • Twitter, Flickr, Facebook, MySpace (?) and the ALP community site: These are the spaces for community interaction and the place to be a bit more relaxed with followers. It’s a great start and where we actually see some good happening regarding communicating to the people about what both Labor and Gillard are involved in. Whether it’s actually JG writing a post or the JGTeam you know it. Either her or her team appear accessible, but accessible politically.
    However, the team is not responding or engaging at all on Facebook with the follower comments. Some issues have over 2,000 comments yet not one word from the JGTeam. Not even a simple acknowledgement. Every community manager knows that isn’t a good look for any community activity.

    @JuliaGillard on Twitter has some leeway to talk about JG’s endorsements and sadly, this happens more often than actually talking to the people. Again a lack of priority in the strategy to really make JG the politician she needs to be. Twitter needs work.

    MySpace and Flickr? Both of these can get dumped. They waste resource and FB does it all.

    The ALP website is both a shrine to Julia Gillard and incredibly confusing. They don’t call her the PM, they label her Julia Gillard. I say credit where credit is due. She has her name all her life, I don’t think she will be PM for too long! I’m not sure why there is a need to detract from her title.
    On the confusing part, I don’t even know where to start and this post is too long already. One example is the page encouraging members to call talkback radio with a 2 step plan-
    Step 1:
    find a radio station, and
    Step 2: Call the radio station.
    Don’t believe me, see it here. A “click to call” might help!

Yes, the real Julia likes her down time, likes to relax, take the piss like any other Aussie and is a real human being- all conventions and wisdoms of a web 2.0 world. We see brands taking on that human voice and interacting with the public as people because we know there is always a voice behind that brand. However, the key difference is that these brands’ marketing strategies are largely cohesive and represent a brand with a singular core message. They have well designed umbrella strategies, know their purpose in each and every channel and have taken wisdom from what's gone before them- knowing that they need to be authentic or consumers will turn their backs.

Furthermore, brands don’t tend to sponsor several different sport codes and countless charities. They pick those causes that align strongly with their brand message and create committed partnerships in those relationships. Another reason why all the partnerships Gillard has on her books are rank with the bouquet of fake Julia. There is no long-term commitment or duality. Her finger is just in every pie.

If I was in Julia Gillard’s PR machine, I’d strongly suggest a review. Look at where Gillard wants to be politically and focus on achieving those goals. If there is a group that wants to align with Ms Gillard, carefully consider each and every one and then align with what’s selected and stick with it. A one off photo op may just be a one off photo op, but Gillard’s priority should be being PM and not utilising these side issues to increase her reach across different demographics to gain attention. It's attention for the wrong reasons.

…already, I’m starting to have more respect for her. Little fanfare and focus on what’s important.



Please, let those dog days be over. At least they're both redheads.

Monday, June 27, 2011

The Top ten cliches in Social Media Presentations

This post is dedicated to George Parker, because it's full of piss and vinegar, like him!


10. Any mentions of the long tail, differences between traditional and new media, one-to-one v one-to-many
That Chris Anderson Long Tail article was written in 2004, 7 years ago!! And it came from something Clay Shirky wrote in 2003 (source). If you haven't worked out by now how to apply coherent new media thinking to a business, talking about differences in traditional and new media, or dabbling in that idea that there are so many conversation exchanges going on, these topic points aren't going to help you get there any quicker!


9. Earned v Paid v Owned media
This is a valid statement, there are benefits to understanding how the different types of media get different rewards. I'm just getting tired of hearing it. Especially when it creates this idea that they live in isolation. Bottom line - you need to invest paid media to help you drive to the owned.

8. Using that image of all the social media platforms.
You know the one I'm talking about. Half of them have disappeared. Don't use it.


I can't remember where I got this image from. If you know, let me know

7. Traditional media is losing the dominance it once had.
No shit sherlock.


6. Digital lives forever
It might, but with more proliferation (see point 5) the increasing volume and Google ranking algorithms will make it hard to find these content items buried deep in the content abyss. The value from everlasting content is minimal, so don't hang your hat on it.


5. What was then. What is now. The clutter, all that clutter.
Yep, proliferation. Lots of it. Web 1.0 v web 2.0 (even I'm guilty of that chestnut). The increasing volumes of content- you know YouTube has doubled since last year? Flickr is 13 times bigger than the Library of Congress (source). H.O.L.Y.C.R.A.P. All this stat info doesn't help me make a strategy or sell my product.


4. We no longer have control
I actually heavily contest this. If you get into the new media space, you must be prepared and anticipate potential risk points. Be prepared with what could happen in a positive and even more so, a negative sense, and know how to turn it back into a positive. It's not about losing control, it's about opening conversation in a managed fashion which brings benefit to a brand.


3. "Social media guru?! Don't call me that. I have no idea what I'm talking about"
Seriously?! Trying to sell yourself and you actually sell yourself short. New media isn't that new any more. You're either inexperienced, or you're covering your ass for an impending failure.


2. If you talked to people the way advertising talked to people, they'd punch you in the face.
Thanks Hugh MacLeod and that vast gaping void. If I see your little cartoon one more time, the next time I see you, I might punch you in the face.


1. If you build it they will come
When Web 2.0 reconnected with the Kevin Costner's Field of Dreams classic, cliche extroadinaire was born. With 62,700,000 results on Goolge for "if you build it they will come social media" we have a clear winner for the worst, bucket worthy cliche in social media.
But, if you build it, they won't come. There's lots of hard work required to get people to know you exist amongst the clutter of content (see point 5).


Feel free to add your own to the list!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Is an influential blogger’s life finite? Does using bloggers as influencers have a use by date?

Social media is in its prime. There’s even a well established formula for activation and it includes finding influential bloggers within the selected category or topic of interest and then engaging said blogger to pimp your wares.
It’s so formulated that whilst writing this post I heard the news that a talent agency has been set up for Mummy bloggers. It’s great to have a filtering system but, and there are a few big buts:

There are only so many influential bloggers that you can use.
Only a few rise to the top and only a few become like the “Arianna Huffington” within their sphere of influence. If you’re outside the US, making sure your blogger hits your geographic target is another headache which limits the pool


That handful of bloggers is going to get stale.
Say there are 10 competitors in your category and there are only 6 blogs from which you can really choose to engage with- 6 that you really get a decent ROI from. Those 6 blogs are going to be tapped out for marketing endorsements pretty quick. And once you do one campaign what happens next? The idea of new media is to foster and grow relationships, but campaign based efforts don’t really cater to that. Plus, bloggers will continue to chase that dollar, they don’t care about establishing relationships with marketers over a long period of time, they want the cash that allows them to give up their day job.


As certain blogs grow in popularity, will it allow for new competitor bloggers to enter that same space?
This is tricky, but I think only a few new entrants will gain a spot in the top rankings. First to market and Google rankings in the digital era are pretty tough to beat. Liken blogs to the magazine industry and it’s very hard to find holes that new magazines can fill. The trick here will be for blogs to continually innovate and find new ways of presenting what they have to say. This will be the only way for new entrants to take some of the shine away from the bigger, more established blogs.



We’re facing an inherent problem and it’s going to get worse. We’re increasingly seeing consumers get bored of whatever it is that’s on offer in a new media sense. They just want to see the new thing and it has to be quick. Think about how quickly you get tired of failblog or damnyouautocorrect. Unless readers have an ongoing, invested relationships with their bloggers of interest, their revisits will eventually begin to wane.


So the question I ask is what happens next? Because I know I’m already sick of the whole blogger endorsement thing, various blogs only hold my interest for so long and we’re already seeing Facebook numbers decreasing, and they already came from a now defunct mySpace, which indicates jumping the shark is a given in new media.


Wednesday, March 16, 2011

How new media is changing celebrity: Comparing @CharlieSheen with @its_k_isabellas

This post appears on my company's blog.

The western world has a love affair with the notion of celebrity. A fabricated culture which skyrocketed when business realised they could make money off mostly beautiful people with fictional lives. The introduction of publications like People Magazine, shows like Entertainment Tonight, distributors such as TMZ, entire channels devoted to the topic, paparazzi madness and blogs like Perez Hilton have further cemented the hold that these overpaid beacons of society have on our world.

The gossip industry used to be a tightly controlled machine. Celebrity news was presented to the public as a service and it was the only access point to their private lives– how they lived, what they did, what they thought about certain issues, what they’re next line of work entailed. All cleverly administered by their publicists and an entangled web of movie studios and segment producers. The inclusion of a more creative paparazzi, accompanied with the desire of a society to know more, expanded the industry causing the access points to celebrity to muddy.

It all allowed us to see into a world that was a fantasy. Essentially a real world soap opera with dramas and exes being in the same room. Any issue of scandal became a topic of discussion that you could share with anyone. It’s gossip plain and simple, the more dramatic the better and who doesn’t love a good scandal?


Then new media changes the dynamic of a multibillion dollar industry
Blogs, Twitter, YouTube and even Chatroulette (for a very brief period) have shifted the accessibility we have to celebrity. The untouchable celebrity has become someone you could talk to like a buddy- and they are your buddy when you know so many intimate details about their personal lives. And the most important part? The gossip industry no longer needs to be controlled and delivered to the public by the power players. Each individual now has the keys to administer their own news.

The other side of the coin is the growth of reality TV and the seamless ability for anyone to become a celebrity, even rich and famous, if only for a minute. Numerous shows have manufactured instant celebrity – examples like Jersey Shore, the Real Housewives franchise and Next Top Model. The most bizarre thing I notice from these shows is how the characters, yes characters, view themselves. They live the life of episodes and finales, where everyone knows your name and anything is accessible. Increasingly self centred as their star progresses, obsessed with their image and making sure they attend the next media party. It’s not real, it’s short-lived and this idea of instant celebrity is now desirable. The terrible effect of this is incidents like that of Balloon Boy which gives the media a bad name as much as the boy’s parents.

Enter new media – the only way to stay up to date up to the minute, with either type of celebrity. Traditional media outlets can simply not keep up with the volume and content that the long tail can. Nor can they keep up with the speed of the new media cycle and the way society moves on to the next meme almost instantly. The broken barriers of entry also allow us a front seat ticket to unfolding dramas like that of Charlie Sheen – a bonafide celebrity with direct access to his fans; and that of an Australian phenomena - @its_k_isabellas – a self made media star surrounding the #dickileaks incidents.


Traditional v New media, who pulls who?
The differences between the examples of Charlie Sheen and its_k_isabellas is interesting, one at the top of the celebrity stratosphere and the other trying to carve a name for herself. However their common ability to take hold of social media, drive traditional outlets and use it to their advantage is astounding and a clear shift in what we once knew.

Its_k_isabellas is a fascinating story about a girl attempting to generate scandal to create attention surrounding herself (previous post here). She most definitely needed the traditional mainstream channels to give her a media profile thereby allowing her to quickly gather followers and buzz in the social channels. She took that initial push from mainstream media and ran with it. That push was almost like an instant trending topic- moving quickly by latching on to a combination of passion point (here sport) and scandal. The latest example of the viral Facebook Party further illustrates the push that social media needs in order to break inner social circles and travel beyond. Essentially mainstream media gives the repetitive spread across varying groups, giving faster reach.

Once the conversation surrounding the scandal shifted to social media, the girl’s participation within social media propelled the issue. The community’s quest for more information allowed her to be in the driver’s seat. She would be the one to release more photos, more content, more scandal. Media Watch commented on this recently noting that she became as much of a media player as the traditional outlets did. The first to break news and the driver of a story.

In some ways, Charlie Sheen has taken a leaf out of its_k_isabella’s book. He is no longer at the mercy of the mainstream media channels. He doesn’t need them to spread his message. Over 2 million Twitter followers and fast approaching 3 at the time of publishing this post. His first forays into Twitter with the hashtags #winning, #tigerblood, the sponsored intern ad and Sheen’s Korner have all left us bamboozled, leaving the feeling that we’re witnessing a train wreck. His aim seems to be endorsements and he isn’t shy about it. He knows he is pulling an audience and bypassing the media is no problem, even though Sheen’s Korner is very raw and could definitely do with a bit of work. The clips are a bit painful in the same way as if you were watching your neighbour on YouTube doing some dumb home video, except this is Charlie Sheen doing a dumb home video.

This kind of activity has a short lifespan- unscripted, loose and random ramblings. But there has been a positive shift as those with a sense of humour realise Sheen’s potential and perpetuate the wave. Stepping into the Funny or Die gag was genius, announcing a now sold out live tour is interesting and inviting Scott Dooley into his home for an informal interview was refreshing when compared to the previous hard ball American interviews. His latest content venture, Operation Greyhound, is amusing and again shows the big guys what power Charlie Sheen has.

It looks like Charlie Sheen is in control, always was and has an enraptured audience at his disposal. He is now driving the media on an ongoing basis and the traditional outlets will continue to be a step behind just like they were with its_k_isabellas. Charlie will have no problem playing in the new media space for a while, he’ll earn good money but I doubt it will ever be as big as what he earned from TV. That pulling power may draw him back to the studios but the damaged egos may prevent him re-entry. I think Charlie should continue to persevere in new media. He has already shifted to become more polished in the space and he can continue to push the envelope as he wants. It’s a new era of celebrity and with the right media mix you can be a permanent trending topic. God Speed Charlie Sheen, I wish you well.


Sunday, March 6, 2011

Is blogging fading?

In a word, yes!


There was a recent article on the New York Times that blogging is ‘losing its allure’. And it makes a lot of sense.


There are a lot of blogs out there with a lot of useless content. There’s a lot of people out there who are time poor and don’t want to waste their time reading content which won’t help them. There’s people who want their friends to see it all in the one place, so they shift to contribute on the FB. In the end we’re still down to the question of how do you find the good posts and avoid the rubbish ones? In the current state of play, it’s become common and useful practice to use Twitter networks and their ability to filter to find the posts which help you rather than waste your time.


Why some Twitter posts catch on and some don’t, another article in the New York times, suggests that the more often you see mentions of the same thing, the more likely it is set to become a trending topic. This is the same vein for good content bubbling up via Twitter or any platform. The more you see a mention of content, essentially a referral, the more likely you are to click. All those real Twitter people can’t be referring you if it isn’t any good!


But there are some out there who are a little bit deluded on the blog demise. Catharine P. Taylor defended blogs on MediaPost in response to the New York Times article on blogs in decline. She makes points that people are continuing to contribute to blogs which is fantastic, but what about the other side, the readers? Seems a bit like if a tree falls in the woods to me! She does go on to elaborate that blogs like HuffPo, Clay Shirky, Seth Godin and Dooce are all going strong. But these blogs are no longer categorized as a few of the voices amongst the masses. They’ve lifted beyond typical opinion and are now within the category of mainstream media. No longer part of the long tail, no longer a blog, but comparable to other big content sites. To compare these blogs to the long tail is erroneous and misguided.

We’re at a place where media and media consumption changes every day. There’s an adoption curve that goes with the embracing of those developments and then the process of evaporative cooling for the rejection process (if you haven’t read about the concept of evaporative cooling I strongly suggest that you do). Blogging is just one platform that is adapting to these changes and finding a new way to fit into the dynamic as new technologies like Twitter join the fold.

Don’t think I haven’t written this without realizing the irony that it’s on a blog. I can sense that tree falling in the woods….



Thursday, February 24, 2011

Research with no backbone really grinds my gears.

We’re living in some pretty exciting times these days. It’s incredibly exciting to be able to understand how to deal with the changes, looking at potential impacts and working out where companies can use these changes to their own and their customers’ advantage. There’s a running theme through most of the changes and developments – being open, sharing, being a useful tool. Technology has very much become about finding ways to create value for everyone.

However, in the positively charged times of change we live in we encounter two camps. Those who really are wise and insightful in assessing the changes in the multimedia landscape and then are those who prey on the meek and weak. The ones who don’t really know how to understand what’s upon us and lap up anything from anyone who seems confident enough.

The latest experience of the second kind comes in the form of some research from WongDoody with the accompanying article from MediaPost:

Big Brands Not Making Most Of Facebook

The vast majority of top brands are on Facebook -- but they aren't doing enough to engage consumers through the site, suggests a new study by agency WongDoody. Of the top 100 brands as determined by Interbrand's Best Global Brands 2010 rankings, 84 have dedicated Facebook pages, with an average of 1.8 million fans.


My first question is Huh? So many brands have different requirements and objectives, what about understanding those first before you give these apparent hard rules on using FB and why just FB? And so what If you have 1.8 million fans. If you aren’t getting any sales in return it’s pretty much a waste of time!

Full of holes, misuse of analytical data and the potential to mislead the meek and weak. The top line glaring problems for me are:

Not all companies need Facebook
Different platforms have different attributes. Some work better for some kinds of categories and others not so much. Facebook isn’t and shouldn’t be the measuring stick. Companies should be assessing if they need to use social media, will they get ROI and where should they go to get that ROI.
Facebook may be great for companies with a high consumer focus but I’d strongly suggest against a parent company like GE going out guns blazing on Facebook in the hopes that everyone loves a parent company.
The bottom line here is Facebook does work when you’re a company with a strong consumer focus and you have the opportunity to utilize the leisure medium as it’s intended.

You can be sporadic or absent on social media
Contrary to popular belief, brands don’t have to be social-media-active all the time.
Once I worked on a shampoo brand and no one in the outside world cares that much about shampoo. It washes their hair and that’s about it. For this company the recommendation was about matching their resource to the intended objectives. They entered into the space when they attracted the most engagement from their audience, subsequently building a strong and effective path to purchase. And you know what? It worked!
Most people don’t care about brands that much. They’re also busy. Be realistic about what your resources allow and what your audience can actually digest. Disclosure/communication and managing expectation is a wonderful thing. If you can only contribute content every so often let your potential audience know. It can’t hurt and they’ll know why you only post once a month.

Giving up control is really about managing risk
Companies have more control in social media than they think. The real issue is not letting a person say anything they want on a Facebook wall. It’s really about how a company reacts to commentary or what companies choose to initiate. This is often where companies fall down by deciding to open up a can of worms instead of realising that by ‘not sinking to the level’, they could have let those comments slip into social media oblivion.
Interacting on social media platforms with the larger community means companies should consider different reactionary scenarios and how to react if X, Y or Z happens. They should prepare guidelines on how to react for different types of comments. Often that involves being patient and waiting for the people to speak up. In the end, it’s just simple PR.


Look at that! No smoke, no mirrors and real information to help those that need it. There’s no need to put the pressure on and give companies the idea that if they don’t have a sizeable number of completely active Facebook fans they will drown. It just isn’t true.



The lyrics of "I'm doing 100 on the highway, so if you do the speed limit get the fuck out of my way" really resonates here.