Why the Seesmic/Ping.fm deal will cause brands a BIG problem
When Seesmic acquired ping.fm, commentators thought it was great move. A great way for Seesmic (the largely twitter, but emerging dominant Facebook status updater) to reach many, many more people and it become the social media updater of choice.
For consumers, this merger should create a significant, seamless way for them to update to their many active social networks in one quick, fell swoop. Rumour had it that Shozu is also going through some kind of deal to add its one-for-all image updating system to a major publishing platform, so this is clearly a fast-moving area – and one which Tweetdeck is going to have to make some major moves in (it was a given that Tweetdeck dominated the desktop status updater sector, but what deals are left for it now/in the future?).
So what does it mean for consumers?
They can be anywhere, any place and update their status/content. Cynics of social networks/media etc. argue that one cannot effectively manage the volume of connections and content that gets circulated on these networks – but people are doing it – and by people I mean the Gen Y’ers for whom always-on connectivity and omnipresence is commonplace.
But what does it mean for brands? Why the deal puts a nail in brands ‘ comms strategies.
One of the biggest issues I have with brands in social media is the “branded outpost” nature of their presences. I talk a lot to clients of branded outposts on things like twitter, Facebook and You Tube (the de facto “social media strategy”) where brands think they are playing the same game as the consumer, simply by having a presence there.
YET, if they are doing nothing once they have got there, or adding nothing of value to the consumer by being present on these channels, then they are pointless – Presences Without Purposes (which is another of my over-used BS terms!)
Staffing and Knowledge issues – the root of the current (and future) problems
One of the most common reasons brands fail to man these outposts is a lack of direction. Typically this lack of direction is governed by “just taking part” and not doing so in the knowledge that what they embarking upon is relevant, timely and valuable to consumers, where they are. Result? Mis-directed efforts which fail to resonate with the audience (if there are any there) and social media is condemned to the “we tried it but it doesn’t work for us” pile.
The second major failing of brands in social networks is that the staff charged with manning these outposts are typically junior (and use social networks for purely personal reasons) or are sporadically covered by marketing managers whole time is hard-pressed with other tasks.
They start off meaning well after the project steering group decided that social media should be on the agenda, but just can’t find the time to continue it. Result? Positive initial noises and participation which quickly dwindles and dies.
The third major factor in failure is one of simple resource – over-stretching of resource, to be perfectly honest. Which is what takes us back to the Seesmic/ping.fm issue.
Brands who do not commit properly to social media channels find it difficult to spend the appropriate amount of time on that channel. Comments come in thick and fast, subscription and friend requests need to be responded to, friends’ content needs rating, commenting upon etc..
As such, the outposts die.
Multiple consumer identities – multiple brand outposts?
Now, multiply the numbers of updateable networks up by about 10-fold (which ping.fm’s reach could do) and you as a brand are faced with a major dilemma – if you can’t manage your FB, YT, Twitter and Blog content NOW (if indeed you are doing any of them), how the hell can you possibly do this with potentially 10 times as many channels?
Even the likes of Ford, GM, Dell and Coca Cola would struggle with this level of engagement. So is the answer to sod them all and bring everyone to YOUR domain/location? I guess that depends on the nature and extent of conversations, but isn’t the idea of taking people away from their familiar territory against best practice? After all, these are social networks where people “socialise” – not convenient locations for brands to earwig and jump in.
The answer is conversation monitoring
My solution to this fragmentation would be to look at the most popular domains – where are the places that most people are doing the talking? Sophisticated monitoring tools do this kind of evaluation as a matter of course – and are much cheaper than an editoral team of 5 people (or more!) to achieve the same thing with marginal benefits.
Starting out? Only be active in the top 3 channels (which may account for 60%+ of conversations anyway), but, with such varying volume of conversations and diversification of networks, you’d be foolish to think that one hat fits all.
Listen, watch, maybe even partake on a personal level if that helps you become familiar with unknown territory, but be aware that now that consumers can update 50+ social networks, you should at the very least be thinking about how you can manage the ones you know about already!
Don’t be scared that you need to be all things to all people in all places. You don’t!
You want to talk some more about this? Mail me at p (dot) fabretti (at) letsgabba (dot) com (my social media agency)!