— blending the mix

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)!


8 comments
  1. Loic says: January 10, 201012:05 am

    Thank you for your post which I found interesting you are raising a real issue and wanted to introduce myself, I founded Seesmic.

    While I agree with you on the problem, we are also working on the solution which is to aggregate in one single screen all the feedback the brands will get from all the social networks.

    Ping is great, Seesmic is already building pong :-) In Seesmic Desktop you can already get feedback from both Twitter and Facebook at the same place and we will aggregate the feedback from all social software progressively, we want to help brands and individuals also manage the feedback so that they can interact, which I agree, is the most important.

  2. Loic says: January 9, 20107:05 pm

    Thank you for your post which I found interesting you are raising a real issue and wanted to introduce myself, I founded Seesmic.

    While I agree with you on the problem, we are also working on the solution which is to aggregate in one single screen all the feedback the brands will get from all the social networks.

    Ping is great, Seesmic is already building pong :-) In Seesmic Desktop you can already get feedback from both Twitter and Facebook at the same place and we will aggregate the feedback from all social software progressively, we want to help brands and individuals also manage the feedback so that they can interact, which I agree, is the most important.

  3. Anonymous says: January 10, 20109:56 am

    Hey Loic, thanks for stopping by and taking the time to leave a comment. If there’s a ping, there HAD to be a pong!

    If this doesn’t make me sound too much like a stalker, i’ve long know who you are! I’ve been on Seesmic ever since it was in private alpha. It’s been interesting to watch the brand evolve into what it has become now!

    As for the solution, I couldn’t agree more. As you are probably well aware, things like Radian6, Techrigy allow us to monitor conversations (from a brand point of view), but responding in real time is very limited. Things like cotweet are good starters, but that is just for Twitter, so only partially effective.

    Assuming (as I think will become inevitable) that more social networks will be breaking their functionality up into more consumable chunks (I guess Facebook is the key one at the moment), there should be no reason why a dashboard containing both inbound mentions and outbound publication such as you describe shouldn’t be possible – a one stop shop for brands to monitor and respond to, their social channels.

    Best of luck with the development!

  4. paul.fabretti says: January 10, 20104:56 am

    Hey Loic, thanks for stopping by and taking the time to leave a comment. If there’s a ping, there HAD to be a pong!

    If this doesn’t make me sound too much like a stalker, i’ve long know who you are! I’ve been on Seesmic ever since it was in private alpha. It’s been interesting to watch the brand evolve into what it has become now!

    As for the solution, I couldn’t agree more. As you are probably well aware, things like Radian6, Techrigy allow us to monitor conversations (from a brand point of view), but responding in real time is very limited. Things like cotweet are good starters, but that is just for Twitter, so only partially effective.

    Assuming (as I think will become inevitable) that more social networks will be breaking their functionality up into more consumable chunks (I guess Facebook is the key one at the moment), there should be no reason why a dashboard containing both inbound mentions and outbound publication such as you describe shouldn’t be possible – a one stop shop for brands to monitor and respond to, their social channels.

    Best of luck with the development!

  5. Rob Dobson says: January 10, 20102:09 pm

    I don’t think it will cause brands a BIG problem Paul. Sure there are lots of social networks out there, but there are lots of TV channels, lots of magazines, lots of households; brands don’t advertise, add advertorials or DM everyone, nor do they worry about doing so. Brands don’t need to be involved in EVERY conversation about them either, or engage on every network. It’s a fool’s errand which simply ends up with fire-fighting, rather than addressing either the fundamental issues within an organisation which are causing negative feedback; or indeed starting up a conversation with your customers that adds value on both sides – something that can only be done by concentrating on fewer channels.

    We need to move away from the presentations of 2 years ago where every SM agency showed a crazy picture of a map of social networks (that looked like it had been prepared by Industrial Light and Magic as an image of a galaxy far, far away) and said ‘this is where the conversations about your brand are happening; where are you?’. Scare tactics like that just confuse, and lead to the lack of direction from brands that you mention. Far better, as you suggest, to do a very small number well. Also better to ‘own your own’, as I did at CFS with the goodwithmoney blog. This isn’t a case of taking people away from familiar territory, rather, providing them with an arena where they can talk and be heard by the brand.

    Monitoring conversations – where brands ‘earwig and jump in’ – I’ve only ever heard positive feedback from this, assuming it’s done sensitively. “I mentioned this on my blog and XXX got in touch and sorted it out”. One can’t maintain a full, active presence on every network; trying just results in a brand chasing each and every network as it pops up. Plus it’s simply not appropriate – why should Brand X be maintaining a real presence on Mumsnet, for instance? It would look a bit weird and creepy for a brand to be chatting away on there, just in case a conversation about them popped up. (And fora like Mumsnet *are* social networks; it’s not just Facebook et al.)

    Ultimately, of course, all of this is pointless without the flexibility of a brand to adapt and respond *fundamentally* to the feedback they’re getting. Complaints on social networks come when something goes wrong, or when a complaint isn’t dealt with properly (United breaks guitars, etc), or when a customer feels like they’re not being listened to through the usual channels. That’s the real message which brands need to absorb, adapt and therefore take advantage of. No-one would worry about 60+ social networks having conversations about how great they are, after all.

    And I apologise for the extravagant use of Latin in this response. I just like the word ‘fora’…;)

  6. Rob Dobson says: January 10, 20109:09 am

    I don’t think it will cause brands a BIG problem Paul. Sure there are lots of social networks out there, but there are lots of TV channels, lots of magazines, lots of households; brands don’t advertise, add advertorials or DM everyone, nor do they worry about doing so. Brands don’t need to be involved in EVERY conversation about them either, or engage on every network. It’s a fool’s errand which simply ends up with fire-fighting, rather than addressing either the fundamental issues within an organisation which are causing negative feedback; or indeed starting up a conversation with your customers that adds value on both sides – something that can only be done by concentrating on fewer channels.

    We need to move away from the presentations of 2 years ago where every SM agency showed a crazy picture of a map of social networks (that looked like it had been prepared by Industrial Light and Magic as an image of a galaxy far, far away) and said ‘this is where the conversations about your brand are happening; where are you?’. Scare tactics like that just confuse, and lead to the lack of direction from brands that you mention. Far better, as you suggest, to do a very small number well. Also better to ‘own your own’, as I did at CFS with the goodwithmoney blog. This isn’t a case of taking people away from familiar territory, rather, providing them with an arena where they can talk and be heard by the brand.

    Monitoring conversations – where brands ‘earwig and jump in’ – I’ve only ever heard positive feedback from this, assuming it’s done sensitively. “I mentioned this on my blog and XXX got in touch and sorted it out”. One can’t maintain a full, active presence on every network; trying just results in a brand chasing each and every network as it pops up. Plus it’s simply not appropriate – why should Brand X be maintaining a real presence on Mumsnet, for instance? It would look a bit weird and creepy for a brand to be chatting away on there, just in case a conversation about them popped up. (And fora like Mumsnet *are* social networks; it’s not just Facebook et al.)

    Ultimately, of course, all of this is pointless without the flexibility of a brand to adapt and respond *fundamentally* to the feedback they’re getting. Complaints on social networks come when something goes wrong, or when a complaint isn’t dealt with properly (United breaks guitars, etc), or when a customer feels like they’re not being listened to through the usual channels. That’s the real message which brands need to absorb, adapt and therefore take advantage of. No-one would worry about 60+ social networks having conversations about how great they are, after all.

    And I apologise for the extravagant use of Latin in this response. I just like the word ‘fora’…;)

  7. Lauren Vargas says: January 11, 201011:03 pm

    As you state in your response to Loic, conversation monitoring must be followed up with real-time engagement. Organizations must move past monitoring chatter to actively listening. Our tool does have an engagement sidebar built in, as well as, workflow to assist in enterprise deployment. We know there is a lot of room to grow in this arena and are excited about what 2010 will bring!

    Lauren Vargas
    Community Manager at Radian6
    @VargasL

  8. Lauren Vargas says: January 11, 20106:03 pm

    As you state in your response to Loic, conversation monitoring must be followed up with real-time engagement. Organizations must move past monitoring chatter to actively listening. Our tool does have an engagement sidebar built in, as well as, workflow to assist in enterprise deployment. We know there is a lot of room to grow in this arena and are excited about what 2010 will bring!

    Lauren Vargas
    Community Manager at Radian6
    @VargasL

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