I’ve always felt that one of theÂ biggestÂ challenges around social media was not how an agency (or brand) could find something of value to bring to consumer’s (there’s never any shortage of ideas), but rather how the agency or client brand itself can bring these very same practices to deliver something of real value for the business itself.
I’ve worked in both very small and very large agencies where I’ve seen people either too frantically busy to be able to contribute frequently to internal (or even external) social media activities, or they just don’t see it as part of their job: “Yeah, thansk for that run through of the services…I’ll get right back on with my job now though” was often a common complaint.
The reality is that whilst some people within a business may never be the “maven” or champion of social media, there are unquestionably activities that they CAN do which help the business. Whilst the list below isn’t exhaustive, if at the very least you aren’t keeping an eye on your client’s reputation (even as an account manager in a digital agency), you are failing them at best, missing an opportunity at worst.
So, me old mucker @Wadds and his partner in crime Philip Sheldrake helped launch another great initiative from the CIPR, with a great guest, Paul Mylrea, BBC’s Head of Press and Media Communications. Did I say “great” enough times there?! Great presenters, great guests.
1) Not being at Web2expo – i’ll get over that, iâ€™m trying to get to Berlin 😉 2) Preparing for a practical workshop on blogging only to realise that 75% of the time is going to be spent explaining what tags are and rss is rather than discussing how they can be of benefit to a business. 3) Control freaks – people who think that a little bit of knowledge think they know it all (won’t go into that one!)
In particular, number two got me thinking that as a country, we are woefully under-educated when it comes to social media. Why are we still having conversations about what these tools are rather than what they can do for you?
Concept Is online social interaction (the principle of people/customers meeting online to share things and meet each other) SO far beyond people’s grasp they just do not get what happens and what people do?
Prejudice The idea that without your work hat on, â€œI donâ€™t use the internet like that , so why would my customers?â€
Growth/Choice Does the rate of change/growth of new social media tools scare IT departments or marketing/pr teams that anything they may decide to adopt may be obsolete in a few months? What about the sheer number of tools they could use? Is it realistic to expect a marketeer to keep track of everything that goes on?
Are we our own worst enemies? Do we like to talk XML, php, css and other jargon too much that we actually alienate the very people we are hoping to adopt the tools we talk about?
This relates nicely in fact, to point number three. People who have traditionally been in total control of their customers (when their customers didnâ€™t know any better) are now petrified that they canâ€™t control what their customers are saying. Burying their heads in the sand wonâ€™t work.
Previous tools such as websites, direct mail, press ads and email were great at telling customers what the brand wanted them to hear but now marketeers have to get their heads around the fact that those same recipients are talking back â€“ just that they are telling other customers not them!
Tone of Voice
After decades of talking AT customers, brands are now having to talk TO WITH (thanks Gregory) customers. How do you talk to people you have spent years ignoring what they say? How should you speak to them? Learning THAT takes either a lot of listening, training or plenty of both.
Social Media Tools are â€œa phaseâ€ of internet growth
Several years ago (early 90â€™s), when working for a large mail order company, the whole business began gearing up for this "internet" thing that was coming.
HR were booking training sessions for people like there was no tomorrow , business-wide email was starting to roll-out and you could sense that people knew something big and important was going to happen. 15 years and 1 billion online users later – they were right.
The impression I get of what many of us might call the proverbial â€œsea-changeâ€ in the internet is that social media and its associated tools are nothing more than evolution rather than revolution.
Iâ€™ll end with some links to a couple of greatposts, (from Suw who is organising the blogger outreach for the Berlin Web2 Expo and the legendary BL Ochman)all around exactly what I am talking about above as well as the Chrisâ€™s 12 reasons why he thinks the UK isnâ€™t blogging or adopting social media tools:
1 – You donâ€™t understand why youâ€™d want a business blog. Neither does your CEO.
2 – You are the CEO. And youâ€™re not going to allow your minions to blog.
3 – You think it is too risky to allow your colleagues to write blog posts.
4 – Your PR agency thinks blogging is a bad move.
5 – You mentioned something to the techies. It is in their development schedule.
6 – You havenâ€™t figured out who will contribute to the blog, or what you will write about.
7 – You canâ€™t see any benefits whatsoever. It would be a waste of time.
8 – You donâ€™t see any return on investment. It would be a loss leader. We donâ€™t do loss leaders.
9 – You have no clue about how to set up a blog.
10 – You think blogging is all hype / a passing fad / for kids.
11 – You are happy to ignore blog activity in the US. The US is a totally different environment for this sort of thing.
12 – You think blogging isnâ€™t right for your business.
I see a lot of people talking about getting â€œitâ€ and by “it”, they are referring to The Cluetrain Manifesto without being so explicit as to mention it by name. I see how fundamentally it has changed many modern marketeerâ€™s perceptions of where their late 2000â€™s marketing activity now needs to be – or rather where their market allows it to be.
The book really did change the way I thought. I suppose, like The Blue Monster, I wanted to change the way people saw my products and the business I represented â€“ but perhaps more importantly, how I interacted with those customers. (nb, This was 2006 and I was running my own online bathroom store www.bighippo.co.uk)
With a conventional direct marketing background I was intrigued by the ideas the book threw at me and the opportunities that social media presents in creating this â€œnewâ€ two-way relationship.
Back to the present day, many millions of blogs now deal with this pr and marketing front line – the next great idea and keeping their readers up to date with everything new but my experience over the last year has shown that
But in my experience of dealing with a wide range of people (clients, colleagues and other â€œsocial media luvviesâ€) it is obvious that there is a genuine need for people to understand WHY they need to engage with social media and to understand the fundamental shift in power from brand to customer.
So…below lies the first in a series (regular series!) which puts a personal interpretation of the 95 Cluetrain Manifesto theses which I hope help bridge the gap between olde worlde marketing and new thinking. helps achieve this. I have also added small footnotes below each item to try to put a more practical angle on each point.
In the true spirit of the new world, feel free to chip in and contribute and I hope to meet many new friends – I am at paul dot fabretti at gmail dot com or @paulfabretti (you know where!).
1) Markets are conversations: Try not to think of talking to your market as a one-way street, or a â€œthem and usâ€ situation. Think â€œmarket stallâ€ mentality and you are on your way there. Customers can tell you as much useful stuff as you can tell them, so give them the chance to speak to you.
âˆš – Think taxi driver. Exchange of a service for money but it is civil, human and more importantly interactive.
2) Markets consist of human beings, not demographic sectors: Demographics are numbers and diagrams. They are devoid of feeling, circumstance, family situation â€“ devoid of emotion. Donâ€™t go any further until you realise that no demographic analysis can give you insight into human emotion â€“ and buying is an emotional process.
âˆš – Think of what you FELT when you last bought a major purchase. Demographics canâ€™t show feelings â€“ humans can.
3) Conversations among human beings SOUND human. They are conducted in a human voice: â€œto whom it may concernâ€, â€œin respect ofâ€ and terms like â€œvis a visâ€ and â€œhithertoforeâ€ are just a few examples of corporate speak that makes people either frown or turn people off. Speak to people the way in which you would like to be spoken to.
âˆš – Write something then read it out. Does it sound like something you would say? If you have to pause when reading, it isnâ€™t right for you. Alternatively, say out loud what it is you want to write and notice how smoothly it flows or even record yourself saying what you want to write. The most constructive criticism sometimes comes from hearing your own voice!
4) Whether delivering information, opinions, perspectives, dissenting arguments or humourous asides, the human voice is typically open, natural, uncontrived: Use as many short words as possible, just like you would when you talk â€“ it makes content short, punchy and to the point. Using words like â€œthereforeâ€, â€œin retrospectâ€ for example are what I call â€œpaddersâ€ â€“ they are there wimply to fill in space until we make your point! Kept it short and sweet and youâ€™ll get to your point quicker!
âˆš – Listen to politicians answer questions â€“ and do exactly opposite. Find ways to make their answer shorter and get to the point quicker.
5) People recognise each other as such from the sound of this voice: in writing and speaking in the human voice, people will readily indentify that there is another human being on the other side â€“ and will engage more with what you have said. Whether you use txt spk or a familiar tone of voice, it is proof that there is a human being behind the message NOT a corporation.
âˆš – Show a few posts or messages to non-customers, friends (and family) who have nothing to do with your business. If they can understand what it is you are trying to say (because of the way it is written) â€“ you can be pretty sure your customer will too.
6) The internet is enabling conversations among human beings that were simply not possible in the era of mass media: email, IM, forums, tangler, wikiâ€™s, blogs all enable people to communicate quicker than ever before. Furthermore, with no geographical boundaries stopping the worldwide communication of messages we really are making the world a smaller place.
âˆš – Go to places like Technorati/Google/Google blog search and enter a brand name. Note how many different languages and methods people are using to talk about that brand. These are all people who could be talking about YOUR BRAND and in ways you didnâ€™t know.
7) Hyperlinks subvert Hierarchy: It doesnâ€™t matter who you are, what your title is or how much you earn â€“ linking is status-neutral. Today a school kid can link to a CEO and blow the socks off what has been written. An addition to this thesis could be â€œHyperlinks subvert Hierarchy and promote Humilityâ€.
âˆš – Take anything you have written and revert to points 3, 4 and 5 â€“ does it sound like me? Would I say this? You may never be able to control some comments, but you can easily minimise those negative behaviours that result from a pompous attitude!
8) In both INTERnetworked markets and among INTRAnetworked employees, people are speaking to each other in a powerful new way: As methods of communication between people becomes quicker and more widespread, so does word of mouth grow more powerful. More people are finding new ways to reach each other and find more and more things out about each other and products. Some of those people will be your employees. What are they saying about your brand? Does their experience typify the customer experience? Are they talking to non-employee customers?
âˆš – Create an intranet or at the very least a forum where the business and its operations can be discussed by internal staff. Make it anonymous of needs be. Allow the voice from within to make suggestions, highlight problems and give customer feedback. If it canâ€™t be said behind closed doors it will never be said at all. Give people the chance to speak.
9) These networked conversations are enabling powerful new forms of social organisation and knowledge exchange to take place: As a social species, it is in our nature to mix and communicate (thereâ€™s a reason we can talk and monkeys canâ€™t!). Whether that is IM, email, forums, phones or face to face, the easier communication is the more it will happen. The more it happens, the greater the likelihood that people will be talking about your brand at some point. Taylor Woodrow (a major UK house-builder) didnâ€™t think it could happen to them until they found snagging.org! As with all WOM, a critical mass and momentum builds which, given the ease with which people can communicate online, will snowball whether good or bad. Understanding the power and speed of online communication is essential.
âˆš – Become part of those networks. Participate, be a part of the very networks who can make or break you.
10) As a result, markets are getting smarter, more informed, more organised. Participation in a networked market changes people fundamentally: Networks provide an easy means for people to swap horror stories, solve problems, offer tips and advice, discuss avoidance schemes and discount offers etc. Who doesnâ€™t want to know how they can get something for less, or get something for free or find a way of avoiding a 10-minute wait on an 0870 call to customer services? Reciprocating favours brings people together, creating communities where (in the main) people will return.
âˆš – Embed yourself in communities associated with your product and see what people are talking about. Donâ€™t be fooled into thinking a self-hosted forum will work â€“ it wonâ€™t. People will be suspicious. Join forums where the REAL community lives and see what areas of concern people are talking about. Are they complaining about call waiting times â€“ address it by putting on extra shifts. Are instructions difficult to follow? Commission some extra photography. Communities will tell you far more about your business than outbound calling will EVER can.
Iâ€™ve been into the whole â€œPR people just donâ€™t get itâ€ thing ever since we launched PressRoom a few weeks ago.
We spoke to a room full of PR people who looked (on the whole) utterly confused about things like Twitter, blogging and social media.
â€œMy colleague send press releases out as part of his job, will this social media release tool put him out of a jobâ€ was one such comment and typical of the lack of understanding of social media.
On this evidence, the suggestion is that indeed, as per Veroâ€™s post, the PR Industry doesnâ€™t get IT (IT being â€œitâ€ the object, emphasised for dramatic effect rather than I.T. â€“ that dodgy-looking tech department with long-haired geeks in).
But is it fair to say (frequently) that the PR industry as a whole just doesnâ€™t get it? Look at esteemed luminaries such as Becky, Stephen and Stuart, not forgetting Brian and Geoff â€“ thereâ€™s no doubt THEY get it! Why canâ€™t others?
On the flip side, is it fair to suggest that the tech industry (ok, the early adopters) are trying to frighten the PR industry into needing their tech/building services by suggesting that social media requires NASA-affiliated qualifications? Then again we all have a responsibility to ensure that we keep up to date with thing going on in our industry â€“ why should PR be any different?
Is there an element of arrogance from the tech industry that they understand something that they know people need? Letâ€™s not forget, many of these early adopters were the nerdy types at school who got bullied for being nerds, whilst the pretty, popular flirty girlies were the ones who went into PR and Marketing (yes, I know – stereotypes are bad, but sometimes funny!).
Ourman wades in with one of the few negative comments about the piece and makes a good point. Do bloggers have the right to demand more careful treatment just because they have a free-will-powered publishing tool (blog) at their disposal? The suggestion is that bloggers deserve more respect and care taken over their approach than a journalist in getting pitched to. But do they? Yes and No.
No, because they are no different to anybody else writing for an audience. Many bloggers want the exclusive, they need the latest breaking news ahead of anyone else just, like journalists. Why should bloggers take any different exception to a crap pitch than a journo?
Yes, because most blogs (and bloggers) are free from the constraints of corporate policy and can respond vociferously to the lazy pr pitches and can quickly slate the poor approaches for being exactly that â€“ poor. Many hacks would no doubt LOVE the chance to respond in the way bloggers can so PR peeps take note.
And letâ€™s not forget what Chris Anderson did (and he is/was on both sides of the fence!)
Ok, so we are only at 99 views (so far) and the exporting from Keynote to Powerpoint has buggered some of the slides up, it’s nice to be able to get the message out to lots of you peeps! Hopefully this will give the PR world some insight into the tools they COULD be using and realise that they, more than anyone, have the communications skills that mean they can begin making a difference to their clients’ messages.
I have to say, I have long admired Neville’s blog and the stamina he has shown in producing over 350 editions of FIR. But the way with which he credibly explained much of the often bullshit terminology so often heard when discussing social media was a pleasure – and I am sure was as well received by all the attendees.
This second video is shorter and perhaps more useful to people wanting to get a quick “what do i do next” fix. In it, Neville gives out 8 pointers about how you SHOULD approach Social Media.
It’s been a while since I contributed something of significance to the blog (many of you would argue that I have rarely done that, but that’s another story 😉 ) – I have been mad busy with client projects, client presentations, seminars and finally the launch of our Social Media release tool, PressRoom – all of which have made me realise that PR and communications, not technology are at the heart of what I actually do – and maybe this is what PR types need to realise too.
Don’t get me wrong, I am still a Client Services slave with commercial objectives, but the tools and projects I work on and conversations I have with clients are not about tech solutions, or marketing ones, but PR ones. Social media (I know, I know – whatever that means!) blogs, community management and blogger outreach for example, are not about the technology – they are nothing more than tools with which to build relationships. And who is best placed and most experienced to do this? PR people.
However, when presenting my now well-versed seminar on blogging and social media for business, it is very apparent that many PR types are struggling to come to terms with the fact that they already have the core skills to make a dramatic impact on the the “social media” space. The overriding observation is that the industry is scared to death of what they see as technological barriers to letting their skills go.
As a commentator said at the launch of our PressRoom tool (which was full of PR people) “As a PR person, I look at tools like the Social Media Press Release and marvel at the opportunity this presents. As a client looking for a PR agency, I am sat here wondering why on earth you are asking such basic questions (such as “What is Twitter”)”.
In the US, people like Brian Solis and Geoff Livingston are trying to de-mistify the whole technology thing for PR people, whilst in the UK well-respected names like Stuart Bruce, Stephen Waddington and Becky McMichael are just a few names following suit -showing that practicing what you preach is a perfect way to prove that Social Media is not about technology, it is about developing relationships – which is exactly what PR people do.
Now, as much as it pains me to think I might once again be attending an event at Old Trafford 😉 I am genuinely excited about the event and where this positions us.
Typically, the worlds of PR and Web 2.0 have clashed, the main argument being that word of mouth through consumer blogs and social networks is fast becoming the only trusted message other consumers will believe.
As an advocate of blogs and blogging (yours truly is presenting a seminar on Blogging for Business in April) I couldn’t agree more. The control of your message has been taken away by the power to publish in blogs and social networks.
Conversations about you and your business are taking place everywhere online and if you haven’t got a plan on how to join in this conversation then you are losing control of your brand.
So what to do?
A corporate blog is one step – provide a place for the conversations to take place on your doorstep.
Stakeholder analysis is another – find out who the key stakeholders are and approach them.
But with conversations moving away from the source of the message, where does the traditional press release fit into all this? If social networks and blogs are where it’s at (and where it’s at now includes video and audio), how do we get the message out to these people:
In a location they are likely to be receptive.
In a way in which the want to consume the media.
Answer: Social Media Press Release.
Answer: The Press Release as we have come to know and despise/love, optimised with tools to allow the content to distributed to social networks/blogs and which grows with the frequency of references to it.
We have been thinking about this concept for some time and have spent a long time evaluating the most appropriate methods of distribution and content types to include in the release.
Watch this space closely as we move closer to launching this exciting innovation to the PR world!
Hey, welcome to the blog of me, Paul Fabretti, Director, Social Media at Microsoft's Apps and Services Division.
I read a ton of stuff daily to keep up to date with things and every day I post the three things you might find most useful or interesting.
Sometimes it's accompanied with a witty comment, although often they're not that witty. They will almost always contain profanity though.