Wondering Out Loud

Social media levels the playing field

Traditional marketing uses campaigns to build brand awareness: Coke – “The Real Thing”, Pepsi – “The Choice of a New Generation”, BASF – “we don’t make the products you buy; we make the products we buy better”. Each is recognizable and each company invested millions of dollars to reach consumers.

I’m gonna take a stab in the dark, but I’m betting you, like me, are working with budgets that are substantially smaller than Coke, Pepsi or BASF. Guess what, it doesn’t matter because we all have access to the great leveler in the branding battle: the Internet.

OK, it’s not a perfect one-to-one exchange, but the power that lies within the worldwide web is boundless and with a little imagination and hard work you can leverage that power to create a brand for your product.

Until now, marketing and social media have been treated as separate and distinct and, truth be told, there’s argument that can be made for keeping them as such. But that doesn’t mean the latter can’t support the former.

Boiling it down to its simplest form, branding campaigns are designed to leave a mark, an impression on the mind. It is an impression you create and communicate, but the impression is only a perception, an opinion based on the message you provided.

As consumers, B2C and B2B became more sophisticated, their response to the bombardment of advertising became, “I’ll be the judge of that.” In other words, they wouldn’t accept what you have to say until they buy it, try it and make up their own mind. Your ads may get someone to buy once, but if reality doesn’t live up to the perception your advertising created they won’t buy again.

The power of the Internet makes it possible for all of us to turn perception into reality before they buy.

When you use social media tactics to promote the thought leadership in your company, when you expose the subject matter experts within to the market you are building credibility, you are building awareness. You are showing customers, potential and current, that there are people behind the brand. People who know the industry, people who know their customers and understand the business issues they face and are trying to solve daily.

In short, you are branding reality for your company, its products and services.

August 27, 2009 Posted by | Marketing, Social Media | , , | Leave a comment

Personal v. Professional with Albert Maruggi

 A couple of months ago I saw a Twitter message from the owner of a consulting firm announcing the release of a new survey on the success of ERP implementations. A few minutes later the same individual used Twitter to take a hard line on the health care debate. In my opinion, the guy took quite a risk in mixing his professional and personal lives in a forum like Twitter where following someone is not the same as knowing them.

How many were offended by his opinion on health care reform we can’t know. Nor can we know how many will no longer consider doing business with him. But there is a number that fall into both categories.

Social media requires openness and transparency, but how much is too much? To discuss this, and other questions, I called my friend and former colleague Albert Maruggi of Provident Partners and The Marketing Edge Podcast. The outcome is the first ever Wondering Out Loud Podcast.

During out conversation we talk about the risks of mixing the professional with the personal, about the danger of “blurting” in 140 characters or less, and about how we are quick to label and categorize others. As always, Albert is thoughtful, serious and funny.


Mark Palony speaks with Albert Maruggi about the risks of mixing the professional with the personal in social media.

August 26, 2009 Posted by | Marketing, Public Relations, Social Media | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Are you self serving or self promoting

As the adoption of social media by business expands at an ever increasing rate, its misuse grows along with it. When you engage in social media activities are you self serving or self promoting?

Have you ever considered the difference? Both deal with the self, but if you choose to practice the former over the latter, you are headed for social media failure.

Here are the definitions from dictionary.com:

Self serving: Serving to further one’s own selfish interests.
Self Promotion: Promotion, including advertising and publicity, of oneself effected by oneself.

Done correctly, self promotion will result in all the benefits – increased leads, sales and revenue – you can get through self serving means, without turning away a good chunk of your audience. If this sounds difficult to achieve, it’s not. Promoting the self – you, your colleagues, and your business – is as easy as showing your target audience what you know. How you show them, however, goes a long way toward defining which side of boarder you are on between serving and promoting.

Let me illustrate with an example of a LinkedIn discussion:

Q: My boss wants me to buy a list of emails we can use for marketing. We’ve never done this and I’m looking for advice on picking the right provider. Thanks for your help.

A1: You can buy any list you need from my company Lists-R-Us. We specialize in providing 100% opt in lists for every conceivable industry – and a few you can’t conceive of. Call me at 555-1212.

A2: Before you pick a provider you’ll want to ask several questions including how they compile their lists, what information they gather about the individual and the company, can they segment based on SIC codes, and what are the counts within the SIC’s you are targeting. Also ask to see a sample cut of the data and what accommodations they make for non-deliverable addresses. If you want more I’ve included the links to a couple of credible resources below. Hope this helps.

I will grant that the example I provided is fictional, but it is most certainly not extreme. Go through the discussions and you’ll find any number of questions and answers that are commercials. But LinkedIn is by no means the only site that suffers from sledgehammer marketing. Blogs – posts and comments – are not immune, nor are Twitter and facebook for that matter.

Provide help with information the individual can use to solve their issue. It is a way of promoting yourself, without selling yourself. Over time, as your credibility grows, you will find a growing number of people who follow you, listen to you, and offer your name to others a resource that can be trusted.

August 24, 2009 Posted by | Marketing, Social Media | , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

A social media strikeout

In earlier posts I ranted against theabuse of LinkedIn by people pushing products and services and the proliferation of top 10 lists on blogs. So today I’m looking through some LinkedIn discussions and came across this beauty:

Top 10 Reasons for going with (product name removed) Content Management System

As you sift through the marketing hyperbole trying to decide which CMS suits your needs best, the main question still exists; “Why should I purchase one CMS over another?” This Insight will give you ten core reasons on what makes (product name removed) CMS different than the other vendor’s products.

An Insight into what makes (product name removed) CMS stand out… Here is the link – (not gonna give you the link ‘cause I don’t want to give them any publicity)

I haven’t even clicked on the link and this abomination already had two strikes against it. Being the curious sort, I moused over and clicked on the tiny url. And what did I find but three tiny fields: First Name, Last Name and Email.

Strike three! You’re out!

August 19, 2009 Posted by | Marketing, Social Media | , | Leave a comment

Don’t fear social media technology, embrace it

Thanks to Adam Ostrow for exposing the folly of the SEC’s (Southeastern Conference) new media policy. But the SEC is just another in a long line of media that has feared new technology rather than embracing it for their benefit.

When radio was in its infancy, record publishers would forbid stations from playing their music out of fear that people would opt for the free access and their sales would plummet – history would repeat several years later when digital downloads became possible. What they ultimately figured out, purely by accident, is that sales actually increased. You see, when the audience is exposed to and likes part of the whole, they have an increased interest in owning the whole.

A similar scenario was played out when television came along. Movie studios were so worried that people would stop attending the weekly matinee, they refused to release movies that had completed their theater run to TV networks for airing.  Never mind the addtional revenue they could realize or the added exposure of their biggest starts, the common wisdom among motion picture executives, like the music industry before them, was that the new technology was a rival to be feared and beaten.

To the SEC, CBS and anyone else who is considering banning social media out of fear of losing control of their product: take a deep breath, close your eyes and let it go. You will find an existing audience that loves you for doing it and a new audience – you didn’t know existed – will be driven to try what you have to offer.

As with music downloads, people will find a way to get the content they want. I hope the SEC, CBS, et al, learn from the mistakes of the past.

August 17, 2009 Posted by | Journalism, Public Relations, Social Media | , , , , | 1 Comment

Is Apple too good to join the party?

An interesting question was posed today by Ann All of IT Business Edge on her Business of Tech blog. Ann asks if Apple’s Silence (in the world of social media) is sending a message to its customers. I’d like to add competitors, analysts and the market at large to customers.

While the rest of the known business world – especially those in technology – are embracing social media as a way to reach out to their customers, Apple is conspicuously absent from Facebook and Twitter (I did find them on LinkedIn).

Regardless of the reasons, I think steering clear of social media is a strategic mistake. Like the BMOC skipping the party at the start of the school year, it may not have an immediate impact. But if he continues to stay away, his reputation suffers until he’s stripped of his BMOC title.

It’ll take a while before Apple suffers to that degree. But no company is immune to the whims of the market, and those that believe otherwise are are likely to learn a very hard lesson.

August 14, 2009 Posted by | Communications, Marketing, Public Relations, Social Media | , , , | Leave a comment

Nice bones, now here’s the meat

Wednesday morning was a great morning at the St. Paul Pool & Yacht club.

A small group convened to hear Provident Partners’ Albert Maruggi and me speak on the ways of integrating social media tactics to one’s traditional marcomm efforts. Keeping the group small allowed us to drill down into the attendees specific issues and objectives and they walked away, not with a laundry list of what tools are available, but with concrete ideas of how to develop a social media strategy that will help them achieve those objectives.

Our goal was to give people a different type of seminar. We wanted them to forget about the shiny new objects – all the tools and toys that are used and developed everyday – and ask themselves a few questions:

  1. What are our marcomm objectives.
  2. How can we leverage social media to help us me.et those objectives.
  3. How do we determine which tool is appropriate for the given job.

Content, credible content, being king, we also asked them to look inside their company and consider resources – the human kind – they could tap to play the role of subject matter expert and how they could best be leveraged; audio, video and/or text.

We packed a lot of information into a two hour semianr, and in the end everyone left with a solid foundation on which to begin building the strategies they came in search of. I’m going to enjoy watching as the companies represented build out their plans and begin executing on them.

It was a very satisfying and gratifying to help fellow professionals who are in the same position I was just a few short years ago.

August 14, 2009 Posted by | Journalism, Marketing, Public Relations, Social Media | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Is the MSM MIA in reporting of healthcare town hall meetings

Unless you’ve been in a coma lately, you’ve seen, read, or heard at least one of the thousands of reports about the heath care town hall meetings being held across the country. More specifically, the ones at which protesters have made their presence known. I have no doubt you’ve also been exposed to the reaction of politicians and activists on both sides of the issue. The MSM has done a good job of reporting the goings on. That said, however, I believe there is one area in which the MSM has gone MIA, and in doing so has added more dents to its already damaged reputation.

While the raucous behavior and responses are well established, the MSM is missing an opportunity to provide a compare and contrast between the heathcare town hall uprisings and those that followed W for much of his time in office.

Before people get up in arms about posters portraying President Obama as Adolf Hitler – a ridiculous comparison for him or any POTUS, repeat any, POTUS – this is not the first time this tactic has been rolled out. Here is page one of a Google image search of Bushitler.

In a USA Today commentary, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D California) told us that “drowning out opposing views is simplu un-American”. But we all know is a well-worn tactic of the Left to shout down conservative lecturers on the nation’s college campuses. In many cases lectures have been cut short due to violence perpetrated by some of Speaker Pelosi’s ideological soul-mates. 

What I see unfolding is right-of-center people have an issue that is driving them to take up the tactics of those who stand in polar opposition, those who’ve made a science of organizing and protesting, and they are not happy to have their playbook co-opted. One of the great ironies is the protesters are targeting the policies of a president who has on his resume the title of “Community Organizer”.

There is a very interesting story to be told here, I hope someone in the media will figure it out and take it up.

August 11, 2009 Posted by | Journalism | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Top 10 reasons Microsoft can’t survive

We’ve all seen ‘em, we’ve all read ‘em, and some of us have written ‘em:

  1. “Top 10 reasons social media will bring peace to the Middle East”
  2. “Top 5 Twitter will make you thinner and save you from chronic Halitosis”

Yes, these are a bit farfetched, but you get the idea.

Frequently the offspring of writer’s block or a fast approaching deadline, The List, as I refer it, is a quick way to get something in front of your readers. For too many, however, it’s become the default way of creating content. While this isn’t a problem that will lead to the demise of blogging, it is certain to cause problems for those who rely too heavily on The List.

The occasional top 10 post is to be expected, but I’ve been finding more and more popping up in my Google reader. The more often they come,  the more suspect I am. When a blogger begins to fall back on The List at least once a week, I conclude they are only trying to drive traffic by packing their posts with highly searched keywords (do ‘ya think my headline might get some notice?) and/or are just plain lazy. As a result, their RSS feed is quickly thrown into a black hole.

When I read a blog, I’m doing it because I believe the author has something of value to share with me, something I may not have previously considered or perhaps have considered in a different context. I want a post to make me think about different sides to the same issue. I want him/her to be provocative, engaging and, on occasion, irritating.

If you’re not generating an emotional response from your readers, regardless of what emotion it is, you are not doing your job.

My bottom line, I’d rather skip posting for day – like yesterday – than give my readers a list of the top 10 reasons I think Microsoft is in its death throes.

It would be provocative, but how much value would it have?

August 11, 2009 Posted by | Social Media | , , | Leave a comment

Is Bing on the level

Microsoft made a big splash with their new search engine, Bing and even bigger slash when their partnership with yahoo was announced. Yup a new era in search had been born and Google was supposed to be scared. But even the best of us stumble at times and the same is true for Microsoft.

Bring on the CIO.com article: Bing Search Tainted by Pro-Microsoft Results

 As I wrote above, the best of us all stumble from time to time and I hope that is what Microsoft did in this case. The other possibility is too improbable to even consider; that someone inside of MSFT made the decision to block search results that would put the company in a bad light. If that is the case, the individual showed not an ounce of wisdom.

Last time I checked my calendar the year is 2009 and the Internet is the preferred way of gathering news and information and is on the way to becoming the default way to communicate with friends, family and followers. That anyone would think, for even a minute, that the would get away with such a scheme boggles the mind. Not saying it’s impossible – after all we are treated to stories every year of the highschool who are stunned that the drunken photos they posted on facebook find their way to their parents and school administration – but it would be a shock.

Until we get a definitive explanation, I’ll believe the search results are function of one, or more, of the bugs Microsoft is famous for.

I’m sure it will be fixed by one of the 15 updates I get to wait through when I’m trying to shut down and go home for the weekend.

August 7, 2009 Posted by | Miscellaneous | , , | Leave a comment

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