Here is a new piece I published on the Community Management Appreciation Day blog yesterday.
I have been on Twitter 7 years today. It seems like it was ages ago. In fact it was ages ago. When I started working in Internet banking in 1996, one used to say that Internet years were like dog years, that they were supposed to pass 7 times faster than real time, as it is believed to be true of animals. I don’t know the truth about canine mammals but Internet years are in fact more like light years than dog years. Yet, the faster it goes, the more things change and the more they stay the same.This Nietzchean proposition will probably sound overwrought to many, but, in fact, my current interactions with clients show that going back to basics is more than just an option. It’s a must have in this period of maturation of social media usage in the workplace, some 10 years or more after its inception.Let’s see why too many people are asking themselves the wrong questions and why rubbing salt on their wounds is of paramount importance.Focusing on the why, not the how!
This morning the first panel discussion at the Istrategy digital conference in Amsterdam was entitled “Audience Engagement, User Experience and Social Monetisation”. The panellists were :
Moderator: Tom Eslinger – Worldwide Digital Creative Director, Saatchi & Saatchi
Speakers: Yme Bosma – Manager of Business Development & Partnerships, Hyves
Amber Osbourne – VP Brand Development, Head of Lettuce Media
Ritch Sibthorpe – VP Digital Marketing & Content Partnerships, Warner Music Group International
Saara Bergstrom – Manager of Social Marketing & Consumer Engagement, Rovio
Amber Osbourne kick started the panel by saying that “you have to forget that you are B2B or B2C, you have to become P2P, People to People” and that you have to find the “Rockstars” in your company. She then explained how she was hired by Bruce Food in order to build a Social Media personality for the brand just because one day she tweeted about her having Bruce’s Yams for breakfast and that her audience started a letter campaign to Bruce foods saying “you should hire this girl”. She is now the Head of her Social Media agency.
Saara Bergstrom said that you “should do your Social Media in house”. She went on saying that all the relationship between the brand and its fans at Rovio is done in house. It has to be stated that Rovio is the company behind the famous ‘angry birds’ game (see picture above).
Last week, I was attending the Blogwell and SMBC meetings in Philadelphia. I also had an opportunity to sit with Andy Sernovitz, the founder of SMBC and well known author of the Word of Mouth Marketingopus.
It’s now more than 2 1/2 years since I joined the former blogcouncil, now known as Social Media Business Council, and a lot of water has gone under the bridge. I thought, as Hervé Kabla and myself – co-founders of Media Aces in France – are currently finalising our book entitled ‘Social Media Taught to My Boss’ (in French, but I’m open to suggestions from publishers), that it would be a great idea to sit with Andy and review the history and principles of SMBC as well as take a bit of hindsight and see how things had developed over the years. It’s hard to describe but spending 3 years of field practice in Social Media for a large company implies that a lot of work and effort has been put into these initiatives. Sometimes it’s good to put down one’s tools and muse.
Andy keeps repeating that doing Social Media for large groups is not as easy as doing the same for an individual or a small shop. I know that many people must not believe that this is true. « You are a big brand hence it’s way too easy » a lot of people must think. Yet nothing has ever been more true. Innovating within a large enterprise is a never-ending, groundhod day-like heavy-lifting exercise. This is why SMBC is important. It enables the heads of Social Media like us to get together, to help each other and to learn from one another. This is what Andy is referring to as being the « missing piece in the puzzle ».
And this is also why there are now more than 150 members within SMBC. Hats off Andy!
here are some of the 150 members of SMBC as of now …
Discovery Communications were the 3rd presenters in track1 of Blogwell on November 9 in Philadelphia with Amber Harris and Gayle Weiswasser delivering the presentation. Shark week is one of the longest running television events (23 years!). How do you bring innovation and bring it to another level for Discovery? was the question that our presenters had asked themselves.
This year was to celebrate the “’national holiday” nature of Shark Week and it was rebranded “happy shark Week”. The company started a campaign against shark finning and partnered with the Georgia Aquarium with a live-stream from the aquarium.
Social Media Strategy
Social Media is all about communities added Gayle. So Discovery Communications didn’t have to invent anything but work with the influencers, the very enthusiastic people “who were doing [their] marketing for [them]”. Discovery Communications then went on a ton of monitoring in order to identify and engage with the right influencers. The week took place on August 6th, but they tried to make the event live throughout the year thanks to Social Media.
Digital PR managed to impact major online portals, and used street marketing with a building in DC with a Shark in it: People would stop and take pictures of the building and report on it. The presenters discovered some very active enthusiasts who would wear their tee-shirt and post tweets about that on Twitter. The focus was on Twitter. People were encouraged to create some videos on Youtube and post them by themselves, showing themselves in their “Shark Week” tee-shirts. They were offered to upload them to the Discovery Channel’s Shark Week Video Challenge YouTube channel.
There was no official Facebook page, but Discovery Channel was able to claim that page and set and official Shark Week page on Facebook. Video drove a lot of traffic online. The ‘adopt a shark’ campaign also enabled people to make donations.
The results were impressive
No wonder with such an impactful theme, but one has to admit that the numbers are really great: 14,000 online media and blog posts and #sharkweek was a worldwde Twitter trending topic the 1st day of Shark Week and there was over 91,000 Shark Week mentions between Aug 1-6 which resulted in 100 million potential impressions (Tweetreach.com). Somewhat facetiously, Amber mentioned “that the Radian 6 curve showing the traffic had the shape of a shark-fin!”
What worked according to the presenters was the complementarity of digital and real-life PR, the partnerships and the Twitter engagement. However, they had mixed results with the photo contest with only 28 photo entries, showing how hard it is to get people to cooperate. Facebook was a bit disappointing but the real issue is in what Amber added: “You don’t know what goes wrong, you could do everything right and still it wouldn’t work”.
One of the things that made it for that project is that the company culture at Discovery is very much geared towards innovation according to both presenters and that there is never any push-back on anything. “Everyone has been very supportive” they said, and Amber adds that, more broadly speaking, “everybody in the company should have a vested interest in Social Media” and all of them should help make things work.
What matters is that people collaborate
Gayle concluded with what I consider pearls of wisdom: “Social Media is nothing” she said, “what matters is that people collaborate and keeping things as open as possible”.
Major trends in the monitoring market: consolidation and transversal moves
The market has greatly evolved since 2006 and showed signs of maturity in the consolidation actions among various actors. Scoutlabs was bought out by Lithium Technologies, Sysomos by Marketwire. The bought-out companies were easy prey “at the moment of the explosion of social media with the desire of creating true groupings”.
That doesn’t just mean more consolidations, but also more transversal actions with integrations:
of social CRM (integration of client relations and social media, one of the most significant trends of 2010)
of the press (with press and social media domains becoming more and more intertwined: on the one hand press relations officers are trying to reach information producers that are not connected to the mass media, bloggers in particular, and especially using different methods to transform their press releases into social media releases)
Other actors, including early days French pioneer KBCrawl “have stayed in ‘tool’ mode and haven’t switched to SaaS dashboards” and are being overtaken by swifter players.
brands online reputation: 4 main profiles
I’ve kept the best part for now. 4 years of experience in the field have allowed Synthesio to depict the landscape of online brands in a particularly striking manner; Loic Moisand highlights 4 main types of brands (pictures in the following diagram):
1. “Under-the-radar” brands
These are the brands that…we don’t talk about, or at least not a lot. A little bit like those friends that you invite to a party that don’t show up. There is either no or very little buzz for these brands that are consequently put into a “PR intravenous drip” that could only with hope to revive interest in the brand. In this category we find a jumble of mass-produced products like dishwashing soap and some B2B brands. Here are nonetheless 2 examples of companies that managed to “break the mold” (the best way to revive interest in your brand) :
Blendtec with their famous WebTV series “Will it Blend?” that was present at the last MediaAces conference in Paris June 22, 2010 (http://france.media-aces.org)
“compare the Market”’s URL was too long and getting too many searches for “compare the meerkat”. Comparethemarket, a sort of “progressive.com” decided to create an online character making fun of people that were typing it wrong in order to create their own buzz.
Not only are there numerous B2B brands fitting into this category that haven’t been able to break the mold, “3/4 of brands fit into this category,” adds Loic Moisand.
Important sidenote : certain brands, depending on the country, their media, and culture, may be “under the radar” here and not somewhere else. The French insurance-comparing site meilleurtaux.com generated high levels of buzz in France but Comparethemarket, the UK equivalent ended up being less successful (hence the need to do things differently)
2. Functional brands
This is another brand category that doesn’t necessarily inspire deep passion but that can generate a large number of comments. It has to do with brands that “we just want to work, and that’s it”. These are the brands that don’t leave you indifferent, but don’t necessarily cry out for your attention, either. In these types of cases the buzz level is rather high, but focused around the product’s/service’s functions, price, the quality of customer service, etc with levels of dissatisfaction that are often quite elevated. This category includes : e-commerce sites, washing machines, household appliances, mass high-tech goods (except for Apple) and telecommunications operators. The response in this domain has been to have a community manager for their own sites (FAQ, tech support, answering questions) as well as on third-party forums to help web users with a proactive intervention (Orange has actually just taken this step).
3. Brands we love
This segment is – of course – brand nirvana. Unfortunately very few brands are able to be a part of this group, for sometimes irrational reasons. The brands that are able to attain this segment are brands from groups 1 and 2 that have “launched an emotional movement”. Apple, video games (Wii), Sony (only for certain products), Coke, and fashion brands are a few examples of “Brands we love”. They are brands that “take up all the space” and the ones that are always examples, which can almost become slightly irritating at times…They’re incredibly popular, and you can’t do anything about it. They are the brands that knew how to create “a relationship that is more imortant than the product” according to Bernard Cova.
Not everyone can get to this stage. It is full of clans of enthusiasts and brand advocates, where brands don’t need to “create communities” because they already exist, often on their own (Apple doesn’t have one blog and supposedly doesn’t intervene in social media other than to police what’s being said, which no one really seems to find surprising and hasn’t cut down on fan enthusiasm).
The best attitude to have for this group is to accompany communities : answer questions, inform fans, encourage them, occasionally give them gifts to thank them for their loyalty. Blogger clubs are also a phenomenon of this group, which can sometimes lead to large demands. Microsoft – in order to avoid always talking about Apple – organized the launche of Windows 7 at the end of 2009 in its Windows café. All interested bloggers were invited to get a very nice gift – their own complete version of Windows 7 on a DVD just for them. The brand decided not to get involved any further in blog discussions than that. It took a respectful approach of its community, which was the right attitude in this case.
4. Sensitive brands
These are brands that are “stressful” according to Loic Moisand’s terminology. The 3 sectors that are affected the most: health, safety, and children. People are scared in this segment, the brand can be scary, or becmoe a threat; the stress is real and “you have to reassure people”. It’s the only thing that can be done. Admitting you were wrong and showing that you are correcting the problem, even if, when opinion is against you, the attempt is bound to fail. Becoming a “sensitive brand” means risking becoming a disgraced brand. Certain brands will forever be in this category, like pharmaceuticals for example (without exception according to Loic Moisand); but there are other brands that switch from other segments to this danger zone :
banks, since the 2007 crisis, have become scapegoats for the economic problems in the West if you believe their detractors, to the point of having lost sight of their essential economic functions (see the example of Kerviel here)
BP, that has now become a symbol – according to their detractors – for the environmental problems like Total in France after Erika – justified or not
chronically : users with worries – based on facts or not (not up to us to decide) – about electromagnetic waves from WiFi connections, Wimax, telephones, etc (here’s a link towards a show with Etienne Cendrier from the site robin des toits)
food brands criticized for their choice of ingredients or their methods, like Nestlé, for example, that became a Greenpeace target in 2010 for their use of palm oil in chocolate products
A dynamic brand classification
A brand can pass from one segment to another at any moment. Apple did, for example, when a rumor about exploding iPhones spread in 2009, as did Renault with rumors of stuck Vel Saltis gas pedals (2005-2006), and Toyta in 2010 with with their own technical problems, even if the rumors usually disappeared along with the crisis.
I find this classification to be particularly useful as it presents us with a point of view that is different from the classic clichés heard on the web about brands. It also allows for web and PR directors to take a step back in order to decide which direction is the best for their brand.
sidenote: this is an empirical classification and is not a result of a scientific study. It may evolve over time depending on the country and brand’s history. The opinions expressed here about certain brands are the personal opinions of the author and do not reflect a proof of good or bad quality of these brands whatsoever.
Time and time again, I have heard people say that b2c is better suited to social media than b2b. As a matter of fact, I am not at all sure about that. The fact that there are fewer b2b brands jumping on the bandwagon is probably more due to the maturity of that sector than the fact that the medium is not adapted to b2b.
Indeed, if one wants social media to have an impact, one needs to foster collaboration and create communities, which is generally done through 3 main things: passion, mutual help and common benefit. These 3 common ingredients of collaboration and social media are in fact very commonplace in the b2b arena; communities are often smaller, more specialised, but also very focused on their abilities to deliver and
illustration & maps by Mongabay.com
always ready to debate on technical points, points of view etc.
Besides, business to business is far less exposed than consumer marketing. In the recent Nestlé example, in which the Swiss firm has not quite been able to appraise the situation and deliver appropriate responses, online fighting with Greenpeace and other activists on social network is an unfair battle for b2c brands. The leeway that brands have in such cases to defend themselves is not very significant – and the case made by Greenpeace is a bit overwhelming too (see maps on the right hand side, courtesy of mongabay.com). Indeed, Nestlé uses Palm oil, which is both an issue from an ecological and dietary point of view, granted; but all mass producers of foodstuffs use palm oil because it’s cheaper and plentiful (now we know why). When activists target a company like this one, the result can be terrible, even though I am not at all certain that Facebook will have the best of Nestlé, the effect on brand equity is still very bad at the very least. At the end of the day, the Swiss manufacturer has yielded to pressure, but instead of turning this into a customer benefit, it’s more a matter of acknowledging their “mistake” and trying to catch up with the criticisms.
As far as b2b is concerned, there is less resentment, clients are more prone to negotiate than complain online, and they also know that when complaints are voiced too crudely online, it’s not always good for your own – and your company’s – reputation either. Besides, in b2b it is also easier for clients to make their points directly to sales and/or marketing. I have heard example in the United States of software vendors (I cannot quote brands) having problems with former employees who avenged themselves by becoming trolls (that is to say online detractors on forums ands social media), but in general the b2b environment is more straight-laced and more likely to trigger responsible discussions.
One may argue that you might get fewer comments on b2b social media and blogs in particular (at Orange Business Services we got 1,500 in 2009 only, so it’s not too bad in fact) but when we get some they are a lot better and more interesting than most of the comments that you get in b2c. Most of the time, they are passionate discussions about in-depth subjects, including complex points of views and explanations. How complex can you get on a consumer product? Usually, it doesn’t get very far or it gets round in circle. In b2b, co-creation and co-innovation is already old-hat, so why not use the Internet to pursue the discussion online?
Such discussions and comments enable one to improve one’s products (it happened to us 4 times in 2009), and it can even help us improve our knowledge when an Internet reader remarks on one of our articles, corrects our mistakes and helps us improve our points of view and visions. A little counter intuitively, I would even venture to say that b2b is the future of social media, because it is b2b brands which can actually most benefit from the use of these tools. We established the proof of this with our @orangebusiness twitter account by placing our brand in the top 10 French brands on Twitter, right behind worldwide renowned brands like Louis Vuitton or Yves Saint Laurent (source: [Fr]01 informatique, May 2010) and even above Air France. Yet, being popular on the web with a brand like Air France is a lot easier when you think about it, the competition should even be unfair. No, it is unfair; but such is the passion triggered by what we did collectively that we are on the verge of building what is the nirvana of social marketing: a community (Air France already has one, it was created by one of their fans but it’s hard to admit that you have to relinquish the responsibility for your brand even though this is the right thing to do when a community already exists).
Lastly, it is difficult for a b2b firm to do traditional advertising and namely TV commercials. Often, budgets are tight and TV commercials require vast amounts of money while delivering sometimes variable results. Into the bargain, most b2b players are reluctant to spread the word about niche products on popular TVs networks. Social media, on the contrary, proves an efficient and economical way to market b2b products: in other words, Nestlé less needs Facebook than we need Twitter (mark my word, I didn’t write does not need Facebook).
B2b is really well suited to social media even though this is not what you will find on the headlines because its subjects are more technical and — if taken at face value — less pertinent for consumers. But at the end of the day, this is also what keeps trolls at bay!
And this is also why a lot of b2b marketing budgets are dormant due to the lack of new ideas whereas so much can be done.
On Nov 10, 2009 I had both the opportunity and pleasure to present our business case to a crowd gathering some of the most advanced experts in Social Media in Atlanta. Per below is the slideshare presentation in Creative Commons format (download is made available to all).
Below is the contribution which I sent to the council on behalf of Orange Business Services.
social media: beyond the ROI issue
With the advent of the Internet since the middle of the 1990s, users have become used to not only getting what they want online, but also to being able to participate and interact with each other. 15 years later, the widespread use of the Internet as a source of information and also a place where users can help each other and solve each other’s problems has changed the face of commerce, of organizations, and even relationships within the hierarchy. In view of these changes which have permeated every section of the outside world, enterprise communications must get to grips with the benefit from the great potential which is made available by the use of social media. The power of the Internet to connect people and get them to interact can not only be used internally, but also outwardly and ultimately with one’s customers to begin conversations in a brand new way. The expected results can extend way beyond the mere ROI issue. This is what we have experienced at Orange Business Services with our 2008 Security Blog initiative.
Rejoice ye visionary readers, rejoice! The tide of marketing is turning at last. After more than 13 years of battling against autistic — and largely inefficient — old world marketing techniques and visions, we are now witnessing a few cracks in the ice of top-down marketing strategy. Firstly, Regis Mc Kenna and Geoffrey Moore introduced new ways of dealing with clients mainly in the IT world at the end of the 1980s and the beginning of the 1990s. The approach was no longer demographic but behavioural. Secondly, European researchers Badot & Cova wrote their ground-breaking opus entitled “neo-marketing[Fr]” in 1992 (many were to follow) introducing so-called “societal” approaches to marketing and even suggesting we use the term “societing [En]” instead of marketing. (Wasn’t that visionary? Bernard Cova now teaches mostly at the prestigious Bocconi school in Milan, and I’ve also had the pleasure of becoming friends with him in the meantime).
The end of the 1990s were the founding years of — not only of the Internet but — the revision of marketing as we know it. Seth Godin taught us that ideas are viruses — and so are products and services — hence the newer and more pervasive notions of Buzz marketing. He also re-educated us (yes, I insist, really re-educated) in order to ask permission from our clients to do business with them. Not only was that the early sign that e-mail marketing had to be done differently, but it also sent a clear warning sign to mass marketers that business habits had to change in view of evolving consumer behaviours. 1999 was the kick-off year for the much revered Clue-train manifesto, a source which is still quoted today as the reference for online marketing. And more recently, Tara Hunt has developed and notion of Pinko marketing, a rather weird and politically orientated way of putting that communication power is handed over to the people. Yet, this is very effective when it comes to getting the message across. Even more recently, François Laurent published a new book entitled marketing 2.0[Fr]. Marketing 2.0 is in fact the sequel to his influential blog: marketing is dead[Fr], but what is really striking is that François — a former marketer at European ex-consumer electronics manufacturer Thomson — is more widely known as the president of one of the two French associations of marketing, Adetem. Lastly Alain Thys is adding to the bargain by expostulating in his excellent marketing accountability presentation that marketing is not only dead but that it committed suicide in front of its shareholders, clients and even the earth! Nothing less.
No doubt this time, things are moving ahead, even though the proportion of UGC is still low, there is an underlying trend of change, and this is not coming back to what it was before. So as it is becoming more and more obvious to all that markets really are conversations there is this requirement for a growng number of enterprises to quickly be in sync with this evolution and gear up to community marketing
And then there is Forrester research VP and Principal Analyst Laura Ramos, with whom I had the benefit of being acquainted a few days ago, as we were exchanging on the subject. In May 2007, Laura (see links to some of the most recent and most relevant articles) had a story entitled: “B2B marketers fail the community marketing test“. Her conclusions are clear-cut and uncompromising. To sum them up in a few words:
marketing needs to change in the light of evolving behaviour and rising power of clients (is not only consumers guys, we are talking b2b here!)
top-down and patronising, self-centred, at marketing messages and must be adapted to reflect these changes. A new tone of voice must be adopted.
current marketers are doing a pretty bad job at tying the knot with their clients and — to put it in the words of the blue train manifesto — engaging in conversations with them.