Brian Solis' Engage is Bloated, Boring, and Not Worth Your Time

This is a positive blog and I don't take cheap shots. But when I find a book so disjointed and frankly unusable, I have to mention it.

A lot of people love Brian Solis and I'm sure he's a good guy (this isn't personal). But that makes his recent book, Engage: The Complete Guide for Brands and Businesses to Build, Cultive, and Measure Success in the New Web (whew!), all the more disappointing.

Engage reads like a few reheated blog posts tied together with twine and gum. Here are a few reasons I don't recommend it:

  • We've heard it all before: I could insulate a house with each book that's been written as a social media primer. Solis offers only rote, near-impossibly-simplistic suggestions in the intro, manifesto, social media 101, 201, 202, 203, 203... Well, there's a lot you've heard before.
  • We've heard it all again. And again: Repetition is useful if ideas build on each other. Solis has few (if any) ideas that build on each other. (Just skip part 3 altogether.)
  • Shotgun, not sniper rifle: This is the most untargeted book I have read on marketing. There's no real audience. This book includes reams of information to the n00b and expert alike, but in such close proximity as to be confusing to both groups. Solis doesn't identify a target and hit it; he loads up with buckshot and prays to hit something.
  • Doesn't add value: There's just very, very little here that is useful to you in any way. For instance, chapter 20 - the "Human Network" chapter - merely collects lists of marketing frameworks without Solis explaining their relevance or reason for inclusion. We hear about McCarthy and Kotler's 4 Ps. Lauterborn's 4 Cs. Shimizu's 7Cs. Heuer's 4Cs of a social operating system. Armano's 4Cs of community. Mishra's 4 Cs of social media. Not to be outdone, Solis ends the chapter with his own 12 Cs of community cultivation. Why? What's the connection? We'll never know.
  • Unusable: Solis provides prisms and compasses and all sorts of visuals. These visuals have tiny elements that make them look well-researched. And while he sometimes gives an outline (chapter 21), there is little explanation of how the heck you can use these poorly-copied visuals. Unlike other books, Engage doesn't appear concerned with being usable.

The Good Stuff

That's not to say there is nothing good about this book. The hidden gems are certainly hidden, but they are there.

If you do read Engage, here are the pieces not to miss: socially-based business (pg. 106), importance of syndication (pg. 114), targeted landing pages (pg. 123), listening (pg. 209), and conversation audits (pg. 222-223). Sure, you have to dig for them, but they are good.

For Reals

Let's be straight: Solis makes way more money than me, people seem to love his advice, and he travels around the world to promote his books. Check out his Amazon and Barnes & Noble reviews - barely a critical word amongst them.

Maybe I'm the only one. Does my cheese stand alone? Or has no one had the balls to mention that the emperor has no clothes?

I'm not trying to start a fight or make this personal - but I truly do not understand the appeal. Engage is a dense, disappointing, unenjoyable slog through the new media landscape. Just avoid it.

Feel free to explain it to me or just tell me how wrong I am in the comments section below.

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Crowdsourcing Is Not A Viable Business Model And Here's Why

Crowdsourcing is to 2009 as Twitter was to 2008. It was the sparkly object that many assumed was the second coming.

I'm a little sick of it, to be honest.

Don't get me wrong - I'm all for innovation. But I'm not for innovation without strategy, without a vision that goes past the next few month. Crowdsourcing is the fool's gold of internet business models.

This ire has been building, but is partially due to reading Rick Liebling's new e-book Everyone Is Illuminated. Rick has been doing some brave thinking about crowdsourcing and I applaud his effort with this e-book. It's other experts I take issue with.

Which experts am I talking about? The ones who claim that crowdsourcing will replace agencies. Those who think you get better ideas from the crowd than individuals who study this process everyday. If that's you - you're in my sights.

This is all to support Rick's point that crowdsourcing is a means, but not as an end in itself. That gem of an insight is a hard truth proven by what has worked...and what hasn't worked.

What Could Work?

As far as I can tell, there are two things that crowdsourcing does correctly, which Wil Merritt, CEO of Zooppa describes on slide 30:

  1. High levels of consumer brand engagement
  2. Insights that brand communications generate

Well, that's true if everyone keeps participating. Sweepstakes have a long history of success, but those usually require 10 seconds of thought - not the hours required for most advertising/marketing efforts. For every winner, you produce thousands of losers who just wasted their time. Not exactly inspiring.

(These two benefits are likely preaching to the choir and the insights are from a small vocal minority, but whatever...)

But OK, let's assume these are true. I will give you those two points. Now let's look at what crowdsourcing doesn't do.

What Definitely DOESN'T Work

It may have been said before, but let's review what crowdsourcing definitely can't do for you:

  • Brand strategy - The insight and planning that lead to long-term success.
  • Integrated campaigns - Want your campaign to work across print, TV, and web?
  • Production - For all the hype about things being easier to produce these days (and they are), can your crowdsourced winner write, design, and use motion tools? Doubtful.
  • Measurement - Who is pulling your data and analyzing it? Not the crowd.

These are just a few..."pain points." But it's a tough reality for the most optimistic of a very idealistic people. Idealistic to a fault, in my opinion. Take this quote from Zooppas' Merritt again:

"Today CMOs like to claim that the true owners of their brands are customers [True]. If they truly believe this what could be better than to allow customers to create their own messaging about the brands they own and love, and to enable them to share enthusiastically these messages with their friends and family."

OK, there are two things here.

For one, no one's trying to stop anyone from sharing messages. In fact, social media strategy is all about getting others to share your message. That's not revolutionary.

Secondly, what kind of logic is this? I believe my teeth to be my own; that doesn't mean I should give myself a root canal! I'll leave that to the experts.

WHY Won't This Work

Should agencies be concerned the crowd will steal their jobs? In short: no.

  • The Work (Usually) Sucks: Rick is totally correct when he says, "I don't think crowdsourcing creative content is going to raise the value, and therefore fees, of creative work." Doritos might get lucky once, but after that commercial airs, so what?
  • The "Pay" Sucks: John Winsor, CEO Victors & Spoils, had this to say about a crowdsourcing price model: "Get more, pay less" (slide 6). That's more of your work, while paying less money to you. Sound awesome, right?
  • The "Side Pay" Sucks: Rick points out that this is more of a zero-sum game - like Highlander, there can be only one (winner). It's not like the World Series of Poker where pros eliminated early could make money off other marks.
  • The Lack of Perspective Sucks: Evan Fry, also of Victors & Spoils, tells the story of Steve Jobs' horrendous iMac name which a long-term agency partner was able to dissuade him from using (slide 20). You don't get that brand strategy perspective from the crowd.
  • The Brand Guidance Sucks: Spike Jones speaks some truth (slide 24):

"So you REALLY want to base your entire brand...on creative that is pinned to a two-sentence description of what you're looking for? By a bunch of people that want to make a quick buck?...Now do you really think that you are going to get anything of value?"

Means, Not Ends

All due respect to Rick, but I think he buries the lead in this ebook (as have I...duly noted). The real key insight here - and I haven't heard this from others - is that crowdsourcing is a tactic, but not a viable business model.

Rick states it succinctly (slide 44): "But I fear that many brands are using crowdsourcing not as a means, but as the ends."

That's the key idea. Sure, get the crowd involved; solicit their opinions. That will provide the engagement and insight.

But handing over the keys to your brand and letting the crowd control it? No way.

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Does Your Social Media Strategy Need A Zen Alarm Clock?

I'm a terrible sleeper.

No, scratch that - I'm a terrible waker-uper.

I set at least two alarms - one placed clear across the bedroom - and hit snooze enough times to wake and enrage BG (rightfully so). While I used to be disciplined enough to rise at 4:45am to write, I'm not disciplined enough to get up at 6am to even go to the gym.

That is, until I got a zen alarm clock (if you've never heard of this, you're not alone. This is one type we've got.)

This morning, progressive bells gently roused me from sleep instead of the heart-palpitation-inducing air raid siren alarms of the past. Slow and steady chimes was the order of the day and damned if it didn't work. I was up and out the door quicker than ever.

What does this have to do with your social media strategy?

I see so many people rush into things. They're scared - "We don't have a Twitter!" - and with a sudden burst they emerge on the scene. They follow 2,000 Twitterers or flood a blog with 20 posts in a week. And what inevitably happens?

They sputter out. They podfade. They don't garner followers or readers or friends.

Is your social media strategy the equivalent of an air raid siren alarm? Is it sudden, panicked, and rushed? These are not qualities of good strategy.

Instead, try a slow, reasoned approach to social media. Develop your tribe over time. Find an audience organically. Give before you get.

Try the zen alarm clock approach to your social media strategy. I can't guarantee you'll succeed, but you will definitely do better (and get more out of it personally) with this approach.

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Smart Gifts For Smart Marketers

Train Reading1

I love this time of year. It's the season when people slow down, plan, and re-focus on their goals. I do it. You do it.

For smart marketers, a great way to stay up to date is through the very best information (makes sense, right?). So here are some of the books that I've found most helpful, most insightful, and the best guides for marketing in the coming years.

You can purchase items I recommend at the OnlineMarketerBlog store, including Kindles and books like these that I reviewed in 2009:

  • - Mitch Joel's Six Pixels of Separation In my mind, this is the first post-web 2.0 book and a must-read for savvy online marketers.
  • - Paul Gillin's Secrets of Social Media Marketing This is a great book to take your online marketing to the next level. However, newbies might be frustrated by the scope of experience needed to fully understand all of the lessons in this book. That said, this is great for those generally familiar with online marketing tools.
  • - Goldstein, Martin, and Cialdini's Yes! 50 Scientifically Proven Ways To Be Persuasive This is a book every marketer should revisit every couple of years. If you want to convince people - and who doesn't? - you should read this book.
  • - David Meerman Scott's World Wide Rave The perfect primer for business in a web 2.0 world. It offers a great entry point for new marketers and fresh ideas for more familiar readers.
  • - Scott Fox's e-Riches 2.0 This is a must-read for anyone dipping a toe in the online marketing world. It details everything one could hope to know and offers an in-depth look at the tools and philosophy behind today's online marketing. A little more basic than World Wide Rave, but a great primer.
  • - Hunter and Waddell's Toy Box Leadership This book is a good reminder of how to lead, without taking too heavy a tone. For the ambitious and parents, especially.

I spend over 500 hours per year writing this blog. And even more time reading and researching the material that goes into it. A lot of that material comes from books like these.

Marketers can gain the smarts and skills needed for success through books like these. But like Lavar Burton says, "Don't take my word for it." Try out some of these books, or others I've discussed on the blog, and let everyone know what you think of them in the comments section below.

You can read full reviews for all of these books on the Book Reviews page. Plus, my reviews from last holiday season might give you some more ideas as well.

(The links used above are affiliate links which means I get a small referral fee from Amazon if you purchase them from this page. This does not raise the price for you and it's a nice way to show appreciation if you enjoy this blog. Thanks!)

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Why The New Creativity Changes Everything And Will Punch You In The Face

Sad Businessman

If you’re a marketer in love with the status quo, you should quit right now.

This isn’t a post about the fast pace of change or an “X is dead” post; rather, it’s an “I friggin’ love our business and evolution of marketing” post. Yeah, I said friggin’.

Fundamental business models are changing – you can see it everyday. We hear news all the time about another sacred cow being slaughtered (newspapers – Moo!).

But not everyone is losing money. Why?

Innovative businesses are using what Joseph Jaffe dubbed “the new creativity” to reach and connect with a new generation of consumers. It’s simple to understand, an art to produce, a feat when accomplished, and willfully ignored by most businesspeople.

This Blog Post Brought To You By…

In the old days, businesses bankrolled the creative process (“Welcome to Guiding Light, brought to you by Dove Soap”). Businesses placed their ads against creative work to cover the cost. Those 2 minute bathroom commercial breaks are the reason you could watch “Everybody Loves Raymond” for free (lucky you).

Other models came about, notably the subscription model, which offered the convenience of delivery by trading money up front and in advance.

The early days of the internet brought us contextual ads. Glory upon glory, we could now (sorta) sync up ads with the actual content. Sure, it’s awkward when McDonald’s ads show up against stories about childhood obesity, but whatevs.

Web 2.0 botched it all up though. People ignored or rebelled against ads in their social spaces. Impressions plummeted in value. The general public (hell, you and me) got used to free content online and no RIAA or anyone else would tell them different.

What Is The New Creativity?

Last week, I serendipitously caught up with back episodes of The Beancast and saw a new study released by eMarketer.

In episode #76 of The Beancast, Joseph Jaffe described “The New Creativity:”

“I don’t know how much originality is in the idea itself, but it’s in the execution where you see the real beauty of it. And ultimately that control and that power – and to what degree it becomes a meme and to what degree it lives on and gets a life of its own and gets embraced by the consumer – is ultimately in the hands of the consumer.

And maybe that can become the new definition of creativity.” (minutes 37-38)

The old creativity required advertisers and marketers to create something interesting enough (or loud enough) that would effectively interrupt the user’s day so that they’d pay attention to it. It’s a one-way street. And kinda inherently douche-y.

But the new creativity is a little different. Advertisers and marketers are encouraged to tell a compelling enough story to entice the user to tell their friends about your product. Plus, the marketer often gets the benefit of instant feedback from the user about their pitch/story/content.

It looks roughly like this terrible sketch:

Biz models 1

As you can plainly see, the old way involved a lot of yelling marketers and irritated consumers. (See those lines coming off the consumer? In the biz, we call those "irritation lines." They're usually accompanied by a "Grrrr!" sound.) With the new creativity, communication goes both ways between a marketer and consumer, and between a consumer and their friends. (Many thanks to Jonny, our 5-year-old neighbor for contributing this work of art.)

The Results

We see this everywhere.

We can see evidence of this in the obsession with (and success of) social media marketing, the decline of direct marketing, the spread of viral – it’s everything we used to do, but now the more profitable interaction is between friends (rather than between marketer and user).

The tools – and it’s important to remember that these shiny objects like Twitter, Flickr, delicious, etc – are just that: tools. Now, they can amplify each person’s voice. Blogs allow a personal publishing platform never conceived of in all human history. Influencers arise, the same way they do in your social circles. The only difference is that the bullhorn these influencers use is a hell of lot bigger.

And when the important (read: profitable) interaction is between friends, the old business models don’t work as well. Would you mindlessly slap an ad on the Starbucks table while sharing a cup of joe with a friend? Would you insist that friends “subscribe” to your future conversations?

Of course not. It’s weird. It’s anti-social. And it’s not working. (Cue marketer panic from recent years.)

That's why marketers in love with the status quo should quit right now. If you're not ready for it, the new creativity will punch you in the face.

Um, So Like…What Do We Do?

So while some Luddites continue to completely block content with a firewall and a few lucky ones have made a subscription model profitable (I’m looking at you, WSJ), most are waking up to the new world.

It’s time we look at another business model. Tout de suite.

But I’m going to make you wait for it (it’s OK, it’ll build tension and that’s fun). Later this week, I will suggest a business model that is showing great potential to marketers…especially those embracing new social networking tools (that's the eMarketer study I mentioned). Plus, I will apply this to a business desperately in need of a new path. Hopefully that application - the execution of an idea that gives power to the consumer - will be enlightening.

Please come back for that post (subscribing is uber-easy). And please leave comments below about the new creativity. Is it bitchin’ or bogus?

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Join Me At The MarketingProfs Digital Marketing Mixer in Chicago, October 21-22, 2009

The MarketingProfs Digital Marketing Mixer is being held next week, Wednesday and Thursday, October 21-22, 2009, and I hope you can join me there.

I will be at the conference on Wednesday, October 21, and I hope to meet as many of you as possible. The program looks terrific and even if you can't make the event, there is a free happy hour on Wednesday evening from 5-7pm.

I hope you introduce yourself to me - there will be a lot of great marketers there and we should all take advantage of it. See you in Chicago!

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7 Reasons To Stick With Agency Smarts Rather Than The Wisdom Of Crowds

Baby in bath

I was catching up with my Beancast podcasts yesterday morning at the gym and found episode 71 to be a real gem.

In this podcast, there is a fascinating story about Unilever's brand Peperami forsaking their agency in favor of a crowd-sourcing/consumer-generated content method (found around minute 53 of the podcast).

As this blog is a celebration of new media and consumer control of brands, you might think I'd laud this as a great move. Surprisingly, you'd be dead wrong.

Before I launch into why I think this is a bad decision, let's get a couple of assumptions down:

  • Yes, I work at an agency. But please presume that I am able to take an unbiased view of this story as (I like to think) I do of anything else I write about here.
  • I don't know anything about Peperami's agency, Lowe. They could have been doing a dismal job, but that's immaterial. The issue of this post is whether the wisdom of crowds (hat tip to James Surowiecki) is better than an online marketing agency.

On the Beancast, the guests discuss how Lowe, the agency in question, created the "Animal" campaign for Peperami which was terribly successful. But, once the campaign was up and running, Peperami felt that the agency was no longer necessary.

Crowdsourcing is really cheap while agencies can be expensive. Crowdsourcing is in; traditional advertising/marketing agencies are hurting.

So why in the world is it smarter to stick with an agency rather than outsourcing your marketing needs to the community?

Just like stage-diving, it's sometimes stupid to trust the crowd. Here are 7 reasons to stick with your agency rather than crowdsourcing your marketing.

  1. Repeatability - Your agency gave you the big idea - You've Got Milk, you'll Just Do It, you're Living Strong. What happens when you wake up the morning after that idea has gone stale? Where does the next big idea come from? Who knows the history of your brand? A 15-year-old with Photoshop? Good luck.
  2. Scalability - As in the Peperami example, let's assume a campaign is already established. What happens when it explodes on a global, rather than just national, stage? Are your servers prepared? Can you translate it? How many banner ads can you create per hour? How many consumers can you help? If your agency's ideas are as good as they should be, consider who manages these tasks when they're gone.
  3. Staffing - Speaking of help, who is doing the day to day work after you fire your agency? It isn't the crowd, believe me. Can you hire developers, designers, copywriters, and anyone else you need, all at a moment's notice? Agencies have experts like these ready whenever you need them. You...don't. (Not to mention needing someone managing the brilliant crowdsourcing experiment too.)

    Consider the Ajira Airways site. This airline doesn't exist - it was created solely as an immersive experience for rabid LOST fans, courtesy of ABC (only noticeable in the footer). That unique experience is simply impossible for a guy in his basement to create while aligning this creativity with business objectives.

  4. The Ruse of Savings - Bill Green, Publisher of Make The Logo Bigger, added this insightful comment on the podcast:

    "It's not that they [clients who drop agencies in favor of crowdsourcing] want better ideas. They want cheaper [ideas].

    Creative has always been the lowest priced - when you're doing TV, they're going to make their money on the TV end of it and the production end of it. You can't tell me that they aren't still going to have to go out and get a production house and buy the media. None of those elements are going to discount their price.

    They're not saving anything by doing [crowdsourcing]. I find it ridiculous to say that 'We'll go out and find a couple of kids just out of art school to come up with our ad campaign.'" (minute 104)

  5. Accountability - If you work for a public company, you probably need to clear this decision with someone. At the highest levels, that's the stockholders. Are you prepared to tell them that your marketing budget (though reduced) is now being funneled to a retiree who won your crowdsourcing campaign? Plus, if it goes sour, you just replaced your agency's head on the chopping block with yours. Have fun with that.
  6. Safety - The agency I worked for previously dealt only in online marketing for rare or orphan diseases. The writers and designers on staff had the experience to keep the clients from any trouble with the FDA or other regulatory bodies. The client often didn't realize this. Like a lot of other good pharma-familiar agencies, it was just a value-add. There are companies in many industries that need this kind of guidance from their agencies.
  7. Decency - OK, this is just my opinion, but I certainly would not work for a client who made such an illogical, but hugely impactful, decision. To make a move to a new, better agency I can understand, but thinking you can handle it all requires such hubris that I'd be hesitant to deal with that company. Ever. If other marketing folks are like me, you'd better pray that this crowdsourcing experiment works out.

Maybe Peperami believed the social media pendulum had swung far further than it has. By that, I mean the strength of the consumer in regards to ownership of the brand.

Wise up. From Mitch Joel:

"The idea that the consumer is now not in control is anathema to what most people think. The general drum-beating is that the consumer is in control, not the company. But it's not true." (page 94)

Someone still needs to guide the strategy. Someone needs to come up with the big ideas, the tag lines that seem so easy your mother-in-law could create them (but somehow, she never does). Someone needs to stay up to date with emerging trends, new technology, and the ever-evolving world of media.

Is that you?

If you're in charge of a big brand, or can't do it all no matter your size, perhaps you'd better take another look at your agency. Maybe it's not the right one for you. Great, change up - it happens all the time.

But throwing the agency baby out with the marketing bathwater - that's just crazy talk.

What do you think? We would love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below.

P.S.: Brian Sheehan has some good comments about collaboration regarding this story.

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Mitch Joel's Six Pixels Of Separation: The First Post-Web 2.0 Marketing Book And Why You Should Buy It

MitchJoel

I attest that Mitch Joel's new book, Six Pixels of Separation, is the first (and best) post-web 2.0 marketing book.

Strong statement? Damn right.

Here's why I believe it and why you can't miss his book.

In A Nutshell...

For my money, Joel's is the first new media marketing book that assumes knowledge of the basic moving parts and launches right into how to use them for business. This book really is about how to market in a new age.

Most web 2.0 marketing books explain the basics (what is a blog/delicious/Twitter, etc), give examples (i.e. Zappos, ComcastCares, Amazon, etc.), and suggest you connect the theory and those examples in your own business.

And that's OK. There is plenty of room for books like that. (I recommend Scott Fox's e-Riches 2.0 or Chris Brogan and Julien Smith's Trust Agents).

These books help a lot of people and that's great. But there hasn't been a serious web 2.0 marketing book that went far beyond it.

Until now.

Why Is This Book So Great?

So why should you spend your hard-earned money on this book? Here are a few reasons.

First, Joel gives you the tough medicine you need to hear. It's not always easy or expected, but you're in the advanced class now, buddy.

I love the against-the-grain statements you get with Joel that throw the new conventional wisdom on its head. Gems include:

  • "The general drum-beating is that the consumer is in control, not the company. But it's not true." (page 94)
  • "The assumption here is that whatever it takes to get your message through all of the clutter is fine, as long as you disclose and are transparent about your intent. But that simply is not the case." (page 172)
  • "Until now, you may be thinking that everything we've talked about is about getting you and your business online. It's not. Getting online is easy." (page 187)
  • "[B]eing wrong suddenly becomes a powerful entrepreneurial force." (page 209)
  • "Let people steal your ideas." (page 213)

If those quotes don't pique your interest, you can stop reading now. Close this window and come back when I've got something better for you.

But I think it's more likely that thinking like this is interesting to most of you. It's not the normal stuff about community and the blogosphere and kumbaya crap. It's tough minded and it's about your business.

Another thing that is great about Six Pixels of Separation is that it lives up to the values espoused within it. Trust is a seminal aspect of web 2.0 and the future of business. But trust is rarely spoken about overtly (see pages 34, 123, and 125 for explicit mentions of trust).

Trust is less a topic point or chapter subject, but rather more of a moral to the story. And the book itself builds trust by building a case, point by point.

The Trouble With Link Bait

Is this a perfect book? Of course not.

I was particularly confused by his section on link bait (page 170-2). It was confusing and clunky. The section lacked a clear definition and I couldn't even tell exactly what he thought about link bait, much less his definition of it.

Having been on the receiving end of this topic before, I expected a refinement that was missing here.

But honestly, missteps like this are small potatoes in a book that is otherwise fantastic.

One Final Note As A Writer

I read a lot of marketing books. No really, like A LOT. (This is a small sample from just the last couple years.)

And no matter how good the author, new releases always contain at least a few typos. It's to be expected.

But this book has none! ZERO. This might not be a big deal to you, but to the writers out there, you know how cool that is.

The Final Word

If you know the basics, but want to be challenged, I wholeheartedly recommend Six Pixels of Separation. If not, this isn't the book for you.

If you agree or disagree, I'd love to hear your comments below.

P.S.: This book is available for the Kindle as well and you'll save a couple bucks. (Plus, Kindles are only $299. Just sayin'...)

P.P.S.: If you enjoyed this review, you might also like my recent reviews of other marketing books.

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10 Recession Marketing Myths De-Bunked

Optimism

I recently posted my top 10 marketing myths that deserve to be de-bunked, especially in this economic climate. You can read the full posts at Experience Matters and iMediaConnection's blog.

Marketing during the recession is a terribly important topic for me - so much so that I wrote an e-book on the subject. I'd be honored if you read it today during lunch or on your commute (there's no cost, of course).

I'm so passionate about this topic because I think we are in a time of great opportunity. It's easy to get depressed or pessimistic or cynical. It seems like everything on TV or elsewhere in the media is all doom and gloom.

It doesn't have to be this way. I truly believe that this is the perfect time for you to break out of your mold. Differentiate yourself from your competitors. Do the tough work that will allow you to burst out of the gate once money starts flowing again.

Try Angie's List Today!

Here are a few of my favorite myths in need of a good de-bunking:

2. I'm Afraid. How is this a marketing myth? Think of everything you hear around the office that translates into "I'm afraid."

  • "Has the boss seen this?"
  • "Nobody's done that before."
  • "It's risky."

A lot of businesspeople hunker down during a recession, hoping they can just ride it out without creating too many problems. That's actually more risky (and scary).

It's OK to be afraid of new marketing tactics, but it's not OK to allow that fear to stop you from taking risks. As General Eric Shinseki said: "If you don't like change, you're going to like irrelevance even less."

5. I'd be better off letting my competitors try [insert new marketing initiative] first. Then I can learn from their mistakes.

What you consider mistakes are actually learning opportunities. Sure, some missteps are more seriously, but consider the experience your opponent is gaining while you sit on the digital sidelines.

Expert commentary from Sun Tzu's The Art of War explains the importance of being ahead of your opponent:

"Once war is declared, [the leader] will not waste precious time...with all great strategists, from Julius Caesar to Napoleon Bonaparte, the value of time - that is, being a little ahead of your opponent - has counted for more than either numerical superiority or the nicest calculations with regard to commissariat."

Being first allows you to build up what Len Kendall describes as a sort of "giving storehouse." His "Give/Take Ratio" post illustrates that subsequent market competitors will have to work much, much harder to earn trust than the early adopter.

8. We don't have anything to share with our customers. Besides, they don't want to talk to us, anyway.

This is sometimes true. Not many people want to chat up the guy who makes their ball bearings.

But there are a lot more brands people want to interact with that aren't making an effort yet. So what do you have to offer?

First, you've got access. If customers are interested in your product, it's likely they would want to take a peek behind the curtain.

Second, you've got an experienced workforce with highly specialized knowledge. Employees frequently have the potential to be amazing brand representatives, given the proper encouragement.

You can find all 10 marketing myths de-bunked at Experience Matters and iMediaConnection's blog. Feel free to leave a comment about any of the myths or list another you'd like to see de-bunked.

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5 Under-The-Radar Marketing Bloggers You Should Read

Smiling

It's useful to follow the big dogs of marketing - the Brogans, the Jaffes, the Godins. But there are a lot of young bloggers with some great ideas about marketing in a web 2.0 world.

These marketers might not be well known (yet) but they will be soon. I wanted to share some of the very best of these under-the-radar marketing bloggers.

  • David Mullen - David's blog is called Communications Catalyst and he tweets at @dmullen. David provides consistent insights with just enough personality to make you feel like you know him.
  • Ryan Stephens - I was first introduced to Ryan with his excellent Six Principles of Influence to Increase Your Sales. With over 6K Twitter followers, Ryan is trusted by many to provide the goods.
  • Try Angie's List Today!

  • Lauren Fernandez - Lauren is the type of blogger you feel guilty for not linking too more. Her blogging is prolific, to say the least (but always true quality), and her tweets show her personality's sparkle. You can really tell the difference of someone fully immersed in PR 2.0 as a natural.
  • Len Kendall - Len and I used to be co-workers (hell, I knew him before I even got the job) and I've always been impressed with his insights. He's a day-in, day-out kind of guy, always bringing the goods on ConstructiveGrumpiness and on Twitter.
  • Jacqueline Wechsler - The author of two blogs - Jax Rant and the new UXThink - this Aussie definitely deserves more attention. (Her tweets are great too.)

I hope you take the opportunity to check out these young marketing bloggers. They have some great ideas and I predict that they will be leaders in the years to come.

Who do you think deserves more attention? Please leave a comment and a link to your favorite under-the-radar marketing blogger. The community (and me in particular!) are always looking for more smart people to read.

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Agencies: Don't Forget To Sell

Yesterday, I published a blog post at iMediaConnection's blog and I hope you'll check it out: The Modern Agency Still Sells, Right?

I am particularly proud of this piece because it has the potential to jolt agency employees out of their social media fascination. I contend that some agencies are losing their focus in the web 2.0 world.

They've forgotten to work for the sale.

The initial idea for my post came from Phil Johnson's Ad Age article, Agencies Should Be Defined by What They Know, Not What They Make. I was alarmed by the focus on marketing agency knowledge, rather than a focus on creating something (ads, copy, even social media opportunities) to fulfill a client's business objectives.

From my post:

Clients aren’t comforted by what you know. They’d rather see how you turn that into sales.

Agencies that use social media, then foster loyalty and trust, and then turn that into sales – those agencies will triumph. But agencies that dabble in social media without even considering ROI or sales…think Pets.com 2.0.

Marketers and advertisers who consider sales not lofty enough of a goal would do well to remember David Ogilvy’s number one obiter dictum from Confessions of an Advertising Man:

“We sell – or else.”

What do you think? Am I off base to warn agencies about their potential social media amnesia? Has the role of the agency really moved from selling in a web 2.0 world?

Check out the the post and feel free to leave a comment below.

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Measuring Social Media ROI - It's Not A Web 2.0 Myth

Yardsticks

Not long ago, I declared that I'm f*cking sick of the "ROI of social media" debate. The post got some attention, including a follow-up on ReadWriteWeb.

Good. It's a conversation that needs to happen.

But in past posts, I neglected two topics:

  1. A history of media metrics, thereby illuminating how much has changed and how important this is
  2. The role of agencies as guides through a web 2.0 world

Today, I rectify that with a guest post on Critical Mass' Experience Matters blog entitled Why Your Social Media ROI Is Broken– And How To Fix It. (Disclosure: I am employed by Critical Mass.)

Who Should Read This And Why

If you work in or with an agency, I recommend this post. It describes an agency's changing responsibilities to their clients - how to help clients understand social media and find success with their web 2.0 ventures.

Most importantly, I hope it gives you courage to face this moving target. Here's a description of the changing marketing world from my guest post:

We are moving from a period of raw quantitative measurement (i.e. How many unique visitors did we have?) to a qualitative period (i.e. Did our social media engagement create more trust which in turn created more sales?). Trust, loyalty, and brand advocacy aren’t intangible anymore.

Is your agency at least aware of these changes? How have they advised you regarding social media metrics?

Trash Your Crappy Web Metrics And Grow A Pair

This is not the time for timid marketers. If you aren't ready to try new things and risk your neck everyday, please allow the rest of us to move past you.

Let me put it to you straight: web analysis allows you to determine the real ROI which, in turn, allows you to see what tactics are working and which aren't.

Not the tactics that your boss likes or that tested well in focus groups - the tactics that really work.

Personally, I recommend facing these new challenges head on. It's tough, but how else will you know if you are really reaching your goals?

What About You?

I would love to hear from you on this topic. Do you measure your social media outreach? If not, what is holding you back? If you do measure social media, what are the elements that you measure? Are these personalized to your goals?

In short, how's it going out there?

Please check out Why Your Social Media ROI Is Broken– And How To Fix It and leave a comment there or here (comment section below). I look forward to hearing from you.

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Why I Do Not Post Every Day

Stop-Relax

A lot of popular bloggers put up new blog posts everyday. But you might have noticed that I don't - 1-3 times per week, usually. But I haven't explained why I've adopted that frequency.

If you are a blogger (or think you might be in the future), I hope this gives you plenty to think about regarding your own blogging frequency.

Why don't you post every day?

Well, there are a few reasons. Here are the most important:

  • Don't have anything to say: It seems elementary, but for many would-be bloggers, it's not. There is enough cacophony in the blogosphere already. I refuse to add to it if I have nothing useful to say. (Subscribers to this blog know this - they are only notified when I post; never when I don't.)
  • It's already been said: There are a lot of smart bloggers out there. I'm not going to repeat or piggy-back on someone else's good idea. But if you're interested in the good stuff I'm reading, follow me on Twitter. I always tweet about smart articles (feel free to DM me yours, if you think it's really great).
  • Different priorities: Like many bloggers, I juggle a blog with my day job and family responsibilities. Sometimes, I need to devote my blogging time to the day job (even the 5-7am shift). Other times, I feel it is more important to spend time with BG and the dogs.
  • Traveling: Unlike some of the more hard-core bloggers, I usually take travel time as a chance to relax and don't post while I'm gone. For instance, I'm writing this post at the edge of the Pacific Ocean in Mexico. Our honeymoon is going great, but I thought this would be an appropriate topic with which to break from my norm of abstaining from blogging while away. (That's how much I value you readers...plus BG is taking a nap, so no interference with family time.)

What about you? Have you felt the pressure to post every day? How has that effected your writing? Or, have you changed your blogging frequency for any particular reason?

I'd love to hear from you, even while I'm away. And be sure to take some time off yourself during this summer season. Please look forward to a more regular posting schedule starting next week.

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Shared Media Versus Social Media - Defining Interactions

sharing-1

Last week, my buddy Rick over at eyecube.wordpress.com wrote an intriguing post about "shared media."

He makes a case for the term "shared media" rather than "social media." It's a worthwhile post and I encourage you to read it. It's always a good exercise to step back and consider exactly how we define our actions.

There are a lot of interesting ideas in his post, but I think we need to cut down on the variables to get to the meat of this discussion. I think we easily get bogged down by the complexity - paid vs. earned, social vs. viral, etc. - but let's strip away some of this and talk about how we act and interact online.

Disregard medium

It's becoming less and less important how people consume content. Website, iPhone, whatever - let's put the medium of content transfer to the side for a moment.

Disregard payment

While it might matter to the content creator and the paying third party, content consumers have never really cared about the difference between paid and earned. Consumers know that Super Bowl commercials come at a very high price, but they watch them because they're entertaining. Likewise, wouldn't you have watched the "Where the hell is Matt" videos just the same, regardless of whether Stride placed their logo in the final frames? Content is content is content.

Disregard pro vs. amateur

To the well-documented chagrin of newspapers everywhere, consumers care less about whether the content creator is a professional or not. In fact, there are more than enough studies to state definitively that consumers trust amateurs more than professionals (for evidence, read Groundswell and others). Hell, get rid of the author entirely

Forget pro vs. amateur - let's get rid of the author altogether. Sure, I visit Chris Brogan or Mitch Joel's blog for great content, but it's because of the consistently excellent content, not the man behind it (sorry guys). Consumers judge the value of content based on the content itself. In a past life, I was an apostle of structuralist literary theorist Roland Barthes and his Death of the Author essay. I concur with Barthes that "[t]o give a text [or content] an Author" and assign a single, corresponding interpretation to it "is to impose a limit on that text."

What's left?

Getting down to the basics, there isn't much left. There is the content, the consumer, and what they do with that content.

It seems to me that there are three possible scenarios.

  1. Media: Consumers read content, find it boring or unworthy of passing on, and the interaction ends. (I'm talking about the interaction between content and consumer. I disagree with Adam Broitman that this is social media in the sense that not responding is a response, i.e. the consumer "saying" he or she is not interested in the message.)
  2. picture-1

  3. Shared media: Consumers read content, share it with others, but content isn't capable of sparking much interest or debate. While one consumer has shared, the act could not be defined as "social" in that other consumers stopped the process. (Imagine a chain letter where no one passes it along except the originator.) picture-2
  4. Social media: Consumers read content, share content with others, and those others continue to share it. The content itself isn't social - but the interactions around that content certainly are. picture-3

Big difference, right?

So, going back to Rick's post, I would contend that, while sharing is certainly important, it isn't the highest level of engagement. I contend that "social media" is still the better term, as it is the highest level of interaction between consumers and content.

The gist is this:

All social media is shared, but not all shared media is social.

What do you think? Does this intuitively make sense? Maybe it's not shared versus social - perhaps there's another term altogether that you prefer. I'd love to hear your comments below.

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5 Reasons To Buy David Meerman Scott's World Wide Rave (And 2 Reasons Not To)

wwr

I'm trying a new format for my book reviews. Instead of a measured, logical summary and analysis, I'm just going to cut straight to the meat of it - here's why I think you should buy this book (or why you might want to skip it).

I recently finished David Meerman Scott's new book, World Wide Rave. I am a big fan of Scott's work - he's an innovator who has the guts to practice what he preaches. (He quit a high-paying job to write books like these, for instance.) You can check out his website at WebInkNow.com or check his Twitter stream at @dmscott.

So here are 5 reasons why I think you should buy his book (and 2 reasons why you might not want to).

[Sidenote: I read this thanks to Amazon's Kindle for iPhone WhisperSync. Hence, page numbers are between 1-2928. Sorry. You can use my citations to give a rough idea of where to find particular sections though.]

Get It

1. He hits on ideas central to social media marketing (and marketing in the future)

Scott emphasizes again and again that we need to think in terms of what we're giving to the community, not in old media terminology. He most succinctly put it as such:

"You've got to think in terms of spreading ideas, not generating leads. A World Wide Rave gets the word out to thousands or even millions of potential customers. But only if you make your content easy to find and consume" (pg. 959).

Tenets like this seem really easy, but they are still a major sticking point for marketers in firm companies. Scott makes it simple to focus on what really matters in a web 2.0 world.

2. He translates theory into language your boss can understand.

Or rather, he confronts your boss' out-moded ideas of how we gauge marketing success. His discussions about the old rules of measurement - tracking "leads" and "press clips," especially - reveal exactly why these markers don't make sense in social media marketing (pg. 1080).

And Scott speaks frankly. ROI obsession is causing your marketing to get boring. Like, soul-crushingly, lawyer-infused, uber-numbingly boooooring. And then he tells you why (pg. 1117 onward). (Try highlighting these sections before gifting this book to your boss or corporate overseer.)

3. Even n00bs can get it.

Scott speaks to the 90% who are still figuring out their online marketing, much less social media marketing strategy. That can be a tad frustrating for the other 10% of us, but hey, if we're meant to be advocates, we need to get off the high horse.

It's good that Scott covers the basics. No matter how new you are to social media marketing, I'm confident you will not get lost in this book. Heck, he even takes a moment to define social media - something that often gets skipped in even the more basic books (pg. 1261, the "Let's Be Honest" section).

4. He makes the case for true content marketing

Content marketing, as I understand it, just means that you garner trust due to the content you put out. It's not direct marketing; you generally build up trust until someone thinks of you when they have a need in your specialty.

Content marketing has its advocates, notably Joe Pulizzi from Junta42 and (to a slightly lesser degree) Rick Liebling from eyecube. But it's pretty rare for a marketer to call this out in such detail. He says:

"A good journalist [someone you could hire for your content marketing] can create interesting stories about how an organization solves customer problems and can then deliver those stories in a variety of ways...Consumers will love it. How refreshing to read, listen to, and watch these products of journalistic expertise instead of the usual come-ons that typical corporations produce [read: marketing schlock]" (pg 2258).

5. He's fun to read and that's rare

Have you ever taken a business book on your summer vacation? Here's how it normally goes: You have the best of intentions, so you drag this tome out to the beach with you. Before you know it, you've dozed off before finishing the preface and your snooze in the sand results in a bright red burn and your vacation is ruined.

That's how it usually works for me, at least.

I'm not saying it's a laugh riot, but this book is engaging. It moves. It has a sense of purpose. It's got a lot of examples interspersed with the philosophy. And that's miles better than most of the other books out there. And I've got the burns to prove it.

Skip It

Nothing is perfect in this world, so here are 2 valid reasons for skipping this book.

1. Lack of evidence

I don't expect every marketing book to be chock full of research, graphs, and charts like Groundswell was (despite how much I love that book!). But, a little supporting evidence wouldn't hurt, ya know?

And it's not like Scott doesn't provide a lot of citations - he does. But I feel like his most salient points are where he drops the ball in this regard.

Take for instance his argument about social media restrictions for employees. He builds up a case where those who have restricted open access for their employees in the past have been haunted by this decision. He provides a reasonable hypothesis of trends relating to computers, then the internet, culminating in social media. He provides all of the theoretical proof you could want.

But his thesis falls short without real-world evidence. Has Microsoft or Starbucks done this? What were the specific ramifications for Business X when they restricted employee access? Which companies have avoided this fate? I admit I was left wanting in just a few instances like these in the book.

2. Same 'ol, same 'ol

I was disappointed at a few parts in the book when examples were trotted out that I'd heard about months (nay, years) ago. It seemed tired. It seemed like something I'd read before. Seriously, I've heard that MailerMailer story 500 hundred times before.

But! (And this is a significant "but.") The reason I'm sick of examples like MailerMailer is because I'm such a fan of Scott's work. So really, this is hardly his fault. He's trying to reach a new audience with this book and it's likely they've never heard most/all of these stories before.

It's only because I have read all of his white papers and many of his blog posts that things like "Where the hell is Matt?" seem trite. If you haven't, then it's new to you.

Final Verdict

This time, I leave the final verdict in your hands. In other reviews, I have ended the post with a pithy thought and recommendation. But that kind of post is boring, to be honest.

This time, I'd like to hear from you. Would you buy David's book from this post? Or, if you have read it, what did you think? Would you recommend it to others? (Better yet, if you read his blog and white papers but haven't bought the book - will you?)

I enjoyed the book and believe I'm a better marketer for reading it. Plus, because Scott practices what he preaches, he gave away the book during the first five days of publication and I essentially read it for free (Thanks, David!). So, while I have no real obligation, if it made me a better marketer, as a gentlemen I damn well better talk about it, right?

So, what do you think? Would you read World Wide Rave? Or did you read it? What did you think?

P.S.: If you enjoyed this review, you might also like my recent review of Paul Gillin’s Secrets of Social Media Marketing; Goldstein, Martin, and Cialdini's Yes! 50 Scientifically Proven Ways To Be Persuasive; and my list of the top 5 gift books for marketers.

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Small Business Owners: Your Customer Service IS Your Marketing!

yakov

Remember Yakov Smirnoff?

He was big in the '80s and used to tell jokes like this:

In America, you can always find a party. In Russia, The Party can always find you!

See the switch-eroo there? Clever, right?

I was thinking about that after I read the Network Solutions report I referenced in my last post about whether social media marketing was viable for small businesses. My riff off Smirnoff went something like this:

Before the internet, marketing hid poor customer service. In a web 2.0 world, customer service IS your marketing!

Not quite as catchy as ol' Yakov, but still possessing that kernel of truth, don't you think?

Where Are We And How Did We Get Here?

The Network Solutions data (PDF) showed that small business owners were largely successful with customer service, but that overall marketing and innovation was ranked the second lowest of six success attributes.

So, in my last post, I took the four lowest qualities in the marketing and innovation category (from Network Solutions data) and compared that with a large study of what social media marketing does well (Michael Stelzner data).

This comparison proved that social media marketing just might help your small business. (If you're shaking your head and muttering "No Duh" as you read this, hang with me.)

So What's The Next Step?

Logic then dictates that we examine just how social media marketing could help your small business.

If you've read Now, Discover Your Strengths you know that your best option is not to obsess about improving in areas you have little skill. Instead, you want to leverage what you're good at. And remember what Network Solutions' data said small business owners succeed in?: Customer Service.

What the hell do customer service and marketing have in common? These days, almost everything.

Here's the secret: Your customer service IS your marketing. If you take nothing else from this post, remember that!

Let me show you. I'll take those four worst attributes of small businesses' marketing and innovation and create scenarios where your customer service becomes your marketing.

A Closer Look

Problem: Finding efficient ways to advertise and promote your business.

Solution: Remember how Craigslist basically crushed the classified ad business? Likewise, don't think of advertising as a huge line item in your budget. Let your good work be your advertisement.

Ask your best customers to put in a good word for you on Yelp.com or Angie's List. Better yet, offer a small discount on a customer's bill - no strings attached - and just mention that you're listed on those sites. Some may not post about their experience, but evidence in Yes! says that a lot of them will. (It's a good book, by the way - read my review here.)

"Approaching the potentially cooperative relationship in this way [unconditional and no-strings-attached] should not only increase the likelihood that you'll secure their cooperation in the first place, but also ensure that the cooperation you do receive is build on a solid foundation of trust and mutual appreciation, rather than on a much weaker incentive system" (page 59).

Problem: Converting marketing leads into buyers.

Solution: Ug, "leads." Could there be a more self-serving term? They aren't individuals or customers or even users, but leads?

What if you could make them come to you? What if you spent less time cold-calling "leads" and more time being the go-to expert?

Become a resource on Twitter or answer questions on LinkedIn. Join an industry group on your favorite site or get active in a forum discussion.

Here's the thing: rather than trying to convince people to hire you, instead convince them about how good you really are. Isn't that the point? You didn't start your small business to become a salesperson (well, most of you). But if you become a resource for a community, you will be the first person community members call when they need help.

Problem: Positioning your organization as having the same capabilities as big organizations in your industry.

Solution: Again, maybe I'm missing something. Why are you trying to make your small business seem big? Why not focus on the benefits of a small business?

Have you been watching The Office in recent weeks? The main character left his corporate behemoth and started the eponymous Michael Scott Paper Company.

He didn't try to convince people he could do everything Dunder Mifflin did. Instead, he focused on what his small team could do: provide real value, excellent customer service, and those 5am paper deliveries in the Korean church bus.

What's the equivalent for your business? Be agile, hungry...and successful.

Problem: Identifying new prospective customers.

Solution: In a sense, you could use elements of the other three problems to attract more customers. You can also create a destination for prospective customers who would be interested in your product.

For instance, let's say you're an expert on high-end coffee beans. Start a blog and go relentlessly after keywords like Kona and Jamaican Blue Mountain. Write posts about the product and show your expertise (just don't be a jerk about it). Prospective customers will search for those keywords and find your amazing posts - Bingo!

Readers who comment on these posts should be of special interest. Sure, they're even more likely to be prospective customers, but they could also be brand evangelists or someone who could teach you a vital aspect of the business.

Convinced yet?

Just yesterday, The Chicago Tribune published a story about small businesses who found success with social media marketing. Here's what Andy Sernovitz, chief executive of GasPedal, a Chicago consulting firm specializing in word-of-mouth marketing and social media, had to say on the subject:

"Because of the viral nature of social media, companies that take the time to communicate are likely to see their goodwill spread. One simple technique for building relationships involves responding to positive mentions by saying 'thank you' and following up on negative mentions with an apology and a solution to the problem, Sernovitz said."

Excellent customer service - even if the product is momentarily sub-par - creates goodwill, positive conversation, and might even improve your business.

Are you more convinced about my Yakov Smirnoff riff now?

Before the internet, marketing hid poor customer service. In a web 2.0 world, customer service IS your marketing!

What a country world!

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Frank Lloyd Wright As Social Media Marketer

robie-house1

BG and I recently watched a documentary about Frank Lloyd Wright and I found that it related to the work we do in social media marketing (natch).

There were two instances in particular that related to social media marketing. But I need your help in making sense of it all.

An Open Plain

The documentary explained that before Wright, rooms were frequently closed off by doors. Each room in a home had a purpose and each purpose was discrete. You eat in the dining room and that room alone; sliding doors separate the dining room from the sitting room and library.

Wright's homes, however, have an open feel. You can often see through several room at a time - your view is rarely blocked with doors or hairpin turns. The corners aren't obtrusive. There is a flow and openness that many find appealing.

Of course, this made me think of old and new media. In earlier times, we relied on journalists to provide the news; it's what they did and they alone could do it. We staffed a PR person to speak to the press, and only with canned, pre-rehearsed statements. There was a strict hierarchy to be obeyed. The org chart was scripture.

Hasn't social media marketing changed all that! Now, some blogs outrank The New York Times in search engines. Peter Shankman's HARO directly connects journalists and sources. A Zappos employee - any Zappos employee - is allowed to speak to any member of the press.

Amazing things happen when walls -  literal or virtual - are broken down.

Technology As Benefit Or Impediment

Later on in his life, attention shifted from American architects to modernists in Europe. They build sleek, austere buildings, using different industrial materials. It was a 180 degree shift from the organic feel of Wright's work.

Sour grapes or not, Wright hated these buildings, claiming that the modernist architects were using technology for technology's sake - not to improve the building or make it more livable, but simply because it was new. He felt their designs were lifeless, especially compared to his natural homes with their autumnal hues.

How often do we fall into the same trap? Did we join Twitter and Pownce and Orkut and any number of other networks because they improved our lives or simply because they were the shiny new object? Does that iPhone app really help your clients and their customers, or are you building it because it's new and exciting?

Technology can easily become an impediment to communication and community, rather than a facilitator, especially these days.

What Do You Think?

Are these apt observations or am I grasping here? I wonder what you think.

I also wonder where this is going. One of the last projects of Wright's career was taking on the challenge to build a $5,000 home - a house for the mass, a democratic architecture. But he couldn't do it. Wright always ran over budget. He could never give everyone what they wanted for the right price without compromising his standards.

Can that example relate to social media marketing as well? Is our lesson that community cannot be faked? That customers simply cost $X to retain or engage? That our tools (i.e. blogs) might be free, but the investment in time and energy for quality connections will remain high?

What do you think? Is open architecture like our flatter organizations? Is our obsession with technology like the European modernist architects? What is on the horizon for social media marketers?

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Tips On Getting A Marketing Job During The Recession

job1

Changing jobs is never easy, and the recession multiplies the difficulty. But there are ways to improve your chances of finding a better position. I know - it's worked for me.

My story is featured on today's MarketingProf's MP Daily Fix: How I Got the Job: Optimizing Opportunities in a Stale Economy.

In that post, I explain:

  • How to become a Google detective
  • Why personal contact can make all the difference
  • How to strategically align your efforts
  • Why "networking" should be omitted from your vocabulary forever

I hope this helps you in your job search. Enjoy!

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(Image courtesy of apenny via Flickr)

Marketing During A Recession E-Book

After many weeks of work, I am proud to release a new e-book: Marketing During A Recession: Economic Slowdowns Are Opportunities (PDF)

We're all worried about how the recession will effect us and our business. But there are a lot of misconceptions and downright mistakes about how to use marketing during this recession. This e-book draws from expert advice and provides you a path forward in these difficult times.

Please download it or check it out on SlideShare. (It's free, of course.)

I got some great help from Joann Sondy, a designer in the online community - she's the reason this e-book looks so much better than my previous ones. She was great to work with and knew the best design strategy for this particular material.

Consider hiring Joann for your next project. You can check out her portfolio at CreativeAces.com (seriously, have your annual reports ever looked this good?) and read her blog at OutsideTheMargin.biz. Some more information about her work is below:

Joann Sondy has an extensive background creating and delivering corporate materials for financial and investor relations. With more than 15 years, Joann has produced distinctive communications that help IR/PR agencies build audience awareness and confidence. If your strategy calls for a presentation, e-book, white paper, fact sheet and/or annual report, contact Joann today. joann{at}creativeaces{dot}dom or DM her via Twitter: @jsondy.

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When ROI Measurement And Actual Effectiveness Are Mutually Exclusive

roi-vs-effectiveness

In The 2009 Social Media Marketing and PR Benchmark Guide, MarketingSherpa explains a conundrum marketers are facing in a web 2.0 world:

What do you do when the ability to measure your return on investment (ROI) is mutually exclusive to the effectiveness of a particular campaign?

In other words, how do you sell a tactic up the chain of command that you know will work but can't provide definite numbers? Or conversely, how do you dissuade a course of action that has proven ineffective, but which your executives embrace because they understand the number of impressions or "hits" or lives interrupted by the campaign?

It's a difficult predicament, to be sure. And it appears that's the situation most marketers are facing.

Known Badness vs. Unknown Goodness

Traditional PR and marketing has never had much measurability, but it is a known entity. What was the return on investment for your PR firm to make unsolicited calls on your behalf? How many sales resulted from your Times Square advertisement? Traditional marketing has always had terrible measurability.

But, it's what your boss knows. Now, we have new technologies that can show an amazing array of ROI statistics, but they're new. They're "untested." They might fail. (Because that never happens with old media!)

Yes, I Can Back That Up

Don't believe me? Take a look at the report.

The executive summary shows that most marketers think the ability to measure ROI (also reported the second most significant barrier to social media adoption) has "nothing to do with the effectiveness of the tactic" (page 6).

In fact, MarketingSherpa goes on to say that:

"Marketers obsessed with only tracking social media results quantitatively are missing the point and may find themselves employing much less effective social media tactics for the sake of measurability."

How about you? Would you rather fail than tell your boss she's wrong?

Budgets Going...Up?

So, are marketers telling their bosses about social media? Quite possibly, yes. But marketers might not be educating their bosses as much as they need to.

MarketingSherpa reports that "social media and email are the only to tactics on which more companies are planning to increase spending than are planning to decrease spending" (page 4). This matches Forrester's recent report entitled Social Media Playtime Is Over. They report even higher numbers, saying that over 50% of marketers will increase their spending on social media in the coming year.

If you're a social media marketer and think this sounds great, think again. Just because marketers expect the amount they spend on social media to increase, that does not mean it'll be a lot. In fact, B.L. Ochman says that Forrester reports three-fourths of marketers expect to spend less than $100K on social media marketing tools.

Read the conversation B.L. includes at the end of a recent post. I think she correctly portrays a set-up for failure, where marketers are expected to spin social media gold from corporate hay, stymied by every other department in their company.

So What Do I Do?

As a social media marketer, you have the proverbial wind at your back. You must seize this opportunity, but don't forget to lobby for the resources and permission you will need later.

Personally, I recommend buying MarketingSherpa's Social Media Marketing and PR Benchmark Guide. Their research is among the best, their arguments are persuasive, and, to be honest, it's expensive enough for your boss to trust it. Or buy Forrester's report. Or another one like it. But, do something.

We have fought for so long to be taken seriously. Remember being scoffed at five years ago when you claimed Facebook would be huge and a decent marketing tool? Remember when Twitter was just a fad? You get it. You see further down the road than most people. (Strategy is part of your job, after all.)

Well, part of your job is also being an educational resource for your boss and her bosses, too. Buy them a report. Send them information from sources they trust. Hell, reserve time on their schedule and read the damn stuff to them. But make them listen.

Otherwise, you will be one of the poor marketers tasked with doing "something viral." If you hear "we need a Facebook page" and don't hear mention a strategy or goals, you are about to get screwed.

But this is your chance! We finally have the green light to participate in social media marketing in a responsible way! But leverage the resources you need (don't forget staff time!) and the backing to make it all possible.

Then, come back and let us know how it went!

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(Note: I am a MarketingSherpa affiliate which means that I make a little beer money if you buy the report. But I'd tout their work even if I wasn't. It's great stuff, period.)