What is ‘IT’?

I just tweeted this:

it’s not about 1:1 anymore it’s about story. it’s not about story anymore it’s about content. it’s not about content it’s about context.

and thought I would draft a post to go into more detail. One of the things that really gets my goat working in social media is how often people try to make it some mystical thing. Whether it’s a social media ‘expert’ trying to make it seem harder than it is or whether it’s a marketing manager who is afraid of it.

The reality is that social media is no different from anything you’ve been doing as a marketing or communications professional. (I know I’ve said this before but it warrants repeating)

Know this – if you’re social media campaign feels like an itchy coat that doesn’t quite fit your brand and leaves you scratching at your arm like a junky it’s probably a bad idea. Social media should be the comfy cardigan you stole from your ex boyfriend in the 90’s – something cooler than you probably are but that fits comfortably and goes with everything you normally wear.

I present a brief history of social media strategy as evidence:

1. in the beginning (like 2007ish) it was about getting buzz and acquiring legions of friends fans and followers

2. WHOOOPS it’s not about mass following and buzz but QUALITY friends, fans and followers! Damn!!! we’ve got a million followers but they aren’t our target audience, whatever will we do?

3. 1:1 (2009ish) – let’s build deep, meaningful relationships with our constituents, let’s pretend we’re having afternoon tea and crumpets and ask them how many tampons they use every month to hone our marketing and drive more engagement which will surely lead to more sales, right?

4. PUT A HASHTAG ON IT! (2011ish) – let’s link all of our new friends conversations with unique hashtags that highlight how cool we are. Now anyone can join the conversation and we’ll even tag our TV spots and print ads with it so we have what is called….INTEGRATED MARKETING! (yay)

5. STORYTELLING (2012) – Social media is not about reaching a mass audience, nor is it about developing intimate relationships with our consumers but rather about telling an inspiring cohesive story across our channels both traditional and social. Oh and mobile mobile mobile, video video video and #instagram it.

6. CONTENT (now) – I am no longer a social media expert, I am a content specialist.

wait a minute — isn’t that the same thing that our creative/copy/brand teams have been doing since the days of Don Draper and Darrin Stephens? I specifically recall an episode of Bewitched where Darrin talked about creating incredible content for Ajax and making it accessible to all of their target audiences through an integrated approach both in-store and in advertising or something .

The moral of the story folks is that ‘it’ is not about something new but rather something tried and true. The tools might get sexier and way more star treky but the concepts are the same. The brand messages may get shorter but the strategy and communications purpose remains true as ever — sell more things, get more donations, provide better service.

These guys lay it out perfectly (and in a tone that expresses my frustration) – Faith No More ‘Epic’, lyrics posted after the jump.

In closing – should you find yourself stuck with an itchy coat or not sure how to turn your tried and true marketing into a social media program, give me a ring.

Lyrics:

Can you feel it ,see it, hear it today?
If you can’t, then it doesn’t matter anyway
You will never understand it ’cause it happens too fast
And it feels so good, it’s like walking on glass
It’s so cool, it’s so hip, it’s alright
It’s so groovy, it’s outta sight
You can touch it, smell it, taste it so sweet
But it makes no difference ’cause it knocks you off your feet
You want it all but you can’t have it
It’s cryin’, bleedin’, lying on the floor
So you lay down on it and you do it some more
You’ve got to share it, so you dare it
Then you bare it and you tear it
You want it all but you can’t have it
It’s in your face but you can’t grab it
It’s alive, afraid, a lie, a sin
It’s magit, it’s tragic, it’s a loss, it’s a win
It’s dark, it’s moist, it’s a bitter pain
It’s sad it happened and it’s a shame
You want it all but you can’t have it
It’s in your face but you can’t grab it
What is it?
It’s it
What is it?…

(you shouldn’t have to) SHOUT!

I recently spoke to a colleague about their desire to spend a massive amount of money on an Olympics social media activation.

“Why would you do that?” I asked. “everyone does, you just have to” he said. I chuckled under my breath and the colleague asked what the problem was.
“Simple…saturation” I responded.

The brand in question was in no way affiliated with sports, it isn’t a travel brand and in fact trying to find any link between it and the Olympics is like connecting Lady Gaga to pest control…actually that would be an easier connection.

Here’s the thing, as marketers our job is to get attention for our brands, right? We are the shiny golden technicolor megaphones that bring eyes and ears to the wonder that is our product or service. We woo them with fireworks then inspire them with how their life is better because our sprockets and wingbats are in their lives.

So why on earth would you invest money in a time when no megaphone on the planet can reach a volume loud enough to even be heard, much less WOW their audience. Don’t get me wrong, if you’re Nike or Gatorade sure the Olympics are your sandbox and you should go for it. But if you have to hold a seance and call on Houdini to whip you up a comm idea that makes sense for you to play in the Olympics advertising arena you may want to reconsider your investment.

A wise person once told me “if you want to be heard…whisper.”  Those of you who know me know that i don’t really adhere to this in my personal life, however i do recommend this in social media.

If you have to shout so loud you lose your voice, you’re doing it wrong. Plan your marketing like a militia–hit them when they least expect it and do so in an authentic way that meets them on your own turf and not in some foreign construct.

Forget Christmas and Super Bowl and Olympics, what can you do in the middle of June to wow a captive audience…what can you OWN???

For the love of ROI, let us marketers use our megaphones strategically and don’t throw your money at gold medals you will never win, leave that to that Phelps kid!

And because I promised to always tie it back to my music loving roots…here you go:

PR/Social “Superfriends”

So if you’ve been following along, you know I have entered the world of PR. I suppose it was only a matter of time when you consider what I’ve done all my life.

Talk about things I’m passionate about… a lot, to lot’s of different folks in a seemingly never-ending manner.

When I first broke into the Social Media world (before it was called social media) it was about promotions and marketing and relationship building and, let’s face it, coolness. As I began to have little successes with non-profit campaigns and later with major brands I was on the speaker circuit exclaiming the virtues of community management from a DIY point of view and actually denouncing PR as the place to go for social.

As the dust settles on this now core communication channel, it is abundantly clear that the world of PR is the best if not only place to house your social media services. PR’s DNA is made up of “Always On”. It’s all about identifying opportunities to create a buzz or a relationship or a moment in time out of what is happening in the real world. More-Over PR is where the traditional media intersects with the people and THEN intersects with the brand.

For the last 7+ months, my work at MSL GROUP has been to grow our business and bring both a vibrant always on approach as well as dynamic activations to some of the biggest names in CPG. It’s been a whirlwind few months aclimating to the inner sanctum of the PR world and watching the melding of this “new” wacky world of social to the venerable practice of PR.

It feels like being part of a DC/Marvel cross-over and I LOVE IT!

On Monday I will be attending the 2012 Matrix Awards communing with stellar women in communications and PR. I’m excited to have elevated what I once thought was a silly techy nerd girl obsession into a viable career that is actually part of a real paradigm shift in communications.

look for updates post awards and hopefully more blogs on this crazy new world I’ve entered…until then, check this crossover out:

Article on my recent speaking gig

I recently spoke in Vegas for the awesome Ragan Comunications/PRSA. Here is a follow-up article from @RussellWorking on my presentation.

6 steps to gaining company backing for social media

Start by making your organization’s mission your primary social media objective, Renee Alexander of UNICEF USA tells a Ragan conference crowd.

Having trouble getting buy-in from your company on your social media campaign? Maybe it’s because you’ve set the wrong priorities.

The first bullet point of any campaign should not be to amass Twitter followers or Facebook friends but to restate your organization’s mission, said Renee Alexander, social media manager for UNICEF USA.

Speaking at Ragan’s Social Media for PR & Corporate Communicators conference in Las Vegas, Alexander also urged social media managers to reach out widely within their organizations when building their presence on the Web.

Alexander—who has also worked for a major digital agency representing clients that included Coca-Cola, Olive Garden Italian Restaurant, and Kleenex—has successfully used social media to raise donations or boost sales.

Here are some of her tips:

1. Put the company’s goals first.

“Your goals in social [media] should be the exact set of goals of your company,” Alexander said.

That means point No. 1 on the social media mission statement should be a rewording of the organization’s own mission.

“If it’s to grow the business by 15 percent, grow your business in social [media] by 15 percent,” she said. “If it’s to create long-lasting relationships with your donor base if we’re talking nonprofits, that should be your social media mission.”

In adopting this attitude, the social media strategy is no longer how to get out a press release in 140 characters, but how to accomplish the corporate plan the bosses themselves designed.

“They’re going to love you,” she said.

2. Reach out to other departments.

“Social media is not a marketing function,” Alexander said. “It’s not a PR function. It’s not a promotion function. It’s not an R&D function. It’s not a customer service function. It is a business function.”

That is, social media has implications across every single segment of a business or nonprofit organization. Once other departments see the benefits for the work they do, they are likely to buy in.

For example, she said, at one company, employees started griping about their bosses and their shifts and even resigning via Facebook. Suddenly, human resources could see the importance of social media.

The same message can resonate in the research and development department.

“How many times from an R&D perspective,” Alexander said, “have you been able to think about a product and go, ‘Gee, I wonder if our consumer base would enjoy this product? Would they like it better in purple or red?’”

Social media gives companies the ability to try such questions out among hundreds of thousands of people at once, making it integral to product development.

3. Use case studies to persuade the bigwigs.

When corporate leaders seem shy about social media, Alexander brings out case studies about how it can hurt or help their brand. “The best possible thing you can do with your higher-ups is to give them case studies,” she said.

For example, she said the “United Breaks Guitars” song that went viral hurt the airline’s ticket sales, whereas good use of social media, such as Kodak’s, can help revive a company.

Likewise, frustrated customers have begun tweeting about how long they’re kept on hold. So a major call center with 400 employees placed five staffers on Facebook and Twitter watch, searching for comments to address, Alexander said.

4. Listen to customers—and learn from them.

When customers started tweeting that they didn’t like the name of a new Kodak camera, the company launched a social media campaign to rename it, Alexander said.

Other companies have had similar campaigns, effectively enlisting “the people to do your job for you.” This means the social media staff has to figure out where people are and what they are talking about.

The organization must also be prepared to respond. “If customer service says, ‘We know you hate that about our cell phones, but we’re going to fix it,’ you’d doggone well better have engineering ready to fix it—or don’t tell them you’re going to fix it,” she said.

5. Don’t get left behind.

Alexander once compiled a report for a major client who had business interests all over the world. She told them, “Oh, by the way, there were about 3,200 Facebook pages or groups for their brands that they had no idea about, where a district manager or a sales person somewhere had set up a Facebook page or group by themselves…”

They were filling a void left by the company.

6. Take a long-term approach.

In her presentation, Alexander displayed a slide that read, “First comes LOVE, then comes MARRIAGE, then comes monetization.”

It is possible to use social media to increase sales, she says, but it takes time.

“You can monetize,” she said. “You can raise money. You can increase sales. But it’s a little bit longer. It’s not going to be in the back of a Camaro. It’s going to be in a church.”

Great report on Facebook Post Effectiveness

I woke up this morning to a wonderful study in my in-box. VITRUE has released a report on Facebook post effectiveness for the CPG and QSR sectors. Having made the switch from the non-profit to the corporate sector this year, it has been fun testing and learning the most effective methods for communicating with our target audience in the social space.

Luckily, the report supports the best practices we present to our clients. While most of it seems like common sense to us “expert” social media types it’s refreshing to have data to support it. Clients love a good third-party graph to make them feel better about the mysterious world of social.

While this report is great for understanding scheduling posts it doesn’t quite get into the content. So we know WHEN to post but do you know WHAT to post. And furthermore WHO should be posting and what is the tone and voice that the post should have?

Wow, down to the last sip of coffee and we have more questions than when we began.

I have a fantastic formula that we use to help make sure brands are avoiding marketing speak and providing content that is engaging and interactive for their online guests and consumers. Furthermore we work with each of our clients to experience the kind of paradigm shift that us Non-Profit types went through over 2 years ago.

That is the shift from talking TO our audience to talking WITH our audience. This requires a lot of hard and uncomfortable work. It requires us to loosen our brand stringency, to be open to talking about topics important to our consumer but not necessarily on brand. I can’t wait for a report to come out that shows effectiveness of Facebook post content….perhaps I’ll start one myself using my clients as the case-study.

I’ll be posting our formula for success in social communications very soon, in the meantime click below to check out this latest report and enjoy your morning!

Facebook_Post_Effectiveness_White_Paper_9_20_10

Oscar let’s the girl’s have it!

I  realized I had not written in a bit so sat down to write a new blog post. I wanted to write something official and professional about Social Media and Communications and experiential marketing. But I am so filled with joy and cheese-ball optimism that I have to just go there.

Last night was the super bowl for us girls, OSCAR NIGHT. And in true form I sat and cheered, jeered and teared right along with the plasticine Hollywood types. And as I can in most things, I found immense inspiration in the ceremonies.

Let’s get the snark out of the way–the fashion was sub-par. Dresses looked like cupcakes and everyone seemed like they forgot their hairspray or smoothing serum. I was hard pressed to find a dress that brought gasps of awe, but rather was reduced to gulps of awe-ful.

But the underwhelmed feeling inspired by the Oscar night fashion was replaced by the triumph of the winners. Perhaps this year’s awards resonated more deeply with me because of where I’m at in life. I mean I am walking a figurative red carpet to a new career, a new home (with tiole wallpaper) and new opportunities to show my stuff.

I feel like I won something with my recent offer to work for a stellar interactive agency with a philosophy that so closely mirrors mine. Starting Monday March 15th, I will be Social Media Strategist for Studiocom – and I couldn’t be more thrilled. I might be a bit intimidated by the killer client list but not one to shy away from an adventure, I am anxious to see what I can bring to these incredible brands and how together, we will create super awesome customer experiences.

O.k. so back to the real stars—I have long been a fan of Sandra Bullock–cheesy, maybe but here is a chick that writes her own rule book, doesn’t take herself too seriously yet takes her work and her service to the world extremely seriously. She married my boyfriend and is a true southern G.r.i.t.s. (Girl raised in the south). I was rooting for her and for an equally deserving and dynamic chick, Mo’nique. And lo & behold, they both won.

That’s Sandy on the bottom left in a production of Peter Pan at East Carolina University with my friend Katherine Peyton Wallace

As if that triumph was not enough an incredible story came at the end–well worth staying up late for when Katherine Bigelow and her low-budget yet super powerful film “The Hurt Locker” kicked the crap out of James Cameron and his massive “Avatar” winning both director and best picture categories!

The implications of these wins are major in so many ways. As affirmations for women film makers (1st female to win best director); inspiration for independent film makers; proof of life after divorce etc etc etc. The overwhelming message from this years Oscars: talent and hard work CAN be rewarded!

Perhaps I am even more connected to this year’s ceremony because I got to watch it with thousands of friends from all over the world. For the first time ever, I was part of live commentary through my beloved Twitterverse. I was able to talk smack and rejoice in triumphs with people who I have never met yet shared the experience with me. (Shout out to @EveSimon, @Buttercupd, @Baratunde & all my other tweeps).

It was further proof that the social web is enhancing every aspect of our lives. These channels heighten our involvement in events, media and brands. How many of us actually felt our commentary on Charlize Theron’s dress was as funny and well received as those TV hosts? We were more engaged than ever and mainstream media came to our hashtag for predictions and quips.

It is this connection, the enhanced experience that makes me love the role I get to play in Social Media. That gets me excited and pumped up about the possibility to create real social change and break down the barriers between causes and brands and truly create a voice for the consumer and activist.

This brings me back to my exciting new position and my journey back to Atlanta. I hope you like what I wear down the red carpet, it will be something comfy and my limo will be a 14foot Uhaul towing a Toyota Matrix—but if this year’s Academy Awards are any indication; this low-budget, Girl Powered juggernaut will triumph!

(had to do it)

5 Quick Social Media Tips

I was on a lunch panel at the recent Social Media for Healthcare Communicators summit at the Mayo Clinic. The concept was 30 ideas in 30 minutes and we went rapid fire with a panel that included Lee Aase, Shel Holtz, Heather Harper of Edelman and more. I thought I would post my top 5 tips here for you as an addition to the slide show I posted teh otehr day!
1. Engage all teams and filter concerns and suggestions prior to starting your Social Media efforts. This will reduce push back and allow you to think more strategically about how Social Media can be put to use for your organization.
2. Focus on 1 or 2 channels at first, just on those you will be able to pay attention to. Don’t open a store if you aren’t going to be open for business!
3. Share the wealth; show your support for other like organizations (even your competitor) to build trust and respect as a true industry leader. This also gives you credibility with clients/customers/patients and shows you are not using these channels for sales and pr alone.
4. Engage outside help; don’t feel like you have to be the lone ranger in Social Media for your organization. Engage people who are natural to the medium such as volunteers, receptionists etc to handle day to day basic communication. This frees you up to do the creative strategy to use the channels to reach your desired goals.
5. THINK MOBILE! Mobile is the natural evolution of the personal computer; as you begin to embark on social media, include researching and incorporating mobile so that you are ahead of the curve! (shameless plug www.mobilematters.org can help!

#MayoRagan09 conference

I have just had an amazing two days hanging out with healthcare communicators at the Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale. I was so honored to be asked to speak at this conference on how I have used Social Media at Operation Smile. I have learned a ton and met some really great folks . Shout out to the awesome Lee Aase and Shel Holtz who I was lucky enough to share a panel with. Great stuff guys!

I was excited to get a few laughs and tweets about the presentation, here is a copy of my slide show: