Go Big, Get Your Employees on the Bus or Go Home (via SteveRubel.com)

The following is also my column in next week's issue of Advertising Age.

Go Big, Get Your Employees on the Bus or Go Home

Photo credit: Traffic by scottpowerz

The single biggest challenge that marketers face over the next ten years is attention scarcity. Bank on it.

According to Andreas Weigland, Amazon.com's former chief scientist, more data was generated by individuals in 2009 than in the entire history of mankind. Human attention, however, is finite - and arguably, it shrinks as we age. 

The end result is downright ugly. It's like 25 lanes of traffic trying to squeeze through two Lincoln Tunnel tubes during the peak of rush hour. Your marketing programs may be the biggest, baddest bus in the flow, but you're competing with everyone else for the same space and time. Chances are, however, your bus is empty. Park that idea for now. We'll come back to it.

Each individual, whether it's a stay-at-home mom or a twenty-something online addict, will develop his/her own coping mechanisms. Some of these decisions will be conscious. Many of them won't be. And that spells trouble for marketers.

Already one of the ways we're coping is by digging deeper into social networking sites to connect with our friends and interests. According to Nielsen, globally consumers spent more than five and half hours on social networking sites in December. This represents an 82 percent increase year over year. Human beings have always been drawn to each other. Social networking just makes this easier and scalable - or does it?

Robin Dunbar, professor of Evolutionary Anthropology at Oxford University, discovered that we are only capable of managing 150 friendships - this includes brands. Once again, we're handicapped by our darn brains.

Marketers know they need to be engaged in social networks. Some 45% of senior marketers surveyed by The Society for Digital Agencies said that social network engagement is their top priority. However, many marketers that I speak to don't understand the sheer scale that's required, given the above challenges. 

To succeed in a world where attention remains scarce and our brains are limited, businesses must go beyond campaigns and move to real-time engagement. I believe the best way to accomplish this is scale. This means every business must become a social business by deeply integrating their often decoupled employee engagement and digital engagement initiatives.

In short, to revisit the aforementioned metaphor, you must go big, get your employees on the bus, put more buses into the traffic flow or go home.

So what exactly does this look like? It means unshackling your employees. It means equipping them with tools, policies and the means to engage with stakeholders around the clock. Finally, above all, it means allowing your workforce to unlock and share their company and subject-matter expertise. 

According to fresh data from our own Edelman Trust Barometer, we're desperately seeking expertise. Informed publics are more likely to trust what they hear from experts over any other source.

However, the reality there are very few companies understand this. Most are still taking a campaign approach to social networks where it's the brand, not the people, that are the voice - and there's usually only one.

What's worse, the Berlin Wall stands tall inside Corporate America. Robert Half Technology found that only 10% of corporate chief information officers grant their employees full access to social networking sites. Those that do probably aren't guiding them. Manpower reports that only 20 percent of companies have social network policies.

Change must begin at home. If you don't get your employees on buses, your competition will and it will be harder to covet attention. This is every business' challenge in 2010 and beyond.

Forbes Study: CMOs More Bullish on Social Media than Apps (via Steve Rubel)

During a recent meeting with Forbes they shared with me a summary of their recent survey of Chief Marketing Officers (embedded below). There are two notable trends here - which Forbes isn't connecting, but I am.

First, social media is seen as the single most promising marketing vehicle amongst all respondents and those who oversee more than $5M in annual spend. Note how social media surpasses other tactics that get a lot of attention - notably mobile applications and search engine marketing.

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Second, some 73% of CMOs surveyed oversee PR. I don't have the data, but I imagine this is a new trend. In the past, PR would sit in all kinds of other departments. Now it seems to be more closely aligned with marketing.

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Now the Forbes study doesn't say this, but I fundamentally believe that other than placing ads, PR is in the best position to manage a business' social media endeavors. The reason is that engaging in social circles requires an understanding of psychology and also it is an uncontrolled discipline. Both of these play well to the skills of PR practitioners. If I were a CMO controlling $5M in spend with an interest in social media and I oversaw PR, I would connect these dots. I suspect that's what many are doing.

5 Tips for Social Media Marketing Success | (via Web Ad.vantage)

When selecting the sites  to target in your social media marketing efforts, it’s easy to fall into the trap of just going after big fish like Facebook and Twitter, simply because they’re more popular.  But smaller, lesser-known social media sites can be huge winners, especially if they cater to a very specific topic or niche audience.  For almost any given topic, you can bet there’s a social media site of some sort dedicated to it, even if it’s just a forum or message board.  What’s more important than getting your message in front of the most eyeballs?  Getting your message in front of eyeballs that are attached to the people who would be most interested in what you’re selling!

with all the noise going on about myspace's demise, refreshing to hear an  alternative pov

Keepers Of The Court: Foursquare Superusers - TechCrunch

Screen shot 2009-10-13 at 3.55.01 PM


is a company with all of four employees. Yes, they just hired their fourth, we’ve learned (hello, Nathan Folkman

, formerly of Betaworks

, where he worked on Bit.ly

). And yes, that’s a fitting number. You might think that a company that recently closed some funding would ramp up hiring a little faster, but the truth is that they don’t have to. Why? Because their users are already doing quite a bit of work to expand and improve the service.

You see, some users of Foursquare that are very active earn the label “Superuser.” These are users with privileges that allow them to edit certain aspects of the site, which I’ll get into below. Full disclosure: I’m one of them, but only because I use the service so often. But I’m also only a “Superuser! – Level 1.” Today, the service started upgrading a very select group of users to the new “Superuser! – Level 2″ distinction. In total, less than 1% (0.7% to be exact) of Foursquare’s user base received that distinction.

The plan is to eventually have three levels of Superusers, but right now, there are only these two, Foursquare co-founder Dennis Crowley

tells us. Level 1 users are able to edit venues (including names and cross streets), mark places as “closed,” and note duplicates. These new Level 2 users are able to merge venues themselves when there are duplicates. Eventually, Level 3 is likely to contain elements such as adding badges (rewards you get for certain check-in patterns), and policing other users, Crowley says.

But the Superuser functionality is more than just for show, or a small game within the game. It’s actually helping Foursquare in a meaningful way. Shortly after the group of users got upgraded to Level 2 today, Crowley noted that, “we had some 2000+ duplicate venues in the system 30 mins ago. We’re [now] down to 400.” He followed up shortly after that noting, “it took less than 2 hours for users to go thru 90% of our merge queue.”

Those are some very impressive results, and suggest that Foursquare has a community that may be able to self-police itself like Wikipedia does. If that’s the case, the company can focus less on hiring people do to the tedious stuff, and more time building new features and expanding to new cities.

It also will give them more time to work on potential business deals, which will eventually make the site money.

Speaking of that, there’s a pretty nifty one in Las Vegas this week if you happen to be there: If you’re over 21, stop by the Planet Hollywood Hotel for a free shot at Koi Restaurant. You simply need to check in there to get it.

more about why foursquare is poised for greatness. I wrote about foursquare yesterday http://btrandolph.com/2009/10/foursquare-com-how-soon-is-now/

Marketers as Content Instigators | othersidegroup.com blog

As marketers, this has become an interesting new challenge. We used to play the role of content creator ourselves. But with blogs, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube established as important communications channels, we’ve taken on a larger role of content aggregator and distributor, and even more important, content instigator.

I may be going down the road of coining yet another term for something someone has already named, but I think this is an important distinction to make. In order to get the right content in the right place with the right voice at the right time, we’ve got to have authenticity. And authenticity comes from having the actual person write, record, perform etc. Or as close to that as possible. We spend a lot of time worrying about what we’re going to create (a video, a podcast, a blog post, a newsletter article??)  and where we’re going to put it (on the website, on the blog, on youtube, on twitter, on facebook, everywhere??)

great post from Kate Brodock that highlights a new role for marketers - that of noodge (sp, trudy?. "I'm not a doctor, but I play one on tv" won't fly in the age of content marketing - to pull in and retain a target audience means establishing a system to create and deliver useful content, not spin. the marketing person can serve as reporter, but the copy has to come from somewhere...

Thinking about creating a Facebook fan page? Don’t just jump in | Social Media Answers

Thinking about creating a Facebook fan page? Don’t just jump in.

By: Kevin Palmer on 10/13/2009
Thinking about creating a Facebook fan page? Don’t just jump in.

Over the last few weeks I have come across multiple tutorials on creating a Facebook fan page. None of these tutorials were exactly groundbreaking and they all essentially said the same thing. (You can import your RSS feed! Integrate Twitter! You can have conversations! People can share your stuff!) Another trait they have in common is that they completely ignored the fact that different Facebook pages have different default settings that you can’t change once they are selected.

Here is a great resource on the different default settings available based off the type of page you are setting up.

So BEFORE setting up a Facebook page here are two things you should do.

1)      Look at other pages in and out of your niche.

Go look at your competitors, go look at other brands/people/artists that you like, and examine what you like about their page. Pay close attention to a couple of different areas. The first being what is in the information section of their profile, these differ based on what profile you choose.

Take a second to see what features beyond the standard page setups that you like. Take a few seconds to find out what applications are powering these features. Some applications you can determine just by looking at that section, you can also try searching for the functionality through the Facebook application directory, or if all else fails ask.

2)      Layout your desired page on paper first

Think about the desired applications you want to add and then draw out a sample page. Start thinking about the layout now to avoid total and utter application overkill and glut. What is the most important information that you want to share on your page? What is the best way to share it? How can you keep the focus on this information without people getting lost in unimportant bells and whistles?

Thinking about the layout before jumping in gives you a roadmap but also helps you think about goals. I find that a lot of the time when you just jump and start playing with the tool the idea of goals and strategy get lost in the shuffle.

excellent advice from kevin

5 Ways to Get Your Customers Talking | Small Business Marketing Blog from Duct Tape Marketing

word of mouthWord of mouth marketing is considered by many to be the most desired form of marketing. The trust, referrals, and overall brand building buzz that’s garnered by customers spreading the good word to prospects is worth its weight in gold. Some products, services, and experiences naturally produce chatter, but there are certainly things that any company can do to stimulate word of mouth and cash in on the buzz.

Here are five way to get your customers talking about you and your organization:

1) Ask them – the best word of mouth starts with “word of listen.” Call your customers up and ask them why they buy, why they stick around, and why they tell their friends about you. You might be a bit surprised by their answers. Hint: it’s usually not the stuff you have in your new marketing brochure. You stand a far greater chance of attracting the right customers and the right buzz if you really understand what your current customers value about doing business with you. This goes for online and social media listening as well – what are they saying in chat rooms, blog comments and on twitter?

2) Teach them – sometimes great word of mouth just happens, but sometime you’ve got to help it along. One way to do this is to make sure you are teaching your customers how to spot an ideal client, what a prospect in need might say when looking for your products, and how to properly and concisely describe how your company in different. Of course, in today’s hyper social media world you should also be teaching your happiest customers how to write reviews on Yelp, Insider Pages and CitySearch type rating sites.

3) Include them – People like to be asked what they think, it’s just human nature, but it’s also a great way to get some sound advice. Create a round table discussion group made up of select customers and charge them with advising you once a quarter or so on new marketing and business initiatives. (Reward them for this in some way as well.) This can include advising on everything from a product extension to the look and feel of your web site redesign. Members of your marketing round table will become natural ambassadors for the brand. (You can do this with simple video chat meetings – tinychat)

4) Star them – Letting a customer testimonial or success story go uncaptured or untold is downright criminal in WOM circles. Go out and get a TouchMic MityMic to record customer testimonials to your iPod or get a Flip video camera and start doing video interviews with customers to record their success stories. These “real life” bits of content are gold and turn your featured customers into talking referral billboards for your brand. Want to take this idea up a notch? Hold a customer party and film a dozen or so at one time in a great atmosphere – this alone will get your customers talking.

5) Surprise them - I like to think I saved the best for last – few things get people talking faster than surprising them. This can include doing something that was out of the blue and much appreciated to just giving them more than they bargained for. I remember a PR firm that was pitching me some business and the account rep showed up to meet with an apple pie (I’m still talking about it.) I once worked with a financial planner that hired a mobile auto detail firm to detail his customer’s cars during their annual review – that created some buzz.

Bottom line of course is that you’ve got to do good work, do something that somebody appreciates, and create an experience worth talking about, but then, prime the pump and leverage all that greatness.

Image credit: rego


On Twitter, Information Beats Sentiment

On Twitter, Information Beats Sentiment

Written by Sarah Perez / October 2, 2009 6:22 AM / 4 Comments

Researchers at Pennsylvania State University recently revealed the results of a study which looked into how people were using Twitter to talk about products. Companies, of course, fear what a negative barrage of tweets can do to their brand, leading many to establish Twitter accounts themselves to provide information, customer service, and support. As it turns out, these businesses may not need to worry too much about what the "Twitter effect" can do their image after all. The study revealed that the number of brand-related tweets where sentiment is expressed is not the dominating force that you may think. In fact, the majority of tweets mentioning a brand are merely casual comments or tweets from someone giving or seeking information. And when sentiment is expressed, it's generally positive.

More Tweets are Information-Seeking, Not Opinions

According to the study, which looked at 150,000 tweets, 11.1% of the brand-related tweets were information-providing while 18.1% were information-seeking. The latter of these two is especially useful to companies looking to understand what questions and concerns customers have about their products. However, the large majority of the tweets - 48.5% - were simply comments made in passing which mentioned the brand but whose primary focus was something else.

The remaining 22.3% of tweets were sentiment-related, meaning tweets in which a user was expressing an opinion about a brand, either negative or positive. What was surprising about this subset was that users were more likely to express positive tweets than they were to complain.

Why So Cheery, Twitter?

This seems odd, actually, given that the Internet has typically been a place for disgruntled consumers to rant and rave more so than it's been a place to praise what works. You can see this type of negative sentiment expression everywhere from online forums to whiny blog posts about how such-and-such company "did me wrong!" In fact, the desire to express a negative opinion even seems to dominate feedback systems like blog comments, for example. Rarely does a writer receive comments like "great post" or "I totally agree" - rather, more comments are resemble "you're wrong and here's why" or "how could you not mention X?"

That's why it's strange to hear that on Twitter, it's positive sentiment that reigns. What makes this platform more different than the rest of the Internet as a whole? Are Twitter users simply happier people? Or has the data been skewed by marketing campaigns where Twitter users are encouraged to tweet nice things about the company in order to win a prize?

Perhaps it's because Twitter simply makes it easier to express yourself, allowing for a better balance between negative and positive sentiments. Typically, sharing your opinion on the web meant exerting a good deal of effort. Writing a blog post, recording a video, or leaving a blog comment are things that take time. For the most part, busy, information-overloaded web surfers aren't going to take that time unless something really gets them fired up. Twitter, on the other hand, is so quick and easy to use, you can post a missive of joy in only seconds. And the 140-character limit allows you a no-pressure way of doing so.

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  1. We're looking at millions of brand-related tweets to create http://rankspeed.com and I confirm that most of them are neutral, some are positive and few are negative.
    The percentage of positive tweets is really relevant if you compare this number with other brands. One number alone does not really make sense.

     Posted by: Florent Author Profile Page

    | October 2, 2009 7:19 AM

  • Without going into a long dissertation on the psychology of color, I'd say a contributing factor to Twitter positiveness is the GUI.

    "happy", "cute", bordering on cartoonish ( in a good way ) look and feel, the great emphasis on left-to-right page read with profile pictures being first, plus the subtle use of serif and sans serif fonts, all subliminally contribute to positive input.

    Posted by: Todd | October 2, 2009 7:23 AM

  • I soo... wish you guys (and e-marketer, who reports on the study) would include the citation to the original source. Was this study published? Where? Who are the authors? If I want to read the original study, where do I find it?

    I assume it's based on this news release from PSU:
    http://live.psu.edu/story/41067 - and they don't provide a citation either :(

     Posted by: Mihaela (Dr. V) Author Profile Page

    | October 2, 2009 7:42 AM

  • Different purpse for communication. If I'm in a support forum - chances are I have a problem. With blogs -the format itself seems to solicit feedback - "here's info, little opinion, what do you think?". So the commenter goes into critical thinking mode. Same story with forums. Now social networking on the other hand is a different story. For most of us Twitter is not yet a forum for conversation, more like shouting into a clammed of other voices. So we tend to speak with emotion, especially current emotion. So it's more natural to say "I love Foldgers". Plus, how many blog posts make you think about the morning cup.

     Posted by: Rob Colburn Author Profile Page

    | October 2, 2009 7:43 AM

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    The 8 Major Differences Between Traditional and Internet Consumers | Microgeist

    Customers are no longer just customers. They not longer sit in front of the tube and absorb messages from self declared authorities or people who play doctors on TV. At the very least, even with the traditionally no-brains medium of television, viewers are encouraged to call in, ask questions or vote on the most talented singer. At a more advanced level, people are providing the content, commentary via comments, technological infrastructure, design, acting, video production and everything else involved in producing, consuming and interpreting content. By the time that someone has participated, even in the most rudimentary level in this process, they are more media and business savvy. This creates a more critical consumer who can see past hype, misdirection and has the resources to independently vet claims.

    this is the shift I describe to clients, to friends and family, passersby: marketing has to change with the consumer!