Archive for the ‘On-Line Marketing’ Category
I embrace social media 100% and as a business owner social media has been proven for me. But, I know that a lot of marketing and PR professionals who are now just sticking their toe in the proverbial social media pool have questions; especially around the meaning and implementation of transparency.
As social media evangelists we talk about social media transparency and the importance of being forthright, authentic and honest. We also discuss that it’s about the “who” (people) not the “what” (brand or company), an important part of being transparent when it comes to social media.
That said, recently two incidents have happened that are making me re-think the term transparency.
As a business owner the first one is personal, but I think it’s important to share. In early February my father-in-law passed away and I was offline for over a week. A lot of people were contacting me because it wasn’t the norm and they were worried. When I jumped back online, I finally left a comment on Jason Fall’s blog (Kevin Palmer’s guest post) that I had told Kevin weeks before that I would write. Kevin might not have even notice that I hadn’t commented, but I wanted to keep my word. In commenting I apologize for the delay “due to a family situation.” And in retrospect, that was probably a mistake. Honestly, I didn’t want to be transparent…it was a private family matter, not for public consumption (even though there was a very public obituary). But, in trying to be transparent, I might have ended up seeming non-professional. I should have just said “sorry to be late to the party” the usual comment for tardiness. The thing is, people did know what had happened and offered their condolences online, it wasn’t a secret if people were paying attention to my Twitter stream. I have talked about my family before on Twitter, but this was different for me.
The second incident happened just yesterday. During the ghost writing debate, I was publicly annoyed because I felt that Heather and Mike Whaling were not being transparent in their use of social media (Twitter) while debating me (i.e. meaning that they were tweeting as two representatives from two agencies versus a married couple). I found out after the fact from Mike’s client, Eric Brown, that Heather and Mike were actually married. When I learned that, I just felt that the situation was disingenuous (not that they are disingenuous mind you, there’s a difference and I don’t believe that at all). Mike left a really nice note in which he explained that he didn’t think it was necessary to mix personal with professional. I totally get that, but I stated that in this particular situation I thought it was indeed very important to be transparent. But at the end of the day, it’s Mike’s personal decision to determine the level of transparency that’s best for him, his business and his family, right? Not all of us are on the same page for how much transparency is appropriate.
For a brief moment, let’s think about these situations from a non-social media perspective. Would they have happened in a traditional, offline environment? I bet they would, but would have been handled differently. We understand business conduct and yet we are still trying to work out how social media best works for business when we all have a voice and the desire to be “real.”
Here’s the one way we could potentially look at the spectrum of outbound communications (I am basing these loosely on light transmission definitions since we are talking about transparency):
- Opaque – where most companies lie in the spectrum. One-way conversations (i.e. normal marketing/PR)
- Translucent – Forthright, not revealing all, but still two-way conversations. (Ex: a person can be very professional on Twitter, engaging, but still not discussing his/her personal life)
- Transparency – Crystal clear, real two-way conversations (you know about this person’s personal life, business experience, product/service they market/brand, etc.).
From a business perspective is being translucent okay when it comes to social media? Are we using the word transparency correctly? Do we need to know everything? Do we care or not care to know everything? Do you want to feel like you have a transparent relationship with a brand/company? What happens when transparency goes wrong? What works?
Lots of questions here…
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Last night I had the opportunity to hear Bill McDermott SAP’s President of Global Field Operations (and member of the SAP AG Executive Board) speak at Villanova University’s 3rd Annual Marketing Professionals Showcase, a showcase for two student groups to present their marketing projects to local companies.
Bill kicked off the night talking about today’s economic crisis and how in his life he’s seen and worked through three others: the oil crisis (70s), the Wall Street crisis (80s) and the dot.com crisis (early 2000). During his keynote, Bill mentioned transparency as part of corporate culture (although in this sense he’s referring to Sarbanes-Oxley). During the Q&A portion his advice to the companies attending was that excellent customer service is what would help them to stand out and help them to survive…nothing new or earth shattering there, right? But then he said something that made me smile. He said that business is about people helping people.
I took that as an opportunity to ask Bill how he felt about social media and how it “pulls back the covers of a corporation so that ‘people’ were the face of the corporation, not the brand.” To which he replied (and not verbatim at all) that he embraced social media, social networks, etc. Of course, he also said that there are negatives. As an example, he went on to say that he’d rather have relationships with people online so that they got their information correct vs. someone writing something that wasn’t totally true (i.e. bloggers). He also mentioned online communities and how it’s important to be a part of them. And let’s be clear, SAP is walking the walk when it comes to implementing social media.
Next were two student teams that were presenting their findings after a semester long (I believe) project. One team presented a new product they developed for kids and the other a new marketing campaign for a company. The students did a great job and their marketing research, plan and presentation were really well done. However, when it came time for Q&A they really struggled with these questions:
Q: How would you use web 2.0 and Internet marketing in your promotions?
A: We have a website and a link to it so people can buy.
Q: How could you use social networking to spread the word of your new product?
A: We will have kiosks and the game at a camp and will use word of mouth.
Can you see the dichotomy at play here? SAP embraces online marketing and social media and I am sure if you were a new marketer looking to get on board, you would most likely be expected to understand it too. And yet, the kids who have lived in this “social” world all of their lives don’t understand what’s being asked from a business perspective.
It’s like convincing kids that a playground can be used for business and adults that business can be done on a playground.
I have blogged about this before…if marketers (apparently new & experienced) don’t take the time to learn how marketing is being changed forever by online marketing and social media in a few years they will be extinct.
So, how can that gap be bridged? Education, a renewed passion for marketing…and online marketing training.
And by “online” I don’t mean take an online class. By online I mean learn how online marketing is affecting how marketing and business is done today.
The Online Media Boot Camp
I hope you all know me well enough by now to know that I am passionate about marketing, communications, social media and education. The opportunity to combine it all to help fellow marketers (and companies) get a leg up in this horrible economy is important to me.
On April 9th Liana (Li) Evans and I will hosting and speaking at the Online Media Boot Camp in King of Prussia, PA (right outside Philadelphia and convenient to NJ, NY, DE, MD).
The Online Media Boot Camp is limited to 65 attendees and offers the following online marketing training sessions:
- Social Media Fundamentals – Li Evans
- Selling On-Line Media Internally – Shashi Bellamkonda
- Corporate Blogging – Valeria Maltoni
- Public Relations 2.0 – Beth Harte
- Social Networking & Community Building – Mack Collier
- Online Marketing Workshop (Just to make sure that attendees confidently hit the ground running at the end of the day!)
Why the limited number of seats? Because as speakers we all want to make sure that we can spend as much time as possible with attendees to help get their questions answered, to help them bridge that gap I spoke about above, and to make sure that they leave with a new competitive advantage.
Online marketing and social media isn’t just for large companies with budgets. In fact, that’s not true at all! If you are a company, non-profit, agency (creative or government), college/university, etc. who wants to engage customers, prospects, shareholders, students, constinuents, etc. online, the Online Media Boot Camp is for you! Let’s face it, the Internet isn’t going away and even if you aren’t there…everyone else just might be. Why miss out on that opportunity?
To learn more about the speakers and what they are engaged in, check out their blogs:
- Liana (Li) Evans, Key Relevance
- Shashi Bellamkonda (The Social Media “Swami”), Network Solutions
- Valeria Maltoni, Conversation Agent
- Mack Collier, The Viral Garden
Registration is open and the Online Media Boot Camp is $349 per person. After 3/16 the registration is $449.
If you are already embracing online marketing and social media, how about passing on this information to a marketer that might be looking for a leg up or who gets it, but wants to learn how to implement it? You have my appreciation and thanks in advance!
If you have questions, please e-mail me at beth [at] onlinemediabootcamp [dot] com. Looking forward to hearing from you!
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Yesterday, after hearing that there was a discussion around ghostwriting up at the recent PodCamp Toronto, I decided to share a post on Twitter that I had written for MarketingProfs’ Daily Fix on Ghostwriting, Social Media and Ethics.
From the MarketingProfs Daily Fix post:
In Richard Johannesen’s book “Ethics in Human Communication,” he analyzes the ethics of ghostwriting with a series of questions**:
- What is the communicator’s intent and what is the audience’s degree of awareness?
- Does the communicator use ghostwriters to make herself/himself appear to possess personal qualities that she/he does not have?
- What are the surrounding circumstances of the communicator’s job that make ghostwriting a necessity?
- To what extent does the communicator actively participate in the writing of her/his own writing?
- Does the communicator accept responsibility for the message she/he presents?
Those questions and the ethics surrounding them are easily answered in the traditional marketing and/or public relations arena. But what happens when you add social media into the mix? How do the ethics around ghostwriting change when companies are supposed to be authentic and transparent?
(To read the examples of how social media ghostwriting can potentially harm a companies’ reputation while they are trying to engage in social media, head on over to the Daily Fix…besides, there are a lot of great questions, comments and conversation! )
**Source: Public Relations Writing: The Essentials of Style & Format by Thomas H. Bivins
Traditional Media vs. Social Media
From an ethics perspective, most people know that marketers and public relations professionals write (or it’s outsource to an agency) the information they receive on a daily basis…whether it be a radio commercial, a TV ad, a magazine article, etc. And from a PR perspective, if someone takes credit for a byline they didn’t write (thinking about the co-worker who struts around with his/her article in hand), that’s unethical (see #2). But, most people aren’t stupid…when they know someone well enough, they can tell who really wrote it and that just makes the person making the claim look like a dishonest idiot among other things.
The issue here is that you cannot take that same marketing/PR team and say “okay, now go do social media.”
Why? The transference doesn’t work well. Let’s remember that social media tools were around long before the term social media even existed. People, yes people, not companies, used weblogs (blogs) as personal diaries, to communicate with their friends, to share information, etc. And people (there’s that word again!) used social networks like forums, Yahoo! Groups, chat rooms, etc. to be social with…people. Social media’s history lies with individuals who used these tools to communicate, solve problems, debate, etc. If you haven’t read The Cluetrain Manifesto, I highly suggest it. Within its pages you’ll find the history of the online world that I am talking about. That said, with today’s social media comes an inherent trust, authenticity and transparency that companies, marketers and PR professionals need to learn to embrace. This new form of communication is messy and it’s not your mother’s marketing or PR!
I have witness first-hand and have untangled myself from, and you probably have too if you were involved in social networks pre-2008/2009, social network attacks on people who appear to be sharing fake information or using these places for underhanded reasons. These situations (people-on-people) are typically quite vocal and verbally violent…and it’s not pretty. Typically when these situations happen, some of the people are banned from the forum or group.
Now transfer that to today’s social media situations and consumers or the media uncovering that a company, its brand or its CEO has been less than authentic and transparent and their blog or network communications were fake (i.e. ghostwritten)?
Would you want to be the agency or consultant advising them on how to survive an attack?
Or worse yet, do you want to be the agency or consultant that put them in that delicate situation to begin with?
Yes, it seems extreme, I know…but what can I say, people are people and it is human nature to act out when you feel betrayed, used, carpetbagged, etc. And in today’s social media world, that can happen in a nanosecond! And ultimately the “ghostwriting” disconnect occurs when marketers/PR folks try to force traditional media ‘norms’ onto social media, which is anything but the norm.
The Twitter Ghostwriting Debate
After I shared the MarketingProfs Daily Fix post, an interesting little debate between me and Heather Whaling (@PRtini) took place***. Heather is a traditional PR person and a new blogger. I got the sense that part of our debate disconnect lies within our different backgrounds. I admit it, I am a purist. Having spent the past 5 years of my life spent in online social networks & blogging (no, there weren’t any companies networking & no, THoM is not my first blog), I can’t disconnect from my belief that today’s social media/social networking needs to be from a “people” perspective, not a “business” perspective.
As a point of debate, I pointed out the Edelman/Wal-Mart debacle to Heather as an example of why ghostwriting is a potentially bad path for companies engaging in social media to go down and her first reaction was “but that was a fake blog.” Yep, it was…but consumers didn’t know that at first, did they? When professionals who monitor/analyze Wal-Mart started seeing a disconnect between Wal-Mart’s typical business stance and the rosy posts showing up on the blog they knew something was up. Some of the words used were: misleading, deceptive, skepticism, and questionable practices. In retrospect not very rosy, at all.
Here’s the point: If you are going to ghostwrite, you better know that company inside and out and know their negatives and positives—as viewed by the market/community—not the CEO or the company. Because if you just listen to what the company’s marketers tell you (which is always an inherently skewed view) and you don’t do your own homework, your writing will shine a spotlight on any inconsistencies that might exist and that customers, analysts, investors, etc. might find once that ghostwritten content is public. I mean, after all, you’re just writing as the CEO. Really, what’s the harm for them or you/your agency, right?
“Social media forces ethics upon people. There’s little mercy once things get exposed.”
Convinced yet? What do you think? Is this a valid argument against ghostwriting?
Added 2/24/09: Dave Fleet (@davefleet) has a great post on “Why Ghostwriting is Wrong” on his blog. Check out the debate going on over there too!
Note: I am not opposed to helping a company with social media consulting, providing a guiding hand when they want to blog, etc. Heck, that’s what I do for a living! But what I am opposed to is writing blog content from scratch (i.e ghostwriting). I didn’t develop the ethics around public relations, I am just a great believer in following them. And yes, I believe we are talking about the public when it comes to social media.
*I say “Marketing/PR” because that’s who is trying to transfer the idea of ghostwriting into social media. Folks who have been engaged in social networks/media as “people” for 2-10 years know that there isn’t a debate…they tend to side that ghostwriting is not acceptable.
***Others included in the debate/conversation included: Mack Collier (@mackcollier), Mandy Vavrinak (@mvavrinak), Josh Sternberg (@josh_sternberg), Amber Watson Tardiff (@jerseymomma), Justin Goldsborough (@JGoldsborough), 30Lines (@30Lines), Marita Roebkes (@MaritaR). I hope I didn’t miss anyone…
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While Kami is taking time off to enjoy her new bundle of joy she’s ask Lauren, Shonali Burke ABC, Kellye Crane and me to guest post. Be sure to check ‘em all out! From stinging bees to sweating the small stuff to getting the message, there’re a lot of though provoking ideas and great conversation for sure!
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Recently, Valeria Maltoni, the Conversation Agent and expert in community facilitation asked me to participate in her ebook, “Marketing in 2009.” To which I said “but, of course!” I have known Valeria for almost nine years and her ability to build communities & networks on-line as well as off-line never ceases to amaze me!
For this free ebook Valeria didn’t want marketing predictions for 2009, which was lucky for me because my crystal ball has been in the repair shop for quite a while and I have recently run out of eye of newt, toe of frog, wool of bat…
The path set before us contributors was executive direction. For my contribution, I focused on developing internal brand loyalty. By creating internal accountability for customer brand experiences and building internal evangelists, marketing executives can build the brand pride necessary to get employees to understand, embrace and champion external social media initiatives and customer conversations.
As an aside, one of the comments Valeria received was that this was really an ebook on social media thought leadership with little other marketing reference and, perhaps, it might have been misnamed. That’s an interesting perception and I think it might show that there is still a disconnect between social media and marketing…and that’s why this ebook is so very important! Marketing executives need to recognize that social media has become an important set of tools (albeit ever changing) that leads to dialogue and that dialogue might just be about their company, products/services or employees. And in that regard, social media and conversation have changed marketing forever. (Okay, one lil’ prediction…I think marketing executives know this already and 2009 will be the year that they start to implement social media if even just by sticking their toes in the wading pool.)
Thank you Valeria for including me to contribute to an invaluable marketing ebook (my first!) with so many marketers that I respect, admire and consider to be friends! Without further ado, here’s a little snippet of the contributions marketing’s brightest (courtesy of Valeria):
- “Basic metrics you can initially use to match up before, during and after sales deltas are frequency, reach, and yield” – Olivier Blanchard, The Brand Builder, @thebrandbuilder
- “There are three imperatives for execution programs in 2009 – start with measurement, create content for the open Web and for mobility” – Matt Dickman, Techno||Marketer, @MattDickman
- “The foundation and core of what social media is, consists of the five C’s. Conversation, community, commenting, collaboration and contribution” – Mike Fruchter, My Thoughts on Social Media, @Fruchter
- “With social media as a platform for participation, people can behave the way they were hardwired to behave in the first place – humanly, tribally” – Francois Gossieaux, Emergence Marketing, @fgossieaux
- “Companies with greater social intelligence have stronger bonds with employees and customers, and that translates into revenue” – Lois Kelly, Beeline Labs, @LoisKelly
- “Change ensures our own livelihoods – new opportunities and trends to capitalize upon, unique products and profit centers that merit development, robust innovation to leverage”- Christina Kerley, CK Epiphany, @ckepiphany
- “Social media interaction allows us to have… well, interaction with our customers. It lets us see them as people instead of statistics and it lets us hear their voices” – Jennifer Laycock, Search Engine Guide, @JenniferLaycock
- “Goals absolutely must be built on business objectives” – Amber Naslund, Altitude Branding, @AmberCadabra
- “A proper social media education is more than just learning new tools. The most important lesson we can impart is the necessity to think ‘humans’”- Connie Reece, Every Dot Connects, @ConnieReece
- “Social media isn’t causing problems, but it is revealing them. And the problems aren’t new; they’ve been around for a while” – Mike Wagner, Own Your Brand!, @bigwags
- “The secret of success in social media is a product or a service that people actually like and use” – Alan Wolk, The Toad Stool, @awolk
Let me know what you think…are we on the right track?