I’m not one enamored of the Harvard Business Review. The ivory tower often isn’t the best vantage point.
That’s why I’m unimpressed with the recent piece by Bill Lee, “Marketing is Dead,” published in the HBR. The article does little to live up to the provocative title, rehashing conclusions most savvy marketers and advertisers came to nearly a decade ago (even the slowest among us arrived at them at least five years ago).
Why is marketing dead? CEOs are frustrated and customers are ignoring traditional media – just look!:
“In a devastating 2011 study of 600 CEOs and decision makers by the London-based Fournaise Marketing Group, 73% of them said that CMOs lack business credibility and the ability to generate sufficient business growth, 72% are tired of being asked for money without explaining how it will generate increased business, and 77% have had it with all the talk about brand equity that can’t be linked to actual firm equity or any other recognized financial metric.”
So what? The percentage of Americans that say CEOs lack credibility is at 79 percent. Moreover, the turnover rate for CEOs is at a six-year high. Audiences have been tuning out from the traditional mass media for over a decade. Read more…
“Call me crazy, but I am not on Facebook. That’s strange for somebody my age and stranger still for somebody who belongs to a group of writers here at UVenus who are masters at using social media.”
I have two issues with the article:
- You’re not a master of using social media if you’re not on Facebook.
- It’s impossible to stay off Facebook.
Permit me to explain…
1. Mastery of Social Media
You’ll have to forgive me if I’m touchy about the subject of social media mastery. A primary means I make my living is through my understanding of social media, and my ability to ply my trade is substantially hampered by people who falsely claim to be experts like me. Regrettably the learning curve with SM is so great that the average person often isn’t able to distinguish good practice from bad practice. I’m hardly alone – virtually every profession or area of technical expertise faces this problem.
The 800-lb Blue Gorilla in the Room
Facebook is easily the most massive social networking site world-wide – particularly in the West. Right now they’re coming up on one BILLION users – or one 1/6 of the planet. Mastering social media inherently requires a thorough understanding of Facebook given its dominance. To be a social media expert and have no ongoing hands-on experience with its most key player is the equivalent of attaining a Master of Film Theory degree without learning anything about Sergei Eisenstein.
Social Media’s Shifting Sands
Online the only constant is change. As such, remaining a master of social media means constantly learning, growing and evolving with platforms.
To wit: every single social media presentation I do is different. I often stay up late into the night before a presentation revising it with the developments that happened that day. I even modified a recent preso I did for Crime Stoppers International from one day to the next because the social media world had changed significantly overnight.
Professor Jafar qualifies my first assertion by arguing in her article that Facebook nurtures two characteristics of McDonaldization (efficiency and calculability) that are harmful. Hopefully Professor Jafar is heartened by the fact that we as a society have evolved away from those measures precisely because of the effect of McDonaldization.
Social media experts AND Facebook know that impersonal shotgun blasts of information are far less effective than one-on-one engagement and discourage it (in the case of Facebook, its algorithms will de-prioritize that content so it shows up in the newsfeeds of fewer users). Even casual users of Facebook are opening their eyes to this reality, and todays’ students are getting better at communicating differently to different audiences.
With respect to calculability, virtually everyone from tweens to multinational corporations know that sheer numbers don’t matter online. Actual interactions and action are what matters – and those qualities are rarely present in inflated numbers of fans or friends.
2. You ARE on Facebook
Whether or not you want to be, you likely are on Facebook already.
If you know anyone who is on FB (or possibly even people who don’t know you), doubtless they’ve uploaded photos of you, updates about you, and if you’re a publisher of content like Jafar – that is being shared, liked, and commented on in Facebook. Institutions or events also publish content about us – like TEDx Conferences:
At the very least every web-accessible digital snippet about you is searchable through Facebook:
The ubiquity of recording equipment in society means that there is constantly digital documentation of our behavior. We’re able to ignore this reality on a daily basis because it’s usually never interesting. That changes the minute we do something sensational or outstanding in either a positive or negative sense.
In Professor Jafar’s case – this likely takes the form of her students discussing what an excellent teacher she is. Right now these wall posts, photos and posts are mostly unsearchable in Facebook – but that will invariably change as our notions of privacy evolve and become more permissive (a massive shift in public opinion that Pew has documented). The pressure Facebook is under to monetize its users will only accelerate this trend.
Don’t get me wrong – Facebook should give everyone pause with respect to their privacy. They’ve made a number of moves over the years that remove control from their users over what is shared about them. A decade ago, staying off a social networking site was a viable pursuit, but we’ve reached a saturation point where that is no longer the case.
The solution is not to abstain – it is to engage.
When you refuse to engage digitally (be it on Facebook or the web in general) you accomplish two things:
- you lose the opportunity to monitor what is said about you and…
- you give up the ability to contribute to the conversation about you.
For some reason, people seem very comfortable assuming they know as much as anyone trained in marketing, advertising or public relations. Whereas few people would feel comfortable second-guessing a
physician’s assistant physician assistant, or telling an engineer how to do their job – they are more than willing to micro-manage communications professionals.
To them, I say “thanks but no thanks.” If you’ve not in the field, and you’ve ever offered up any of the following advice to a colleague in the field, please check yourself.
1. You think we should advertise somewhere because you consume that media.
In all liklihood *you* are not the demographic being targeted. *I* am not the demographic being targeted either.
This happens all the time – I guess it has to do with some desire we have to feel as though we understand the average person’s mindset and that we represent the common opinion on the street. The problem is – it’s increasingly hard to identify “the average person” anymore.
Not only that, but whomever he/she is, none of us is likely representative of them (particularly where I work where most of the employees have advanced degrees – relegating them to a tiny ten percent of the US population, not at all representative of the median).
Instead of going with your gut – trust the data instead. Save your gut for the creative portions of the campaign where it will be needed.
2. You think we should advertise somewhere because it’s a “special” promotion targeted right at our industry.
I hate to break it to you, but every two-bit media entity worth its salt has created bogus “special interest” offerings as a marketing ploy to appeal to advertisers. There are “special editions” for everything now – and they even come out more than once a year.
To make matters worse, there are even entire organizations created solely for the purpose of selling worthless advertising to rubes who think they’re reaching someone.
A great example of this is the “Who’s Who” listings or “Internet Directories” for special topics. When was the last time you looked anyone up in a “Who’s Who” book? Carter was probably president. The same goes for special “directories” online; as the power and accuracy of search has improved, it has rendered the need for curated directories obsolete. You’re far better off taking all of that time and money and putting it into writing a blog to push up your rank in Google.
On Payola: By the way – if the “special promotion” includes freebies to the people buying the advertising (say, event tickets) – if you take those, it’s unethical and potentially grounds for firing at many institutions. It constitutes a conflict of interest for you to spend money that isn’t yours in order to get something free. You may even want to check with your Purchasing department because you may be legally-obligated to notify them or turn over that item.
3. You think we should advertise somewhere because they have special pricing available only for a limited time.
The amount of exclamation points that usually accompany the emails for these sorts of requests could fuel a mid-sized city. Understand that these offers are invariably overvalued. The reason they’re discounting the air time/ad space is because NO ONE ELSE WANTS IT (and there’s a reason no one else wants it).
The reason these “opportunities” are “special” is because no one else will advertise on them because they don’t reach enough people (or they’re not effective at converting eyeballs into sales). They’re the advertising equivalent of the bargain DVD bin at Wal-mart – no one wants to own Battlefield Earth which is why it languishes even with a $2.99 price tag. You’re literally throwing your money away – money that could be better spent with 30 seconds and a credit card on Facebook.
4. You think we should advertise somewhere because our competitors are doing it.
To be sure, there is absolutely value in benchmarking what one’s competitors are doing. However, following the herd can be problematic for a variety of reasons.
- First, if the herd is already there – it’s a diluted marketplace for ideas. You’ll be trying to make noise while everyone else is trying to make noise – no one is going to hear it. The Law of Diminishing Returns absolutely applies to advertising.
- Second, the herd doesn’t know anything you don’t already know. They’re not privy to some mystical insight – particularly the more members of the herd are engaging in this communal behavior the more likely it is to be outmoded because the soft middle has arrived.
5. You think we should advertise somewhere whether or not we can track the response.
Measurement is just as critical as Communication in a marketing/pr plan. If you’re not worried about how we’re going to gauge the response to our efforts – I’M worried about your fitness for your job.
If you can’t find a way to verify whether or not something worked – why would you do it? Would you have a surgery if you had no way of telling whether or not it was successful? Would you enter a competition that didn’t track how you placed?
It’s not fun and it’s not sexy, but it is an imperative that we develop some way of measuring how many people are converted by our efforts. Given how wildly media consumption habits are shifting right now – it’s even MORE important than any time in the past half-decade.
Moreover, ENTIRELY NEW forms of advertising are emerging all the time. What worked this year may not work at all next year – and it’s important to track that progress.
So “Backseat Marketers,” please – we need your input but keep it constructive and focused on the content that you are experts on. Recycle the faxes you get with radio discounts on them instead of forwarding them to us. Defer questions from ad sales reps to us and let us handle them (instead of allowing them to create confusion, conflict and division within our organization just because they work on commission).
In the kampy 70s-era Batman TV series (and movie), Adam West’s titular character was always trying to extricate himself from a supervillain’s trap by “reversing the polarity.” It’s one of those pseudo-sciencey terms that pre-teen kids find believable (even nerdy kids who like Dr. Who).
Colleagues and I have joked before that the marketing budgets of some projects would be better spent bribing the very small target population than trying to break through the deluge of noise consumers encounter each day by paying for mass media channels (the very entities creating the noise).
Twitter. Facebook. Pinterest. Linkedin. Blogs. RSS. SMS. Foursquare. Google Places.
Thanks to social media there are enumerable ways for any organization to broadcast messages to its publics. There are so many channels with such low cost barriers that the decisions marketers and PR pros need to make are all about how many to spend time on.
However, the focus on broadcasting often overshadows an important and underutilized feature of the Internet-connected world: the ability to reverse the flow of information to focus laser-like on a very tiny population. I’m not talking about Narrowcasting. The “casting” part still implies a lack of a quality relationship with each of the unique people you’re trying to enlist.
It is increasingly easier to be successful by focusing solely on good customer service or by serving a very specific clientele. That’s the Long Tail at work. Creating relationships.
Rather than spending resources buying access to a megaphone could you reallocate those resources to, one at a time, find the 25, 50, 100, 1000 people you actually need to make your campaign a success? I bet you could … if you can just “reverse the polarity.”
One of the first places people go (from Google, that is) for quick answers and information is Wikipedia. The size of the audience it commands, and its ability to become a critical resource for developing the narrative from current events mean that it’s of critical importance to any public relations professional.
Unfortunately the PR community is largely ignorant of how to interact with Wikipedia.
According to a new study done by Dr. Marcia W. DiStaso of Penn State University,
- 25 percent of public relations pros were completely unaware of the state of Wikipedia entries about their organization.
- Worse – only 21 percent were familiar with the rule that PR pros should not edit articles on behalf of a client or organization they represent.
This is unacceptable. A healthy understanding of Wikipedia and the dynamics of the collaborative space online (which eschews back-room deals and undemocratic influence) is critical for every PR pro (and journalist) to understand. This is the stuff of textbooks.
The study was prompted after a very thorough and productive discussion that has been happening on a Facebook group called CREWE (Corporate Representatives for Ethical Wikipedia Engagement) created by Phil Gomes of Edelman. The group has brought together Wikipedians (including founder Jimmy Wales) to promote broader awareness of the relationship between PR pros and Wikipedia editors:
- On the one hand, Wikipedians want to ensure that all information on the site is accurate and free of bias.
- On the other hand, PR pros have a legitimate complaint in that following the established process for contributing or editing content (to post suggestions to the “Talk” page in the hope that it will be evaluated by a Wikipedian with no connection to the story and ultimately considered for application to the Wikipedia entry) is often ineffective as it can be difficult to get the attention or consideration of editors.
The study done by Dr. DiStaso also contains a very helpful infographic pulling out some of the important points from the study. You can find everything here:
Measuring Public Relations Wikipedia Engagement: How Bright is the Rule?
Public Relations Journal — Vol. 6, No. 2 | Author: Marcia W. DiStaso, Ph.D.
Abstract: The study by Dr. DiStaso explores the views, experiences and beliefs of public relations/communications professionals about editing Wikipedia for their company or client. Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales has what he believes to be a “bright line” rule whereby public relations/communications professionals are not to directly edit the Wikipedia articles about their companies or clients. Through a survey with 1284 responses, this study found that the “bright line” rule is not working. This is because, among other reasons, 60% of the Wikipedia articles for respondents who were familiar with their company or recent client’s article contained factual errors. When the talk pages were used to request edits, it was found to typically take days for a response and 24% never received one. Plus, most of the public relations/communication professionals in this study were unaware of the rule and almost half of those who were familiar with it did not understand what it meant to them.. [Download Article]
A disturbing trend has ramped up over the past couple of years: employers demanding the login credentials for the Facebook accounts of their employees. Another example of this cretinism reared its ugly head here in Cassopolis, Michigan at Lewis Cass Intermediate School District where teacher’s aide Kimberly Hester was fired for refusing to cough up her password to administrators after posting a nondescript and safe-for-work photo of a co-worker’s pants around her ankles.
What makes this case doubly-stupid is that was completely unnecessary: if the school needed documentation of the alleged transgression, it could have taken a screen capture from the account of the local parent who raised the issue with the administration in the first place.
Demanding the Facebook credentials of an employee is just as outlandishly-inappropriate as demanding the login credentials for an employee’s online banking account. Employers should consider such a request with exactly the same level of caution (because they could open themselves up for liability).
Here’s why: Read more…
"...and you shall have no pie."As my parents tell it, when I was an infant my first word wasn't a word - it was an entire sentence. Very little has changed.
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