|Does Social Media Matter? Earlier this month, needing to find a contractor with a specialty in water-damage remediation, my Mother instinctively turned to the phone book, while I grabbed my laptop and began googling. Neither of us used Facebook. Apparently, in a recent Pew Internet survey only 3% of respondants mentioned using online social networks was a viable tool for researching local businesses. In our case we ended up interviewing companies that we had each found in our own way, hiring one firm as the result of an internet search, and several other contractors through word-of-mouth recommendations. Who do you turn to when you need help, the interwebs, or the phone?
Hi! Hi! Hi?
The holy grail of any marketer is to get someone’s attention, even if just briefly. This requires knowing your audience so that you can offer them something interesting. It also requires contacting people multiple times, but not too many times –a very fine balance indeed. Social media seems purpose made for this, because it gives you time to build up a relationship with someone to the point where they’re ready to take action. Hopefully, however, the action they’re taking is NOT to unfriend you.
Free Wi-Fi; Though No Free Lunch
As a consultant who also works part-time in a customer service position, I wander about New York City Monday through Friday with my laptop in a backpack, continually searching for places to sit down and grab a free internet connection every time I have an hour or two to myself. I find Starbucks to be the worst –noisy, no seats and a high-stress environment. Mostly I use Cosi restaurants, which tend to be a little quieter and offer comfortable chairs and tables. The library was my favorite option in the old days, although less so now that I live in Manhattan (few branches, less pleasant surroundings). Besides, you can’t order lunch at the library.
When I first started this blog a couple of years ago, I was struck by the constant reference to “top ten” lists that seemed to proliferate everywhere on Twitter and in marketing blogs in particular. Perhaps this appeals to the human instinct to categorize things, but mostly I find these rankings to be opinionated entertainment, disguised as helpful advice. I was glad to find another writer this week who agreed with me on this, noting the high “crud factor” in most such postings. Perhaps we’re getting so used to seeing small pieces of information doled out to us (with links attached) that brevity and list-making has become instinctual.
|It’s About Time(line)
Are you an early technology adopter, or are you the go-along-with-the-crowd type? You might see a lot of media hype over things like the latest electronic gizmo from Apple, but most people don’t wake up in the morning hungering to download new apps and tools. If anything, users of Facebook have become leery of “planned upgrades” that inevitably seem to trash privacy concernsIt and create usability problems. Perhaps that’s why Mark Zuckerberg’s company is giving users the option to opt-in a week early to its new “timeline” feature. People not be clamoring to do that, but I also doubt that they’ll drop the service altogether.Not Pinterested
Speaking of cutting edge ideas, one of my most trusted marketing go-to people dropped casual mention this week of a new service I never heard of called “pinterest.” Even after reading up on it, I’m not sure I understand the premise – “ to discover new things and get inspiration”. I noticed they don’t call them “bulletin boards” and my guess is that it’s because that term has a relatively negative connotation in the online world. If you’re a scrap-booker or if you like to peruse collections of others’ favorite pictures and ideas, let me know. I’d hate to be a late adopter if this turns out to be the next AOL. Er, I mean Myspace. Er, I mean Facebook.
Engaged, Enthusiastic, Results-oriented, Team Player
Have you looked for a job lately? I have to say it seemed a little insulting when Linkedin, that perennial favorite of job networkers everywhere, released a report criticizing over-used resume buzzwords. Much more fun would be a send-up of all the laundry-list requests that employers use these days to weed out the deluge of candidates. How about marketing positions that demand MBAs for “entry-level” openings, or require advanced scientific knowledge, or list more than 25 individual requirements that need to be met. Of course the one that really had me stumped required candidates to sum up “8-10 years of experience” in 140 characters.
If social protestors upset at the way the economy is being run really want to disrupt the bastions of high finance, they might want to think about doing so virtually. Instead of camping out in grimy tents on public property, perhaps they could start staking out space on Facebook, Twitter or online gaming sites. This week, virtual game company Zynga (with no stores, no actual products, and a relatively low-tech, unsophisticated “service”) went through an initial public offering that valued its shares at seven times earnings. Those earnings come from the approximately ONE PERCENT of game players who actually spend any real dollars. In this case, my sympathies definitely lie with the 99%.
While in some countries Twitter may be a powerful tool of the masses to effect political reforms, it remains in the West as a playground for the rich and famous and a source of mindless entertainment for the rest of us. You probably shouldn’t write off the micro-blogging service yet, however. Some researchers think it’s a great way to take the pulse of consumer sentiment. And it might be the best way to get a good Christmas deal if you can’t stand leafing through the Sunday paper. What’s a Sunday paper?
Speaking of shopping, I’ll bet historians will look back on the bad economy as one of the key drivers of social media behavior in the 2010’s. As advertisers desperately seeks customers, and as consumers desperately try to stretch limited budgets, online networks would seem to be the simple answer. What’s harder to predict is which of types of behaviors will stick when the economy (finally) recovers. Although you have to wonder… if companies like Amazon end up killing the shopping mall, will we ever see a return of the good old days?
If you’re like most people, no matter how many people you’ve connected to on Linkedin, Facebook, Youtube, Twitter and elsewhere online, you spend the most time keeping up with people you already know. Aside from old high school sweethearts and Aunt Tillie from back home, most people are primarily interested in using social media as a practical way to keep up with what matters most to them. And according to new research, what seems to matter most is a person’s geographical proximity. That’s right, apparently even in the 21st century, it’s all about location, location, location.
Back in the dot com era I made a living studying the shift from spoken-word telecommunications to the explosion of the internet. One promising finding was that in countries like Brazil, Mexico and India where “the phone company” had left consumers woefully underserved, new technologies were leapfrogging wireline telecom. It’s therefore logical that a similar leapfrogging is taking place in developed countries like the U.S. Whereas computers and internet connections were once the province of primarily wealthier middle class households, now it seems that all segments of society are eager to gain access to the web. This means ditching “old school” devices for the latest and greatest.
|Stop! Don’t Click!While most of my friends and relatives are, of course, above average in smarts, I find that my Facebook and other social media streams are sometimes cluttered with hoaxes and scams that they inadvertently fall prey to. The most successful (i.e. most annoying) of these are well-meaning posts that “warn” us about hacks, viruses, identity theft and other perils. But they can also involve supposed charitable efforts as well. My advice? Before you click (and especially before you forward) something, check out Snopes-dot-com or any other trusted hoax-busting site you can find.
What Happens When You Click?
The holy grail in marketing has always been “impact” –in other words, affecting people’s choices about what they say, do, and purchase. With print and broadcast messages, it’s hugely difficult to show their impact on individuals, but online campaigns are the opposite. Social media teams have therefore developed a slew of “key performance indicators” to monitor consumers’ actions as a way to demonstrate value or develop insights. The so-called “click-through-rate” (that is, when you see a link embedded somewhere and you click on it to go to a company website) is one of the most popular. Every time you comment on a blog, select a “thumbs up” option on a page, or even delete something without looking at it, marketers want to know.
When It Just Doesn’t Click
This week I was told that one of the marketing communications jobs I applied for has been put on “indefinite hold.” Think about it –when money is tight, why hire someone whose “only” function is to improve brand awareness? Organizations feel the need to create revenue by selling products and services, and in a recession anything else gets scrapped. Particularly when it comes to social media, business leaders are rightfully skeptic about how it could impact their bottom line. It’s no surprise to me that small businesses in particular are not convinced they should spend more time and money on Facebook, Linkedin or Twitter. The eternal problem is this, however: in a crowded information marketplace, how can you stand out from the rest?
Click on This
Have you been in a meeting lately where someone just couldn’t put down their smart phone? My sister, an entrepreneurship professor at Cornell University, is exploring ways to engage with students in class through methods that actually require them to respond via social media channels (e.g. polling, texting answers, etc.). And with increasing frequency, business conferences are working on ways to move social media from the “back channel” to the front of the room. You know, you can try and fight technological advancement (“Okay everyone, put away your phones!”) or you can embrace it.
|Share and Share a “Like”Early on, social media pundits liked to compare online networking to “being at the world’s largest cocktail party.” Which somehow implied classy, well-dressed people, sipping glasses of chardonnay while sharing anecdotes. Sadly, social media is more like a mosh-pit or Occupy Wall Street protest with clashing sounds, videos, photos, political viewpoints and personal opinions. Not to mention links to kittens on YouTube. That’s why I loved this “should I or shouldn’t I” flow chart that tells you when and what to post online. Mostly? Don’t.
Blogs like the one you’re reading right now will, sooner or later, be replaced by something newer and –presumably—better. It’s not just that many business and individuals struggle to come up with good posts. The simple fact is that blogging itself is a transitional technology that made perfect sense at one time, but is destined to become obsolete (remember “beepers”?). I wasn’t surprised that a new study from the University of Massachusetts is hinting that blogs and even Twitter are seeing a real slowdown. The online audience, such as it is, has moved more and more towards Facebook. But don’t worry, Facebook is destined to become the next AOL one day. Mark my words…
Did you hear ….
Another big metaphor for social media is the “21st Century water cooler.” The problem with that analogy is in the workplace most people are smart enough to be discreet about their political and religious views, don’t share racy photos of their honeymoon, and know that the HR department isn’t going to go around selling their phone, address, date of birth and health details. I’m delighted, therefore, to hear that Facebook has come under increasing legal pressure to be upfront about what it’s doing with all of our personal information and –at least theoretically—has agreed to be monitored in the future.
When I was a kid, two versions of the “future” were portrayed by the TV show “Star Trek” and the cartoon “The Jetsons”. (And yeah, I’m talking about the ORIGINALS). Some unimaginable things came to pass already in my lifetime, like the know-it-all computer and the workplace consisting of screens and keyboards. But the rest of it is a long way off (flying cars, interstellar transport, Tribbles). That’s why when I read predictions about how shopping will change in the future, I’m just not so sure. Internet purchasing is already a huge phenomenon. But doing it all in a more virtual-reality based format? Makes me want to see if Scotty will beam me up.
|What’s Posted is PrologueThe “network effect” essentially describes the fact that your interest in using any particular network is the extent to which you can utilize it to reach out to both friends as well as people you have yet to meet. One way the telephone monopoly was toppled was to insist that its network freely interconnect with others. That’s why you can use your AT&T phone to call a Verizon landline or a Sprint mobile customer. I’m betting that Mark Zuckerberg’s henchmen/women at Facebook feel they are immune to this. I imagine they think that as a wealthy, influential, private company the government could never compel them to open up their network to any other company. Which is exactly what old Ma Bell thought. What do YOU think?
Teeny, Tiny, Twittery
A new Gallup study suggests that “the most frequent type of social networking is … face-to-face or over the phone.” Further, when it comes to the ways that companies engage with customers the report describes the impact of electronic social media as “infinitessimal”. That’s a strong dose of comeuppance for an industry that has come so far, so quickly. And with Facebook constantly fussing around with its interface, users find it a less and less reliable place to interact with friends and loved ones. If electronic networks simply become mass advertising spaces, where will we all go next?
Social Media, Inc.
To be clear, I’m an avid, daily user of Twitter, Facebook and Linkedin and enjoy using each of those networks for friendship, entertainment and to pass the time. I’ve even used them in my professional life as a marketer and a seeker of employment. At the same time, I agree with some of the skeptics of these networks –since social media companies exist in a capitalist economic context, it is only natural that they are driven towards profit-making purposes, where big business, not consumers, run the show.
King of the Mole Hill
In the bubble-world of social media geekery, some people put great store not just by how many friends or followers they have, but whether or not they are “influencers” –people whose voice matters. Leaving aside the question of whether you can truly lead the masses 140 characters at a time, it’s an interesting matter to decide whether an individual’s creditability is now measurable (at least online). Klout, the most well known service trying to do this, recently upset the Twittersphere with some changes that altered the way some folks were ranked. Given the forementioned characterization by Gallup of the puny amount of value in this whole debate, I wonder if it’s the 21st century equivalent of arguing about angels dancing on the head of a pin.
|TMIOne of the key tenets of effective communication has long been “keep it simple” (or variations thereof!). But that goes against human nature. Remember back ten years ago when every website you went to had blinky text, animated smiley faces and pop-up boxes? Ever view an overblown PowerPoint with scrolling words, crazy font mixtures and dramatic sound effects? That’s what I think of when I look at the latest set of social media infographics. As they try and cram so much information into just a single jpeg or page, I suddenly feel like it’s 2000 all over again. Time for another dot-com-like bust?
Which is Your Good Side?
Speaking of too much information, are you sure that you know what you’re doing when you click on that “use Facebook to sign in” button? It’s hard to know which identity you’re sharing when you do this, or what other people and organizations can see. As noted in Wired this week, “You Are Not Your Name and Photo.” As human beings we have multi-faceted identities, and the way we deal with the security guy at the airport or our mother-in-law or our best friend can be completely different. The convenience of being able to sign in to any website in the galaxy with a single ID is appealing, but it’s wise to remember that anonymity and privacy really are NOT dirty words.
Taleo’s Talons Trash Talent
Having worked for a recruiting firm, I’ve seen what happens to your resume when you submit it to an “Applicant Tracking System“. No matter whether you are the best candidate or the worst, chances are perhaps one in ten thousand that you’ve selected the right words or presented your qualifications with just right precision that the automated search filter will direct your CV to the hiring manager. That’s why I had a good laugh when I read some recent advice to personalize each resume you submit. Sure, there might be some human being out there somewhere who actually reads each resume they receive. But they probably write with a quill pen by a gaslamp, and the pay is lousy.
Ready for Your Close-up?
And if you ARE looking for a job, you’ll need to be even more cautious than ever about what you do with your time. Recently I received an e-mail from someone I don’t know mentioning that I should be careful about what I write in my personal weight loss blog, since I work part-time for WeightWatchers. And a freelancer was dropped just this week by a public radio station that felt her political activities negated her qualifications as a contractor. Should we all just start assuming that we are living like that guy on the Truman Show?
|What Hiring Managers Want
Having spent the past 6 months honing my job-hunting skills on a daily basis, I can boast a certain expertise in what it is that hiring managers feel they need when it comes to their new marketing person. Primarily they want someone with “established press contacts” and “media savvy” with a keen understanding of advertising (who also has an MBA for the “entry level position”). Way down the list is a brief interest in social media. This, of course, flies in the face of conventional wisdom in the marketing world, which says that the media is dead and traditional advertising is a complete waste of time. So who’s out of touch, the hiring companies or marketing industry? Do press mentions matter? Is getting known on Facebook a waste of time? No wonder it’s so hard to find a marketing job!
Speaking of Jobs
Steve Jobs’ recent passing was a curious thing to those of us who own neither an iPhone nor a macbook. While understanding the attachment that people form to objects which entertain, amuse and engage them, it’s a little odd to watch the sanctification of someone who was, after all, mostly known for being CEO of a successful electronics firm. Most agree that the primary impact of Jobs’ vision was to foster the creation of consumer-centric, consumer-friendly devices and services that continually forced competitors to follow suit. Without his influence, computer-based technologies might be clunkier, needlessly complex, and unwieldy. Odd, then, that the Apple-founding consumer tech advocate didn’t really like people in the flesh.
Piece of Work
If you’re on Facebook or Twitter, you already know that probably the worst, yet most popular, use of social media is to kvetch about people and situations. Perhaps you, as I, have even gone so far as block some “friends” who’ve been overly enthusiastic about posting their hatred of Mondays, their employer, or the neighbors’ barking dog. Nevertheless, some people apparently seem to forget that what you say online is pretty public. This is seldom entertaining to us unless, of course, it reveals the messy inner struggles of public figures.
All Worked Up
Technology makes it unimaginably easy for you to post a link or comment that immediately goes out to the world. For those of us who tend to mix our personal and professional worlds in the social media milieu, this should give us pause. You might not be fired, as was this pastor, for simply noting an article about a controversial issue. But to be a wise participant in the world of online social networking, we should at least imagine that our bosses, our spouses, our best friends, and our worst enemies are all listening intently to everything we say. Not that I, personally, have any enemies!
|You Can Log In, But You Can’t…Log…Out!Turns out Facebook picked a great time to launch its much-hated new redesign. That’s because outrage over the clunkiness of the interface has distracted users from a much worse problem. Namely, the social networking juggernaut has stealthily been planting cookies on users’ computers that continue to track their activities even after being logged out of the online service. That’s right – you can log off Facebook but they’re still interested in following your every move. It’s enough to make me want to write a letter. On paper. With ink. And mail it!
All Fired Up in Manhattan
The big news in my neighborhood this week was the launch of Amazon’s new mobile device, the Fire. This was due not to the gadget’s price or capabilities, but rather to the fact that the city restricted parking for two blocks in order accommodate all of the vans, tents, studios and catering trucks for the event. Unable to comment on the technical capabilities of the Fire, all I can say is that for any such gizmo there would seem to be an inherent contradiction in terms of size versus mobility. Anything small enough to be light and portable has to sacrifice viewing area. Much as I hate lugging around my laptop all the time, you can’t beat the full-sized keyboard and the incredibly crisp, large display. Pundits are already calling it a category-killer, so what do I know…
Hello Jonathan Streeter of 400 West 37th Street!
While not much of a prognosticator, you might recall that I’ve been predicting for two years now that at some point in the future, privacy will be declared illegal. Seems like in many ways that vision is becoming true. More and more sites are requiring users to “log in with Facebook” — meaning, they must reveal their actual identity. Now it makes sense to try and keep anonymous spammers out of public dialogues and to force bad guys to identify themselves before they can rip you off. But as a friend of mine used to say “locks are for honest people.” Meaning crooks will always find a way. Meanwhile, they’ll have a much easier time grabbing our identity.
Mad Men, Bad Company
In marketing, from Don Draper’s time to the present day, we’ve always known that it’s maddeningly difficult to capture the hearts and minds of the audience. And even harder to measure our success in doing so. Social media’s promise has been that at last, we could get to know the consumer, and could enter into a dialogue that empowers companies to make good financial choices. Um, OR NOT. This week Bank of America has been assailed from all sides for its stated intention to start charging consumers a monthly debit card usage fee. Turns out, companies want to make a profit, not be our friend.
|Reminder: Facebook is Free!As my online friends and I slogged our way through the social network’s latest changes this week, I kept reminding myself that the service was completely free and voluntary. Scrolling through all the complaints, funny photos and pledges to abandon the site, I couldn’t help but think of those Facebook managers laughing all the way to the bank. Think about it: if you’re complaining about Facebook on Facebook, you’re still using Facebook. If you leave the site, however, no one will even notice. At least not on Facebook…
Mobile or Immobile?
Technology moves by leaps and bounds, but laws change at the speed of continental drift. As a result, public officials and business executives are still trying to figure out how to catch up with the way social media is changing the marketplace. Many workers simply override company policies by using their own devices when they’re at work, causing employers to re-think the rules of the game. But don’t underestimate the power of the dinosaurs of bureaucracy – in New York, it’s actually illegal for a dentist to offer a Groupon discount.
Talk or Click
Speaking of dinosaurs, men come out looking somewhat behind the times in a social media study that came out this week. Researchers reported that “women, in general, tend to trump men when it comes to media consumption and communication online.” Not being a sociologist, I can only guess at the reason behind this, but here’s my thinking: men don’t make friends. My friend count on FB is 2:1 women, for example. Sadly, the only measure which men come out “on top” is communicating by phone. One can only ask, who are they calling?
You’re Never Alone
As a job seeker, I have to toot my own horn a lot, staking claims to a lot of experience, skills and “deliverables” that demonstrate my worth as a candidate. But I have to agree with the sentiment of U.S. Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren, who basically said this week that no-one gets head on their own in this world, no one. Particularly as it concerns the knowledge that I’ve garnered in marketing and social media, pretty much every credit on my CV goes to the people that have taught me and shaped my understanding. Thanks, folks!