How’s that social channel working for ya?

July 6, 2016

If you are a social marketing professional and haven’t checked out #SMChat on Thursdays, you may be interested in this week’s installment. Chris nicely sums up the preface to this week’s chat with the existential question: what’s it all worth?  He includes some helpful self-test questions for practitioners to assess the value of their social channel efforts.  Hope to see you on the call!

Here’s Chris’s article…


Most social networks are built without a design. We follow, we like, we get followed, and *POUF* we’re connected to lots and lots of people, some friends and quite a few strangers. Now what? What value can be gained? That of course is the main unsolved riddle of social media for most people. The initial […]

via Building A Social Network: Value, by Design — #SMCHAT

LinkedIn Invitations and Stranger Danger

June 21, 2013

Prevent Online TrollsShould you accept a LinkedIn request from a stranger?  Some legitimate, real people (but also a few spammers, trolls and competitors) send LinkedIn invitations to complete strangers.  I extend the term “stranger” to include belonging to the same LinkedIn Discussion Group but not having had any substantive dialogue or value exchange.  Should you link to them? Okay for some, but not for me. Here’s why.

The “Start-up of You” Philosophy

My LinkedIn policy tends to follow LinkedIn’s Founders’ “Startup of You” philosophy of linking to:

  1. Allies – Domain experts whom I know well, and who add perspective.  This means we’ve met, collaborated and significantly influenced one another’s lives; maybe a customer, partner, supplier, or coworker.
  2. Acquaintances – non-allies with whom I have actively exchanged value in the form of work, knowledge or perspective.  Merely belonging to the same LinkedIn group without jointly participating in that group’s dialogue does not qualify.
  3. Colleagues, Collaborators, Clients – anyone with whom I’ve had substantial business experience from which I can discern their ethical behavior.

Okay, Stranger, I’m off my horse now and indeed looking forward to starting or joining a dialogue as a part of getting to know you – especially if we share a LinkedIn Group or two, where the chances are thus quite good. But don’t get me started back on the subject of Trolls.  We both know they exist.  Heck, if you are sending me – a total stranger – a LinkedIn invitation, aren’t you risking it a bit?  I could be that Troll.  Of course I’m not; I’m just saying.


Scam Puzzle

Typical scam puzzle

It’s actually pretty easy to spot a Troll even though the more sophisticated ones create entire fake Company profiles on LinkedIn, complete with fake recommendations and group memberships.  Dig a little deeper, though, and you may see telltale “cardboard cutout” signs: no active Group participation, no traceable business listing.  Oh, yes, and some of these fake profiles are sending LinkedIn invitations to strangers like you.  Why would a Troll go to all the bother?  To leverage the trust between you and your network, gain access to your contacts, access and extract your network’s profile data, spam them and, in the process, quite possibly mar your reputation – and maybe deservedly so, if you’re that careless.

Link (and think) like the Pros

Let’s look at how LinkedIn is used today in the corporate world.  Recruiters searching for talent increasingly use LinkedIn to find candidates.  Researchers and sales pros with legitimate needs use LinkedIn to search among their contacts  and extended networks for knowledgeable references.  If you appear in one of those search results, and the recruiter / researcher notices you are LinkedIn to a colleague at their company,  or a relevant influential person:  Bingo!  Instant inferred trust and credibility, as if your reference check is already done and your credibility is established….unless you’re not really acquainted and just pecked the “Accept” button simply to amass more pointless, relatively anonymous Connections.

If you are linked in to a bunch of strangers who either don’t know you or can’t remember you, imagine what that recruiter or researcher must think about the veracity of the rest of your LinkedIn profile – or your ability to discern, cultivate allies, and align resources.  Do you want to be seen as trustworthy, honest and accurate in your communications?  Well, then, don’t damage your credibility by linking to people you don’t know and, incidentally, dilute that critical Social Currency known as Trust by co-mingling untrustworthy strangers into your network of trusted associates.

We CAN-SPAM compliant marketers know better.  Relationships, trust and respect are hard-won and sacrosanct.  You get what you give.  Of course, if you don’t discriminate on LinkedIn between strangers and trusted relationships, then by all means, link away.  Just don’t expect me to reciprocate until after we have established a mutual, credible dialogue. Until then, keep smiling.




Additional Resources

The Startup of You (book title and website by Reid Hoffman, founder of LinkedIn

Dear Graduate: Social Media is Part of Your Job

June 3, 2013 a recent visit with a class of college seniors, I was asked rather pointedly: are there any jobs in Social Media?  Pondering this question, I had to answer it from two perspectives: the marketing agency, and the business organization.

Agency Perspective

This is the far easier perspective.  There are indeed roles that focus largely on social media.  Marketing Agency clients are either resource-strained or lack the native expertise, so they often outsource some aspects of social media communications to agencies whose mastery of branding, marketing communications, audience analytics, CRM, user experience design and social listening across various social channels and technical platforms can help the client achieve their audience goals.

Corporate Perspective

This one is by far more nuanced, but the answer is still a qualified yes.  While there not be corporate social media “jobs” per se, social media can help you perform just about any role better.  Consider the following work roles and the importance of social media savvy for each role – no matter what profession or set of duties you are considering.

The Producer’s Role

Just about every job requires you to produce a  measurable output.  That could be a product, a process step, a calculation, a recommendation, a report, etc.  As a producer, you need to master certain skills such as content development to effectively communicate your process and results.  It is useful to develop a “voice” within your team, company, or industry.  Having an authentic, trusted, competent voice builds credibility for your ideas and for communicating results.

Social media channels can help you build and amplify your voice, whether you choose to publish your ideas in a tweetstream or a  Facebook post series linking to your report.  A blog, wiki or website, a SlideShare-hosted PowerPoint presentation, or a Prezi-based rendering, or perhaps even a short video illustrating your message – all are useful tools and avenues for publishing non-proprietary reports. Learning how to tag your content so it is searchable and visible online is often an afterthought and, just as likely, not even considered.  In truth, it is now a baseline skill. Having grown up online, you know the importance of tagging and you consider it a natural part of projecting your content and your voice.  Good for you; this separates the “Navs” from the “Nav nots”.

The Analyst’s Role 

Often your job requires you to analyze information, interpret it in light of your organization’s needs and priorities, and present your interpretation in a way that is sensitive to your audience’s culture and its impact on their behavior.  Learning to monitor social media channels within your industry, profession and business community can help you develop your “antenna” – a sensitivity to audience needs, requirements and trends – that can then help you better communicate your analyses and interpretations, raise awareness, enlist support and stimulate action.

Time spent on social media channels can also help you make sense of information, intelligently filter it,  separating signal from noise and drawing more solid conclusions about the relative value of other voices and sources.

The Designer’s Role

Designers need to balance multiple roles, such as upward accountability for results as well as lateral, cross-organizational collaboration.  Use of social media technologies helps you perform these functions better.  Even simple schedule, project, chat, survey and other collaboration tools help you improve the quality and timeliness of your contribution to results.  Enterprise software tools may often include intra-organizational social features, such as chat and wiki.

Crowdsourcing your ideas invites a broad array of new ideas and inputs, and helps validate a concrete course of action.  Since it is widely accepted that at any given point in time the smartest people on any subject probably do not work with you or for you, consider crowdsourcing!  Invite others’ input, learn to mediate and moderate among various idea directions, and you can achieve far better results, and possibly even avoid costly mistakes.

The Dispatcher’s Role

Sending information is a standard function in most jobs.  Social media tools give you practice at building an audience, understanding communications and cultural dynamics, and packaging your communications in ways that are socially acceptable and more clearly understood.

The Leader’s Role

The effective leader shepherds activity toward productive outcomes.  Building omni-directional communication skills within channels, and cultivating a multi-channel audience, helps the organization leader communicate more effectively, support collaboration and achieve communication goals.

So, dear Graduate, think not just about a social media job; think about how social media helps you do just about any job better.  Can you think of a way it has worked, or could work, for you?   What tools are you finding effective?  I deliberately didn’t name many here.  Love to hear your comments!

Forget B2B and B2C; Hello, E2E

December 21, 2012

(Tune your Software Layer)

Forget B2B. Forget B2C. Embrace E2E: Everyone to Everyone.  Business and consumers alike are voting with their wallets and making mobile, tablet and personal 2-in-1 devices the “first screen” – relegating laptops, desktop PCs and wall-mounted flat screen TVs to “second screen” status.  They are messaging one another.  And they are talking about you. Are you listening?  Hello?

A few organizations have adopted the playbook to address this shift.   It seems, however, that most are not even thinking about the user-centric, user-generated, user-driven, mobile-first, E2E experience.  That makes it a huge opportunity, if you set your mind to it.

Aaron Shapiro, blogging for the Harvard Business Review, cited the “Software Layer” as an area of focus for optimizing this E2E User experience, no matter what business you are in.  I have incorporated some of his thoughts into the following 20-page storybook.  It’s a quick read (lots of pictures), and it outlines a framework for how Users interact with your Business through a Software Layer. Enjoy!

Who Uses You cover shot

Enjoy the brief SlideShare preso

I hope you find it useful in framing your thoughts on how to compete and excel.

Suffice to say, the race is on, and competing is not optional.

Make this the year you embrace the Software Layer of your business to drive User engagement, new opportunity, and new levels of success.

How is your organization adapting to the “Everyone to Everyone” world?   Love to hear your stories.

Cheers, Ed


8 Facebook #FAILS We Can Do Without

June 5, 2012

Is Facebook doomed?

Facebook #FAIL fanfoundry icon

The bloom is off.  Aside from FB’s business results, such as their abysmal financials and their ads’ anemic, low-end response rates, there are some basic usability issues I have found.  Neither I, nor my post-teen children, nor the new teeners, can figure out why these issues persist and, frankly, we can do without them. Maybe some of these things can be fixed within the platform, but many of the issues are user/behavior based.

1. Zero Privacy – Bill Joy said it over 20 years ago: you have zero privacy, get over it. What happens in Vegas stays on YouTube.  If you don’t want people to know something, don’t say it, don’t video it, don’t post it, don’t comment.

2.  Snooping Parents – at any age, there are just certain things you don’t even tell the fam.

3. Peer Pressure – How many times lately have you clicked the Like button based on guilt, pity, sarcasm, or some promise of reward?  What, then, is the value of a “like”, once we’ve polluted the Likestream with insincerity?

4.  Tasteless junk – sometimes I just don’t want to know about others’ nasty habits. And not everyone has the same sense of humor.  Xenophobia runs rampant.  Look it up.

5.  Career suicide – Hiring and prescreening include Facebook reviews. ‘Nuf said.

6.  Filter failure – This is arguably an umbrella issue in that it touches upon some of the other #fails listed here.  And, yet, it is separate: You can’t selectively filter your friends’ feeds.  Not everything in your friend feeds is relevant or even interesting, and it can’t be filtered to show only what’s interesting to you.

7.  Plummeting cool factor – All of the above factors feed a sense of disillusionment. Or is it just me?

8.  Alternatives – Tumbler, Instagram and Twitter are just as capable of perfoming the essentials.  Tomorrow: who knows?

I’ve only listed 8.  I’m sure there are a couple more.   Chime in!

Other Resources

“Are Teenagers Beginning to Prefer Twitter Over Facebook?”  (Mashable)

“Guess What’s Hot with Teens?  Tumblr, Not Facebook” (Huffington Post)

Mobile Internet: Does Apple Have it Wrong?

June 6, 2011

Update: Since posting this article in June 2011,  I have met some analysts who strongly argue against the scenario I predicted, in part because of HTML5 – most notably venture capitalist and Facebook investor Roger McNamee.   You decide.  ~Ed


Original post

Let me start by saying I admire Apple. I am in awe of their fanatical focus and gorgeous customer experience.  They find ways to improve on existing concepts better than anyone previously imagined. And yes, it’s hard to argue with their revenue, but will Apple’s “walled garden” approach to owning the app ecosystem create an opening for Google, Microsoft and others to overtake? I predict “yes”, and several analysts agree, although they express it differently.

The Garden Wall will Tumble Again

The Apple love fest may soon be over, for a variety of reasons, but one particular reason that I and many people can’t stand is the “Walled Garden” phenomenon: you must subscribe to the right phone service, purchase a specialized device, and endlessly search, discover and download app after app, which is then trapped on your device, and then you must access content available exclusively via curated channels. Of course, that world is expanding (100 million Apple device sales and counting, for example), and certainly, controlling the channel enables them to control the quality and the attendant revenue.

Good for Apple and their customers.  But there comes a point at which the profit motive, the curated experience and security issues come up against real world practicalities, such as need and desire of users to access and freely (or securely) share information without having to care about what device they’re holding.  It should just work…kind of like a Web browsing experience, eh?

Just as the Walled Gardens tumbled 15 years ago (who remembers GeoCities? Excite? Magellan? CompuServe?), so too will today’s Splinternet factions (app wars) be reunited, simply because (a) people prefer choice and access; (b) reliable alternatives exist; (c) they aren’t scarce or expensive, and (d) the value of the experience must outweigh the pain and inconvenience of its use – not presently the case with most apps.

Think of it: with an Internet account, you can go just about anywhere you want on the Worldwide Web. You can share information with others, and the only thing your buddies need is an Internet account – ANY Internet account. Even web based email works reliably, mainly because it complies with W3C standards (“Web standards”).

Today’s mobile app providers have built gorgeous, shiny front-ends that distract us temporarily from the restricted-access conditions of their “app” use.   Apps have to be promoted and downloaded, sometimes for a fee, and they only live on your device. Your buddy has to have the exact same app to share the experience with you. This is like re-starting the Web all over again, except you make the App provider or the app store provider rich on toll fees while they restrict your access.  (Cue dorky announcer voice: “Now how much would you pay?!”)

Don’t Mistake Shiny for Better

Let’s not let the gorgeous experience and the shiny new toy hype blind us to the restricted access and curated content phenomena. Take a look at what companies like QVew and Nexaweb are doing.  Upstart QVew (update: now defunct) makes a write-once, run-everywhere content platform that let account holders launch mobile-ready mini-websites, hypercharged landing pages, etc. – as many as you can imagine – all for one price, and they work everywhere. Or, if you are an enterprise and need large scale heavy lifting on large databases, Nexaweb helps your enterprise modernize its legacy applications so that real-time, fast changing data can be accessed remotely via any Web-connected device, large or small. Full disclosure: I own a smidgin of stock in Nexaweb.

When will we collectively come to our senses and realize that the great Kool Aid that Apple, Google, Microsoft et. al. have been peddling won’t quench our real need for on-demand, anywhere-access to our preferred data, or just-in-time support for our real-world experience?

The June 2011 report from Flurry that indicates App usage has now exceeded PC deceptively compares two different data sets (app usage and Web usage) as if they correlate somehow.  According to the report, 79% of App usage time is spent on games and social media sites.   Most PC  and phone-based Web browsing is done for business purposes.  All this does is reinforce my point that most activity inside today’s Walled Gardens is comparatively frivolous, not serious computing, and after we get over the “shiny new toy” hype, we should again insist on what works – Open Standards – and take back the Web.  I predict it’s just a matter of time. Check in. Discuss!

Viral Marketing Backlash

September 20, 2010

A slight departure from the usual scholarly tone

~ ~ ~

Viral, Schmiral.

Every occupation seems to have its share of humorous, derogatory pet names.  Lawyers, for example, are often depicted as sharks.  Similarly, marketing professionals have been depicted as snake oil merchants who peddle snappy-labeled bottles of an elixir that promises to cure whatever ails you.  The seller conveniently skips town with our gullible buyers’ money before we can all compare notes and discover the hoax.

This brings me to the subject of the phrase “viral marketing“.

Origin of the term “Snake Oil”

In truth, what often masquerades as viral marketing is merely the ability to reach an initial audience of online influencers in hopes of stimulating broader audience-generated distribution.   More often than not, the hoped-for result doesn’t materialize, and we all know hope is not a strategy.  You could no sooner engage in viral marketing than you could instruct a real virus who to infect next.  We’d all like our marketing messages to take on a life of their own and become distributed to an exponentially larger audience we couldn’t possibly reach on our own.  But to promise your client you can deliver viruslike results?  I’d like a slice, please.  Oh, and I also have this twitch in my neck I’d like you to examine.

The deception is that any business that professes to specialize in Viral Marketing is in fact promising something they cannot deliver.  I recommend we not profess to offer viral marketing as a service that can be packaged.  ROI projections, anyone?

What Viral Is – and Isn’t

If viral marketing were something you could package and market, complete with its list of features and exact processes you could carry out successfully every time, resulting in a marketing message that predictably, reliably spreads exponentially beyond its original audience, then I’d like to shake your hand, personally apologize, retract this article and become your reseller, if you’ll have me.  If you can’t do those things, however, then stop giving your profession a black eye by promising what you can’t deliver.  And get out of town.  After you give back my money.

I have sounded out this issue with a number of other professionals – marketers and non-marketers alike – and visited with real and imaginary people who profess to offer “viral marketing” solutions, to try to figure out this “viral marketing” thing.  So far, I have found nothing new under the sun.  What passes for viral marketing is at best an ability to address a large audience, or perhaps a few influential people.  Hmmm…I thought viral meant able to spread on its own beyond your immediate audience, without further intervention from you.  Being able to blog, tweet, Friend, Link, broadcast, narrowcast or influence someone at the outset hardly seems to match the concept of viral.

Let’s please call Viral Marketing something else, something that says what it does.  How about simply calling it Social Marketing?  What am I missing?   Holla back.

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