Category Archives: Relational Media

Management by Algorithm

In a recent post by Brian Solis “Influencing the Influencer” I was struck by the image showing a definition of leadership. Solis goes on to suggest how important people are in the marketing mix. Rightly so, he sets the context as the ‘attention economy’ as many who participate in social networks have an insatiable appetite for attention, notably those who see themselves as “authorities and tastemakers” or at that exalted level of self-actualisation, brands. Apparently, these are the folks that brands must recruit across the social media galaxy in order to truly lead, then connect with the broader audience – the ‘everyman’, in a most sincere and meaningful way.

So, like the days of television rabbit ears, brands need a shill: “A person who publicizes or praises something or someone for reasons of self-interest, personal profit, or friendship or loyalty.” (via Dictionary.com)

This is the oldest game in the advertising playbook.  The difference is of course, that the brand is supposed to recruit people who come from a superior gene pool, that of the online reviewer or opinion leader. It’s real time, it’s from the heart and… it’s transparent. To reinforce this approach, a number of SaaS applications are mentioned such as Klout and PeerIndex that use ‘human’ algorithms to calculate one’s social currency (capital?). It’s so valuable, anyone can calculate their influence scores for free.

Has it occured to those who advocate this kind of approach to identifying influencers that some consumers have no interest is what others think? Rather, consumers prefer to try things themselves. In otherwords, they prefer to take the lead, thank you very much.

For marketing managers, understanding customer preferences and value drivers, is really the first place to start. Management by algorithms alone is a very dangerous thing to do as it places limits on the ability to learn, develop insight and understand consumer behaviour in context.

As in using spell check, your facility with language doesn’t improve over time.

– Ted Morris, 4ScreensMedia

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Social Media is a Croc

There’s an awful lot of chit chat on social media networks about Apple’s latest product – the iPad. This is yet another successful product launch and continued revolution that Apple is leading in bringing new technology appliances to the consumer marketplace. It’s absolutely stunning that Apple doesn’t spend a cent on social media yet has garnered an enormous amount of publicity (admittedly good and bad) from people who just can’t help talking about Apple products on the social web. Maybe that’s one of the reasons why Apple doesn’t spend any money advertising on social networks – all of the publicity through Word-of-Mouth from those who desire, own and love to talk about Apple’s products is FREE anyway.

By the way, anyone who purchased Apple shares a few years ago would have made enough money to fund their iApple desires for the next decade…

– Ted Morris, 4ScreensCRM

Social Media Bubble: Roundup in the Cloud

Social Media Hype Cycle: Cloudy chance of showers

 There’s been a fair bit of discussion in the past couple of weeks about the topic “Social Media Bubble”. Like most bubbles, it rages as a fad, peaks, then crashes. In the Gartner vernacular, social media goes through a hype cycle – early adoption followed by high expectations of value delivery, then a crash into a trough of disillusionment. The idea or technology either dies or survives and moves on to being a real, viable business. Based on recent questioning, social media, as a tool for business, is losing some altitude. Here’s a roundup of some recent opinion from Umair Haque – Harvard Business Review, Rachel Happe – The Community Roundtable, Peter Autidore – The Social Customer and yours truly (previous 2 posts).      

This dialogue started with Haque’s piece in HBR. His main hypothesis is that social media produces a lot of thin relationships. He draws a metafor to ‘low quality’ as in those in the sub-prime mortgage meltdown. This context implies that bankers didn’t take the time to get to know their borrowers. They relied on short cycle time approvals using only quantitative data. Ironic, given that real relationships are about getting to know people, not just seeing them on a data sheet or as a ‘follower/fan’ on a social media network. Haque goes on to outline the keys to real relationships – mainly trust, disintermediation, community and value. It’s not a beauty contest or about shouting out to be heard about the rest of the crowd. It’s about real relationships that have the equity required to build brands and extend a company’s customer franchise.     

Rachel Happe offers a perspective that builds on Haque’s by focusing on the value element of relationships. Rachel digs a bit deeper into the weeds by hightlighting the role that online communities play in the formation of relationships – people come together because of a mutual interest and build from there. There is an important point here in that online communities are something much different from Social Networks such as Facebook and Twitter: “Social media is not going to be sufficient to build that kind of relationship.” Face time – that qualitative dimension, it key to building deep relationships, something that technology alone cannot accomplish and at most, falls short. This was a hard-learned lesson in pionner days of CRM of the early 2000’s.

Peter Auditore takes an opposing stance. He thinks Haque’s view is “myopic” though we’re not sure why. Auditore is also adamant that the sub prime metaphor is “bizarre”. Seems to me that in the old days, before loan approval processes were automated, your local bank manger got to know you and was an integral member of the lcoal community. People met face-to-face. Familiary and trust were built as a result. In the subprime case, bankers and borrowers alike had very thin relationships indeed that resulted in unbridled risk in the marketplace. Auditor also mixes Word-of-Mouth marketing with social media. To quote Andy Sernovitz, the founder of WOMMA, “WOM marketing is not about social media at all. Social media is just one WOM tool.” Andy goes on to say that WOM only works for good companies that make good products. This last point is core to Haque hypothesis and one that I fully support (see “My New Levis Jeans: Outside the Social Bubble”). Competitive advantage is gained by a specific core competency, not just by the use of social media tools – Kodak and Procter & Gamble had strong franchises pre-Internet.  

I think there needs to be a better balance overall between leading with technology and considering the importance of the brand’s overall value proposition. Many brands that are market leaders established solid consumer franchises well before the Internet and may or may not benefit to varying degrees from social media. Many enterprises are experimenting with various social media technologies and tools to channel content, engage consumers and build their brands at the tactical level. They also admit that while there’s a lot of beta testing going they’re not ready to declare mainstream adoption of social media tools. One proof point: most adspend goes to television; consumers are watching more TV than ever whether on a TV screen via computer (see Nielsen for the data). Large enterprises especially are approaching social media with a curiosity and critical eye. 

Let’s remember that Haque makes it clear that his view is a hypothesis and not the final word on social media. There’s plenty of room for constructive dialogue (one way of sharing and buidling mutual trust amongst people). What’s most important is to take a critical eye, be dispassionate about the issues and ask key business questions.    

Until such time as the business merits of social media are proven, we’re all still somewhere in the cloudy part of the Hype Cycle.   

(cross-posted at CloudAve)

-Ted Morris, 4ScreensCRM   

HBR – The Social Media Bubble: Opinion

Umair Haque, Director of Havas Media Lab, recently posted a thought piece in the Harvard Business Review .

In general, Haque hypothesizes that Social Media doesn’t really connect people but instead, creates the semblance of relationships. Haque states, Social Media is ” largely home to weak, artificial connections, what I call thin relationships.”  He goes on to say “Today, ‘social’ media is trading in low-quality connections — linkages that are unlikely to yield meaningful, lasting relationships.”  Here are my own observations relating to some of Haque’s supporting points.

Truth: If we take social media at face value, the number of friends in the world has gone up a hundredfold. But have we seen an accompanying rise in trust? I’d argue no.

Agreed. In fact the word ‘friend’ is used very loosely in the social media vernacular. To me, a friend is someone that I know and trust. Most of us have about 5 real friends in our lives whom we trust implicitly. The rest are aquaintances, people that we are tied to loosely via circumstance like work, associations, clubs or…Facebook and Twitter. What we have seen a rise in is conversation amongst relative strangers under the pretense of ‘friending’. Caveat Eggshell.

Disempowerment:  If social tools were creating real economic gains, we’d expect to see a substitution effect. They’d replace — disintermediate — yesterday’s gatekeepers. Yet, increasingly, they are empowering gatekeepers.

It’s been notable that service providers such as PR agencies, advertising agencies and media consultancies have been vying for ownership of social media within the advertiser domain re. client side of business. They advocate the social media imperative, are evangelical in their style of persuasion and purport to offer social media “ROI”. They fall short by ignoring the element of accountability – something ingrained in traditional media. There is however, substitution in the form of reallocating traditional media dollars to digital. In this regard though, the financial equation is incomplete: digital is cheaper but the material business benefits are elusive. Quantified returns, in management accounting terms, are a work in progress.

Value: The ultimate proof’s in the pudding. If the “relationships” created on today’s Internet were valuable, perhaps people (or advertisers) might pay for the opportunity to enjoy them. Yet, few, if any, do — anywhere, ever. .. I can swap bits with pseudo-strangers at any number of sites. “Friends” like that are a commodity — not a valuable, unique good.

This is a tough one. Social Media is increasingly seen as a near free channel or pipe to deliver content, customer service and promotional offers. It’s also cheap in the sense that it has the capacity to diminish the value of fact-based, expert content while simultaneously encouraging the rise of ill-founded, non fact-based crowdsourced opinion. In this context, success is all too often gauged in purely quantitative terms (# of fans or followers) rather than say, degree of loyalty/willingness to recommend. In a similar vein, it is problematic to prove that people are who they say they are in the world of social networks, as many use avatars to represent themselves. If something is a known unknown then how does one ascribe value? 

There also exists an element of social media that is redundant, maybe superfluous, in terms its effect (non-effect?) on consumers. For many brands, the franchise is well entrenched (Tide, McDonald’s, BMW, Wal-Mart and of course, Apple) and the principles of The Discipline of Market Leaders are in place. These same brands already have meaningful relationships and established trust with consumers pre-Internet. Social Media is not about to change this any time soon, though to some, it may appear that way.

– Ted Morris, 4ScreensCRM

(Cross-posted at Cloud Ave and reprinted by IBM Business Insight Blog)

My Butter, My Friend?

The ARF (Advertising Research Foundation) recently published an artful piece via Fast Company on how social media should be levered for the purpose of building brands. With the caption, “No, I don’t want to be friends with my butter” the post took the assumptive position that social media is a way for brands (any brand really) to build a social movement in order to shape an augmented brand experience – join the conversation around your unsalted butter experience, in a way.

Well, here’s what’s shaping up. As much as the notion that the social media “firehose” is probably dogma by now, when it gets down to engaging with butter, consumers are being asked for a bit too much. Let’s face it, in any househould we likely have over 1000 brands that we have purchased within the past year. In my kitchen pantry alone, some 87 brands are represented. When full, our GE refrigerator has 5 brands of cheese, 9  brands of beverages (and 1 brand of unsalted butter, which I am not at liberty to disclose). Then there’s the workshop, laundry room, bathroom and clothes closet. Even in my car, I’ve got stuff from several brands: Purell to Kleenex, Scott paper towels, Goodyear Tires, a VDO pressure gauge, AAA maps, Altoid mints and two empty coffee cups SBux (hers) McD’s (his) to name a few.

Imagine a world when every brand that you consider, let alone purchase, or just notice, wants to be your best friend. Is it not prudent to first understand whether or not a brand is one of high versus low emotional involvement? Brand strategy needs to figure at the front end of defining a media roadmap, social or otherwise in building brand awareness and engagement. Otherwise, how does one reconcile advertising clutter in the digital age? I cannot find the words to describe…

As for a relationship with butter, only my toast knows for sure.

– Ted Morris, 4ScreensMedia

Manage The Experience – Control Your Brand

There’s been an awful lot of talk lately about  ‘social media’  and how brands are no longer in control. It’s now all in the hands of the consumer. What strikes me about this kind of thinking is that it’s never actually been proven, using solid data, valid business cases or testimonial by a company or brand that has fallen victim to the rise in consumer control.  

Hell hath no fury like a consumer scorned

Ok, so your first push back might be “What about the Jeff Jarvis Dell Hell”? or “What about David Carroll?”  He’s the travelling troubadour who suffered at the hands of United Airlines who allegedly damaged his guitar then lost his luggage. In both cases, the offending brands were mercilessly flagellated online  as the bad news spread like wildfire through dry sagebrush. Dell and United were either unable to plug the gaping hole in their corporate reputation or stood by with an air of utter indifference. The viral vituperative spread across the socialsphere and consumers were vindicated in (almost) real time. “The Man” was taken down.

"I am now in control here..."

So was this all about consumers being in control? Well, yes and no. Yes, in that social media is one of the best things to happen to consumers in providing a channel for consumers to voice opinions about their brand experience good or bad. No, in that brands still have ample oppportunity to do deliver on the brand promise. What this means is exactly that – deliver on what the consumer is promised regarding product performance, service quality and social responsibility.  Stand by your value proposition and make sure that your company is always firing on all cylinders across every customer touchpoint. Consistently manage all customer-facing processes and drive the use of customer information about preferences, contact protocols  and wants & needs across the enterprise. Make sure employees are enabled, trained and supported to delivery the very best, on demand.

Manage your company. Control your brand.

Why just be Social when you can have a Relationship?

Facebook "Friends"?

I must give credit to the crowds for one thing after all: if it weren’t for the popularity of Social Media, I never would have thought of the idea of Relational Media. Since I first started in the business of providing online brand monitoring  and business insight services to corporations, the Social Media “industry”, if you may call it that, has gone through many an identity crisis.

Back in 2004, we talked a lot about ‘user/consumer generated content’ (UGM/CGM). The next iteration, with much credit to the folks at WOMMA, was to bring some structure and definition to this emerging media, so the term WOM – Word of Mouth Marketing, came into the lexicon. Lately it’s been called “Social Media”, largely defined (and some will,  of course, disagree with this definition) as the use of online software applications such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn to be ‘social’ with many, without necessarily having to be bothered with the responsibilities inherent in a Relationship (dating sites might disagree here).

Lifetime Relationship

As many of us have witnessed, there has been so much hand-wringing, whining, debate and general consternation by agencies, PR firms, evangelists and self-styled social media artistes about  making Social Media work, period, never mind the monetization aspect. My steely resolve has been to deal with Social Media head on: call it Relational Media.

Why you ask? Well, it comes down to Human nature. We all crave, to some extent, love, recognition and respect.

Brands also feel this way as they seek to initially be social with people but eventually want to head to the altar and be your mate for life.  Is that not what Customer Lifetime Value is all about – attracting, retaining and developing profitable customers for life? Minute Maid, Crest, Toyota, Land’s End, Timex, Apple, Lufthansa, Marriott and many other brands don’t just want you to browse an end-of-aisle display or take a test drive, they want you to take them home.

We do this every day. I’ve used Tide because my mother did. I’ve been drinking Coca-Cola since I was a kid. I always stay at a Marriott property when I travel on business. I’ve worn Brooks Brothers button-down oxcloth shirts since I went to college… you get the picture.

So, there it is. Simple. Media that enables brands to build a relationship – packaging, television, conversations, the Internet or a coupon, whatever – not just a speed date. Relational media is an enabler of Customer Relationship Management

It’s great to be part of the crowd but it’s even better when you can have a friend for life. Relational Media.