Posted on : 22-11-2010 | By : Frank Eliason | In : Business, Marketing, Social Media
Throughout time we have seen irrational exuberance (As former Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan once stated). You can easily look back to the gold rush, numerous times in the stock market, real estate a few years ago, gold and bonds today. Can social media being seeing similar irrational exuberance?
This has been a thought I have had for some time. I have been watching and talking to numerous businesses over the years but I have seen a shift in their emotions from a little fearful to today where I worry many businesses are being taken advantage of. What has changed? Many companies have started in social and realized it is not as fearful as they once thought so now they want to take advantage of the space and make real money from it. Also because there is much interest from the C-suite, many people in business want to prove how smart they are. I also think there is some blame that goes to many ad agencies and PR firms who are selling social to firms without providing the insight necessary.
Recently Jeremiah Owyang and the Altimeter Group put out a new report about the Social Media Strategist role. I highly recommend reviewing it. It provides a little insight into the difficulties of the role. Many times you are dealing with this irrational exhuberence throughout different silo’s within the company. Putting out the fire for every person that want to create that next Facebook page or create that ‘viral’ marketing campaign. C.C. Chapman put out a post on Friday after hearing a preview on the Today Show stating: “Our most ambitious viral video ever coming up this half hour.” I did not get the chance to see the show, but with that quote alone I know they did not understand social. Make sure you check out his post and when you have time read his new book Content Rules (it is co-authored with David Meerman Scottand friend Ann Handley, @Marketingprofs). If you want to create something viral, first rule is you do not decide what goes viral, your audience does. It is also important to offer something that is unique (first wins in social) and finally it really should offer something to the viewer or others and not focus as much on the brand. They also tend to be fun. A few good examples are the Swagger Wagon videos by Toyota, Blendtech: Will it blend, Old Spice Guy. So next time your marketing, PR firm, or internal employee talks about creating the next viral campaign, I urge caution. If you are in a position where someone asks you to create one, it is very important that you educate the people asking. Are you sure you want to be the social strategist?
Even the best laid out ideas can easily fail. The question is how much risk does the organization want to take? What is the appetite for risk and failure? How connected are they to their Customers?
Beyond the viral marketing angle, I have other concerns I have noticed increasing in the past few years. I have seem a large interest in engaging ‘influencers’ with the belief this will make the message grow. First there is a myth when it comes to this term. First I believe many organizations by the way they have engaged people have created poor expectations with this group by treating them differently. I highly recommend treating them as any other Customer. Special treatment creates further expectation of special treatment. This is not sustainable. This is a topic I can discuss forever, but my focus was influencers do not create viral actions, good content is what creates it. Many of you know of a famous video from my prior employer with a sleep technician. Did you know that it was posted by someone with only 2 videos posted? That became a huge brand influencer. What has made many people rise to the ranks to be considered an influencer has been strong content. If you want your brand to rise up, provide strong content, great Customer experience and the best products. This will create the viral effect you want.
Finally I have a fear that some companies are putting too much money toward a variety of social efforts with unreal expectations, or because they simply do not know better. This is being caused by social strategists, PR and marketing firms alike. They are asking for large number of employees for tasks that could be done by a few, or large dollars for campaigns that do not go anywhere, etc. For those of us who believe social is a key communications tool of the future, and in many cases now, it is imperative that we set the right goals, and create the right expectations. This helps us all by creating trust and showing the right business acumen to ensure long term success. There are many PR/marketing firms who have done very well for the companies they serve, including companies like Edelman, Weber Shandwick and many others. I also have the utmost respect for anyone who has the Social Strategist role, because as you can tell from this post, it is not easy.