“Always-Never” Business Rules of Social Media [Marketing]

19 Feb

taxi-drivers-wanted-morten-gade-flickr (19Feb2011)

We need more taxi drivers for social media | Flickr | Morten Gade

Using social media is like running a taxi company. Far an analogy it may seem, understanding how bus companies operate will define why businesses and organizations today may not be getting the desired return on the investments they made or about to make with social media marketing.

Stephan H. Haeckel’s book, Adaptive Enterprise, outlines how bus companies are make-and-sell businesses. Based on commuter volume, buses run day after day along the same thoroughfares and pick up passengers on the same stops. Company dispatchers decide what routes the buses will take, instruct drivers where to stop, how long a stop will take, and schedule the bus runs for the day.

Bus drivers do not even need to know where their passengers are going. In fact, they do not need passengers at all to do their jobs well. They merely have to drive the bus on time safely along the same route every day.

An efficient taxi company shares the characteristics of a business that uses social media. Taxi drivers go where they can pick up passengers, bring them to their destinations, and likely take the fastest route skirting traffic to get to where he is instructed by the passenger to go.

A taxi company dispatches its drivers to customer-moving capabilities. The drivers then respond to customer requests thus they are empowered to fulfill those requests.

Unlike bus drivers, taxi drivers need to know information about what the passenger need—the “I need to be at the central business district in half an hour for a meeting”—then only will the driver put his knowledge about the fastest route to take and practice his driving skills to be able to meet the customer’s need.

Possibly during the 30-minute ride, passenger and driver may even strike a conversation about what matters to both of them. The taxi driver and his taxi company then operate as a sense-and-respond entity—not only meeting the particular customer need but also starting a relationship with the passenger.

Day after tomorrow the same passenger might likely call on the same taxi company, even request for the same taxi driver.

Where do the bus and taxi companies and their drivers point us to?

Business paradigms and processes need to shift with use of social media.

In the early days of the Web, it was—as it still is now with some organizations—seen as a medium where once printed materials such as books were digitized, they were good to deliver online to an audience who would read the materials in a browser. It was literally transposing leafing through book pages with a hyperlink. Or uploading a digital copy of a book to an online  retail bookstore, placed on a shelf where the book will wait to be viewed and checked out by a customer.

Publishers, writers, editors, book designers, art and print production people, and all the way to the entire value chain of distribution and marketing still practice the same analog workflow and do not adopt business processes that will offer them improvements and desired outcomes going digital and online and social.

The same is true with television as a broadcast medium. When the first regularly scheduled television service in the U.S. began in 1928, there was but one channel. Several TV broadcast experiments were simultaneously being done toward the end of that decade. Most of these programs were voice-oriented radio broadcasts or showing of motion picture films that mimicked theater plays.

No more can be gleaned from how we are using social media in its infantile stages today. In a previous post RVBello postulated that media marketing dominates the channels of communication and forgets about all that matters about using social technologies.

The Social Media Business Rules

What then should we always and never repeat from our history of using communication and information technologies?

“Always-Never” Business Rule #1: Social media is a marketer’s activity. Findings from the 2011 Digital Marketing Outlook Survey conducted in late 2010 by the Society of Digital Agencies (SoDA) and AnswerLab show that we are at first instance enamored with tools, outlets, and platforms to use. None, if not few of the respondents, placed a premium on any other aspect of business but marketing communication and technology.

Digital Media Marketing Outlook Survey Responses about use of social media tools

In this one survey question about use of social media tools, the most important aspect of going social–investments in people, our taxi drivers, and business processes with aid of technologies, our taxi units–were not on the radar screens of brand marketers, agencies, and technologists.

People within business companies or organizations are the key driving force in employing social media.

What gives? Are we to see a pathway for social media where while we talk social, we factor less our taxi drivers?

The next “always-never” business rules in succeeding posts.

Business and Social Media (Part I)

19 Feb

Talk about a love/ hate relationship. It’s like Britney Spears and the tabloids.

Business has always been first to recognize any developing trend. But it took a while before it started doing anything with social media. First of all, their systems were built around ironclad structures such as mass marketing, advertising and broadcasting. Tools that were made to be efficient for the greatest profitability. Tools that were designed for maximum control. Yes, greater control has been the linchpin of marketing communications for more than a hundred years. It worked best when it could dominate the channels of communication as well as find its greatest common denominator. This has meant buying primetime and  preaching to everybody that they should have long, black hair because the focus groups had said so. This could be done because business had made sure that the channels of communications were limited by barriers to entry, that included very strict regulation and megabucks to even play. They had so relished this role as the gatekeepers of thought and taste.

But then the internet revolution had changed everything. People started creating their own media channels to reach out to each other thus bypassing the gatekeepers. Costs and regulation were no longer any real  issue. So much so that people,  for the very first time, were truly at the driver’s seat. They now do not need to be told that they had to have long, black hair to be cool;  because having it in some other way could just be as radical. People had the numbers to prove this. The know,  because they are in touch with each other directly and THEY now own their media.

At this point, business had to take  notice because they realized that their influence is rapidly being eroded . It’s not about being bad guys because they really are not. They just had it so easy these past hundred years so that in an almost Darwinian kind of way, business had to just really adapt or else die.  And adapting was another thing that they were actually good at, besides spotting trends. And they had to simply bite the bullet.

Business, to again thrive in this brave new world, had to retool their systems around the new social thinking. Preaching to customers and control of media no longer worked. Persuasiveness, advocacy and consensus building did. Engagement based on honesty and authenticity was the new currency. Smoke and mirrors had lost their sheen, while listening and nuancing will pay  greater dividends indeed.

To understand social media, business must now necessarily be part of it. It must learn to be customers themselves. It must integrate all their traditional channels with the new media. It should monitor more closely than before, changing habits and taste. It should be in the middle of conversations. It should never scrimp on the process of understanding. And most important of all, it should learn to accept that it no longer can have total control. If it just kept all these to heart, then we are sure that it will get the love back.

Peace.

Social Media: A Possible Necessity or A Necessary Possibility

16 Feb

Social Media have been getting some bad press lately. Well, of course it depends on which side of the fence you’re sitting on.

The New Egypt and its great people have praised to high heavens the inestimable contributions of facebook & twitter to their unseating (pun intended) President Mubarak and helping the ushering in of an era of freedom for their country. It goes without saying however that Mr. M and his henchmen are probably sulking in their boots for not doing enough to close down early the new media channels for people’s interactions.

More recently, Justin Bieber’s  true “beliebers” have terrorized the twittersphere with vituperative rants after they didn’t get their candy bar from the Grammys.  Or just now, Mick Jagger probably woke up to see himself killed online with the “RIP Mick Jagger” buzz which had obviously proved a big, ugly hoax. The Godfather of Rock is not about to sing into the pearly gates, at least not just yet.

But for every little horror story about social life, one could probably rattle off a hundred more examples where social media had actually made a positive difference. Whether it was getting people to become more aware of the destruction of the Amazon rainforest or making it possible to catch up with long lost friends after a High School reunion, social media and networks have been mainly a force for good. I even remember how a friend had posted once that it was actually a gift that has allowed her that “much-needed break from the mundane chores at work”, an oasis in a sea of minutiae.

It may surprise many to know that the phenomenon of  social media is not even a new thing. It may have already celebrated its 30th anniversary if you counted Mark Granovetter’s piece, “The Strength of Weak Ties” published in 1973. You can therefore say that social media is simply a reflection of the very human need to reach out to our environment;  for even as babies we all longed to touch and be touched. The internet, new media and web tools have only enabled this process to move light years faster and created touchpoints that are virtually limitless.  In fact, I expect pretty soon that social media will  find its way more seamlessly in people’s consciousness so that social life will then be known simply as,  just life. No more duality, only one endless thread.

So to answer the question if social media are a “possible necessity or a necessary possibility”, to echo Bertrand Russell. I’d simply re-tell this little story from my Zen teacher:

“Two monks were arguing about a flag. One said: “The flag is moving.”

The other said: “The wind is moving.”

The Sixth Patriarch Hui Neng happened to be passing by and he told them: “Not the wind, not the flag; mind is moving”.

Peace.

Memo to Esperanza Spalding

15 Feb

I had wanted to call this blog post, “Social Media Beats Radio S**t”, but was prevailed upon by my daughter from performing online seppuku from all the irate Justin Bieber fans who are bound to descend on this blog with their devastating loss at the Grammy Awards last night.

Yes, if you still don’t know yet; all-time favorite Justin Bieber lost to mega talented but virtually unknown jazz singer/ bassist, Esperanza Spalding for the much-coveted “Best New Artist” category at the Grammys. But while Esperanza truly deserved the recognition more than anything; this post is not really about arguing musical tastes or hair styles but about the immediacy and power (no matter how misplaced) of Social Media, particularly Twitter in this instance.

Here is a sampling from the MTV “Clutch” Blog just a few hours after the Grammys ended:

“For a little while last night, Esperanza Spalding was given the middle name “Quesadilla” on her Wikipedia page by, presumably, a disappointed Justin Bieber fan. To the surprise of many, Spalding won the Grammy award for Best New Artist at last night’s ceremony. Justin himself handled the loss gracefully, but not so for the angry Wikipedia updater who added this to Spalding’s entry: “Recently, she won the best new artist at the 53rd Grammy Awards JUSTIN BIEBER DESERVED IT GO DIE IN A HOLE. WHO THE HECK ARE YOU ANYWAY?”

Lovely, right? That person is not alone in his or her disappointment, though. Much of the outpouring of dismay has been a little less vulgar (not all), but equally insane. Here’s a sample:

+ “Wtf is a Esperanza Spalding?” @PoeticMotionsz

+ “Her name is Esperanza Spalding. That’s like…a Disney Princess and a basketball. But congrats to her.” @kingsleyy

+ who the hell its Esperanza Spalding? -.-. u dont deserve that award b**** -.- @EspeSpalding sucks -.- @Allyitshere

+ “Congratulations to Esperanza Spalding for winning Best New Artist, I will now google your name to find out who you are.” @BeliebInTheBest

+ “Esperanza Spalding shouldn’t have won no one knows her, another b**** we have to google. Drake or Justin should have won.” @Maryam_9

+ “Esperanza Spalding said she was surprised she won Best New Artist “‘because I’d never heard of me.'” @BorowitzReport

Whether you agree or not with the badly-vented spleens of Tweens who worship his Bieberness, social media is here to stay and Esperanza better have a platform of her own to present her case. The good news is today more people, who seem to recognize real talent, were on Twitter to defend our “Best New Artist”.

The only real problem is that Esperanza said, in a recent CNN interview, that she even does not have an email account yet because she prefers receiving “manually written” communication (notwithstanding the presence of a unverified @EspeSpalding twitter account). Well, somebody in the artist management department better do something fast, because Social Life is here to stay.

Eavesdropping on Social Media and Following Conversations

12 Feb

Angelo Reyes Twitter Tweets Travel - socialcollider.netThe trail of news around Angelo Reyes’ story on the Social Media between Feb 8 and Feb 12. People’s attention span to the topic is shown in red trail.

While the world’s attention has been on Egypt since weeks ago, in the Philippines the attention has been on Angelo Reyes for a few days.

Angelo Reyes was a long-serving government official. In the last decade he was chief of staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and subsequently held four cabinet posts. On 8 February 2011, he apparently committed suicide in a memorial park in front of his mother’s grave.

Whatever Angelo Reyes’ standing was in Philippine society was partly created by media. What brought him to where he was on 8 February, with a tombstone as witness, was probably driven by what he thought he was in the minds of people.

For a decade now, I have never read nor watched Philippine news. Not that our nation’s affairs do not matter but because I have grown tired of reading and hearing news as filtered by news networks. Almost indifferent, there’s no news that would promptly grab my attention. Those that matter to me–in a particular space, time, in a context that I hold dearly–are what I value and stand for, do, and dream about.

Angelo Reyes grabbed my attention at the break of the suicide story. But I didn’t rely much on any print and broadcast media to gather what I need to better understand the event–I also looked into what the crowd had been saying on the Social Media.

Without the obtrusions of media middlemen, we can form our own view of events or decide to go deeper into every facet of news. I sampled an online news source from Al Tech News and it yielded a phrase net visualization of circumstances around Angelo Reyes.

Phrase net of a news article about Angelo Reyes' death

The true spirit of the Social Media is not just transposing print and broadcast media into being social. Neither is it, as what is happening in Egypt and what has happened to Angelo Reyes, a rumor mill to form a cast of opinion or hasty judgment. Marshall McLuhan, a communication theorist, argued the idea that technology per se [in this case Social Media and the Internet at large] has no moral bent—it is a tool that profoundly shapes an individual’s and, by extension, a society’s self-conception and realization.

Social Media starts with an individual and how one uses this tool to make a difference in one’s life and eventually in society. We have less need for middlemen now for we have the tools to directly interact with other people. We must use it well for good.

I have mixed emotions regarding Egypt’s state now as well as with the story of Angelo Reyes. And I am not thinking nor acting based on a public’s attention span that lasts that of a hummingbird’s. People power pushed these two events–the latter with the aid of the Social Media, the former with what is formed from it in people’s minds.

“The Transformative Power of Social Media”

11 Feb

U.S. Vice-President Joe Biden tells it exactly, when he talked about ” the transformative power of social media” in an address to university students, about an hour after Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak stepped down to give way to a new government.

It was about the pivotal role that facebook, twitter and all of social media played in helping spark and sustain the Egyptian Revolution of 2011. There are simply no words to express what great power, people speaking with one voice,  amplified through the internet , can achieve save perhaps to see these images and sounds from Tahrir Square.

Special Sauce #3: Be Yourself

11 Feb

I remember having to take personality tests in school. They were quite long. Even if I wanted to skew the responses to my favor,  it was quite hard to try to fake it. The maze of ipsative questions,  somehow made sure that I would sooner or later expose my true self and give away my thoughts.

Flash forward to 2011, social media sometimes has the makings of a literally humongous personality test. Like the test I talked about before, we are in some ways led to make ” forced choices”, or similarly, instant responses to the tweets or facebook posts we receive. Although we try to put our game face on, something freudian slips out eventually.

We all know that there are “tools’ available today to aggregate data across contents and contexts, so that an almost accurate profile of the “persona’ can be extracted. Well,  we don’t even have to utilize  sophisticated software sometimes because  a lot can be gleaned even from mere choices of words and punctuations.  Like excessive use of  “… ”  perhaps to indicate someone who must have lived through the 70s (*wink*)

My best advise therefore if we  envision a life in Social Media, would be to simply just be ourselves. This will include putting our best game face on, for even that is truly part of  who we are. But remember… sooner or later, no matter how hard we even try… our slip will show.

Peace… man.

Escape from the “Seniors”

9 Feb

Facebook in my country– the Philippines–has grown by leaps and bounds these past six months. Something like +30% or 7 million new account registrations for a total of 22 million strong Filipino social networkers. That was enough to land this tiny nation the fifth slot of leading facebook countries worldwide. At a high 75% penetration of the its online population,  the fact is it’s astounding considering that the country is still classified as “developing”. One thing is sure though,  “being social” comes naturally to a people who love to connect and stay in touch.

Another notable blip is the rise of older age groups (45 yrs and above) seen joining the bandwagon in droves. From almost being non-existent a year earlier, they have now accounted for over 10% of  local facebookers. Probably fueled by high school reunions or a need for emotional support during mid-life stages, demographics have since been on a steady upward movement. Consequently, we have seen a telling exodus of younger people as well, particularly with  precocious little  “tweens”. We can interpret this as a form of rebellion from the RealWorld of older people or as they like to call them– “seniors”. This is directed at their parents or anyone with even just a streak of grey hair. Seniors are destined to float in the lonely limbo of “awaiting confirmation” when it comes to these influential youth.

The challenge for Facebook therefore  is  how to remain still tres cool and relevant even with seniors, nagging product fan pages and silly farming games around the once- radical territory. Of course, some segments are always expected to fall into the cracks in any progression, but perhaps even with its massive success, an honest-to-goodness re-invention is in the offing for FB. To be more inclusive while retaining a clear cutting-edge. I tend to look at the Rubik’s cube for divination. Peace.

Social Media is Us

6 Feb

Turn Us[ers] On

Us users are the Social Media

In his 1998 book, The Inmates Are Running the Asylum: Why High-Tech Products Drive Us Crazy and How to Restore the SanityAlan Cooper outlined his methodology, called Goal-Directed® design, based on the concept that software should help users move towards their ultimate goal, rather than ensnaring them in computer minutiae.

 

Cooper’s design methodology “humanized technology” with use of personas as practical interaction design tools to create high-tech products that address user’s needs.

Today, the concepts of interaction design strategy, usability, and the use of personas have been broadly adopted across the software industry and in technology product design education.

One of the offshoots of this methodology is a field called User eXperience Design (UXD) which have been, for years since Cooper’s book, a topic in conversations, discussions, and workshops across continents and assimilated in any and almost all the successful high technology products and platforms of service that run in a Web browser.

The Social Media needs a goal-directed design–not the visual and human-computer interaction aspects of it alone but a “contextual functionality” to the design of its use. In doing so, we can begin to see more of the use of Social Media as a Web platform for society with us as participants not lurkers and creators of content not mere users of it.

Most, if not all, of recent developments in Social Media are open. When it was launched in 2006, one of Twitter’s functionalities is an improvement in use of SMS (short message service/text messaging) that before were only used with mobile phones. Users who signed up eventually found different uses for short-messaging on a large scale with tweets. And Twitter as it is used now as a topic-based, community-grown media has found greater purpose.

The Social Media is not much about technology, it is about us.

A post about why there are stragglers from Social Media from my friend RVBello is an advocacy and a call to mainstream the “other half” into starting to use Social Media as a digital tool for the better. And Open Forum with a post from Yvonne DiVita aptly puts that Social Networks recreate the offline notions of neighborhood online.

While many mavens have adopted ways to manage and cope with the dizzying array of online social platforms, average users–non-users more so–may find themselves at the beginning of the curve in need of a 12-step social identity program. This may lead to increased demand from typical participants to have a more integrated and simplified social tool and an opportunity for platforms and companies alike to meet this demand.

Jeremiah Owyang of Altimeter Group recently twitted betting that a growing requirement in Social Media is the ability to better manage online communities’ conversations. And vendors are fast sprouting to offer the integration, simplicity, and efficiency to manage distributed conversations in every part of our world.

The Web, with Websites as its manifest, will exponentially grow to serve as “digital hubs” or “online anchors” that integrate our social activity from many platforms. While further  integration may come soon fast, it can also be as quick for our mass of stragglers from Social Media.

Brian Solis encapsulates the task at hand in order to bring into the fold our digital “other half” in one of his latest posts An Audience with an Audience of Audiences:

“Our job now is to speak to and through the people in our audiences simultaneously. The goal of course is to spread information across social graphs and interest graphs. The cultural impact of new media is profound as it weaves a new fabric for how we connect and communicate with one another.

“As a digital society, we are ushering in an era where everyday people form a global network of self-empowered social intermediaries that accelerate and proliferate the reach and effect of information and experiences.

“We are no longer just part of the information consumption production process; we are evolving the system for learning and sharing through real-time signal repeaters that boost the reach of digitally transmitted messages – from your status update to the world in seconds.”

 

Stragglers from Social Media

6 Feb

Lt. Hiroo Onoda lived in the jungles of Lubang Island, Philippines for 29 years, 1945 to 1972, after the Japanese forces were defeated by the Allied Forces in World War II.  He was one of those Japanese soldiers, eventually called stragglers, that held on by living in isolation believing that the war is not yet over and deciding to resist. While I admire Lt. Onoda and compatriots for their heroism and loyalty, I still cannot understand why some people today similarly resist accepting the benefits of  social media and instead choose to remain disconnected from these important evolutions in communication.

I do not address this primarily at those who are commonly described as “laggards” in the adoption of new technology (see Albert’s previous post on this) but rather at  the ones  who continue to wave their so- called anonymity from the system as a badge of honor. They are so wrong. Because as someone once said, “the (r)evolution will happen, with or without us.”

Nothing is really mysterious about Social Media. All they truly offer are new channels to reach out to each other, and pretty efficient ones at that.  They allow us to be “heard” when before opinions have been drowned out by the powerful PR machinery.  We now have unprecedented access to a global audience that was invisible to us at one time. And most importantly, we can be the spark that was  Khaled Said that brought down a tyrant on his knees.

I suspect though that most stragglers from Social Media are not true luddites, but merely people who are uncertain where they need to start and are afraid to for ask help. (Some may even be driven by mis-information and unfounded fears) So reach out to someone if you can. All it takes is that first “Sign Up”  step to show them their way to a world of opportunities.

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