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No, you are NOT that important, social media guru

I just got out of a meeting… I’m amazed, but at the same time not surprised, how little many companies and individuals working with technical and social media based marketing solutions and vehicles actually know about the context they operate in. All these visits to agencies, presenting their wonderful solutions that are perfect fits for the highly “engaged consumers” who just want to share, talk, like and follow. Their gadgets, apps and dashboards are not only THE thing to have, generally speaking, it’s actually perfect for helping [enter brand you happen to work with here] reach better loyalty, create and share wonderful stories and drive incremental sales in the millions. 1; As if you know. And 2; who do you take me for?

My advice is to take a month or two to get to know the reality of the other side of the table (you really ought to be interested in it given you’re aiming for it). Get to know what they know, and what it is they are actually providing their clients. One simple way to do this would be to, early on, meet with a few of them and be quite frank. Say you’re working on a thing that is meant to help them. You don’t yet know exactly how much or even how. Interview them. Find out as much as you can about their work, their problems, their clients’ actual problems, their skills. Read some books they say are important in their field. Ask them to explain TO YOU where your idea or solution fits in their work.

Acting like you’re the solution to everything is a disease. It’s bad manners and downright idiotic. That’s why all social media gurus and entrepreneurs working away at solutions for brands and marketing should read Martin Weigel’s presentation. And don’t just read that. Read some of the sources. If not, can you honestly say that you are interested in providing real value instead of a lot of hot air? Can you handle this truth? Does it deter you or inspire you to work up something that’s really in tune with this? Or at least; can you stop talking about yourself as the solution to everything in marketing today, please?

social media the organisational change agent


Photo thanks to riklomas

I came across two new reports on how connectedness, new touchpoints and feedback loops are affecting organisations, the marketing function and “where it sits”, and also increased customer centricity. They sum up the greater context, and the combined reasons, for some of the organisational changes (or needs for) that need to happen. One report from McKinsey (We Are All Marketers Now) and one from Forrester commissioned by Dell (Social Listening).

Forrester found that organizations across various industries that have implemented listening and digital engagement initiatives are starting to see impressive business returns.
– Forrester

You often hear negative voices on showing ROI from social media within marketing and it’s a fair point because getting measurements right isn’t that easy and, obviously, neither is actually generating a positive ROI. But a positive ROI should be delivered through social media implemented into, and used by, the whole organisation and not just marketing, which changes the ROI conversation, the investments and the over-all value it brings. You might even argue that it redefines marketing, which is what McKinsey are arguing.

In the era of engagement, marketing is the company… In essence, companies need to become marketing vehicles, and the marketing organization itself needs to become the customer-engagement engine…
– McKinsey

In today’s marketing environment, companies will be better off if they stop viewing customer engagement as a series of discrete interactions and instead think about it as customers do: a set of related interactions that, added together, make up the customer experience.
– McKinsey

Which means there’s an increased need for designed and coherent interactions that stem from a better agreed understanding of who the brand is and its meaning in people’s lives. If it’s too much for one person to be responsible for customer engagement, then companies (realistically larger size ones) might consider having one for every function within the organisation, who can then liaise with each other in order to cross the boundaries that exist between sales, marketing, customer service etc.

The marketing organisations new look, 4 key dimensions identified by McKinsey

Distribute more activities
If marketing is the company, the distribution of marketing activities changes.

More councils and partnerships
As distribution of activities change, new needs for synchronization and collaboration cross-boundaries emerge.

Elevate the role of customer insights
With more and better feedback loops and data waiting to be tapped – all aspects of the company can and must benefit.

More data rich and analytically intense
Apparently Zynga generates and captures five terabytes of customer data every day. Wow!

Helping companies understand and benefit from social media is enough to realise that we’re looking at some major organisational issues. It’s all organisational, and organisations are tricky. It’s complex and it’s slow. It means shifting incentives, responsibilities and accountabilities. Many companies are going to have huge problems for a long time, and some companies offering organisational change management are going to get rich…

Social media is helping bring companies closer together internally, and perhaps it’s even the strongest catalyst for better cooperation, cross-department co-operation and incentivising for over-all collaboration. Quite an important roll.

discovering stories that stayed put

Location really was the missing dimension of digitally mediated [personal] communication. The variable that made the question “where are you” or “where is that happening” redundant. Of course a call to a mobile phone still calls for it, but not too seldom my calls are triggered by a check-in I’ve seen.

Where someone was when you called them was never unknown before. You called someone and if they answered, they were home. Or at work, or wherever you called to. You sent someone a letter and if they received it, they obviously came home. An early question upon calling someone might, however, have been where have you been, and that question held much more interesting information than where they were at the time of the conversation. As that’s wherever you called them.

You can tweet and move. A tweet here and a tweet there. Another person tweets here and tweets there. With location meta data you can see tweets in your vicinity. Check-ins let you see where friends and others are at. Small messages floating around everywhere and often they have very little to do with the location other than the fact that you were there just then. Check-ins are just that.

But as soon as we gather for a venue at a place, a hash tag gives the place a twitter feed. The feed belongs to, or originates from, a place. The belongs to part is what I think is a lost aspect that holds some potentially interesting ways of discovering things from the past at that spot. It’s quite interesting if that feed, with a hash tag working as the shepherd, were to be connected to the spot for that venue. Continuously. Not just the initial check-in that serves as a “Hi, I’m here”, but the ongoing conversation. They tend to part ways as the participant’s communication, about whatever the venue is about, starts flowing.

I’d like to find locations with feeds attached to them, and discover stories told from that place. To find out that, for example, music lovers had a Bob Dylan night at [location] 2 months ago. Just from being at the place. And being able to find parts of their discussions. Perhaps I’ve found a music lover cafe.

But It’s like my colleague said: “Real time is nothing after real time”.

It’s true. Just after real time, it’s nothing.

Just recently there was a gathering about the digital world called SIME (funnily enough this was discussed: The age of information is dead and the era of storytelling just began. and I’m using it as an example of how we could be stumbling over stories. How appropriate.). Some of the discussion can be found at #sime10 (don’t know for how long), and physically it took place at Cinema Saga. If you check in today (29th Nov 2010) you’ll see it’s the Stockholm International Film Festival. You won’t, however, discover that SIME 2010 took place a week before. And you will most certainly not find that SIME 09 was held in the same spot a year earlier.

You’ll find recent check-ins, who’s checked in most, but nothing about what took place here. I think that would add something useful to a place. I mean Google is intangible discovery first while a check-in is a tangible, location based, discovery first. I think the two need to be more tightly connected in the later case.

The check-in is a “story” starting point and #sime10 the story unfolding from that place. I think it’s only right that it partly sticks to that place.

But I really enjoy coincidental discoveries of a third kind of whatever it is I’m writing about here. They make me smile. They are check-ins with comments to spots created while in a car queue or some other passing situation or event. There was a queue here, but not anymore. Another person was here, in the queue, but not anymore. That person, at that time, was pissed off and told us in a comment. He/she is not pissed off anymore (I should hope). Nothing is really there anymore. Yet the comment is always what feels most real and most present to me. That’s science fiction.