Why you shouldn’t subcontract social media communications

Hardly any organisation can get by nowadays without a presence in social channels, but many still feel uncomfortable about how to do it. Luckily, most have realised that it’s not just like pushing your marketing messages onto some audience, as in traditional marketing (but some still do, unfortunately). So what’s the big difference? And what are the consequences?

Social media marketing works like a rock band

  • Traditional marketing speaks to non-customers, trying to turn them into new customers
  • Marketing in social media speaks to existing customers, caring and enthusing them, leaving to them to recruit new customers – like a rock band tending to their fans

But how’s that relevant for subcontracting your social media communications or not?

Putting it very simply, when the fans reach out, who do they want to reach? The promotor or the members of the band? Your professional tweeters/facebookers or your genuine experts? The hard currency in social media is trust. Go-betweens like band promotors or social media subcontractors don’t have the same credibility, expertise or authenticity as the members of a band or your own staff. When it will show through, not if, it risks eroding trust in your brand rather than the opposite.

You may well use social media subcontractors, but not as spokespersons

Instead, there are two very useful areas where you can leverage social media specialists:

Train your experts to communicate in social networks

Instead of speaking on behalf of your experts, have social media specialists train those experts to speak for themselves. Writing skills, tools and practices, do’s and don’ts. Plus some coaching on demand. Much better bang for your buck. Helps your experts gather market intelligence and do some brand building for your company and themselves too.

Get help scanning the buzz, identifying influencers and interesting content or discussions

The online networks are so vast and fast moving that it might be too much for your experts to both improve their communication skills and keep tabs on the networks. If so, you could hire someone with good tools and methods to scan and apply analytics to identify who to reach out to and build relations with – maybe also how best to succeed in doing it – and to identify relevant hotspots of content or discussions, passing the tips on to your experts to action, explore and respond to.

What’s your experience of social media go-betweens, training of spokespersons and social media analytics and scanning?

Photo: Pendulum 2007 by www.flickr.com/photos/wonker


The one promotional tee I am fond of

Light grey polo with a discrete logo bottom rightI suppose we all have received our fair share of promotional t-shirts. I suppose that most of them rarely get used, at least not for their original purpose. Mine usually end up as pajamas or for when I work in the garden or do paint work.

Except for one. Probably the oldest one. It was given to me by Wildeco, a communication agency in Sweden, specialized in financial and strategic communications in the mid nineties, i.e. about two decades ago!

So, what makes this different?

  • Usually they are poor quality. This one is of great quality. (as you can tell from its’ age)
  • Often they are in bright colours. This is in a discrete, versatile light grey.
  • Usually they are full of BIG logos or other promotional messages, on the chest, the back or the sleeves. This has a very discrete logo that you end up tucking into your trousers.  (bottom left in the picture)

Because this polo has a target audience of one: the bearer.

Other promotional t-shirts try to use us to broadcast promotion to people around us. But since they often are of poor quality and usually ugly, they end up in the drawer or in our garden where their purpose is completely lost.

This one is intended to remind me, the person wearing it, about Wildeco. The quality of the polo supposedly reflects the quality of their work. And it works. I use it more than any of the others, each time I do I recall Wildeco and now I even end up promoting them in this blog.

They thought carefully and differently when creating this polo. And they succeeded. Cudos to Wildeco for putting some extra thought behind such a mundane thing as a t-shirt giveaway.

The ideal advertising client – NOT

Facepalm from Wikipedia
Ohhh not again!

Vacation and lousy weather often result in sorting out old files and drawers. This summer is no exception.

In one of those piles of papers I found a list which I must have created in a moment of frustration during my days as an Account and Project Manager at an Advertising and Communications Agency a decade and a half ago. I just couldn’t throw it away without sharing it in a blog post to see if others recognise some of these too frequent behaviours of advertising clients. Do you?

  1. Always ask for a bigger logo
  2. Always as for the product to be presented on page 1
  3. Always list three or more product characteristics that all have to be included in the headline
  4. If there’s something in the suggestions from the agency that you don’t like, say so. But don’t tell them why.
  5. Ask for advice but do something else
  6. Approve substantial costs without blinking an eyelid, but scrutinise all studio and courier costs in detail
  7. Obtain creative briefs, time plans and quotes only to later decide to do it all in-house, using said creative briefs, time plans and quotes
  8. Give feedback three weeks behind schedule but still get upset when the project runs late
  9. Always question why the copywriter should take part in the initial idea phase
  10. Always and every time, surprise the agency with panic jobs at five to five, preferably on Fridays.

On the other hand, I learned that the cardinal mistake by advertising and communications agencies was… lack of communications. A lesson I have brought with me to everything I’ve worked with subsequently. Projects usually start of very intensively. Lots of communications, briefings, quotes, ideas, suggestions, planning and other interactions. Later, you usually enter a phase of research, production or similar desk work. Even if everything runs just smoothly and according to plan, it’s easy to go silent. “Busy working. Don’t disturb”. But after that phase of intensive communications, it’s easy that clients get “withdrawal symptoms”. If they don’t hear from you, their mind starts generating all kinds of fantasies of what might have gone wrong. And “no news is good news” becomes “no news means the agency is busy working on a new pitch for another client” (which may be true from time to time, unfortunately).

So, just keep communicating. Even if it’s just a message of “We’re on schedule”, “All’s working as planned”, “Here’s an example of where we are right now” or something else comforting the troubled mind. Just don’t go silent.

Do you help your employees not to create social media debacles?

Photo credit Marc Smith, flickr
Photo credit Marc Smith, flickr

Maybe you don’t think you need social media marketing.
Maybe you don’t think you need a social intranet.
Maybe you don’t think you need social analytics.
Maybe you are right.
Are your employees active on public social platforms?
Can they be identified as employees of yours?
A rough guess is that at least every second employee is represented on Facebook and just as many on LinkedIn. Probably about as many on Instagram. Somewhere between 10-25% on Twitter and maybe 5-10% even publish their own blog. If my numbers are right or wrong is secondary. The bottom line is that it would be surprising if not a majority of your employees are represented on public social networking platforms and that many of them can be identified as your employees.

Just imagine how many people they can influence. A wet dream for a marketing person. But a nightmare for people concerned with risk management and legal matters.

Just how do you help them to stay out of creating a mess? (for themselves and for you, that is.) Do you have a social media policy? Have you provided any training? Please don’t reply “We don’t allow our employees to use Facebook at work”! Ever heard of mobile internet, have you? If they can’t access their favourite social media network via the computer you provide, you can be pretty sure that they will do so using their mobile phone. And, anyway, this is not about what they do during office hours only. It’s about how they can positively represent your company ate any time of day or night. Or to misrepresent it. Even creating solid reputational catastrophes for you to deal with.

Without a social media policy, how can you tell employees off for creating a mess? How can you support them in representing the organization in the best possible way?

A great example of a social media policy is the IBM Social Computing Guidelines; developed by a group of insightful employees almost a decade ago, vetted by the legal team and made into company policy (the clearest and easiest to understand of them all, by the way).

But, policies are just the start. Unless they have been properly communicated and employees have been properly trained, they remain a rule to hold people against – not a help to do good for the company.

You need all three: Policy, Communication, Training. Irrespective of you doing any social media marketing or nothing at all, irrespective of your organization having a page on Facebook, on or a hundred accounts on Twitter, Instagram, Pinteres, Tumbler or whatever. It’s not about what you do. It’s about what your employees may do, in your favour or to your detriment, consciously or by mistake.

4 great reasons not to write headlines or tweets like this one

I too, have read the research claiming that headlines/tweets promising a list with a set number (figure, not in text) of <reinforcing adjective> things to read/to do (or avoid) to produce some desirable result.

Here’s why they rather turn me off, than on.

  1. Everybody else does. I’m not questioning the research saying that clicks increase. But what works well when a few people do it may not work as well when everybody does
  2. How original do you look really, when you keep using the same formula over and over?
  3. It tells me that clicks is what makes you tick, not sharing great knowledge or spreading bright ideas. You’re merely a crowd pleaser, regurgitating what you have read elsewhere, in list form – or at least, that is what your headlines tell me. If you’re the Real McCoy, it’s a pity your headlines scare me away
  4. If I feel this way, how many others do too? If #3 actually applies, can you afford the risk of turning clickers away this way?
Please, next time, give me a question, a surprising fact, an intriguing expression, a double meaning, a pun, a chocking insight or just a plain, simple statement. Anything but a list of “X creative ways to bend a banana”

Why do you keep changing my towels, when I don’t want you to?

Dear guest, to save the environment of our planet we need to conserve water and reduce the use of detergents. We ask for your help in doing so by only changing your towels if you leave them on the floor. Therefore, if you are prepared to use your towel one more day, please hang it on the rail

Who hasn’t seen signs with similar messages in hotels around the world, even in countries with abundant access to clean and fresh water. Tell me; do you really change your own towels daily? Well, I don’t and nobody I know of either. So, honestly, why would I expect it to happen just because I’m in a hotel.

Of course, we all understand that this idea of not changing towels has very little to do with the environment. It’s about saving money on cleaning, handling of laundry and reduced wear on towels – disguised as care for the environment. Just like when the airline (SAS for example) ask us to help them save the environment by not leaving our newspapers on the seats when leaving the aircraft, but to bring them with us and shove them down a chute after leaving the aircraft. It just might be a way of reducing the time the aircraft is stuck in cleaning on the ground, speeding up turn-around time, rather for the sake of the environment. What do you think?

So, I open the soap package, wash my hands, take a shower and…. leave the towels hanging, go to work (to the beach or whatever is the cause of my visit) and come back after the cleaning staff have been around, doing their thing.

What do I see, when entering the bathroom on my return? I guess you’ve seen it too. Pristine-looking towels and a new, unbroken package of soap.

This is exactly what happened to me on 15 April in Marriott, Milano.

Dear hotels, please instruct your cleaning staff to leave my towels alone! Even though I don’t believe for a single second that your towel handling initiative has anything to do with environmental care, your environmental lip service statement would be just a little bit less annoying if your guests actually could see that the towels haven’t been changed? And please tell them that I find it utterly wasteful to throw away soaps that have been used only once or twice. I don’t do that at home either.

On the serious side of things, I bring up this example to illustrate the importance of walking the talk in everything you do these days. Paying lip service to environmental care but: 1) doing it for such obvious reasons of profitability and 2) then not even ensuring that it is evident that you actually carried it through, raises doubt about you walking the talk in other – maybe more important – aspects.

If you believe your guests are stupid enough to believe reducing towel turnover has anything to do with your environmental conscience, in which other ways do you try to fool us?

PS While you’re busy passing this on to your cleaning staff, could you please ask them not to rearrange my stuff by the sink, apparently to highlight that they have been doing their job.?I realize anyway that they have been around, because I didn’t make that bed.

Good selling is about “helping people to buy”

This is a post I have drafted  several months ago, but didn’t complete until today.

A tweet by Marie-Christine Schindler promoting a guest blog entry by Danna Vetter called The 5th P of Marketing is People in Brian Solis blog triggered me to complete it.

Kotler’s famous Four P’s are so passé.

They belong in a past era of mass marketing of interchangeable consumer products, with dominating producers and uninformed consumers.

Today, with information overflowing and readily accessible for anyone, those days are gone.

Nowadays it’s not about selling. It’s about helping people to buy.

Kotler’s P’s need to be viewed from the buyers perspective. Here’s my take:

  • From Product to Offering – we buy composites of products and services
  • From Price to Value – the key is what the offering is worth to me the buyer, and I pay not only in money, but perhaps in waiting time or through other sacrifices
  • From Place to Availability – it’s not only about where to buy, but how to buy and when. Is the sales process easy and self explanatory? Can I shop online or only physically between 11 and 18?
  • From Promotion to Communication – shouting messages in any kind of megaphone won’t get you many customers nowadays. Engaging in dialogue, listening to your customers will, at least if you want them to come back.
Sure you can stay old school if you’re ok with drive-by sales and one off customers. If you want any kind of lasting relationship with your customers, you had better listen to them and respond. In any kind of media; live, offline, online, social.
Sales training used to talk about the sales process. I prefer talking about the buying process (adopted from Joe Danielson)

Helping the prospective buyer to move from identifying Needs via becoming Aware of what you have to offer, Evaluating alternatives, Deciding to buy from you, Actioning on the decision and finally Experience what they bought from you

The job of marketeers and sales people in combination is to help prospective buyers progress through this process as smoothly as possible – to help them buy.

  1. It all starts by the customer becoming aware of a need they have, possibly by you making them aware of it
  2. Next, they need to become aware of you and what you have to offer. You need to make it to their short list, to be eligible
  3. Once you’re eligible, you need to provide sufficient information and arguments for them to be able to make a decision in your favour
  4. Finally, they decide. Perhaps since you have managed to strike a chord with some key, well thought-out argument. But it doesn’t end there…
  5. You need to help them take action on their decision. If your store isn’t open when they have the time to buy, they may well go elsewhere. If your online shop is difficult to manoeuvre or the check-out is complicated, you might lose them too
  6. Finally, you had better live up to expectations, to deliver on your promises. If you do, they are likely to both progress much faster through the process when it’s time for renewal and they may even spread the word, introducing other customers to you with an initial, positive mind set
It’s worthwhile noting that points 1, 3 and 5 are primarily Rational while 2, 4 and 6 are more emotional and more influenced by your branding efforts. This does not exclude your involvement on the Rational side. Supplying potential customers with facts allowing them to evaluate and offering a smooth sales process are very much within your reach.
This model works just as well for B2C as for B2B, for fast moving consumer goods as well as for major investments. The process is the same but the media, arguments, sales process etc differ and the process may be more or less time consuming and repetitious. But the basics are the same.
So, stop selling. Start helping to buy
ps. of course, this way of reasoning does not apply only to traditional buying as in paying money. With a little bit of flexibility, it can also be applied to convincing people about your point of view, to give money to charity and so on

The World’s most used language

What is the most widely spoken language? I sometimes ask people around me.

The answers I usually get are English, Spanish, Arabic or Mandarin. Mandarin is  indeed the language which most people have as their mother tongue, but few others speak it.

But the world’s most used language is Bad English!

Working in a very big and international company, I get reminded every day that most people who speak English use it as a second or third language. Almost everybody have an accent (sometimes amusing), a limited vocabulary and poor grammar.

While my initial question is phrased as a joke and the accents can put a smile on your face, the implications are serious for anyone communicating internationally: The majority of your target audience will have difficulties understanding your message if you don’t use simple and straight language.

Use simple and straight words instead of fancy ones or words with double meanings. Avoid nested or complicated sentences. Watch out for slang and local expressions (I could have used “idiomatic expressions” but chose not to). Oh yes, dates of course: Skip all those 05/12/2011, 12/05/2011 and 2011-05-12. Write “12 May 2012” instead! It cannot be misinterpreted.

When it comes to using too complicated words, I suspect that people like me are the worst sinners. People who have English as a second language but who are good at it and are tempted to show off. Reflect back on one of the fundamental rules of good communication – Write for them, not for yourself.

A related, but different, mistake people sometimes make is to refer to contexts that are not known to others; sports events, TV shows, stores, commercials, some holidays and habits. The text may get a little bit less colourful but if your intention is to maximize understanding, literary brilliance is only a nice to have. If a more colourful text may increase the effect of your message, as in advertising, consider having different versions for markets where English is native and for the rest of us.

Maybe we should go even further? Sometimes there are possibilities to select: English (UK), English (US) etc. Why not add an “English (Int)” or “Simplified English”?


Or should I rewrite it?

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