Nearly six years ago, in October 2007, the Direct Marketing Association of Washington (DC), hosted one of the country’s first major conferences on social media. Speaking at the “New Media Marketing Day” were a host of folks who would become social media “stars,” including chair and plenary speaker Geoff Livingston. Joining Geoff were keynoters, Valeria Maltoni and CC Chapman.
Notes from that meeting, which follow, demonstrate the extent to which a little known and less understood communications “practice” would influence – even dominate – marketing in 2013. Many of the notes here seem quaint and outdated! Before you laugh, though, consider how today’s social media will look to us in 2018.
Also, having been given six years to perfect the practice, consider how well developed your own social media efforts today are, or are not.
We kept hearing about community at New Media Marketing Day [by the way, the term new media itself is rapidly dying among the cognoscenti… old hat and all that, you know … but we digress …].
Jake McKee, social media consultant who blogs at Ant’s Eye View refers to the “collusion of marketing, community, and product design.”
Geoff Livingston tells direct marketers that “Your job now is to build a community.” Jim Long, an NBC cameraman turned entrepreneur and founder of Verge New Media [vergenewmedia.com], vlogs, blogs, Twitters, and more. Long says, “The value proposition of social media is that it allows us to connect across lines—geographic, time, physical, and social barriers disappear.” Long adds, “Social Media isn’t out-of-the-box branding. It’s agricultural. You plant a seed and watch it grow.”
We also heard a lot about conversation. Actually, the conversation conversation dates back to at least 1999, when the authors of The Cluetrain Manifesto noted that, “A powerful global conversation has begun. Through the Internet, people are discovering and inventing new ways to share relevant knowledge with blinding speed. As a direct result, markets are getting smarter—and getting smarter faster than most companies.”
“So what is this thing called ‘conversation’,” asks NMMD speaker Valeria Maltoni, who’s been blogging for a year at conversationagent.com and has written The Age of Conversation. With 900 RSS subscribers, Valeria says, “…Start your own conversation in whichever medium works for your business and personality. Get out there, outside the walls and put your ear to the ground. Direct marketing is definitely about the conversation, about figuring out what the customer needs.”
… Which brings us to listing. What’s the attitude inherent in “new media?” Valeria Maltoni sums it up as “I’m listening to you,” (which is a little different, maybe from direct marketing, which – historically, anyway – has been more “I’m talking to you.”). Maltoni says that in the new media/social media environment, customers need to be plugged into every level of your organization.
Should your organization start a blog?
Maltoni suggests that organizations begin with an internal blog. Look for the right voice within the organization (hint: it’s probably not the CEO). Strive for energy, authenticity, and a voice that can be taken outside. “Your personality has to come through; your blog has to sound like you,” Maltoni says.
NMMD speaker, C.C. Chapman [www.managingthegray.com], tags bloggers as the cruise director, not the drill sergeant. “If you’re going to blog, make sure it’s conversational and authentic. I’m totally opposed to somebody ghostwriting blogs … Right now, somebody is talking about something you care about, about your brand. Find out what they’re saying.”
Afraid what you might hear? Chapman shrugs. “Angry people are better than silent people.” NMMD speaker Stephen Marion, Ogilvy, puts it this way: “Reading blogs exposes your company to venomous attitudes and gives you the chance to resolve problems. You can build greater trust [[in the marketplace] by not running away from the issues. A blog may not mitigate your critics, but you can engender more loyalty from your fans.”
In late September, the New York Times ran piece titled “Promote Your Business With A Company Blog.” The Times said, “Blogs are gaining more and more traction in the business world. Experts believe the trend will continue, and that companies should at least monitor blogs to gain knowledge about what's being said about their products and services. And if you have the time and inclination to launch your own blog, the result could be increased business visibility, excited audiences, and added revenue.” Added revenue. Hmmm..
Geoff Livingston, blogger extraordinaire, offered the following Seven Principles of Blogging:
- Give people control; let people talk.
- Be transparent.
- Participation is marketing. As soon as you start blogging, you are part of a community.
- You’re part of a community when you blog, so marketers need to be generalists.
- Get your stakeholders to keep talking to you.
- General content regularly.
- Use technology and merge it with community, intelligently.
For fast community-building, a number of speakers at NMMD were all atwitter about “Twitter,” the social micro-blog that’s growing in popularity among groups with common interest. Popular with the tween crowd. Twitter lets people passionate about the same thing (direct marketing?) connect seamlessly, quickly, and often. That creates an international digital network that can become very tight, very friendly, very fast.
CC Chapman is part of the select Twitter crowd interested in social and new media. These some-one thousand are influential folks because most – if not all – blog. That’s a lot of social media flying around and Twitter sets it on fire. “I had a recent experience with an airline and I was very frustrated. I kept thinking, ‘If they mess with me, I am so twittering this.’”
Still, if anything confused NMMD attendees, it was probably Twitter. The speakers were enthused, while the direct marketers remained confused. Why? WHY Twitter?
Jim Long—who likens Twitter to a cocktail party—did a live demonstration of Twitter’s reach and later blogged about the experience, writing, “In my presentation, I demonstrated how Twitter can be used and misused as an engagement tool. At one point I called out to all of YOU on Twitter, and asked if you’d say hello to the DMAW session. While waiting for some responses to generate, CC Chapman, in what can almost be described as a movie moment, stopped me and said almost chillingly: ‘Jim.. refresh the page.’ You guys had come through!! There were no less than 80 immediate responses. (thank you!) I think that aptly demonstrated Twitter’s immediate, conversational, attention-directing value. I also pointed out that Team Twitter had helped shape my presentation in the comments on my blog.”
Really, What’s In It For Us?
Having said all that, many still wonder, “What’s social media to direct marketers?” Jim Long says social media brings multiple audiences, to whom direct marketers can speak simultaneously. “’Closing’ is still reserved for the direct mail appeal and that nifty thing known as the ‘telephone,’” he admits. Well, yes and no and “so far,” that is, because now there’s widgets—those small portable bits of code that can be embedded on blogs, in Facebook and MySpace, on websites—anywhere html code resides. Widgets can elicit donations, show browsers how to participate, direct readers “here,” and otherwise prompt action—which can then (hurray!) be measured!
Widgets are fun—and there’s plenty of potential for these little entertainment pops to go commercial. Non-profits and political fundraisers (who are always early adopters of technology) have already seen the potential. Many are creating fundraising widgets that play as YouTube videos, logos with an appeal, straight-away “donate here” buttons, and more. NMMD speaker Clinton O’Brien, vice president of business development at Care2, told us to “keep an eye on sniperoo.com.” If you use widgets or want to use widgets to add interesting stuff to your site, Snipperoo claims to let you collect and use them without hacking code (enough about that here; for more, ask you IT guy or gal).
Not surprisingly on the Wild Wild Web, widgets also are being used by individuals to raise money for their favorite cause. Check out http://widgetfundraising.org for a step-by-step how-to case study on how one person purportedly raised $800 for a Cambodian orphan’s college fund. [Editor's note: This link is no longer working. What was a "widget" back then? Do they even exist today?]
But how important are widgets, really? Susan Merritt, who leads product development at Yahoo! Personals, says, “Widgets could be flavor of the moment, but the ways that some widgets intersect with structured data is one of the things I find compelling : For one thing, widgets (and microformats) offer the opportunity for users-and small business people, among others--to embed applications and dynamic apps into their pages/sites. If you hang around MySpace, you see videoplayer widgets (think YouTube), slideshow players (RockYou) that have been cut and pasted in by users --and swickis, a eurekster product I worked on--are everywhere. So if you have content or tools, wouldn't you want users to be able to export them? And if you have APIs, don't you want people to build widgets with them--and then distribute those?”
Big Social Networks for Raising Money?
NMMD speaker Trish Taylor Shuman of Care2 noted that, so far, most nonprofits have not had much success in raising significant funds via social networking sites such as Change.org and Facebook Causes, launched in June. One notable exception is the American Cancer Society, which raised more than $100,000 in 2007 on virtual-life website Second Life. Similarly, the site SixDegrees.org quickly raised more than $300,000 in funds for an assortment of charities, within a few months of its January 2007 launch, although SixDegrees.org benefited greatly from a lot of promotion and financial support from actor Kevin Bacon.
Overall, results for most group fundraising efforts on social networks are not stellar. While a few of the top organizations on Facebook Causes have done well — a campaign to support breast cancer research and “Save Darfur,” for example — the vast majority of the tens of thousands of participating organizations are what Shuman called the “long tail of Facebook Causes,” about 40% of which appear to be less-than-serious, “fluff” causes (such as one very popular cause called "Save Water, Drink Beer," and another called "Save the Oompa Loompas.")
Recent research by Peter Dietz, founder of foik [socialactions.com], provides benchmark figures for fundraising at social networking groups like ChipIn, Firstgiving, GiveMeaning, SixDegrees, and JustGive. Dietz has tabulated $44 million raised from peer-to-peer efforts, but figures for number of participants, average donation, and median donation are very small. Dietz notes that “sustained supporter engagement”’ and “network growth by design” are goals that go far beyond donations in the bank.” But Shuman warms that, to date, “It’s a sobering message.”
p.s. Any links that don't work demonstrate how fast "the new" disappears.
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