In a New Yorker article a few years ago, Malcom Gladwell called on the carpet social media enthusiasts who had been trumpeting a new powerful wave of activism and revolution sparked by Twitter and Facebook. Gladwell holds that social media is “built around weak ties” that contrast sharply with the “strong tie phenomenon” that has been identified as critical in high risk activism like the 1960 sit-ins that began in a Greensboro Woolworth’s.
“Facebook activism succeeds not by motivating people to make a real sacrifice but by motivating them to do the things that people do when they are not motivated enough to make a real sacrifice,” wrote Gladwell.
These easy acts of support, like wearing a ribbon, changing a Facebook profile picture, or donating a small amount of money, have become known as “slacktivism.” Nonprofits looking to use Facebook, Twitter, and the like as a source of committed advocates, donors, and volunteers have become understandably concerned that social media may not be the correct communications tool to develop these supporters.
More recently, some articles and research have come out that defend and support the “power of slacktivisim,” like this infographic from Sortable.com:
That social media supporters are more likely to volunteer, ask for donations on behalf of a cause, or sign a petition should be no real surprise. These are small acts of support without a long-term commitment, and not the activities of high-risk activism about which Gladwell was writing.
The question is, how can your organization convert these casual supporters into deeper and more personally involved activists for your cause? Here are a few ideas:
- Read the posts and shares and tweets carefully. If you see signs of a personal connection to a cause, reach out to the person individually and invite them to deeper participation. For example, if someone shares that they are supporting your breast cancer walk because they are a breast cancer survivor, invite them to speak to a small group, or to a lunch with other survivors where they can learn more about the details of what your organization does.
- Follow up. When someone makes a small donation, or volunteers for a specific event, make sure that you are contacting them, thanking them, and then offering them other ways to become involved. Build a pipeline for getting people to deeper levels of involvement, slowly building up your “asks,” and track your success in moving people through the pipeline.
- Ask them to invite friends to an offline event. You are not looking for online “friends” or “followers” – you are looking for them to invite people with whom they have a deep relationship, the “strong ties” that Gladwell referenced. Research has shown that people who have close friends who are also participating are much more likely to maintain sustained involvement.
Of course, the value of these tactics depends on your measure of success. Clearly, the suggestions above require an expenditure of time and other resources, as they involve personal outreach and potentially the creation of new programs and events to nurture supporters. If you are looking for one-time volunteers, or to raise money for a one-time giving day, you can employ more traditional social media strategies and be perfectly successful. There is nothing wrong with those goals, and, as shown in the statistics above, slacktivists are well suited to helping you achieve them without much additional investment from the organization.
But if you are looking for people who will fight for your cause when things get tough and create a lasting movement for social change, you will need to work hard to turn your slactivists into true activists in order to get the help you need. Again, to quote Gladwell:
“The instruments of social media are well suited to making the existing social order more efficient. They are not a natural enemy of the status quo. If you are of the opinion that all the world needs is a little buffing around the edges, this should not trouble you. But if you think that there are still lunch counters out there that need integrating it ought to give you pause.”
It’s a fact. If you build something yourself, you value it more highly than a premade purchase. It’s called “the IKEA effect” — named after the table or bookcase that is sitting in your living room, proudly eclipsing the Stickley china cabinet.
While the IKEA effect has been noted in products like Build-a-Bear, and studied in origami, I would also argue that it can be used to the benefit of marketing departments and CEOs everywhere. One of the main complaints Six-Point hears is that though executives have a strong plan for growth, they just can’t get people in the company to implement it. So, if you are looking to reign in rogue sales reps, or loose cannon customer service staff, take a lesson from IKEA.
The fact is that marketing plans become significantly more effective and more likely to be implemented when you include the people you will be counting on for execution in the process of creating the plan. While it might seem like overkill to have customer service or product development staff in marketing meetings, it is time well spent.
Here’s an easy way to get the buy-in you need:
- Create a planning team that represents multiple levels of the organization — not just decision makers
- Include people from as many departments as possible
- Try not to exceed 8-10 team members, or decision-making gets unwieldy
Once you have your team assembled, go through a basic SWOT analysis (allowing everyone to list what they see as your organization’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats). Have the team prioritize which of these are the most critical to them — and make sure everyone gets a chance to have their say.
Use the outcomes of this exercise as the basis for your plan. Organize marketing tactics by the objectives that were seen as critical by the group, and make sure that everyone who was in the first meeting gets to see the plan, ask questions, and give feedback.
This simple process will not only allow everyone to understand how marketing fits into the overall objectives of the company, it will also make them more likely to give the plan their support when it comes to implementation since they see their own handiwork in it.
Buyer beware, though. The IKEA effect has also been shown to cause people to overvalue their own work – which could potentially have you patting yourselves on the back even if the plan you create isn’t a particularly effective one. We had one instance where a client’s team was completely ready to go through the major expense of launching three uniquely branded product lines, until we quietly pointed out to them that their existing brand could easily accommodate the new products — and save them significant packaging and advertising dollars.
It’s times like that when having a diverse team is particularly helpful, and why you might want an agency or outside facilitator involved. It makes sure that there are checks and balances in place so that someone notices the crooked leg or missing screws, even if all you see is a potential family heirloom.
If you are in a business-to-business industry, there is a broad and blue ocean of opportunity for you in terms of building a powerful brand. In order to capitalize on it, you just need to create a brand positioning statement that avoids these terms:
- Customer service
- Best value
- Highest quality
- Market leader
- Innovative solutions
These words are so ubiquitous in b-to-b marketing that they have turned into brand killers. Instead of inciting interest in your products or services, they turn your prospect’s brain off.
But what other options could there possibly be once these gems are taken off the table? How else can you describe your business? Well, you need to start thinking about your prospect like a human being. When we say we are a Dunkin’ Donuts person or a Starbucks person, we are making a statement about our values, not just our coffee preference. The DD lovers think of themselves as average Joes (and bristle at the thought of paying $4 for a grande soy mochachino). The Starbucks aficionados pride themselves on appreciating the finer things (and can’t fathom why anyone would order anything “light and sweet”). If you can get your b-to-b brand to connect to your customer’s self identity, you are tapping into something extremely powerful.
“Your culture is your brand.”
Take that mantra from Tony Hsieh of Zappos.com and use it to tap into fresh language and critical brand values that go beyond buzz words. I recommend taking a look at this article by George Anders. He has a brilliant “cultural checklist” for job seekers that can help potential employees make sure that a company is the right fit for them. Your prospects, in many ways, are no different. They want to feel good about the companies they are doing business with and need to share common values.
Here are some good examples of cultural value questions that can translate into key brand attributes:
- Are you a culture of creativity or craft? By this, Anders means that your company either prioritizes getting the big things right or the details right. One has to trump the other, and you want to make sure that your prospect shares your values here, or all of your “superior customer service” staff will be handling complaints.
- Who is the enemy? Is your company engaging in a head-to-head battle against a competitor (think Coke vs. Pepsi)? Or are you on a mission of some kind, where the enemy is inefficiency, or overseas manufacturing, or huge boxes that contain lots of packing material for just one tiny widget? Find something that your company is passionately against and chances are you will find customers who want to join your side of the fight.
- Does your history matter? I want to be clear that this does not mean putting your founding year in your tagline. Rather, is there some compelling value that can be found in how your company was founded, who founded it, or how it has evolved?
- What iconic stories can you tell? Everyone loves a good story. Everyone. You need to find stories that convey something important about your company and tell them often. Stories are also easy to share, so, when adopted internally, they become easy ways for everyone in your organization, from finance to IT to customer service, to become adept at conveying your brand while avoiding the buzzwords.
As you think about these questions and the values your brand could stand for, please remember that the key to all brand strategy is in being willing to say no. Your brand cannot stand for everything and cannot appeal to everyone and still have any power. If your goal is to simply not have any detractors (or if you just can’t bring yourself to say that dreaded two-letter word), you will be competing on price and price alone — a precarious place for any brand to live.
If you can tap into the cultural values that your company shares with your prospects, and figure out how to articulate them using fresh, powerful language, you will be doing something that few (if any) of your competitors will be able to match. Chances are, they won’t even understand what you are doing…until it’s too late.
This post is part three of a three-part series on how organizations can more effectively employ social media.
Let’s face it. For you folks who handle social media daily on behalf of your company, it’s not too hard to BS people who don’t use or understand social media. You show them a large number of likes and impressions, feed them some lines about the importance of getting retweeted and repinned, and most of them will just nod and smile. Or maybe even give you a raise.
But at the end of the day, we all want to know that what we are doing is meaningful, and we want to be valued and respected. If you are in a marketing department and get tasked with social media (or if you actively sought that role), you will get much more out of your efforts and bring much more value to your organization if you can align your work and reporting with its broader goals.
This often starts with proving that social media is valuable to more departments than just marketing. If you can show how interacting with customers in a more personal arena benefits sales, product development, and customer service in language they understand, you won’t have to justify your efforts with metrics.
Here are a few tips on how to get started:
Provide useable customer intelligence to the sales team or other departments.
In the 2012 IBM CEO Survey, 73 percent of CEOs are willing to make an investment in meaningful customer insight. That means that it is something that your boss truly values. What you might not realize is that you have unique access to what customers and prospects think — and in a medium where they are more likely to be candid about their feelings toward your company’s brand. If you see a particular product or service being panned, don’t delete the post. Gather as much information as you can and relay the feedback to the people in your company who can use it to hone your company’s offerings.
On the flipside, if you are seeing rave reviews, be sure to share that with others as well, and in as much detail as possible. A customer’s comment could be used in promotions, or to build on strengths, or to identify “lead” products for the company. Find ways to engage your audience as much as possible to pull out this intel, and then make sure it finds its way to those who can act on it. Polls and incentivized surveys that can be shared through social media are great tools for this.
Ask for referrals.
If you have a core group of active users on social media, don’t be afraid to actively ask them to recommend your company to friends, or to provide you with contact information for someone whom they know could benefit from your product or service if appropriate. (They should direct message you any personal information to keep it secure.) Reports on referrals or actual leads will quickly convince everyone in your company that social media has true value.
Find ways to correct misperceptions and advance the brand.
Social media is a great tool to tell the full story of your brand. For example, if your company is widely known for its ketchup, but also has a killer line of barbecue sauces, run a sweepstakes where the prize relates to that secret sauce. It will encourage people to spread the word in a positive and memorable way. If you survey your audience before and after this type of activity, you can document how successful you were in increasing brand awareness or broadening perception. (This is also when hard data on impressions and reach can be helpful to provide context to survey data.)
Customer intelligence, leads, and brand awareness are goals of almost every company and organization. What other specific goals does your company have that you can advance through social media? What other departments can you support through your efforts? Asking these questions will quickly raise interest in and respect for your work, beyond just a feverish demand for the nebulous “like.”
This post is part two of a three-part series on how organizations can more effectively employ social media.
This one is specifically for all of you CEOs, CMOs and CFOs out there who want what, as a CEO myself, I want: to separate the hype regarding social media from the opportunity.
The 2012 IBM CEO Study reports that CEOs are in a “precarious position” when it comes to social media. Few use it themselves, which makes them “uncomfortably reliant on the counsel of less experienced Generation Y advisors.”
I recently met with an executive who admitted to me that she was “hoping to retire before all of this social media stuff became a part of my job,” echoing the sentiments expressed in the IBM report.
But unfortunately, you aren’t retired…yet. And no, you can’t cede control of your brand to a recent grad who spends all day pinning, liking and tweeting and do your company any favors.
So the question remains: How do you provide leadership for your team concerning social media when you don’t trust your own judgment?
The answer is actually much simpler than you might think. You just need to bring social media decision-making into your comfort zone.
Encourage your team to use social media as a referral tool. Don’t ask for an arbitrary number of “likes” or “views.” Focus your team on engaging customers and prospects and drawing out recommendations from them, both directly and indirectly. For example, a client of ours, Hyde Tools, gave away free product and encouraged customers to post about their experience with the tool on Facebook. This meant that the friends of their customers were seeing positive posts about the HYDE® brand and its products — an indirect but powerful recommendation from a source they trust. No ads needed.
Expect social media to provide you with customer intelligence. Don’t you wish you knew in detail what your customers want from you? How you can keep them coming back, or persuade them to buy more from you? The same IBM study referenced above pointed out that only 26 percent of C-levels track blogs, only 42 percent track third-party reviews and only 48 percent track consumer reviews. This is a lost opportunity to get detailed feedback from your customers and prospects without needing to pay for an expensive survey. Make sure your marketing team or agency is reviewing social media feedback and reporting on it regularly.
[Remember: don’t just track your own brand. Check out reviews and mentions of your competitors, too.]
If it sounds too good to be true…. Do I really even have to finish that? If your agency or marketing team is giving you lots of reports of “likes” and “impressions” that sound mysterious and amazing, but there is no change in the metrics that you understand and care about (sales, gross profit, customer loss, etc.), challenge them. You will know when you need to call bullshit. Follow your gut.
Don’t fear the negative review. Censoring social media defeats the purpose, and often makes a bad situation much worse, so I have to be frank. If your product or service isn’t making the majority of your customers happy, your problem isn’t social media. Deal with that issue first. Having said that, if there are enough people who truly love your brand, their experiences and recommendations will clearly outweigh a few naysayers. We have actually seen loyal customers go after detractors online, disputing negative claims and defending a product or company. Just don’t join the fray. Encourage positive interactions often, and ignore (or, whenever possible, try to resolve) negative feedback.
So, the good news is that as long as you are clear on the main issue — why your company is using social media and how you expect it to benefit the organization — you can remain blissfully ignorant of check-ins, hashtags and Follow Fridays. The bad news? This means you can also put off retirement for a few years.
This post is part one of a three-part series on how organizations can more effectively employ social media.
Lately, I’ve had many conversations with marketing directors who have been asked by a president or CEO to “start doing social media,” or with presidents and CEOs who feel that their company is missing out by not having a social media presence.
All of these conversations have one thing in common: frustration.
Marketing directors are frustrated because they are now charged with creating a massive amount of content and scouring the web for likes, followers and retweets. From their perspective, they simply don’t have the time (or sometimes the expertise) to get the results that they know their bosses are expecting. Executive teams are frustrated because they are inundated with excuses and complaints from their marketing department.
In the face of this mutual exasperation, results are often sorely lacking: There is no jump in sales, no flood of inquiries. Sure, there are new reports with impressive-sounding metrics for likes, followers, impressions and reach, but in terms of the bottom line, it seems like this social media stuff just isn’t working.
If this describes your organization, take a deep breath and a step back. Get the two sides together in one room and then try this:
- Before you even start the conversation, replace the word “social media” with “social technology.” We are used to selecting the right technology for our purpose. People tend to think of social media as great news for every company and every situation. Not true. Maybe Twitter is the right social technology for your business. Maybe Facebook. Maybe YouTube. Maybe Foursquare or Yelp or Pinterest. Or….dare I say it? Maybe none of them will help you get the results you need.
- Reach a common understanding of what success would look like. If you have 1,000,000 Facebook fans but no measurable change in sales or customer loss rates, is that a success? Everyone needs to understand how this effort will contribute to the overall success of the organization, and how success will be evaluated.
- Find something of value to offer your customers and prospects. Remember, social media is a two-way street between you and your customers. Value for you is probably not the same as value for them. Are they expecting coupons? Insider info? Photos or videos they find meaningful or funny? They want something from you, or they wouldn’t bother connecting. It’s your job to deliver. (And, remember, if you don’t know what they want, you can always ask them!)
- Have an honest discussion about your company’s ability to sustain content, and the resources it will take. Like it or not, if you are employing social media, you are turning your company into a publisher. You need authentic, meaningful, engaging and unique content created almost every day — and you need to monitor and reply to your network. All of this can be a significant drain on resources. Is it worth it?
The bottom line? Frustration with social media usually stems from a lack of clear strategy and shared sense of responsibility at all levels of the organization. You need to address this communication gap before you can ever expect a successful program.
Moving on. Once you find common ground, the next step is for CEOs to empower their team (perhaps not just marketing) to use social technology in effective ways. I’ll discuss how this can be done strategically in my next post. Finally, the third post in this series will explore how marketing departments can start documenting results that go beyond standard analytics…and turn themselves into social media heroes (which is, of course, always the goal).
For some reason, companies work really hard at reducing their names to initials.
It’s understandable—as a woman, I’ll be the first to admit that for me, doing laps at the YMCA seems better than swimming at the Young Men’s Christian Association.
Acronyms also worked for IBM, which first used theirs to one-up NCR in 1914. Those famous initials were hugely successful as a short, mnemonic device—especially when paired with a hundred million or two in advertising.
Today, however, assuming you’re not IBM or BBDO Worldwide, choosing your name from a spoonful of alphabet soup is no help in disguising a problematic name. Nonprofits in particular should rethink this strategy, which often obscures their mission and makes them seem less personal.
Pinterest is by far the best time suck I have ever stumbled upon. Almost every night I pin recipes I may never make, look at pictures of places I’ll most likely never visit and browse through beauty tips I would never have the guts to try, but regardless of that, I’m completely obsessed. With that said, I dropped in to discuss a few tips on how I believe businesses can cash in on this new social media craze. (more…)
With stock photography and illustration rampant, and artistry in danger of becoming a commodity, we want to take a minute to plug a talented artist – and the value (and fun!) of commissioning original work.
There’s a ton of buzz going on around our industry about Responsive Design. Responsive is the practice of creating one product, one solution for many different users equipped with many different devices, having the common goal of viewing one simultaneous product, with one like-minded experience. (more…)