Showing posts tagged: social media

Craft Beer Marketing

Several weeks back, the folks at BevNET and Brewbound invited me to speak at their craft beer business conference in Boston, the Brewbound Session.

Specifically, they asked me to do a talk entitled “Evaluating, Shifting Marketing Priorities As You Grow”, which was meant to be my broad take on where craft brewers should spend their marketing time and money as they grow.

The first draft of this presentation, was actually 60 slides, and clocked in at almost an hour when I did a run through. But since I only had 20 minutes on stage, I had to dramatically cut this down to fit the format.

Which given how much I like to talk, was quite a challenge.

Below is the final presentation I gave at the event, cut down to 34 slides, along with my original speaker notes (which are written conversationally - as I presented).

The audience was a couple hundred brewers and beer industry folks, and despite the fact that I talked very quickly while on stage, and tried to cram as much content into the allotted time as possible, I think this was pretty well received.

Enjoy…


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Good afternoon everyone. Thanks for coming today, and thanks to BevNet and Brewbound for inviting me. My name is Andrew Teman, and I’m the founder of a creative agency here in Boston, called Heart.

I’m here today, to talk about how you (as craft brewers), can think about and prioritize your marketing efforts, as a means to breaking through in this increasingly competitive space.


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Because just as a bit of a level set - and this is something I know you’re all acutely aware of - this is what the average consumer is facing today when buying beer.

The sheer amount of choice is simply overwhelming. 


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I actually snapped this picture a week or so ago, at a liquor store not far from here.

These are bottles in the craft beer section, literally covered in dust, because they’ve sat untouched for so long. 

And these aren’t way down on the back bottom-shelf. These are left side, eye level - a prime spot.

So, it goes without saying that to even stand a chance, to even have a hope of being pulled off of the shelf, you need to stand out. You need to break through this clutter and noise.

And when I ask people in the beer industry how they are approaching marketing (especially those just starting out), what I hear most often, is this:


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And I get it. I understand completely why this is the starting point for everyone.


There is a perception that it is free.
That it’s easy.
That you can do it effectively without any outside help.

There is a perception that beer is inherently social, and thusly, everyone will just naturally talk about you and your product organically.

And while some of this may be partially true, relying on just doing social media alone, will not get you very far - I promise.


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Social media is a tactic (one of many) that’s part of a larger communication framework through which you tell your story.

It sits alongside things like PR, events, your packaging, the product…all of the ways you can communicate your brand to drinkers.

So what I want to do today, is get a bit broader. A bit higher level, and give you a framework that hopefully will allow you to better organize and prioritize how you market your brands and your products.


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And to keep things really simple, I’ve broken the world down into four pieces. Four pieces that I think can work for everyone, regardless of whether you’re MillerCoors, or two guys in a garage. All things you can be thinking about, and doing today, regardless of your size or your stage.

And we’re going to talk a bit more about what each of those things means in practice.


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Let’s start with making a great product.


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This is my friend Todd - some of you may know Todd, he’s been around the industry for a while. Todd worked at Sam Adams with me and ran the customer relations end of the business.

But his true passion is (and always has been sake). His commitment to the product, to the liquid, is second to none. He pours all of his heart and energy into making the absolute best sake he can.

And this is where it all starts - with that passion and that determination and that commitment to making an amazing product.

And this part, this is something I can’t help you with. Because all of the marketing in the world, can’t save a bad product.

And I trust, just based on your presence here today, that you are all people that have this step knocked.

So let’s build off of that and get into what happens next.


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Which is having a great story.


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And when I think about story, I think about it in terms of how each of you, in this room, would answer this question.

If I grabbed any one of you, and said “What is Backlash Beer?” or “What is Portico Brewing?”

Would you have an answer that’s clear, differentiated, own-able, uniquely yours, and above all…interesting?



Some of you would, I’m sure. But lots of you would probably respond with a long pause. Or some rambling monologue that’s hard to follow and ultimately trails off into nowhere.

Or you’d talk to me about being small, and independent - or having quality ingredients. Which I hate to tell you, isn’t story - it’s cost of entry to the category.

And it certainly isn’t unique or interesting.


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And the reason story is so important, is that it’s your story. YOUR story, that becomes the basis of that emotional connection you need to build with your drinker in order to break through the clutter we talked about.

Capturing people’s hearts is the first step to capturing their wallets. And capturing hearts, has everything to do with having a great story.

That one simple truth, that uniquely-yours thing that guides everything you do, make, or say.

And while we could do a full day conference on story and brand positioning, I wanted to give a couple of real quick examples of what story looks can begin to look like in its simplest form.


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First, Toms - one of my favorite brands, is built on a simple principle. A simple story that guides everything that they do. Whether they get into footwear, or eyewear, or even coffee. Their story is about social entrepreneurship.


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And industry example, a beer example - Clown Shoes. 

While this is personally not the direction I’d go in if I started a brewery, I do have an enormous amount of respect for what they are creating with this brand.

It is what it is, and it’s unapologetic about what it is, and it’s origins.

And from my perspective, this story is pulled through beautifully in the products that they make - certainly in how they are named. It’s a great, simple story.

And frankly, so much of its strength comes from it’s polarizing effect. The fact that it’s unabashedly not for everyone, is a big part of what makes it resonant. It forces a decision to be with them or not. And there’s great power in that.


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But regardless of the angle, regardless of what your story is, it needs to be rooted in an authenticity, an honesty, a heart that bleeds through and is undeniable. 

It’s cliche, but it’s true.

So begin with what you believe. Why are you doing what you’re doing? What is that one simple thing that can guide everything underneath it?

Because once that story is defined and strong, the rest becomes so much easier. The advertising, social media, packaging…it all has something to be guided by.


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But of course a great story poorly told, isn’t going to be of much impact. 

Because it isn’t in the idea, it’s in the execution. It’s in how this story comes to life and begins to work hard for you. 

So to that end, I want to go through some of the ways you can bring this story to life, in service of growth.


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First, and maybe most importantly, is to tell great stories through your products themselves.

I know we are in a world where we’re all chasing the latest, hottest, most interesting, underground and extreme thing. 

But there is enormous strength in having your brand and product stories map to one another.

I’ve always loved Dogfish, and while their portfolio is pretty eclectic, they (to me) are great at telling a brand story through their products. Product becomes a proof point for the stories they tell.


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Next, package design - something I see far too many brands skimping on. 

My advice is to invest in great design early on. The liquid inside is moot if no one pulls it off the shelf first.

And this matters more than you may think. Package design is key to what Proctor and Gamble called “First Moment of Truth” - which they described as the moment  “when consumers stand in front of a store shelf … and decide whether to buy a P&G brand, or a competing product.”

Eyes lead people - colors, patterns, objects of beauty.

And trust me, designers are DYING to do beer branding work. I’m not saying exploit them, but know that they WANT to do this work. Engage them, and design something beautiful from day one.


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Beyond just jumping out, design matters, because beautiful and interesting products become badges. They become social objects and vehicles through which people self-express.

This is Method, another brand I love.

Eric, one of the founders talks about how he knew people wanted cleaning products that they didn’t have to hide under their sinks. Genius. Totally upended the category style, and turned household cleaners into objects of desire.

What they’ve done with cleaning products (creating something beautiful) is going to quickly become a cost of entry - a necessity to compete, in the beer industry.


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And I know so many of you may only have one or two styles in retail now, maybe a few more. But as you approach design, think in foundational systems. Think about creating a design system, that is consistent enough to create that retail billboarding effect, but also elastic enough to accommodate growth.

Because people pattern match.

This is Pastene. People may not know the brand name Pastene, but they damn sure know the Italian brand with the yellow label. 

And this design makes it easy for Pastene to introduce new products and cross-sell existing ones. Because they’ve created a system of visual communications that works hard for them and makes it easy on shoppers.

And “system” by the way doesn’t mean bland and templated. 

I look at Pretty Things for instance, and every label for each different style is so unique and so intricate. But there is an unmistakeable style that they have. So those individual parts, as unique as they are, sum to something greater when on a shelf together.


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Social media and content - which to be clear, I don’t think is totally useless, I just don’t believe that it’s the ONLY thing.

What I absolutely do believe, is that we, as beer folk, create great content simply as a byproduct of what we do every day. And that these visuals, these simple, light content pieces are a great way to tell your story.

These are some examples of “content” that I “created” when I was with Sam Adams, and almost with no captions, they tell wonderful stories 

Remember, that what you are doing is interesting. Most people sit in offices, and wear ties, and create TPS reports. You guys are making beer, and that’s cool in itself. Don’t complicate it, just own it and give people a window into your world. Share the awesomeness that is working in the beer industry, with those who don’t.


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Lastly, another place I’d focus on and spend in if I were a brewer (in addition to design) is PR.

Aside from huge reach, these magazines like GQ, Women’s Health, etc…provide third party validation, which has great value. With these placements, you are able to borrow equity from other established vehicles as a means to build your own.

Same goes for awards and festivals. Enter and win. 

My sister in law covets the Boston Magazine Best of Boston award for her day spa every year. And not just because winning is awesome. But that ability to badge, and get the press that comes along with winning. It’s such phenomenal validation - that borrowed equity is so strong.


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But whatever the medium, and whatever the story, as Dan Weiden (one of the most famous advertising minds of our generation) says, “Just move me dude”.


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Lastly, I want to talk about media. 

Advertising. 

Marketing with a capital “M” - giving all of this story a boost, and making sure people actually get a chance to see it and hear it and experience it.


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Back to social media for a minute, and this idea of just “doing social media”.

Again, what I understand the logic path to be, is…

Social media is free
Social is about engagement
Engagement is good
Beer is social
We will get engagement, because beer.


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Not sure if we have any South Park fans here, but most social media approaches I see, are a bit like the underpants gnomes from South Park.

Collect Underpants…..Profit.


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But the harsh reality is, that Facebook and social media are now unambiguously paid platforms. Even Facebook themselves has said so.

Beer, no matter how inherently social, is not immune to this reality I’m afraid.


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And the data proves this.

If you do not pay for ads on Facebook, you simply are not seen. You do not exist.

The latest data (this is from Ogilvy Social), says that only about 6% of a page’s fans are reached with its content.

So do the math. Without paying…

For every 1,000 fans you have, you’re going to be lucky if your posts even appear in the newsfeeds of 60 people. 

And appearing is different still from being seen, or from having any impact. 


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The good news is, the targeting abilities on these platforms, are amazing. 

For instance, here is a quick cut I ran. 

Let’s say for instance, you make a stout and distribute in New England. This targeting segment would allow you to get content in front of people in New England, that have indicated they like Stout, and who have an upcoming birthday.

3,000 people now (that aren’t necessarily fans of yours) that you can reach with a specific message - like “celebrate your birthday with an XYZ stout” or something like that.


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Getting WAY outside of social media, and going in a totally different direction….

One of the first things we did at Heart, was a billboard. I’ve been a digital guy for 15 years, the last thing I thought we’d do would be a billboard.

But we did, and they ran on Route 93 and the Mass Turnpike here, for 3 months. Total media cost was around $XX,XXX. The artwork and production end is not terribly expensive either. Maybe half that.

And from a pure reach + resonance standpoint, this actually outperformed everyone’s expectations. We STILL get mentions of this billboard, months after it’s come down.


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Radio and TV, also tend to be overlooked, but are not nearly as crazy or expensive as you may think.

Sam Adams and Jim Koch did so many things well (they still do), but one of their smartest moves, was buying TV. It was a huge part of what allowed them to blow past the competition and become a category leader.

And recently we’ve seen folks like New Belgium and Kona start experimenting with TV also.


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So to recap…

Make a great product - that’s all you

Have a great story - know your reason for being, why you exist, who you are and who you aren’t

Tell it well - take that story and be considerate of every touchpoint you have with a drinker, from product stories to content stories. And make sure they all build towards something greater.

Give it a boost - Don’t be afraid of paid media. You’re in an extremely crowded space, and for short money, you can start to force your way above the fray.


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Lastly, I want to leave you with one more framework to help put all of this into a time and priority context.

And in the name of broad applicability, this is obviously grossly simplified.

But as I’ve mentioned, I’d start thinking about building relationships with three important partners sooner rather than later…

A creative partner

A PR partner

An advertising partner (media + creative)

And look at deploying those partners, roughly along this timeline.


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Thanks a lot everyone, hope this was helpful.


Falling Back In Love With Owned Channels

I’ve been pretty unabashed lately with my criticisms of Facebook (and social media in general), contending that organic brand-engagement is a silly marketing fantasy, and that these platforms (at best) are merely paid media channels like any other.

Turns out, I’m not really wrong. Even Facebook themselves just out and said so rather bluntly.

Like many mediums, if businesses want to make sure that people see their content, the best strategy is, and always has been, paid advertising.

Yet for some reason, everyone feigned surprise and tried to muster some pathetic outrage when this came out.

But once again, we’re ignoring the gargantuan elephant in the room - that you (as a brand) have always participated in, and continue to participate in Facebook’s world, on their terms.

You’ve been renting their space.

Instead of building a house, you decided to rent an apartment.

This means they make the rules.

You own nothing.

Jason Loehr of Jack Daniel’s puts it perfectly in this Digiday clip. He calls Facebook and the like, “leased channels”.

He goes on to say that all of their owned channels, are now most important, and I couldn’t agree more.

Microsites and the like used to seem foolish, but now how do they look, compared to practice of pouring millions into building something you don’t own and can’t control?

Continuing Thoughts On Social Media

My post the other day (“Why Bother With Social Media?”) definitely struck a chord and generated some good conversation, as it was meant to do.

Based on some of those conversations and responses, I did want to add some more thoughts to the original ramblings.

First, I’m not saying never ever ever ever shall any brand spend time or money in building a social media community and fostering some sort of engagement through it.

Where there is some (relatively) clear connection between the core assets/function of a brand and the natural user consumption desires/behavior on a given platform, therein lies some potential opportunity for gain, and a decent argument for an investment creating and building a brand-driven social media presence. 

But what I am saying, is that instances in which this strong natural intersection exists, are the exception, not the rule. Most brands are awkwardly forcing this connection at best, and all things being evaluated equally, it’d make more sense for them to reduce their focus in social down to near zero.

Because my central point in all of this, is that every marketing plan should start from zero, and channels should be chosen unsentimentally, prioritized based on their ability to drive the bottom line. Which more often than not, would put social media pretty far down that prioritized list. If on the list at all.

Some of the specific points that people brought up in response to my post were:

  • What about customer service?
    Yes, sure. Social media has most certainly shaken up how brands and businesses need to address unhappy customers. Though I’m not quite sure anyone’s really cracked that nut yet. The most common tactic I’ve seen throughout the industry to date, seems to be the GFTO (get the fuck offline) approach, where social media managers play whack-a-mole, and try to herd complainers into established offline channels (phone/email/web) as quickly as possible. So, again, the resource case we’re making feels a bit disconnected from the reality of what’s actually being addressed - since most social media “customer service” amounts to a copy/paste apology and link to a form so reps can “take it offline”.

  • What about purchase influence?
    Jess made the point that social presences give the undecided users a sense of the brand. While I have a lot of love for Jess, I don’t necessarily believe that active exploration of a brand’s social channels is a deciding factor (or even an influencing factor) in the majority of user journeys. I’ll buy that people visit Yelp, or read Amazon reviews, or check out Consumer Reports, but I just don’t see Facebook pages as being an important part of that purchase path. Again, this feels like another tenuous hypothesis we inflate in order to justify what we’re doing.

  • What about awareness?
    Can a brand’s social media presence help drive awareness? Some, sure. Any interaction, or even noticing of any brand anything, can theoretically raise awareness of the brand in some small way I suppose. I’d tend to think though, that if you’re already a fan or follower of a brand, your awareness is likely quite high as it is. So maybe that content your posting, at best reinforces awareness. But I’m not sure that your owned social channels are creating any awareness where it didn’t  previously exist. And frankly, your ability as a brand to even do that much, is basically going away as we speak.

Again, these are just my opinions today, and this is an evolving point-of-view that’s based on a lot of recent observations and conversations I’ve been having of late. Nothing I’m saying is a 100% truism or universally unassailable fact for every brand out there.

I do believe however, that brand marketers should be more assertive in asking the question (“is social media really worth it?”), and that they shuld be looking objectively at the channels they spend against, versus diving blindly into checking the boxes thrown in front of them.

And I’m also asking those who sell social media tools and strategies, to dispense with the fantasy, and to re-focus on bringing your clients the plans and recommendations that they actually need – not just the ones that you can best profit from.

I look forward to continuing the discussion, so keep the comments coming.

Why Bother With Social Media?

I’ve been asking the following question of my peers (as well as myself lately), and getting some really interesting answers - if any answers at all.

If you are responsible for allocating marketing budgets for a brand (any brand really), how do you justify spending a dollar on social media over some other channel (print, tv, pr, content, etc.)?

Or, even more directly:

Why bother spending any time or money on social media?

And for clarity, I’m talking about the earned, organic, content-calendar, community manager, lets-build-conversation, engagement stuff here. The things that require man-hours, software, creatives, listening systems and the like. Not buying ads on social platforms (that’s just advertising).

Unsurprisingly, these questions, when asked directly, seem to cause some rambling panicked responses, and momentary crises of identity amongst my social media practitioner friends.

Because deep down, they, like me, realize that the charade is over. That the once grand promise of social media as a beautiful brand engagement tool, has gone generally unfulfilled. 

It’s a tough realization, and I’ve taken no small amount of angry shit from my colleagues in pushing these questions. In part, because there’s this sense that if you’re in the game, you’re in the game.

We’re all in this together. The agencies sell the platforms, the platforms sell the ads, the media company sells the ad software, the other agency sells the measurement (which always says “it’s working!”), and we all get paid. By the time anyone starts asking questions, it’s too late because no one in this industry stays anywhere for more than a year or two and we’ve all moved onto new jobs.

Lather, rinse, repeat.

But that hyperbolic collusion rhetoric aside, there are some real, honest questions about the efficacy of social media and value of investing in the building of “brand communities”.

The biggest problem that we can’t just sweep under the rug, is that broadly speaking, the average person gives zero shits about your brand at all, let alone connecting with it. In social media or otherwise.

We’re trying desperately to force a selfish narrative (that people want to engage with brands), when in fact the exact opposite is true.

People far smarter than I, have put this more eloquently than I ever could, so here are some quotes on the topic that I love.

First, from Seth Godin.

Start by understanding that no one cares about (the brand). People care about themselves. Anyone who tweets about a brand or favorites a brand is doing it because it is a symbol of who they are—it is a token, it is a badge. It’s about them, it’s not about the brand.

Next, from one of my favorite pieces of content, ever.

Our challenge is that people are not paying attention. Our challenge is that people really don’t care. Our task is not nurturing enthusiasm, but overcoming indifference.

So then, why are we spending so much money trying to make social media work, when the audience doesn’t care, and the efforts lag so far behind other mediums in terms of driving business growth?

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Seems like your time and money is still better spent on the classics - paid search and email. It may be un-sexy, but it’s hard to argue.

  • But brands that set smart social goals, are making it work!” you say. 

    I’d say that this is a false construct peddled by those who benefit from the idea that social media works and is necessary. Meaning, we’re creating arbitrary social media goals to justify what we’ve already decided we want to do, versus allowing broader business goals to lead us into the proper channels with the proper investment. Which often times, won’t be social. When you’re holding a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

  • "But we’re getting great engagement on our content!" you argue.

    The question isn’t whether or not people will engage with puppies and babies and click bait on Facebook (they will). The question is, what impact do those engagements really have on your brand and business? Again, we’re feeding into a false-construct of our own making. We decided that engagement = success, and then we figured out how to game the system so that we get engagement. But despite all of that engagement, social falls flat (and hard) when it comes to actually moving the needle where it matters.

  • "But Facebook fans of XYZ brand spend twice as much than non-fans!" you plead.

    This has always been a favorite of mine. Aside from the fact that the “data” here is dubious (“much of the data thus far has been anecdotal”), this argument is also a wonderful case of the confirmation bias approach that the industry takes to justify its existence. Is it also possible for instance, that heavy spenders are more likely to become fans? I know that’s an inconvenient possibility, but it is a possibility, yes? I fully expect select parts of this J.Crew story to be used ad infinitum in social media presentations henceforth.

I could go on, and talk about the myriad other arguments that I hear in support of social media, but my point is a fairly direct and simple one:

If you are an individual who is responsible for deciding where to spend your marketing resources (time and money), you need to ask your agency and your team why you should bother with social media at all. And you are owed good, honest answers to that question.

I met with someone last week, a marketing director for a near 100 year old financial institution that catered to immigrant families and the local community. She was concerned that they were “behind”, because they didn’t have a robust social media presence. As the discussion went on, we all agreed that they’re not losing customers because of their social media absence, and they’re not likely to grow the business based on their social media presence.

But prior to our chat, she’d seen a parade of agencies talking about big digital ecosystems, and the need to “engage” with their customers in social, as if not doing so made her a marketing pariah.

Of course each of these recommendations came without any consideration as to how doing these things would help her business - or even if at the most basic, whether or not these were the right channels for her to focus her limited time and resources on.

They were selling her what they had, not what she needed.

So I’d ask again (as I did in that meeting), why bother?

Paper Is The New Facebook

Had a chance to mess around with Paper for a bit last night. And aside from the SWIPE EVERYTHING interface, the sexy display of otherwise boring friend-generated content, and the obvious comparisons to Flipboard, something else was immediately evident to me.

This, Paper, is the future Facebook.

As in, the existing Facebook app (and perhaps the site itself) will be phased out, and this, Paper, will soon be Facebook. In its entirety.

Here are some reasons to believe this.

  1. Facebook in its current form, is dying. Or at the very least, no longer growing. Something dramatic needs to happen to the 10 year old platform, if it hopes to live another 10 years. Or even another 2 years. What was once the bleeding edge of social connection and content, now looks and feels tired. It is tired. 

  2. But you can’t just abruptly change a system of this size, in one fell swoop. If Facebook updated its core app to look, feel, and work like Paper overnight, the company would implode. Shit, think about how people lose their marbles over small changes. This transition to the future, although it needs to ultimately be a sea-change to the product, has to happen gradually. Which is why they are introducing and building out a parallel product. So people (advertisers and consumers) can be weened off of the existing, and onto this.

  3. Mobile has long been an achilles heel for Facebook. Sure, the desktop site was tolerable, but the app always sucked. Even when it didn’t suck anymore, it still sorta sucked. But again, tinker-tailoring with the current app, making incremental changes, won’t get them anywhere. They need a full re-build from the ground up. Which is what Paper is. It’s not a redesign of the Facebook app, it’s a new app altogether, that looks and feels and acts completely differently than what exists.

  4. Where Facebook exploded as a business, was in its ability to reinvent how advertising was woven into digital content and the digital user experience. They materially changed the way brands behaved, forcing them to become content creators and engagers - making things people wanted to spend time with, versus just churning out heavy-handed advertising drivel. You could argue that in many ways, Facebook created the idea of native advertising. Or at the very least, made it mainstream. But now, this too looks tired. What once were elegant pieces of advercontent, woven into the newsfeed, now feel like the pseudo-display ads and the “click me” executions that they were once meant to kill off. While other platforms continue to advance and evolve the idea of “native”, Facebook has become a victim of its own success, driving the life out of the very product that its business has been built upon.

    So now what then? To keep current with users and advertisers (their complementary lifebloods) Facebook needs to once again occupy a place where current, dominant advertiser and consumer behaviors intersect.

    And that place, is in the richly designed, Flipboard style, full-bleed photo, beautiful aggregation, content-forward arena that has been pushed of late by folks like Zite, and Flipboard, and Medium.

So while I don’t expect Facebook in its current form to merely vaporize overnight, I do expect Paper to become the future of Facebook, sooner rather than later.

A Return To (Actual) Social Media Humanity

Pick a brand. Any brand.

Now go to their Facebook page or Twitter feed and what do you see?

Maybe a car that’s rooting for a football team? Perhaps it’s a box of cereal that wants to know how your weekend was? Or it could be a stick of deodorant that’s curious to know what you thought of the Breaking Bad finale.

And it’s all fucking awkward.

Every last post.

Forced.

Cringe-worthy.

Embarrassing.

Because we as marketers have somehow lost our way. We’ve somehow gotten comfortable with a set of social media “best practices” and “standards” that are as phony as they are foolish.

We’ve somehow bought into this silly idea that brands in social spaces, should act like people. That the key to success in social media is to “humanize” your brand, and it give it “a voice”.

And as a result, that’s what every ding-dong community manager and stuffed-shirt social media “expert” is doing.

Literally.

They’re just clumsily attempting to animate brands like some fumble-thumbed puppeteers at the worst community theater puppet show you’ve ever seen.

Hence the awkwardness in a cup of coffee becoming sentient and asking you what you think of this weather, on Facebook.

Seriously. I barely want to talk to my human friends about the weather, let alone a faceless corporation.

But social media pros have been selling this bullshit approach for so long, that I think they’ve started to believe it themselves. Or maybe they legitimately don’t know any better. It’s hard to tell.

Either way, it’s time to stop the nonsense.

It’s time to stop writing tone guidelines, and internally coaching your community managers on how to make your ketchup or snow-tires or dog biscuits sound “approachable”, “quirky”, and “fun-loving”.

It’s time to stop hiding behind logos and stock photos, content calendars and platitudes.

It’s time to hire the right social media brand stewards, and then trust, empower, and elevate them to roles of front-facing prominence.

It’s time to stop saying “human” and start being human.

Because if you’re not prepared to put a face (an actual face) and name (an actual name) alongside your brand in social media, perhaps you shouldn’t be there at all.

Rob Delaney on Walmart & Twitter

Rob Delaney’s thoughts on the Walmart Twitter account. I agree with this so hard on every level.

If you look at the Walmart Twitter, it is the worst, most pathetically offensive thing on the Internet. They totally have people who have like ***social media degrees*** running it. They clearly have a protocol where you literally respond to every tweet that they get—except ones from me, they never respond to me.

They try to feign humanity and engage with users. First of all, if you’re tweeting Walmart, you’re an idiot. Really? It’s like, “Hey, I couldn’t find Jack Reacher on Blu-Ray!” So they’ll write back, “It’s in the DVD section! Hey, what are you doing for Memorial Day?!” It’s like they ask a question that the answer will absolutely not matter and they’ll never see it but they try to engage like they’re your friend ***Corey***! To me that’s on the level of, if the Nazis had invented SkyNet, that’s what it would be like. To pretend that you’re a human being when you’re a gigantic soulless multinational. I can’t off the top of my head think of anything more disgusting and offensive.

So I would love to literally tweet for them and tell the truth, and be like, “We’re Walmart. We’re giant. We have many things for you to live a very bland and copiously overstuffed life of milquetoast unoriginality. You know what you’re gonna get, so just swing on by. Don’t ask us any questions because we’re a friggin’ robot running a Twitter account.” I’d make it much more popular.

The Simple Secret To Effective Community Management

For a good part of 2010, and for some part of 2011, I was in charge of the social media channels for Samuel Adams. And though I only spent a short time at the helm before moving onto Hill Holliday, I learned more about community management in this role than I had before or have since.

And I don’t mean “best practices” sort of stuff, like when the best time to post is, and what formats get more engagement. None of that actually matters as it turns out. That’s all brand-centric thinking. More on that in a minute.

What I learned, was that the key to running a successful brand community in any social space, was to be part of the community and never above it. Here’s what I mean…

Every person that works at Samuel Adams is a beer person. They fucking love beer genuinely. Regardless of what your job function is at the company, from Jim Koch himself, all the way through to the finance department and the interns, every person in that building shares one thing in common. And that’s their love for drinking, tasting, making and talking about beer. 

So therefore, the approach to social for Samuel Adams was a simple one - connect with people over a shared love for beer, by being part of the community, not by lording over it or patronizing it.

Tactically, and on a day-to-day, post-by-post basis, I looked at it like this:

We ALL loved beer. It was the common thread between myself and all of the brand’s 
fans and followers. And in particular, we all loved Samuel Adams. But it just so happened, that when I got up and went to work in the morning, I’d walk by Jim in his office, tasting Boston Lager samples, or step over hoses being used by Bob Cannon as he washed the brewery floor. Or maybe I was part of a homebrew taste panel. Or perhaps I was lucky enough to get a sneak peek at our most prized creation.

Whatever the particulars, I was Charlie and this was the Chocolate Factory. And my job was to help get your mind off of TPS reports and the humdrum of office life, by giving you access into my world

The tone was meant to be “HOLY SHIT. CAN YOU BELIEVE THIS IS MY JOB??!!

And by taking this simple approach of sharing my genuine excitement and wonder at what I had access to every day, I was able to connect to fans on a level that wasn’t manufactured authenticity, but was actually authentic. 

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Since I’ve left Samuel Adams, I’ve had the occasion to work with lots of  people, who in some way or another, are responsible for over-seeing or managing brand communities. And what I see more often than not, are content calendars, best-practices outlines, tone/voice guidelines, and other devices meant to operationalize authenticity and connection with the people in these communities.

We all talk about the importance of connecting with our communities on a human level. We all talk about being personal and having a voice. We all talk about doing the right thing. But then we go out there and literally do none of those things. We treat these channels like a sales-brochure, and we post rehearsed, tone-deaf, advertiser-centric junk, that everyone sees right through.

So my advice is to ignore best-practices, don’t make content calendars, and for god’s sake, please try and see the irony in formalizing documents on how to have a voice and be authentic.

Instead, hire smart people, and match those people by interest, to the brand communities they oversee. If you have a fashion brand, staff that community manager role with someone who genuinely loves fashion. Have an automotive brand? Get a car-nut in that community manager’s seat. Don’t waste your time looking for people with “community management experience”. Look for people who already have a voice and connection with the community, and the rest will be easy.

If you go this route, you won’t have to spend time teaching someone to have an authentic voice, because it’ll just be there naturally.

Today’s Social Media Tips

Two quick thoughts on social media for this Monday morning.

First, we need to stop checking boxes, and start thinking a bit more.  Or maybe it’s that we need to start thinking a bit less. Not quite sure. 

Either way, I see far too much social media “strategy” that goes like this, and it needs to stop.

  1. List out all of the “current” social media platforms that we an think of (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, Vine, etc).
  2. Try and find/make things to put into each bucket.

We need to cut that shit out.

Instead, start with an idea, a goal, or a desired outcome that you want your brand and messaging to have when someone encounters it. Now go out and make things that drive towards that outcome. You’ll figure out which channels/platforms to use, and which to ignore.

Second thought, is that we need to consider social media as being bottom-up as much as top-down. Maybe even more.

What I mean by that is this:

Top-down is explicitly driven by the brand and pushes the user to do something. Think contests and calls-to-action, that sort of thing. Brand tells user what to do, when to do it, and where to do it. If you rely on this method, there’s a good chance that you and your brand are inherently uninteresting.

Bottom-down is creating awesome products and experiences, that have talk-value naturally built in. Your brand becomes social because people want to talk about it, not because they’re part of some Pavlovian Facebook experiment. Strong, confident, secure brands and strategists love this approach and do it well.

Come Work With Me

I need to hire a Sr. Social Media Strategist for my team at Hill Holliday. The full job description is here. If you bother and take some time to read it, you’ll see that it says the expected things. Like how you need to be a self-starter, and good communicator and all that boilerplate stuff. It’s all true of course, but it just doesn’t do a very good job of articulating what it’s like to work on the team, doing the job every day. So I thought I’d write this bit up to add some more color to what this role is all about.

First, what I’m looking for.

I want someone smart. Clever smart. Someone that doesn’t just regurgitate headlines from Mashable, and speak in talking points and stats. You need to be quick thinking, and able to answer curveball questions from clients and co-workers with confidence and accuracy. You also need to be comfortable saying things like “I don’t know, but I think xyz, and here’s why”.

The point is, you should have opinions. We’re ultimately in the opinions business, so you should definitely have some. Just make sure they’re well informed opinions, and flexible opinions when it turns out that you’re actually wrong. Which will happen. You’ll be wrong a lot, so be cool with that too. It’s really ok.

Be a devour-er of information and a really good writer. These things usually go hand in hand. Meaning that someone who consumes a lot of information on a regular basis is also generally pretty good at articulating his or her thoughts when the time comes. You’d be amazed how much writing you’ll need to do, and how important it is that you’re able to express ideas clearly. You won’t always be there to present the slide or document that you created, so your ideas frequently need to speak for themselves.

Know a little bit about a lot of things. Be curious. When I made that Mashable remark earlier, it wasn’t because I think Mashable is shit. It’s because I see too many “social media strategists” consuming the same information, in the same echo-chamber, all day long. That sort of thing simply doesn’t make you better. Social media is easy. Thinking and applying thought towards a useful or meaningful end, is hard. In my opinion, the more broad your set of interests, the more you learn to think, and the stronger you get as a strategist. Social media or otherwise.

To riff a bit more on the above bit, I also look for someone with a really varied set of skills. I love utility players, and I consider myself to be one. Someone that’s dabbled in lots of different digital/marketing/strategy disciplines is really attractive to me. The world isn’t carved up into neat little siloes of expertise anymore, so anyone that can speak a little tech, a little creative, a little media, and a little analytics is going to go places in this industry. The more social-media-adjacent skills you have, the better.

The last three things I am looking for, are most important of all. Be  passionate, hard working, and just a good person to be around.

Passionate – You’d think this goes without saying. It doesn’t. If you come work with us, you should love what you do, and it should show. We love what we do, and it shows. We want more people like that. 

Hard-working – This isn’t a 9-5 gig. I’d love to avoid the “work hard and play hard LOL!” cliché here, but I can’t. It’s what we do. We pour ourselves into our work, but we also know when to let loose and have a good time. Often times those things really overlap. But the internet doesn’t close on nights and weekends, so know coming in, that this is an always-on sort of role.

A good person to be around – While we’re tossing clichés about with total abandon, let me just say that our team…hell, our whole agency, is a family. We’re going to spend A LOT of time together, so we need to get on well with one another. We don’t want any jerks. So if you’re a jerk (and it’s ok if you are, the world needs jerks), this gig isn’t for you.

———

Now, a bit about the team you’d work with.

I couldn’t have picked a better crew to work with (or maybe they picked me, I can’t remember). You’ve got Mike, Brad, Noah, Folu, Kelsey, Ryan, Mazy, Chris and Jess. I’d describe them all in more detail, but trust me, they’re great. Just look at their Twitter feeds to get a sense of what they’re all about.

One of the reasons that I know they’re great, is despite the fact that we all spend ~60 hours each week together at work, you’ll often find us hanging out together after work, and on weekends. By choice.

And by the way, that’s just the immediate team. There’s like 500 other people in the building too, and they’re all terrific.

———

And the client you’d work on.

You’d have a great client. They’re smart, tough, and ambitious. They have great resources to get things done, and they truly value us as strategic partners. I can get into more specifics in person.

———

Lastly, the work itself. Here’s what that’s like.

I sometimes joke with others that my job is to make slide decks, because…well…we make a lot of slide decks. Clever, eh? But while that’s true, the slide decks we make are generally just the tangible output of our thinking, which is what we get to spend most of our time doing (thinking about stuff). And I say “get to”, because I think that’s actually the best part of being a strategist. Our job is to think about things, form opinions on what we’ve thought about, and then turn those thoughts into some output that you can see, touch, and feel. An actionable strategy, a campaign, a piece of content, a tool, or some other creative thing.

Sometimes this thinking is a solitary exercise (researching, reading, etc), sometimes it’s a group discussion or casual chat with your co-workers, and other times it’s more of the on-the-spot variety in the context of a client meeting.

Speaking of meetings, there are plenty of those. It’s just a reality of any big organization with lots of moving parts – meetings are sometimes required to get things moving forward. But I promise, I personally do what I can to minimize the need for meetings, unless they are absolutely necessary.

As far as your responsibilities on a day-to-day basis, this is where the job description actually delivers fairly well in terms of its accuracy. Broadly speaking, you’ll work closely with me (and the rest of the team) to create and execute strategies and campaigns that meet our client’s goals in the digital/social space. You’ll be responsible for briefing creative, tech and other teams within the agency, continually working to keep programs on strategy, and ensuring that the what we put forth, is aligned with the brand’s goals and KPIs. In short, it’s our job to create the inputs, and guide the outputs, so the results are strong.

You’ll also help to guide, manage and mentor the junior members of the team, and keep the rest of the agency departments smart, and thinking about how and where social media can be used to our advantage.

———

So now what? Well, if you’re interested in working with me, get in touch. Email is best, and even without me posting my work email address here, you should be able to figure it out. Hell, three dozen vendors seem to crack the code each day.

Don’t just send me a resume though. Tell me a bit about who you are, and what makes you the right person for the role.

Talk to you soon.

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