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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.
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.
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.
That is what great products, great services and great advertising do brilliantly – they ensure that brands are always at the front of mind, not because of the recency of a brand experience but because of the longevity of a great brand experience.
Why ‘Always On’ Is Such A Turn Off
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.
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.
- List out all of the “current” social media platforms that we an think of (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, Vine, etc).
- 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.
Stuffing some original content right into the wheelhouse of Pinterest to see what happens. If this picks up steam and I become a Pinterest sensation, I think Jess will lose her mind.
Have you guys seen this? It’s a new trend, where people promise each other things, if photos/pages get 1mm likes. It may seem silly and insignificant (because I guess it really is), but to me, its the sort of thing that is signaling a real shift in what Facebook is becoming.
Back when Facebook first began to overtake MySpace, part of its appeal was in the rigidity and purity of the platform. It was the antidote to MySpace’s cluttered, blinking, cheap-o garbage. Facebook was the sophisticate’s social platform.
But now more than ever, Facebook has become a wasteland of apps, ads and fads.
2013 will finally be the year where Facebook exhaustion begins to take over in some truly noticeable ways. So to anyone out there thinking of investing in, or building a new generation of social platform, now is the time. The incumbent is weak and tired.
Better actually needs to be better. Not better conversations. Better reality, from which come the values that consumers affirm (and which brands used to claim). A Facebook “like” or Twitter retweet don’t take the place of that substance; they’re simply the mechanisms for propagating it. A funny video on YouTube or Vimeo that doesn’t have an ounce of the “Reason To Buy” that an ad would have isn’t an improvement as much as a snack of empty marketing calories.
P&G’s Social Media Orthodoxy Could Sink Its Innovation Progress
Our task is not nurturing enthusiasm, but overcoming indifference.
How To Fail
Social Media Customer Service - The Entitlement Age
Yesterday evening I posted out to Twitter, the following:
Social media has created an unrealistic sense of entitlement amongst customers, who are quick to use economic threats to get their way.
To go a bit beyond my 140 character allotment, what I mean here is this.
There is no denying that over the past several years, that social media has materially changed the dynamic between consumers and corporations. The net effect of this shift (in my opinion) has been an overwhelmingly positive thing. Consumers are now more adequately armed with the tools needed to fight back against companies that mistreat them or poorly service them, and this is a good thing.
But with this newfound power, comes some sense of responsibility that seems to have been lost on most of us.
Emboldened by this ability to wield our social networks as weapons, we have become bloodthirsty, and quick to shoot when we feel the slightest bit wronged.
Proper service, expected results, and a timely response are no longer enough. We want to be catered to. We DEMAND to be catered to. And if we are not personally satisfied, if our individual needs are not fully met, we are quick to use the stick and dole out social media punishment to those we feel have wronged us.
This punishment tends to come most often, in the form of economic threats. You changed the logo on my cereal box? I’m switching brands. You charged me a bank fee? I’m going to find a new bank. New design on my orange juice container? Never buying it again.
And though threats like these are generally representative of an extremely small minority, when well placed, they can send the most seasoned marketing professionals into a tailspin, and force them to become irrational.
I’ve seen it dozens of times with colleagues and I’ve been there myself. One pointed, nasty threat to stop doing business with a brand, dropped haphazardly onto a Facebook page, can upend months of thinking and millions of dollars worth of work. The second-guessing begins so easily on the back of a statistically insignificant number of negative comments.
I love this quote from Markus Frind, creator of dating site PlentyOfFish. When asked how he has resisted adding commonly requested features, such as chatrooms and video profiles, he responded
“I don’t listen to the users,” he says. “The people who suggest things are the vocal minority who have stupid ideas that only apply to their little niches.”
While this may read as harsh, it’s an admirable position, if not an extremely tough one to stick to as a corporate entity.
And while most big brands would never dare say what Markus has, I’m sure most of them would love to. Either way, I think it’s an interesting piece of commentary that reveals how adversarial the relationship between consumer and corporation has become in the social customer service space.
As brands, we need to understand that the evolution of social media has put is in a position where simply providing adequate service is no longer enough. Providing amazing service is now table-stakes.
As consumers, we need to remember that often times, each party simply knowing that the other is armed, will cause everyone to behave a bit better. And that the more we use our influence as a weapon, the weaker it will become over time.
People brag for all sorts of reasons, she says: to appear worthy of attention or love or to try and cover up our deepest insecurities. To prove to ourselves that we’re OK, that people from our past who said we wouldn’t measure up were wrong. Or simply because we’re excited when good things happen to us.
We Are All Braggarts Now
Subtweets & Twitter Jail
As part of some recent focus groups with social media using teens, I learned about two new things.
It’s the shortening of “subliminal tweet” which is directly referring to a particular person without mentioning their name or directly mentioning them and it basically indicates that the tweet in which the hashtag is used is a subliminal tweet.
And Twitter Jail
Twitter Jail is no tweeting if you’ve reached the limit of 100 tweets per hour/1000 per day.
You can access your page, you may not post publicly for a specific period of time. Anything from half an hour to a few hours.
Consider me enlightened.
The very basis of Instagram is not just to show off, but to feign talent we don’t have, starting with the filters themselves….Instagram and photo apps like it are shallow mediums that will generate shallow results. They are there for people to showcase something that doesn’t deserve a platform.
Everything that is wrong with Instagram