I’m not saying there will be violence exactly, but if Sony goes through with reported plans to remake Real Genius…well…there will be consequences. I’ll just leave it at that.
I wonder how many of the bloggers who consider themselves journalists constantly litter their headlines with question marks. I also wonder if they would still consider themselves as such if they actually cracked a newspaper or magazine that was outside the industry they themselves were covering.
Jay Rosen has some useful tips for people to take into account when preparing for a keynote presentation or Q&A that can help them avoid the kind of vitriolic commentary, mostly caused by abnormally high expectations that weren’t met, which followed Twitter co-founder Evan Williams’ recent appearance at SXSW.
But while Rosen’s advice is great I think the existence of the very tool Williams helped to create – Twitter – along with everything else that’s evolving in the world of social publishing means there needs to be a re-examining of what “backchannel” means when it comes to conferences, not to mention everything else.
Time was that there was indeed a backchannel at conferences. Attendees would log in to a private ICQ chat and trade commentary on what was being presented, with recaps coming later. But now that’s been replaced by live-tweeting or even live-blogging. So instead of that commentary being available to just those in the room it’s now broadcast everywhere.
That means a fundamental change in the way keynotes are prepared for and run not only is happening but happened a while ago, one that we all now need to catch up to. Some basic things need to change in terms of how the person doing the presentation is prepped, how the team that’s supporting them monitors and manages the chatter that happens in real-time, what sort of responses might be necessary in the wake of the event and what sort of metrics need to be pulled. And that’s just what occurs to me off the top of my head.
Whatever the case, there’s a lot more work that needs to go into planning, executing and then putting a bow on these efforts since their impact is not only immediate – and messy – but public. The good news, though, is that as with most things there can be a plan for it that can make it all manageable.
The usage of social media is, with some exceptions, no longer an optional part of the marketing mix for companies and brands. Businesses both big and small are using it to some extent and the percentages of those in either category continue to rise as the months go by.
The question, then, has moved to what components or tools that are part of the social media landscape are the best fit for the company’s culture and what the goals are of the efforts those tools are being used to support and in advance of.
Along with that, of course, is the question of how those managing the programs are expected to justify the costs involved in continuing their efforts. Yes, it’s the issue of metrics, accountability and return on investment.
But does the need for accountability – the need to prove that what is being done is having an impact on whatever the program metrics are – change depending on the scale of the company? Is there a lower expectation that a six-person social media program actually *does* something in a company with 5,000 or 50,000 employees than in a company with 50?
Of course the answer is “No” but there are some people who seem to think that when the program is part of a multi-national, multi-faceted company then it’s OK just to point at there being an effort – especially if it’s one that’s gotten lots of press – and then not really worry about it achieving any sorts of goals. The logic seems to be that Twitter, for instance, will never account for as many sales as a big-box retailer so, quite frankly, any push for results gets a resounding “Meh.”
Compare that to the 50-employee (or 12-employee or whatever) company who *needs* their Twitter account to drive interest and sales. Who *needs* their blog to act as a customer service listening and response tool. They can’t be resting on their laurels and write off social media usage as a “nice to have” when they absolutely need it as an essential marketing, sales and customer service toolset.
No, the need for accountability does not change based on the scale of the company in question. Social media programs at companies of any size need to have defined goals and metrics assigned to them that are reviewed, evaluated and measured against at regular intervals. It’s likely that anyone who says otherwise doesn’t know how to measure social media effectively or has some reason to be not interested in doing so.
Let us know what you think. Have you encountered someone who doesn’t think social media can be measured or is unsure how to do so?
Marketers are always asked to go after “influencers.” Whether it’s traditional media, where that audience would be reached through the placement of a story in a they’re believed to read or social media, where it’s the writer/podcaster/whatever that is the one seen as doing the influencing, it’s a common target for most programs. It’s also one that’s as elusive as can be.
That’s because what determines influence is never all that clearly defined. Twitter seems to think they can add influence as a factor in their searches, but how that will be done is not yet clear and is complicated that the idea of influence on Twitter doesn’t seem to mesh with any of the available metrics of popularity.
One of the things we try to impress upon client partners is that influence is very much in the eye of the beholder and is not necessarily analogous with the extent of someone’s reach. If you’re talking about X product then there are going to be blogs, sites and Twitter users who are super in to that and are going to be much more influential for any of a number of reasons – they work in the industry, they have a very specific focus on their blog, etc – than someone with a million-plus Twitter followers or RSS subscribers.
That’s why we emphasize constant listening and evaluation when it comes to client programs. That enables us to surface what’s going on and get a read of the landscape that goes beyond numbers and instead provides insights into who’s actually guiding conversations. Response strategies can then be developed around those insights.
The communication between agency and client needs to be clear as to why this or that publication is influential and why the other is not for any particular program. When someone comes in and sits across the table from you with a set of expectations, including that you’re going to be targeting the biggest players in the space, and you fail to deliver it can lead to some awkward conversations. So explanations and rationales are necessary to have in hand.
More than that, though, it’s becoming more and more important to not just pitch influencers but to create platforms that will attract them naturally and result in positive program gains. It’s a better tactic, in other words, to build a high-quality blog that is then managed effectively and which is used to convey regular useful messaging and which will pick up an audience of both casual and influential readers than it is (and this is a broad generality but it’s not far off) to keep pitching story after story, becoming an annoyance in someone’s inbox.
In the wake of the Super Bowl and the Winter Olympics both the The New York Times and the Associated Press wrote stories about how social networks – specifically status networks such as Facebook and Twitter – had become virtual sports bars, allowing people to have a conversation around the shared experience of watching a live (or tape-delayed) event on television. Time published a similar piece later on that incorporated the Oscars and a later Times article put this in the context of us all wanting to appear to be looking down on the “low culture” such as reality dancing shows even as we ourselves enjoy watching them.
Now PBS is getting serious about the idea of social viewing by taking a documentary that’s part of their American Experience series and streaming it on Facebook in advance of its television debut.
Now while it’s potentially dangerous to look at one, or even a couple, of things and call it a trend there is some value here for those involved with the event itself, those actively participating in the conversation on these social channels and those who are more passively monitoring and enjoying both.
For the producers and others who are directly involved in the broadcast the potential benefits are pretty obvious: A higher level of engagement by the audience means more people are tuning in. Just like people are more inclined to watch a football game they otherwise have no interest in if they’re going to be in a crowd of friends, if you know people are going to be chatting on Facebook you may be more likely to tune in. And the benefits for those who are engaging in these chats is similarly obvious: They get a sense of community and the camaraderie that comes with watching something with others, even if those others are only watching it with them virtually.
The audience that’s often left out of this equation is often those who enjoy watching both the event and the commentary stream but who feel no burning desire to participate. They get benefits from enjoying that stream, of course. So is there a way to make that experience better?
Last year MTV partnered with conversation monitoring tool Radian6 on a Twitter Tracker that people could view during the 2009 Video Music Awards and that’s the kind of example I have in mind of something that provides entertainment value to those who want to passively enjoy the conversation but also rewards those who are participating by showing them in real time how their updates were impacting the overall buzz.
Now here’s the caveat: This could very easily be something that becomes annoying to the audience when it’s integrated too deeply into the experience. So MTV’s putting this online for people to interact with nicely segregates this and takes advantage of the strengths there while not completely honking off TV viewers with big floating bubbles that get in the way of the action.
And it’s exactly those people – the ones who aren’t participating but who are looking at their computer screens every now and again to see what’s being said – who shouldn’t be annoyed. Among that group are the casual watchers, the ones who are just tuning in because it looks like it might be a fun chat but don’t need their entire experience interrupted.
So while media companies should be aware there are social conversations happening – and can be monitoring and participating in them in their own right – there’s a line at which official harnessing of those conversations goes from appropriate and cool to just being annoying.