Thursday, April 01, 2010

DIY Social Media: A user's Guide to avoiding the snake oil in social media marketing and consulting

Social Media Consulting/Marketing a huge rip off. Reasons are simple enough. The term social media is itself oxymoronic enough - imagine all the lonely people Twittering furiously, craving for the world's attention.

One, Internet Marketing is mostly common sense and is basically an extension of simple real world rules - create a great product, give great service and customer experience and spread (& maintain) the word (aka Branding).

Second, there just too many social media gurus online. Look at your inbox - how many of your Twitter followers aren't Internet marketers, social media gurus (or, success coaches)?

Third, and this is a take on reason#1, most of these marketers are canny types who are able to sell their services and products more than they will help you sell your product. For example, the social media gurus call themselves gurus because they are angling for speaking gigs, where no one is checking their successes. There are only a few genuine players.

Let us look at some names and no I am not disparaging them. A savvy marketer like Guy Kawasaki will sell more copies of his books on the basis of his carefully nurtured 'reputation' than actually creating a successful startup himself. Similarly, Seth Godin sells more of his books because of his 'reputation' than actually create a great startup himself. These two guys are great guy no doubt and I take their names because these two are sort of role models for your typical Internet Marketer/Consultant. Those who can't do Teach.

A quick guide to social media bullshit
Scott Berkun once gave reasons why social media is all bullshit

1. We have always had social networks. Call them families, tribes, clubs, cliques or even towns, cities and nations.
2. The new media does not necessarily destroy the old.
3. (every social media gurus will create an influencer group to build his brand) Social media consultants writing about social media have inherent biases. It’s difficult to take posts like this about social media seriously, as it’s written by someone from a social media consulting firm without an ounce of humility or perspective.
4. ... social media frequently consists of people re-forwarding things they were forwarded that almost none of them appear to have read, as they believe they are rewarded for publishing frequently above all else.
5. More noise than signal ( aka the Personal Branding/Personal Broadcasting overload problem) ... as more people, and corporations, hover right on the gray dividing line between authentic and corporate, or selfish and generous.
6. Be suspicious of technologies claimed to change the world. The problem with the world is rarely the lack of technologies, the problem is us.
7. Always ask “What problem am I trying to solve?”
And the Golden Rule
8. Marketing will not make up for bad products or incompetent services.

You can also watch a video “Is Social Media Bullshit?” by Jay Neely here.

Be Savvy about Consultants
What's with all the Jargon? Jargon-creating is marketing tool #1 for all the mba and consultant types. Typically, a consultant (like Forrester) will do a 'survey/study' and then come with labels and charts, lots of them, to sell overpriced reports to their lazy (similarly staffed with overpaid people) clients. Maybe, if the market is big enough, they will also come up with a book as this builds credibility. Later, smaller, me-too firms will copy their terms and sell spectacularly jargon-heavy reports, presentations and wordy Infographics.

For example, look how this Indian consultant copies Forrester's style to come up with similar user categories. This is something about employee communities online. Somebody sure forgot the water cooler.

One of the key parts of the framework is the 7 types of social roles are lurker, learner, connector, moderator, organizer, teacher, super-user.

The lesson here is: Dense MBA Consultant Jargon designed to impress and confuse corporate clients. Social Media in Enterprise is big business. In 2008, a report Forrester Research said Enterprise 2.0 will become a $4.6 Billion Industry By 2013

Instead, Read this:
A-Z of social media Jargon

Social media is expensive
I love this blogger's take on the demands of social media. For example, on corporate blogging he says,

...blogging properly is a full time job in itself (notable exceptions notwithstanding), and a "full time job" is expensive — whether you're paying someone to do it or spending the time to do it yourself.

Social Media in India: ‘New Age’ media trapped in ‘Old-school’ marketing mind-set
The Web Chutney Digital Media Outlook Report 2009 says that most Indian companies use the net for lead generation type activities, less for building brands, servicing customers and building long range relationships.

As a result, the Internet accounts for only 5% of Indian Business's total spends.

Social Media in India: It is all Spam.
It is no secret that 95% of all social media activity is spammy in nature. This is more acute in case on India. [See the graphic on top. Via]

Social Media in India: The Anti Social Media
Highlights from trends of social media activity among Indian users from Pinstorm:
Antisocial Media refers to Lack of online civility, virtual ragging, webcam censorship, VOIP bleeping, Facebook friendstalking, Orkut scrapbombing, Forum flatlining and SMS barraging. It can also mean to include Hi5 hijacking and unscrupulous Twitter following.
How good is a user base as inspiring as this?

Now that we have asked the questions and seen some data, here is a simple guide to mastering the basics of social media, or How to avoid the social media consultants and save money:

One doesn't build communities
There are already communities online - Facebook groups, Orkut groups, Twitter hashtags, Quality Niche blogs with could go on.

Learn Social media tips from people who actually created successful online communities
People like Matt Haughey, the creator of MetaFilter
From the founders of WELL, one of the earliest successful online community.
From successful online communities like TESConnect (for teachers) - over 944,000 members publishing 3,770 posts across 100+ forum topics. Top 3 forums right now are Entertainment, Opinion and Personal.

The example of TESConnect was from Richard Millington, an online community builder who currently working for the United Nations Refugee Agency (tip: always ask your consultant what he is working at rght now. Look at the URLs provided as examples).

Read Richard's Feverbee blog from start to finish and you will learn all you need about building online communities. For example, this is a great resource page with best of community building links

Two great community building guides from Creating Passionate Users blog can be found here and here.

You do not need a consultant to start on the Internet.
I know I wrote about Seth already in thsi post but the fact remains that he is a smart writer.
In a post titled Is it too late to catch up?, Seth gives a list of things to consider doing online if this is your first time:

Use gmail to give every person in the organization that can read English an email address.
Use a free website creating tool - to build a page about your company. Start by listing your locations, your people (with addresses) and make it clear you want to hear from people.
Start an email newsletter using Mad Mimi or Mail Chimp. Give the responsibility for the newsletter's creation and performance to one person and offer them a bonus if they exceed metrics in sign ups and in reducing churn.
Start a book group for your top executives and every person who answers the phone, designs a product or interacts with customers. Read a great online media book a week and discuss. It'll take you about a year to catch up.
Offer a small bonus to anyone in the company who starts and runs a blog on any topic. Have them link to your company site, with an explanation that while they work there, they don't speak for you.
Have the president post her (real) email address in every invoice and other communication the company sends out, asking people to write to her with comments or questions.
Start a newsletter for your vendors. Email them regular updates about what you're doing, what's selling and what problems are going on internally that they might be able to help you with.
Do not approve any project that isn't run on Basecamp.
Get a white board and put it in the break room. On it, have someone update: how many people subscribe to the newsletter, how many people visit the website, how many inbound requests come in by phone, how long it takes customer service to answer an email and how often your brand names are showing up on Twitter every day.
Don't have any meetings about your web strategy. Just do stuff. First you have to fail, then you can improve.
(This is my favorite piece of advice)- Refuse to cede the work to consultants. You don't outsource your drill press or your bookkeeping or your product design. If you're going to catch up, you must (all of you) get good at this, and you only accomplish that by doing it.
Personal Branding Blog - Dan Schawbel
Personal Branding - Google Search

Customer Evangelism Basics
Church of the Customer Blog
All about “Citizen Marketers”
"Citizen Marketers" makes the case that the distributed, power-sharing nature of social media is a reflection of the ideals of democracy, where liberty, free speech and freedom of association are its ruling principles. As a result, positioning, message delivery and reputation management are in the hands of the populace, where anyone can be a publisher or broadcaster. For tradition-bound managers, the message is simple: Control is out of control. People are creating content about products and services whether companies like it or not. They are the new cultural influencers.

The basics of Employee Communities
To view weekly sales numbers
To participate in discussion forums
To submit questions to senior management
To view status reports for each department
Too see company news
To access other employee portals, such as the benefits portal
Social Media Guidelines - Google search
40 Social Media Guidelines

Enterprise 2.0
A Collection of 50+ Enterprise 2.0 Case Studies and Examples
The Elevator Pitch for Enterprise 2.0
10 ways to measure social media success

1. Traffic 2. Interaction 3. Sales 4. Leads 5. Search marketing 6. Brand metrics 7. PR 8. Customer engagement 9. Retention 10. Profits
Social Media Monitoring
This is a favorite of many social media gurus. They will claim to help you monitor your brand online. They will make the social media monitoring more complex than it really is and will push products for which they receive the highest commission,

Whereas the simplest way to do it is have a Google analytics (or Statcounter) account for traffic monitoring and Google Alert-cum-Google blogsearch for your brands/keywords. Both are free, as you very well know.

Social media monitoring & measurement tools list
No social media equivalent of Google Analytics yet
The Dirty Little Secret of Social Media Monitoring
Companies like Radian6, Techrigy, Nielsen and Cymphony are quite busy these days rolling out new partnerships and product features, all aimed at providing more meaningful data and better ways to use it
The dirty little secret or so it seems, is they aren’t all working with the same data sources.

How to look through a SEO serice provider's email
A point-by-point response to an unsolicited letter from yet another SEO rip-off

If you must use a social media consultant
Here is a list of seven things you must get your social media consultant/community builder to do for you. If he can't he is useless and a rip-off.

1. Does your consultant come up in location specific search results? If he doesn't, what good is he to you?
2. Get your consultant to create a b2b blog that gets traffic, tweets and everything.
3. Get your consultant to create a forum for your product/s and service/s - with quality content, traffic, memberships and all.
4. Get your consultant to create a great slideshare presentation for your product/service.
5. Get your consultant to create a video series for you on Youtube.
6. Get your consultant to run a contest on social media sites for your brand.
7. Get your consultant to install and configure Google apps/Docs, Yammer for you.

Related Readings
Blogging: Dead or Alive?
Personal Branding - The New Link Bait
Social Media Dead
How to Search Social Media

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