Why A Company Shouldn’t Run It’s Own Social Media

Posted on August 21, 2008. Filed under: Social Media, Social Network, Twitter | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

My day job helped launch a new sports league near the beginning of the year. Because of their limited budget, assets, especially access to talent, we made a series of suggestions on how to engage social media to promote the league before the first game was played and the first player was drafted. While we were engaged with them we created a Facebook group, a MySpace page, a Twitter account, and a YouTube Channel. During the first months of the launch we shot a ton of video, interviews with fans, players and league executives as well as town-hall meetings. I Twittered the comments from the town-hall, the interviews, what famous players were stopping by the trade show booth to chat at the various shows where the league was represented. We quickly built a large site for the league that included the videos and links to the social network sites, blogs, etc. Time went on as it often does and the client decided to move. We turned over all of the social media logins, passwords, links etc. to the league to manage.

Because of the hype of the Olympics, sports has been on everyone’s mind, especially the league’s sport since several of the staff in our office played the sport in college. My boss and one of our account execs were streaming the latest event in his office, hooting and hollering at every missed opportunity or great play. I knew exactly what they were watching since I was getting a play-by-play from those I follow on Twitter. I heard the U.S. team one the Gold right before I heard a yell from the other room, apparently the video was buffering!

I instantly jumped over to my former client’s site to see if they had posted anything. I didn’t really expect them to have anything in the can, and figured it’d take them a few minutes to post something on their site. Sure enough, as I write this the posting went up. Excellent, they get about 9 thousand visits a month.

So I bounced back to their Twitter account to see if they had posted anything. Their last post was yesterday. I dropped them a quick note to remind them to post something. I wanted to do a quick search to see how many people were Twittering about the gold medal win. I didn’t have to go far. The front page of Twitscoop showed the sport as one of the top tag clouds, probably around the 6th or 7th most popular (it’s a little hard to tell, using Twitscoop is helpful but not very exact with it’s numbers. So went through with my search to see how many people were talking about the sport. Since this morning there were over 300 Tweets about the competition, that was BEFORE the Gold medal win. I’m literally writing this a few minutes past the win, so you can imagine how much buzz there is at the moment and will be for the rest of the day and week. The spike for comments related to the name of the sport is huge, never mind other terms related to the win.

Twitter Traffic Spike

Twitter Traffic Spike

It’ll be interesting to see what Google trends has to say about the sport in the coming weeks.

All this leads me to the title of the article. Had we or another agency been running the social media engagement for the league, we would have earmarked the possibility of this event as a great time to engage with fans of the sport. We would have had articles ready to go on the site, into the various social network news, status or blogs. We’d be favoriting all of the pirated footage showing up n YouTube later today. We would have been Twittering every play and the news and interviews to follow the big win. The thing that differentiates an agency that is engaged in social media and a company like the league, or just about any other corporate entity, is that we live in social media, on YouTube, Facebook, Bebo, MySpace, Ning, Twitter, Tittr, Mashable, Digg, etc. Not that it’s the fault of a company. Their job is to run their company, it’s an agency be it a marketing agency, PR group, consultant, etc. to know the who, what , when, where, why and how of promoting their clients’ message.

Many colleagues I talk to have the same issue. Because their client has an intern with a Facebook account or their CFO has a MySpace, they think that is all that is needed to be able to appropriately engage the public through social media. It takes more than a copy of Fast Company or Wired and a computer to market using SoMe. This is not a big surprise though. I know plenty of graphic designers, and as one myself, who shudder when clients ask for source files, or decide to tackle graphic design themselves with a student copy of Photoshop. As with SoMe, it takes more than Photoshop to make great, even acceptable, graphic design. You need experience, talent and education to understand hierarchy of information, how to properly use a grid, typography, audience, etc.

This isn’t to say that all companies are void of employees that get SoMe. Some have smartly hired experts in the field, and will hopefully listen to them (Hello, ScottMonty). But certainly the majority of clients who think they’ll take it upon themselves to put some video clips up on YouTube or make the decision themselves that Bebo is a more appropriate point of engagement than Hi5 for their target audience (insert any SoNet in here, you get my point), are doing themselves a disservice.

They say that someone who represents themselves in court has a fool for a client. I’m a little burnt with new business pitches to come up with an appropriate clever line to replace this in regards to PR, marketing, advertising, graphic design, etc. Anyone? Beuller?

p.s. The opinions in this post do not necessarily reflect the opinions of my employer. No proprietary or private information is included and no names were mentioned (except Scott Monty’s) to protect the privacy of those individuals or corporations.

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The Internet is DOA

Posted on October 29, 2007. Filed under: blog, Social Network, Web 2.0 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Not dead on arrival of course. If the Earth isn’t covered with ice or dust, a hundred years or more from now our society will look back at our current state of the Internet as a technology in it’s infancy. Web2.0, social networks, ecommerce, user generated content, MMORPGs, virtual worlds, micro-blogs, iPhones, Google Earth… all the Internet has become is, as Carl Sagan would say, the first second of the first minute of the first hour of the first day of the first month of existence. We are living through one of the most important evolutions in the earliest history of this communication platform. Like the telegraph, telephone and television, the Internet began as an electronic experiment and very quickly became the channel through which large, multinational corporations spoke down to use, sold things to us, told us how they could make our lives better, just put in your login, password and credit card number. Recently social desire and technology have converged. A team of programmers are no longer required to build a web site. A camera and lighting crew is no longer needed to broadcast a video.

The Internet revolution is being led by DOA – Distributors, Originators and Audience. With both Google and del.icio.us celebrating birthdays this week it’s important to look at what those companies really do. Google offers a magnificent search tool and an online advertising program. But what are they really doing? They don’t sell the products or make the banners that the ads are for. They don’t create the web sites, videos, pictures or information that people search for. In simple terms they distribute the ads that sell the merchandise and distribute links to the web sites, videos and images. Their adopted child YouTube is a more niche distributor. They distribute videos. Users make them and upload them or users search and watch them. del.icio.us offers social bookmarking. It is basically a place to post links and bookmarks submitted by users. In simple terms, they aggregate then distribute user content.

Scrolling through the who’s who of towering Internet brands you’ll find they mostly belong to the same leg of the tripod, distributors:
Second Life
Worlds of Warcraft

Of course there are still plenty of traditional companies doing business online such. What is interesting is how many of them are benefitting from this revolution. I’d dare say Apple wouldn’t have sold a million iPhones in 74 days had it not been for the thousands of fake iPhone pictures, blogs, and videos created by eager fans.

The roles of Distributor, Originator and Audience are not set in stone. A Distributor doesn’t have to be a high tech company, nor do the Audience and Originator need to be consumers. In the case of the iPhone, Apple is the originator, it’s fans were the Distributor, at least in a marketing sense, and all of you who have yet to purchase one are the Audience! The “geek” public was largely responsible for distributing news of the iPhone. The ads and TV commercials were merely for those who didn’t surf the web it seems. The rest of us learned all we needed to know and were inspired by blogs, reviews, Flickr images. I imagine there is more than one marketing research firm who would put themselves in the category of audience when tracking the trends of online behavior.

For awhile now television networks, music companies and Hollywood studios have been fighting to control the distribution of their artists. They are scrambling to figure out to be the Originator and the Distributor. I think they feel that this way they can control the Audience. Unfortunately it is very easy for the Audience to become the Distributor, especially if they don’t like the way they are distributed to. Of course for the most part, excluding some pop princess and some hip hop gangsters, the record companies are not the originator, the artist themselves are. What they’ve always needed are the record companies to distribute for them and market. Not so now. The technology is cheap enough that my former bands have been able to put out CDs with production quality to match the major labels. With the current trends we’ll begin to see a surge of artists who become HUGE, with no help from labels, simply by virtue of their talent and leveraging companies like YouTube and MySpace.

This has already happened for the film industry. We saw more buzz for the Blair Witch Project than almost any film before or since. Special effects, editing, film are all within reach of consumers, now so is distribution though many online video sites. Statistics already show that younger generations don’t hover in front of the TV or at record stores like the 30+ year olds have always done. This new Audience is becoming their own Originators and Distributors. They don’t believe commercials. They believe their friends, even if those friends are only known through their screen name.

Few can guess what will happen to business and advertising in the coming years as audiences become more and more niche and consumers close ranks amongst themselves. Will businesses and marketers be savvy enough to stay part of the equation or will we end up selling and marketing products and services to each other like a Madison Avenue commune?

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