Why is social media still a tough sell?

Big companies have moved cautiously for eons. While many are corporations are making forays into social media, very, very few are taking huge risks.

Instead of jumping in, they’re still standing on the edge of the pool, diipping a toe in the water.

As a result, getting companies to add social media into the marketing mix is still a hard sell. Here are three of the top reasons why.

1- Consultants make social media sound scary.
Consultants, eager to prove the viability of social media in the marketing mix, are overwhelming stodgy companies by making social media sound more complex than it is.

A lot of consultants make what they do sound like a cross between vodoo magic and rocket science. The goal, I guess, is to make potential clients feel there is no way they could do whatever is being sold on their own.

But social media is not rocket science. And even if it was, making it easy to understand will win every time. The best professor I ever had in college taught physics. He could break rocket science down into simple terms. Do that for management and they’ll love you.

2- The magic word is “sales”
All most companies care about is whether they can make their numbers for the next quarter. Coolness may be the cherry on top, but it’s not the goal for most publicly held companies.

Social media becomes strategically viable when – blasphemous as this may sound to many SM gurus – the goal of its integration into the marketing mix is to go beyond cool and actually help to sell products and services.

3- Companies worry that cutting edge consultants won’t fit the corporate culture.
Changing the status quo can cause quite an upheaval in a company that has been dealing with silos for decades. Consultants need to prove to management that they will not make them look or feel inadequate because they can’t change quickly.

Consultants worry too much about making themselves look good and proving how smart they are.
The role of a smart consultant is to focus on making the client look smart for hiring you.

Why You Can’t MAKE Marketing Go Viral!

This post first ran in What’s Next Blog in 2010, but an email received this morning about a newly launched “viral” made us want to run it again, lightly updated.

If I hear one more client ask for “a viral” or one more agency promise one, I’ll scream.

I got three email pitches yesterday about new viral marketing campaigns. One was from an agency that said it “provides complete viral services”.  Another was for a brand’s (embargoed) new viral video campaign” that will launch on Monday. (Hint: a campaign that has not launched yet is not viral.) And the third was from a friend, who saw something she thought I’d love and forwarded me a link. Guess which one I clicked on.

First let’s define viral marketing:
I define viral marketing as content passed from one person to another, including images, videos, links, applications, games, stories, emails, documents or virtually any other type of digital content that one person passes to another via email, IM, text messaging, or social network like Twitter, Friend Feed, etc or content sharing sites such as StumbleUpon, Digg, Pinterest, Facebook, Google+, etc.
What kind of creative is likely to go viral?
o Knockout creative that’s funny, shocking, intriguing or surprising:
o An idea customers can relate to and care about
o A clear cut message so people are able to pass it on with one descriptive sentence
o An easy way to pass it on – a link, embedding code, “share this” button, email to a friend, etc.
o A concept that builds relationships with customers by getting them to interact with others
o Measurable outcomes – as in: what is this campaign hoping to accomplish and how will be measure it.
Top two reasons you can’t force marketing to go viral:
1- It’s not viral because you say it is.
Viral is what happens when something people see delights, intrigues, informs, or teaches people something they find interesting or amusing enough to want to send it to their friends.
2- Viral is a reward, not an intent.

 

What doesn’t (ever) make a campaign go viral:

o sending out an advance press release about your “latest viral”
o an email that says “we’re launching this viral campaign tomorrow”.

Playing Catch-up with Pepsi, Coca-Cola Unveils Social Media Strategy Thru 2020

 

Coca-Cola’s VP, Global Advertising Strategy and Creative Excellence, Jonathan Mildenhall, explains the company’s content plan until the year 2020 in this fascinating video. Another of the world’s biggest companies is moving beyond the myth of message control, into the realm of consumer reality. Hurrah!

“Through the stories we tell,” Mildenhall says, “we will provoke conversations and earn a disproportionate share of popular culture.” The brand theme is “Live Positively.” The brand storytelling, he says, must be based on a commitment to making the world a better place, something everyone in the company must live every day and which must be baked into all aspects of the company operations.

With the intention of doubling sales by 2020, Mildenall says engagement through storytelling is the root of the strategy. The brand will need to react to consumer conversations 365 days a year, 24 hours a day.

Technology enables brilliant creativity
Bigger thinking must be at the heart of everything the brand does. Content, he implores, must be “ruthlessly edited to avoid just creating noise.”

“We must integrate technologists into the core creative team,” he says, because technology can enable brilliant creativity. He cites other brands that have created deeper emotional connections through storytelling, including Dell, Nike and Ikea, and aims to make the Coca-Cola brand part of consumers’ lives, not just the soda they drink.

He notably left out Pepsi, whose marketing has long been focused on the idea that the brand has to be a lifestyle choice, and a force for good in the world.

What will it take to make all brands wake up?
Watching the video, I couldn’t help but wonder how there could still be companies on the planet that are just starting to put their toes in the social media water. Here are some of the most enormous, unwieldy, and traditional biggest brands in the world, fully embracing the value of not just monitoring conversations, but actually conversing with consumers. What will it take before every company gets the message?

Pepsi got the social media message very early on, and raised the bar for brands in 2010 with their global optimism project. It was part of Pepsi’s Refresh Project, which gave away a total of $20 million for ideas that can help advance society in six different categories.

Hats off to the brands that look for enduring engagement
Coke’s come a long way from 2006 when a Fantasia-esque amateur video went viral with two guys from Maine dropping Mentos mints into bottles of Diet Coke to create a musical geyser with cascading streams of beautiful goop. Mentos got $10 million worth of free publicity by embracing the videos. Coke’s grumpy dinosaur marketing people said “we want people to drink Coca-Cola, not play with it”.

Hats off to Coke, Pepsi, and the tiny number of companies looking beyond the shiny objects of the moment to an enduring brand message that can still have impact and cause positive change 10 years from now.

And the rest of you: wake the hell up! You can’t keep doing things the way you’ve always done them.

Why CEO’s Shouldn’t Fear Social Media

 

I’m late on this one, but find it still worth noting. Jerry Bowles, in “Why CEOs Are Afraid of Social Media”, a post at Enterprise Web 2.0, noted:

“They have already seen ordinary angry citizens armed only with blogs bring down Trent Lott, Dan Rather, and Joe Lieberman. They have seen powerful newspapers and magazines and TV networks forced to back down on stories because there are now millions of fact checkers out there. They have seen famous authors busted for plagiarism.”
In my experience, most leaders do not want to operate their organizations as experiments in democracy or collective intelligence. Not even our Presidents and Congresspeople want to do that. That’s why resistance to Enterprise Web 2.0 technologies is likely to be understated, but fierce, at the upper levels.”

Resistance also is futile. Look at Dell. They ignored the great hue and cry about their customer service for years. Meanwhile, the online commentary grew to a tsunami. When Dell finally launched a blog, they still tried to play by the old rules and push their message out while ignoring the elephant in the room.
A week or so later, when the Dell battery recall was mounted, the company already had a way to communicate with customers, and that forum made it clear that they were trying. Looking back, I’m sure they’re wondering why they were so afraid of customers. Dell’s problems are far from solved, but, in the long run, I think they’ll gain, not lose, customers as a result of their participation in social media. And they could have gained even more if they’d gotten into the conversation a year sooner.

Why Pay Attention to Social Media? Because companies Have No Choice

 

With YouTube doubling its traffic monthly, and facebook now more popular than Google and Yahoo, big companies and their agencies are struggling to understand the implications of social media. I’m sure more than one CMO is wondering, “are the inmates really taking over the asylum?”

In a thoughtful article, Robert Young explains why media companies need to ebrace social integration. His advice also is poignant for corporations large and small, from giants like Dell to a small company trying to spread its name with viral marketing:

“… why should media companies even think of embracing social integration? Because they have no choice… social media will continue to take market share away from traditional media, regardless of whether the media companies participate or not.”

Social integration is indeed the key to the new media revolution. When companies accept the fact that customers have to tools to make their voices heard, they can begin to look at the opportunities that including customers’ voices in the marketing mix present.
How can companies participate in social media without giving up total control?

Here are just a few baby step ways to begin:
– When customers complain, it’s usually because something needs to be changed. Make the changes, over-deliver on improvements. Thank your customers for caring.

– When customers like a product enough to make their own commercials about it, a smart company will link to those commercials.

– Don’t fight em, join em, partner with a social media outlet.

Integrating marketing with social media is smart, effective, and, when you come right down to it, necessary.