Not long ago I was watching History of Rock & Roll. As I watched the progression from Chuck Berry to 80’s Hair bands, I noticed a few common themes about the rise and fall of artists. I realized that these themes are lessons that business communicators can learn from.
The Message Has to Resonate
Musicians and songwriters might write songs about their lives, stories, and experiences, but the songs that become hits are the ones that their FANS can relate to. The songs that seem to be written about their lives, stories, and experiences. The songs that are about the common human conditions are often timeless.
The same is true for business communications. Your message needs to resonate deeply with your audience. They need to hear what you are about and say…” wow! you know me so well.”
The paparazzi exist because people want to know about the lives of the people behind the music. Although we are attracted to the music that speaks to our heart we also want to know the heart of the artists behind the music.
The same is true for business communications. We have so many reasons not to trust businesses lately, that they only way to gain our trust is by letting us know who you are.
You Can’t Fake It
Shall I say more? Well if you have no idea who the two guys above are, you can look it up here.
It seems, that yes…more needs to be said. Once Rock & Roll became popular, an industry was born. From that industry, many fakes have been born. They rise and fall fast. The same is true when you try to outsource your communications as opposed to create a process to be real to your fans, the attention you attract will rise and fall fast. You cannot fake it and make it.
What I learned by watching The History of Rock & Roll is that the best way to be a Rock Star Business is to sincerely have the right stuff to be a Rock Star and to be real and accessible enough to let your fans rock with you.
What a week! and it is only Wednesday.
When I got started in Social Media I gave myself the title Idealist. I saw a vision of the many wonderful opportunities the open web was going to bring. That was a long time ago. I have been slapped multiple times with a healthy dose of reality. Especially this past week.
The lessons of the week have been very enlightening. In a short time, I found myself explaining the three issues I have with the current state of social media in such a way that I was able to see how these three issues are related and how they are hurting us from truly embracing the opportunities that social media offers.
1. Social Media Has Been Hijacked by Marketing and PR
Social Media was not created to be a channel for marketing and PR. It was created by innovators who desired a way to collaborate with each other. They needed tools and so they created the tools and offered them freely, or mostly free to anyone who wanted a platform for conversation and collaboration. That WAS the dream of social media when I got started. Now the dream is to drive traffic to your website, get word of mouth marketing, make a video go viral, create buzz, and so on and so on.
Need evidence of this? Just look at the latest articles that claim that your social media manager should be under 25. What can a 25-year-old do for you? Well they know the language, they know the tools, and they can spit out your message. But they are not the people making business decisions nor do they have the experience to consult with the company about what business changes need to be made based on conversations that are happening online. No, social media does not have the respect that it deserves yet, so it has been taken over by loudmouths, aggressive salespeople, and spammers which now vastly outnumber the type of innovators, entrepreneurs, and change agents that gave birth to the social web.
Jim Collins was wrong, Good is not the enemy of Great, Fear is!
Social Media is still foreign to many communicators. Some fear the technology, some fear the openness, some fear making a mistake, some fear the idea that people get to talk back. This fear can no longer stop them from being a part of social media. It is no longer a choice. Communicators are being directed to have a social media presence, but having a presence does not mean embracing social media. For many, it means outsourcing social media responsibilities to someone else who can be blamed if anything goes wrong. It means using social media channels to do business the same old way, connecting with media outlets and institutions and avoiding any and all contact with individuals. It means doing as little as possible and then pointing out that their social media efforts are not working as well as traditional messaging. Meanwhile, scrappy little start-ups and courageous thought leaders will continue to be disruptive causing more fear and uncertainty among those who are too scared to truly dive in.
3. Left Brain Thinking
My frustration from the beginning has been how often organizations embrace the new technology without considering the new skills and approaches that must come along with the technology. On the flip side, many people I know who develop new technologies believe all they have to do is build a great tool and it will be successful. We have seen enough great tools fail to know this is not true. Look at absolutely every tool that Yahoo! purchased such as Delicious, Upcoming and Flickr. Great technologies that they thought would bring them social media success just because they enabled users to be social. But without ongoing innovation and a nurturing community manager, all of these great tools are disappearing. More recently RIM (Blackberry) purchased two of my favorite tools Gist and Tungle. Guess what…Gist is going, going gone.
Why does this happen? I am currently reading the book, A Whole New Mind, which does a good job explaining how our traditional celebration of left brain thinking (engineering, number crunching, logic, SAT stuff) is starting to lose some of its spark as we are starting to realize that we have evolved to a point when beauty, empathy, and nurturing communications is required.
That is what social media requires for us to move forward; a desire to create, collaborate and connect. A desire to nurture our right brain in spite of the logic of our left brain. A desire that is strong enough to overcome fear.
Social Media has empowered many people to live a life that was not possible 10 years ago, myself included. It has also forced people to make changes they were not ready for and caused a lot of anxiety. And as we have all seen it has given power to voices who do not know how to appropriately use such power.
It is a messy, messy place, but it is not going away. I can only hope that we, as the human race, continue to evolve to a place where we can take advantage of the opportunities that were envisioned when these collaborative tools were created.
originally posted on Concept Hub
This past Thursday the Atlanta Social Media Club focused the discussion on how Retail can embrace social media.
Retail or Brands, in general, do seem to be struggling with how to approach and be involved in online communities. The recent Motrin controversy showed how one wrong move from a brand can cause an outrage to spread far and fast.
Motrin responded with a rapid apology and removal of the ad. But could have they handled this differently? Could they have found the silver lining around the dark cloud?
The ad was about moms who carry their babies in one of the various baby carrier things that wrap around the body. Therefore the ad was very targeted to a particular group, new moms. Now a friend of mine suggested that had they listened more to this audience they would not have made the mistake of producing such an ad. Maybe. Maybe not. People do not always tell you how they feel in focus groups and even by being involved in the various online communities you might not get the answers you wanted. But Motrin, which is a very reputable brand, did get some attention with this ad. Could they have leveraged this attention as an opportunity to ask more questions, to probe into the lives and pains of new moms? Maybe.
The thing about social media is it is supposed to be about being social; About having conversations, listening and developing relationships. It is not about throwing an ad up or pushing information onto others.
At the Social Media Club event, my friend James Harris asked a wonderful question. He asked “what does an ideal social media presence for a brand look like? What should Nike do?” My response was that brands should remember that they solve problems. Look for people or create communities where you can offer solutions as opposed to push information on them. That is where I do give an ad like Motrin’s credit. They were trying to say “we feel your pain.” But could they have gone a step further?
Could they have defended their ad by suggesting that there was research that showed some women felt pressured to wearing their babies as a means to create a bond with them, and then asked for the moms to begin a discussion of what this really meant, why wearing their babies was or was not important to them? I mean it seems to me that the problem was bigger than the pain. What a great opportunity for Motrin to sponsor a community for parents to discuss the advantages and disadvantages of a baby carrier. They could even discuss different brands of carriers and different ways to carry babies. The result would be a captive audience of women who may have started out upset with you but are now engaged with you in finding solutions.
Ultimately brands are trying to sell something right. Well, would you prefer to buy from a brand that just pops an advertisement in all the places you gather or would you rather buy from a brand who engages with you to discuss what is going on in your world and how their brand fits in as a way to enhance your lifestyle?
Ultimately it is in everyone’s best interest to start with the question “what value can we add to this conversation?” when developing your online strategy or responding to an online community that has decided to give your brand some attention.
originally posted on Concept Hub
Everybody’s talking at me.
I don’t hear a word they’re saying,
Only the echoes of my mind.
Corporations and organizations are starting to understand that everybody’s talking publicly, online, which has global reach. Many organizations are implementing blog monitoring tools so that they are alerted when something is said that might affect them. This is a great step forward, but the question that still lingers is when and how to respond when the conversation is about you and not what you would like to hear?
The people who are talking about you are the people who are paying attention to you. This is a good thing. Organizations spend a tremendous amount of money to get people to pay attention to them and then they spend more money to find out what people think about them. The global online conversations that are occurring is providing unfiltered opinions by people who care enough to provide such information.
But how should an organization respond?
If the conversation is positive or if someone is giving you kudos for a report you generated it would be appropriate to send a thank you, perhaps put that person on a contact list to provide them additional information about your organization that may be of interest. It would be wise to nurture that relationship before a competitor swoops in on your territory.
But what if the conversation is not so positive. I know of many organizations whose immediate response is to go on the defense, to send a cease and desist letter, or to attack the blogger. This can only add fuel to the fire, especially if what the blogger is writing about has some validity. Not only will the blogger become offended, but the community will take notice and begin their own research into the situation.
The first step an organization should take when they notice that there is a critique of them is to reflect on what is being said. To stop listening to the ‘echoes in their mind’ and take the opportunity to listen to the feedback of those who are talking at you. It is important to evaluate the intent of the blogger. Are they out to destroy you? If so why? What is their motivation? Or are they simply speaking to you in the only way they know how? Many times consumers feel that their issues are not being resolved because they are not being heard by the right people, so they reach out to the megaphone of the blogosphere. Sometimes bloggers just state something that comes across negative unintentionally and to correct the situation all the organization needs to do is ask what was meant by their statement.
Once you understand the intent behind the conversation, the next decision is how do you respond? The first thing to evaluate is how many similar conversations are going on at the same time? Are they connected, part of the same community? Are they just connected because they each have had a similar experience separate from knowing each other? Or is it just one person venting? By knowing how much the dialog has spread you will be able to provide an appropriately measured response.
When responding, it is important to be accountable. Even if the blogger was way off base in their accusations, if you acknowledge their motivations, you have shown that there was some accountability and that as an organization you are strong enough to recognize your role. When you give respect you, in turn, earn respect. If the issue is not something that can be corrected immediately, make sure you let the community know what steps are being taken to correct it. If it is a matter of different opinions about how something should be handled, acknowledge the validity of the other’s opinions but clearly state your reasoning.
Don’t deny your relationships or decisions. In this new world of mass information connected by link after link, there is nowhere to hide. You can change your mind, you can admit when poor decisions were made or you can stand by your decisions.
Michelle Batten often refers to the line from “Clear and Present Danger” where Harrison Ford says
“Listen, if they asked you if he’s your friend,” you should steer into him, say, “No, he’s my best friend.”
Even if your decisions were not the right ones, sometimes it was not because your intentions were wrong, sometimes it is just because your crystal ball was fuzzy. Do not defend yourself if your actions do not require defending.
Again, by listening and engaging with your audience you learn more about their needs and expectations and are able to clarify any misunderstandings. Going on the defense or attacking a blogger only gives them a reason to not trust you and to react negatively.
Couldn’t resist the movie plug I see. Was it your possible attraction to Mr. Ford??? J/K! I can’t help it…sometimes these movies can just say it so well. It really is true…taking the higher positive road will always bode one well. Yes, some of the old “tried and true” lessons our mothers and grandmothers taught us are worth coming back to, especially in the online space…like if you can’t say something nice (or at least reasonably objective, open and sincere) then don’t say it? A lesson we (I) all of us need to come back to again and again. Thanks for the helpful reminder and encouragement to “always keep moving forward” (that one isn’t mine – got it from Sandy Bullock -love her!)