Posted tagged ‘social networking’

Enough with the social networking!

April 6, 2008

This week I received invitations to two more social networking sites. In this case they were promising to help me manage my online reputation.

I seem to be getting these continuously these days. In the early days of LinkedIn, I used to think “cool, a great way to network and enhance my SEO efforts.” I even advised clients and everyone I knew to do the same. (and yes, I secretly smiled at the “luddites” who said they couldn’t see the point.)

Now, I just think “what a nuisance.”

There are the really big sites, of course, such as Facebook and Linkedin (sorry I could never get interested in MySpace — I don’t work in cartoons). They’re good for just general networking, socially or for business purposes.

But every pursuit in which I’m interested now seems to have at least one, and often several, community site dedicated to that pursuit alone. Marketing — many. Management — several. Consulting — a few. Science — a couple of good ones. Music — of course. Job searching — oh yeah. Online reputation — apparently at least three.

All of them are vying for my time constantly. I could literally spend my entire day on these sites, networking myself into poverty.

What I find particularly upsetting about this avalanche of social networking is that they all claim they’re “innovative”. Since I work in the innovation management field considerably, I beg to differ. Innovation is creating radical or near-radical change — in products or business models. These are not innovative: they’re just taking standard community building tools and slicing up the social networking field in ever more fine gradients for marketing purposes.

At best it’s called working a niche. More likely, it’s simply copycatting with a slight differentiation.

Let’s take the latest invitations I’ve had. They are part of a group that includes companies like Naymz.com ReputationDefender.com and DefendMyName.com. For a fee, they promise to scrub search engines of anything I don’t want to see about me out there, or to create a new online identity for me.

Isn’t this just search engine optimization, which I – and probably you — have been practising for years? It’s just a newer version of the Google Profile technique.

Also it presumes that social networking sites are where most of our content rests — which to me seems a pretty narrow view. Most MarCom people have (or should have) much more content on their sites than simple social networking profiles, or blog comments.

A well rounded search engine profile should have these, of course, as well as white papers, FAQs, articles, endorsements, and other expertise-marketing content.

To help in organic search, SEO should be a planned and consistent process, with new content added on a schedule. If social networks are to be part of this mix, fine, but it shouldn’t take it over.

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What’s A Word’s Worth?

February 5, 2008

Back, about what seems like a hundred years ago, I ran a newspaper rewrite desk that was charged with helping the paper make the transition from broadsheet to tabloid. Because this was a difficult switch for most reporters, the desk used to go through regular training exercises aimed at constantly finding the right word that would resonate with many meanings.

Our model was what, to my mind, was the best sentence ever written — “Jesus wept”. Two simple words that carried immense meaning.

This wasn’t because we were particularly religious — hey it was a newspaper — but because those nine letters resonated far beyond the actual words used.

Using the word “Jesus” instantly brought dozens of concepts to mind: whether you were a close follower or not, you probably knew the story of Jesus, and so could bring many thoughts to the word. Jesus was a leader, a prophet, God, a wise man, a healer, a thinker, a preacher, a miracle worker, etc.

The word “wept” conveyed almost as much. Why did Jesus weep? For us, because we were frailer than he was; because mankind didn’t understand his mission; because the Romans were taking him away to be crucified; because it succinctly summed up the theory of Christianity; or all of the above?

Two simple words that told a powerful story and so were worth far more than their size. And that’s what every marketer and communicator has to keep in mind today.

Back in the day of the transition from broadsheet to tabloid writing the concept of a short story was considered sacrilegious, but rapidly became the norm. And writing has progressed continually since.

We’re now in an era where social networking style of writing is the most common style used. Acronyms, short forms, mobile messaging, flaming, punchy and to the point writing rule. Try using newspaper style in a PR 2.0 press release or a blog post today and you’ll quickly spill out all over the place. Worse, your message will probably disappear into the morass.

Today, when you write (and think), you have to get to the essence all the time. There’s no room for vague and fuzzy; no time or space for bringing in vaguely interesting, albeit extraneous, concepts.

You have to know the worth of every word.

There are so many messages, so much information transferred visually or aurally, so many demands on attention, that there is no room for the big, sweeping style of communication that was once so common. Neither is there room for the kind of fuzziness so favored by corporate communicators whose objective was to obscure more than inform.

In a sense, today, you have to think in headlines and taglines all the time. Or at least in bullet points. Whatever has multiple meanings and psychological triggers.

So, whenever you sit down at the keyboard, slow down and think “Jesus Wept”.

Influence The One You’re With

January 25, 2008

I love a British blog called PsyBlog for its continual information about the workings of the mind, which is the real last great frontier.

A post caught my eye recently because it directly speaks to marketers and communicators who attempt to persuade. The post discusses a study into which persuasion method works better: face to face or email.

Gender has an effect

Apparently an earlier study approached this question from a social role point of view via gender stereotypes. This is based on the conventional thinking that face-to-face communication is the most persuasive, and therefore women are better at it, because they’re more “relationship-minded”. Men, it seems, are more competitive and so aren’t very good at face-to-face persuasion.

A newer study examines the effect of relationships in general on persuasion. The authors, Guadagno and Cialdini, came up with the concept of “oneness” to describe how men interact with men and women interact with women. Apparently the closer two people feel, the more they see each other as sympatico, and so can persuade each other. So, yes, the study concluded, men prefer email because it sidesteps their natural competitive tendencies; women on the other hand are better at one to one.

So the new study merely backed up the old one.

But it’s really about relationships

As PsyBlog pointed out, it’s not really about gender, it’s about whether a relationship is competitive or co-operative, which to me is probably more relevant in this 21st century collaborative world.

If you want to persuade someone with whom you have a competitive relationship — whatever their gender — then you probably want to try email, because it’s more logical. If you want to pursuade someone with whom you have a co-operative relationship, then face to face is a better choice.

This conclusion has meaning for marketers and communicators. In the old days, they rarely had co-operative relationships with their customers or clients; instead it was a kind of competition in that they were trying to “sell” them on an idea. Hence the old dominance of advertising, which was a version of propaganda, which in turn was really an assault on a target’s mental defenses.

But in the new Web 2.0 world with all its user-generated content, collaboration with customers and clients, transparency and one-to-one interchange style of marketing, perhaps we have a new version of face-to-face marketing.

Could that be why some forward thinking companies and/or social networks encourage the use of avatars or pictures in their discussion forums? Because they intuitively understand that influence comes from a sense of “oneness” with someone else?

MarCom 2.O: The Story Remains The Same

October 28, 2007

Let’s wade into the great debate going on about traditional marketing and communications vs new techniques, which we’ll call MarCom 2.0.

Traditionalists dismiss all that new stuff as just a fad, particularly if their clients or corporate chiefs operate in more traditional areas of business. Advocates of social networking techniques are evangelists: they’ve discovered something new and believe it’s the only thing worthwhile.

Both are right. And both are wrong.

This is arguing over tactics and methodology, not over what you’re really doing — communicating, delivering a message and especially telling a story.

From the time when people first developed language beyond a series of grunts and descriptive words, storytelling has been the basis of all communication. Certainly the style of storytelling has changed — sometimes, such as in Elizabethan times, it was flowery and imagistic, other times, such as the age of scientific discovery in the late 1800s, it was functional and direct — but the underlying purpose has always remained. You tell a story to convince someone else, or influence their thinking.

All stories have basic dramatic elements: There’s an introduction to the “characters”, the presentation of a challenge, the ways in which that challenge is met, and the triumph or tragedy that results from these endeavors. It doesn’t matter whether the story is Tristan and Isolde, caveman Kruk relating how he killed a mastodon to feed the tribe, or about how your product or service was tweaked to meet a buyer’s need.

To paraphrase Led Zeppelin, the story remains the same.

But the greatest problem today with most marketing and communications is that we’ve abandoned the storytelling format. Too often we think basic information is all that’s needed — look at many software sites — or that the more technobabble we throw at people the smarter they’ll think we are. Or sometimes we go the other way, thinking that we have to somehow “trick” targets with fancy graphics, video, or breathless, multiple-exclamation-mark descriptions..

Forget all that. The hard work comes before you even begin the tactical stuff. You have to determine your client’s particular story for this product or service. This means clearly understanding such things as purpose, problems, and positioning.

After that, it’s a matter of putting things together in the right format to best tell the story. This could be a plan or project charter, a presentation, a press release, an advertisement, an article or white paper, or any of the other marketing and lead generation techniques out there.

I’m not downgrading the technical aspects of marketing and communications. Some people are brilliant at putting things together; others not so much. But I do know that without an underlying story, technical virtuosity is meaningless.

Marketers: There are seven separate intelligences

October 9, 2007

The Education Coalition, a non-profit agency that delivers web-based learning, contains a treatise on cognitive research from Howard Gardner of Harvard that postulates there are seven distinct intelligences.

People, he says, know the world through language, logical-mathematical analysis, spatial representation, musical thinking, the use of the body to solve problems or make things, an understanding of other individuals and an understanding of ourselves.

But individuals differ in the strength of these intelligences and in the ways in which they are used for learning.

This isn’t just some cognitive theory of interests to academics or educators. Anyone attempting to deliver information to influence opinion, behaviour, or thinking in general — that means marketers and communicators — should take note as well.

It means that your messages have to be framed in many ways if they are to hit their mark.

Most of us are used to linguistic learning — the effective use of words, whether spoken or in print. It’s the basis of most advertising and public relations. But not everyone is comfortable with that system.

Others, like architects and sailors, think in terms of physical space; dancers and surgeons think in terms of bodily-kinesthetic; many today are sensitive to rhythm and sound; several today understand by interacting with others; some initiate understanding by relating to their own interests and goals; many, such as scientists, lawyers, and engineers, think conceptually or abstractly.

This means that every marketer and communicator today has to intimately understand the targets for their messages. If your target market is technology people, you may want to consider using visual-spatial, or logical-mathematical styles; if it’s athletes or other people who are in tune with their bodies, you’ll want to use the kinesthetic approach.

Those of us who don’t have such extreme targets might want to mix several kinds of styles in order to capture the majority of people. For example, combine words with visuals with sound with interpersonal interaction (i.e. social networking).