Archive for the ‘marketing’ Tag

The Digital Playground

Last year, agency execs Drew McLellan and Gavin Heaton organized 100 influential bloggers from around the world and produced “The Age of Conversation“. The individual essays taken as a group describe how conversations, enabled by social media technology, are transforming the business marketing landscape and how the various marketing disciplines have to change the way they talk to their consumers to be heard.

This year, McLellan and Heaton decided to do it all aver again with The Age of Conversation 2008 – Why Don’t They Get It? Once again the proceeds from the book go to Variety – the Children’s Charity — which serves children across the entire globe, but unlike last year’s book, this one has more than twice the number of authors, each focusing on one of eight sub-topics:

  • Manifestos
  • Keeping Secrets in the Age of Conversation
  • Moving from Conversation to Action
  • The Accidental Marketer
  • A New Brand of Creative
  • My Marketing Tragedy
  • Business Model Evolution
  • Life in the Conversation Lane

I contributed a page to Life in the Conversation Lane. Here’s a snippet:

“It’s amazing to watch young children on a playground. They interact and develop friendships with kids they don’t know, share new ideas, expand their imaginations, learn new things through conversation and interaction, experiment, innovate, collaborate to build things and to accomplish goals as a team.”

The new book should be out later this summer. In the meantime, check out the individual blogs of the other contributers:

Adam Crowe
, Adrian Ho, Aki Spicer, Alex Henault, Amy Jussel, Andrew Odom, Andy Nulman, Andy Sernovitz, Andy Whitlock, Angela Maiers, Ann Handley, Anna Farmery, Armando Alves, Arun Rajagopal, Asi Sharabi, Becky Carroll, Becky McCray, Bernie Scheffler, Bill Gammell, Bob Carlton, Bob LeDrew, Brad Shorr, Bradley Spitzer, Brandon Murphy, Branislav Peric, Brent Dixon, Brett Macfarlane, Brian Reich, C.C. Chapman, Cam Beck, Casper Willer, Cathleen Rittereiser, Cathryn Hrudicka, Cedric Giorgi, Charles Sipe, Chris Kieff, Chris Cree, Chris Wilson, Christina Kerley (CK), C.B. Whittemore, Clay Parker Jones, Chris Brown, Colin McKay, Connie Bensen, Connie Reece, Cord Silverstein, Corentin Monot, Craig Wilson, Daniel Honigman, Dan Goldstein, Dan Schawbel, Dana VanDen Heuvel, Dan Sitter, Daria Radota Rasmussen, Darren Herman, Darryl Patterson, Dave Davison, Dave Origano, David Armano, David Bausola, David Berkowitz, David Brazeal, David Koopmans, David Meerman Scott, David Petherick, David Reich, David Weinfeld, David Zinger, Deanna Gernert, Deborah Brown, Dennis Price, Derrick Kwa, Dino Demopoulos, Doug Haslam, Doug Meacham, Doug Mitchell, Douglas Hanna, Douglas Karr, Drew McLellan, Duane Brown, Dustin Jacobsen, Dylan Viner, Ed Brenegar, Ed Cotton, Efrain Mendicuti, Ellen Weber, Emily Reed, Eric Peterson, Eric Nehrlich, Ernie Mosteller, Faris Yakob, Fernanda Romano, Francis Anderson, G. Kofi Annan, Gareth Kay, Gary Cohen, Gaurav Mishra, Gavin Heaton, Geert Desager, George Jenkins, G.L. Hoffman, Gianandrea Facchini, Gordon Whitehead, Graham Hill, Greg Verdino, Gretel Going & Kathryn Fleming, Hillel Cooperman, Hugh Weber, J. Erik Potter, J.C. Hutchins, James Gordon-Macintosh, Jamey Shiels, Jasmin Tragas, Jason Oke, Jay Ehret, Jeanne Dininni, Jeff De Cagna, Jeff Gwynne, Jeff Noble, Jeff Wallace, Jennifer Warwick, Jenny Meade, Jeremy Fuksa, Jeremy Heilpern, Jeremy Middleton, Jeroen Verkroost, Jessica Hagy, Joanna Young, Joe Pulizzi, Joe Talbott, John Herrington, John Jantsch, John Moore, John Rosen, John Todor, Jon Burg, Jon Swanson, Jonathan Trenn, Jordan Behan, Julie Fleischer, Justin Flowers, Justin Foster, Karl Turley, Kate Trgovac, Katie Chatfield, Katie Konrath, Kenny Lauer, Keri Willenborg, Kevin Jessop, Kris Hoet, Krishna De, Kristin Gorski, Laura Fitton, Laurence Helene Borei, Lewis Green, Lois Kelly, Lori Magno, Louise Barnes-Johnston, Louise Mangan, Louise Manning, Luc Debaisieux, Marcus Brown, Mario Vellandi, Mark Blair, Mark Earls, Mark Goren, Mark Hancock, Mark Lewis, Mark McGuinness, Mark McSpadden, Matt Dickman, Matt J. McDonald, Matt Moore, Michael Hawkins, Michael Karnjanaprakorn, Michelle Lamar, Mike Arauz, Mike McAllen, Mike Sansone, Mitch Joel, Monica Wright, Nathan Gilliatt, Nathan Snell, Neil Perkin, Nettie Hartsock, Nick Rice, Oleksandr Skorokhod, Ozgur Alaz, Paul Chaney, Paul Hebert, Paul Isakson, Paul Marobella, Paul McEnany, Paul Tedesco, Paul Williams, Pet Campbell, Pete Deutschman, Peter Corbett, Phil Gerbyshak, Phil Lewis, Phil Soden, Piet Wulleman, Rachel Steiner, Sreeraj Menon, Reginald Adkins, Richard Huntington, Rishi Desai, Beeker Northam, Rob Mortimer, Robert Hruzek, Roberta Rosenberg, Robyn McMaster, Roger von Oech, Rohit Bhargava, Ron Shevlin, Ryan Barrett, Ryan Karpeles, Ryan Rasmussen, Sam Huleatt, Sandy Renshaw, Scott Goodson, Scott Monty, Scott Townsend, Scott White, Sean Howard, Sean Scott, Seni Thomas, Seth Gaffney, Shama Hyder, Sheila Scarborough, Sheryl Steadman, Simon Payn, Sonia Simone, Spike Jones, Stanley Johnson, Stephen Collins, Stephen Cribbett, Stephen Landau, Stephen Smith, Steve Bannister, Steve Hardy, Steve Portigal, Steve Roesler, Steven Verbruggen, Steve Woodruff, Sue Edworthy, Susan Bird, Susan Gunelius, Susan Heywood, Tammy Lenski, Terrell Meek, Thomas Clifford, Thomas Knoll, Tiffany Kenyon, Tim Brunelle, Tim Buesing, Tim Connor, Tim Jackson, Tim Longhurst, Tim Mannveille, Tim Tyler, Timothy Johnson, Tinu Abayomi-Paul, Toby Bloomberg, Todd Andrlik, Troy Rutter, Troy Worman, Uwe Hook, Valeria Maltoni, Vandana Ahuja, Vanessa DiMauro, Veronique Rabuteau, Wayne Buckhanan, William Azaroff, Yves Van Landeghem

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Top 10 Reasons for Monitoring Brands in Social Media

Yesterday, I was having a conversation about Social Media with a guy responsible for a major US retailer’s e-commerce site. His position was that nobody has figured out how to monetize Social Media; therefore there’s not a compelling reason to invest in it. I argued that the point is not to use Social Media to generate Revenue directly, but rather to drive engagement with the Brand and to use it as part of a Sense & Respond mechanism. In a timely turn of events, someone on Twitter pointed me to a post over at Online Marketing Blog titled: “Top 10 Reasons for Monitoring brands in Social Media“. Written by the Marketing VP at Radian6, a company that coincidentally provides Social Media monitoring tools, I think this makes a compelling case for convincing organizational leaders of the need to wade into the Social Media pool and start monitoring and participating in the conversation. I have included the entire post below….

[Editor’s note: We’re excited to share this next guest post from David Alston of Radian6. A fast emerging leader in the field of social media measurement, Radian6 (a TopRank client) provides social media monitoring tools to hundreds of leading PR firms, ad agencies and brand marketers.]

David is VP Marketing at Radian6 in New Brunswick, Canada with previous experience at several tech startups in the interactive advertising and the video over IP space. Most recently, he was partner and VP of Marketing at PR firm, Revolution Strategy. His blog is TweetPR.

Social media has simplified the art of the soapbox shout. Information is shared with the masses now using easy-to-use Web 2.0 tools and is recorded and cached for infinity. A shout out loud in social media has no geographic boundaries and is not time-limited. These two points make the non-stop monitoring of social media an important to-do for any brand owner. And monitoring social media does not just mean blogs. It should include video and image sharing sites and microblogging sites like Twitter, along with opinion and discussion forums.

As a provider of the tools for monitoring hundreds and even thousands of well known brands online, we’ve found a multitude of reasons for paying attention to what’s being said in social media. Here are the top ten:

The complaint – Watch for posts complaining about your products or services, company, and staff. Catching something early means getting a chance to show how responsive you are. A complaint is an opportunity to demonstrate problem-solving abilities. A posted complaint may also draw out other comments from people with the same concern, which provides an opportunity to reach out to them as well. And who knows, impressing customer with great customer service may generate some positive posts about how you resolved the problems.

The compliment – Compliments can come in many forms. It could be a congratulations message about a recent award. It could be a customer raving about the experience they just had with a product or with customer service. Social media compliments are the online equivalent of those old school references or testimonials of days past. Create a delicio.us account or use another social bookmarking utility and save all of these compliments in a list for future use. Potential clients looking for reassurance on a purchase decision would love to see what others think of your company and products.

The expressed need – The best way to watch for expressed needs is to look for keywords often used to describe those needs. People shout out what they are doing and ask the general public for advice occasionally when they are about to make a purchase. Both of these situations provide an opportunity to reach out with an offer of assistance or a free demo for example. While this may seem intrusive at first glance consider that great retail clerk who offers to help when you are trying to locate a pair of shoes in your size. A social media poster often appreciates that someone is listening and does not mind an offer of assistance expecially if it’s done in a helpful way.

The competitor – If you are watching your industry and the keywords used to describe it you will probably be the first to know when a new competitor appears on the scene. From a competitive intelligence perspective you may also wish to be alerted any time a competitor’s name is used. Knowing this may highlight opportunities to reach out to potential customers who have indicated they are trialing a competitor or dissatisfied with a competitor’s product or service. You may also discover which industry players are advocates for competitive brands giving you the opportunity to reach out and see if they are interested in knowing more about what you have to offer. Competitors will also often talk about subjects they are strategically interested in and being able to stay on top of those discussions allows you to anticipate potential future moves.

The crowd – Topics will often pop up online that draw huge crowds from a page visits or commenting perspective. There is a lot to be learned in discussion threads especially when they have the potential to affect your brand. Following the swarms can give you a better understanding of current sentiment and thinking towards a certain topic and who the players are that have opinions on it. It also may point out a topic that you will need to monitor going forward. Tracking a topic’s viral nature and how long it lives can give you an idea of its relative importance. You may also decide to participate in the crowd discussion thread early in the process, giving your company exposure to those currently involved in the discussion and to those yet to join.

The influencer – Influencers within a space can carry a lot of weight. They gain there power either from the number of times they post on a topic, the number of people who link to their posts on a topic, the number of people gathering to comment and how engaged visitors to their posts become. The hive that forms around an influencer helps spread an opinion on a brand faster and that opinion express potentially carries more weight. Often an influencer’s post appears prominently in a topic’s Google search results thus affecting the views of even more potential customers. Knowing who these influencers are and their opinions of your brands helps you determine who to reach out to for help as advocates or to understand why they currently hold a negative view.

The crisis – Discussions happening in social media can serve as an early warning system before an issue goes mainstream. By using advanced tools you can observe new words popping more frequently about your brands. If you were an airline, as an example, the sudden appearance of the word “cancellations” along with the words “bad” and “customer service” would immediate trigger a need to drill into the posts driving them. Tracking these “crisis” words over time on a go forward basis would also then help gauge the effectiveness of any outreach campaigns to address the underlying issues.

The ROI – There has been a lot of buzz lately on how to successful measure online marketing and outreach campaigns. Much of the focus has centered around the topic of engagement. While a universal engagement metric has yet to be agreed upon there are still a number of effective ways to measure engagement and ROI in general. Track the mentions of a brand in user-generated content before, during and after a campaign. Isolate positive words associated with a particular brand and gauge the number of times they were used over a period of time. Alternatively, you could sort all posts mentioning a particular brand or topic by number of comments or views to uncover the top 50 discussions where potentially engagement was the highest.

The audit – A brand is the sum of all conversations and is no longer completely controlled by the corporation. By analyzing social media a corporation or agency can score a brand’s overall user sentiment, determine which words are commonly associated with it, understand which competitors rank closest in buzz or online mentions, uncover which sites are advocates, and rank which social media channels contain more discussion versus others. By isolating which sites are discussing your brand or a competitor’s brand, an audit can also help pinpoint possible ad placement opportunities for reaching the most valuable and engaged audiences.

The thread – With so many social media channels to shout out on, conversations often become splintered. A discussion can start within one channel and quick leap into another making it rather difficult to follow. Following discussions using keywords associated with it can help bridge the thread across all types of social media. This thread would then appear as a connected conversation for easy analysis.

Customers, prospects and peers are discussing your brand, your industry and your competitors right now in social media: with or without you. Unfortunately, choosing not to listen doesn’t make those conversations go away. Actively listening means protecting brand reputation, discovering opportunities, staying competititive and avoiding runaway crisis’.

Can User Generated Content Hurt Your Brand?

Folks in social media circles like to talk about the value using customers as brand ambassadors who advocate for the brand through social media. Of course, armed with a video camera and an internet connection, people don’t need to be asked by brands to be ambassadors. Remember Nick Haley’s iPod Touch ad? The really passionate ones just do it. When it comes out as good as Nick’s did, the brand can’t help but be happy. But what if your passionate customers create something that really doesn’t represent your brand in a helpful way. What if it’s so “cheesy” that it starts getting some serious YouTube traction. Is this kind of free advertising,”good” advertising?

Chris Abraham pointed this one out on his blog today. The person that made this video (and I assume composed the song) is clearly passionate about Hillary Clinton. I wonder if this is the kind of brand ambassador Hillary is looking for.

Is soon as the title of this post hit Twitter, I received a couple of comments suggesting that UGC won’t hurt your brand if you properly supervise it’s creation.  That’s great if you are in-charge, but that’s not what I’m talking about here.  There is no way to supervise or manage this.  You can only respond to it (or not).

So how does user generated content like this affect a brand. Is it helpful? Can it be detrimental? If it happens to you, how will you respond?

Discuss!

Are You Lost?

who_are_the_oceanic_61.jpg

I’m a big fan of ABC’s hit TV show Lost which thankfully returned last week breathing much needed fresh air into an environment stale from the writer’s strike. The second episode for Season 4 airs tonight but for the most passionate fans of Lost, the season started over a month ago. That’s when the marketing machine at ABC kicked the buzz into high gear with the launch of an all new Alternate Reality Game (ARG)

The Lost Experience, first introduced in Season 2, was is an extensive entertainment/viral marketing campaign centered around an ARG. This time around, the game is Find815. The campaign started with a series of billboards advertising the fictional Oceanic Airlines placed in cities around the world. The cities selected were those where the characters from the show come from. Predictably, word of the billboards immediately popped up on fan sites and blogs along with the URL for the Oceanic Airlines website. Visitors to the website discovered that it had been hacked by a new character named Sam who left a video message about his plan to search for his girlfriend who was a flight attendent on the doomed flight 815. The video occasionally flickers displaying another URL (Find815.com) which is where the rest of the game takes place. Find815.com was subsequently painted as graffiti on many of the billboards.

Throughout January, new levels of the game were released. Successful completion of each new challenge rewarded the player with new video from Sam revealing new information from his search. The Lost Experience continues even as Season 4 gets underway with more new websites, phone numbers ((818) 460-5520), Lost references in Marvel comics, a partnership between Oceanic and Microsoft to give away XBoxes and probably some other stuff I’m not even aware of. During the season premier of Eli Stone (following last week’s Lost premier) this commercial ran giving the larger TV audience the first teaser about the ARG:

Conventional wisdom around viral marketing falls into two camps:

  • You can make something become viral by targeting influentials
  • You can’t make something viral, but it can become viral if it is really good

Neither guarantees success, but applying both strategies, along with a healthy budget can go along way. Clearly, Lost co-creator JJ Abrams and co-producers Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cruse understand both their core audience and viral marketing.  With and a healthy budget from ABC, they are playing the both sides of the viral game.

The product is excellent and innovative, regardless of channel, which sets the stage for real customer engagement . They understand that traditional advertising will not be very effective at attracting new viewers to a complex, continuing story starting it’s fourth season, so they smartly employ their most loyal customers who willingly help to market the show in exchange for an extended experience. These are their “influentials”; their “Advocates”. They understand that these fans are hungry for more of the mystery and will share their experiences broadly through blogs, websites and personal interaction. As a example of how they, as marketers, are engaging with their community, Jon Lachonis, who writes the Lost fan-blog The Tail Section, was given the opportunity to see the first four episodes of the new season prior to the premier and to share his review with the Lost fan community. Not even TV critics were given that opportunity. Needless to say, he wrote about it and the fans went nuts.

Halfway through it’s second season, Lost started to lose some of it’s heat with weekly viewership down roughly 20% from the first season. That downward slide continued halfway through the third season, but last week’s premier, bolstered by 4 hours of catchup shows and the buzz generated by the fan community, saw a viewership equal to the first season average. Whether it can sustain that popularity is uncertain given that the planned 16 episode season will likely be cut to 8 due to the writer’s strike.

So what lessons can you as marketers learn from Lost? Two concepts strike me as obvious:

  • Make the necessary investments to insure that you offer a rich and engaging customer experience with your product or service.
  • Reward your most avid customers with extended experiences. Give them more of what they come to you for. They will tell others about it.

What other lessons can be learned here?

The Expectation Economy

expectation.jpgexpectation.jpgI’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – If you don’t subscribe to Trendwatching.com’s monthly briefing, you’re really missing out on some rich and actionable insight. The monthly briefings focus on a single trend group and contain insights gathered by thousands of “springspotters” from all over the world.

The January briefing is out and its entitled The Expectation Economy:

“The EXPECTATION ECONOMY is an economy inhabited by experienced, well-informed consumers from Canada to South Korea who have a long list of high expectations that they apply to each and every good, service and experience on offer.

Their expectations are based on years of self-training in hyperconsumption, and on the biblical flood of new-style, readily available information sources, curators and BS filters. Which all help them track down and expect not just basic standards of quality, but the ‘best of the best’.”

People have always had high expectations, but over the last few years, two major sub-trends have emerged that really drive the Expectation Economy.

  • Instant, worldwide communications allows information about the latest, best, most original things to be immediatey available to consumers
  • Increasingly, consumers are doing their own diligent research and niche blogs, sites and mags are fueling that behavior.

While consumer’s expectations are up and rising, most brands choose to not keep up with the “best of the best”. The result: Informed Consumers are Indifferent or Irritated. The briefing suggests that these states will likely manifest themselves in Fake Loyalty and Postponed Purchases.

Customers continue buying from under-performing brands only as long as what they want isn’t available. This is Fake Loyalty. Once the better option comes around, the customers quickly disappear.

What are the implications of this trend? Trendwatching makes the following points:

  • The Next Generation: Before consumers had full transparency, brands could get away with not being peak performers. Those days are now over. The next generation, who will never know “mass production, mass advertising & mass ignorance” will be full participants in the Expectation Economy.
  • Cross Industry Mindset: Companies what to know what’s going on in their industry and what their main competitors are up to. In the Expectation Economy, businesses need to look cross-industry to see what’s going on. Why?

1. Your competition could be anyone

2. Expectations are often set outside your industry

3. Just copying competitors is a race to the bottom

Action Items

The Trendwatching Briefing goes on to give concrete examples of largely niche brands in a wide range of industries that are leading the way in setting expectations. They also offer a prescription for translating the things these brands are doing in to actionable strategies for your business.

“Find competitors and non-competitors, big and small, who are setting consumer expectations much higher than you’ve ever been able to. They’re more fun. They have better design. Their stuff tastes, looks, feels better. Their customer service actually responds to emails. They’re cheaper. Then compile what you think are now the global standards for whatever it is you do, and from there start thinking about new goods, services and experiences that at least incorporate those standards, and preferably outdo them. “

Does your business have a program like this? If not, what are you waiting for?

People Don’t Want a Drill…

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Today, I have the honor of guest blogging over at Drew McLellan’s Marketing Minute. The post is titled “People Don’t Want A Drill…”

Here’s a sample…

“…people aren’t looking for that thing you are marketing; they’re looking for the best tool to get a job done. Unless your product is some sort of “collectible”, your customers are only buying your product because they believe it will help them achieve that objective. Product features and functions may change at an ever increasing rate, but the things that people want to accomplish in their lives don’t change that quickly. Brands that help customers accomplish their objectives more effectively and conveniently than their competition are the ones that will be successful.”

Check out the whole post here

Update: Here’s the complete text:

In his book “The Innovator’s Solution: Creating and Sustaining Successful Growth“, Clayton Christensen writes:

“How do you create products that customers want to buy–ones that become so successful they “disrupt” the market? It’s not easy.

Three in five new-product-development efforts are scuttled before they ever reach the market. Of the ones that do see the light of day, 40% never become profitable and simply disappear.

Most of these failures are predictable–and avoidable. Why? Because most managers trying to come up with new products don’t properly consider the circumstances in which customers find themselves when making purchasing decisions. Or as marketing expert Theodore Levitt once told his M.B.A. students at Harvard: “People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill. They want a quarter-inch hole.””

Put another way, people aren’t looking for that thing you are marketing; they’re looking for the best tool to get a job done. Unless your product is some sort of “collectible”, your customers are only buying your product because they believe it will help them achieve that objective. Product features and functions may change at an ever increasing rate, but the things that people want to accomplish in their lives don’t change that quickly. Brands that help customers accomplish their objectives more effectively and conveniently than their competition are the ones that will be successful.

Given this, why do so many companies attempt to market their products and build their brands using an approach focused internally on the thing and not externally on the customer’s need? They conduct focus groups, assembling panels of customers to ask if adding this bell or that whistle to their thing would make it more appealing. They do extensive demographical analysis to determine those target customer segments that will find their thing appealing and then spend lots of resources convincing those customers to buy their new and improved thing. Sure, they get clear inputs on what customers want, but don’t typically take the time to understand what customers were trying to get done for themselves when they use the company’s thing. And this approach isn’t isolated to just manufacturers. It carries over to retailers who are focused on the products they are selling and not what the customer is passionate about or the “hole” they are trying to make.

Consumer Electronics retailers (my background) are particularly guilty of this. They are constantly telling customers that they have “all the great technology you want (or need) at prices you can afford“.

The fact is, very few people “want (or need) technology”. Customers don’t just wake up one morning and decide they need to go down to Circuit City to pick up some great new technology.

They DO want to have an incredible theater experience in their home. They DO want to capture and share family memories. They DO want to be able to print documents from any computer in their home.

How do the marketers respond to these needs? They dish out specs like 1080p, HDMI2.3, megapixels, and 801.11B, G or N. Whatever the latest spec is, that’s what you want. For the customer, none of this hype guarantees a great experience. Marketers who choose to promote their things this way will have a hard time building a powerful brand.

Marketers who understand what customers are really looking for will succeed by focusing on the experience enabled by their brand. Apple is, of course, the often-cited poster child for this. The iPod has never been the best in class from a technical standpoint, but the way Apple enables the music listening experience is what has put their brand miles ahead of the competition. In fact, the term “iPod” is often used generically in place of “MP3 player”. Customers looking for a portable media player will almost always think of Apple and iPod first.

My friend Ryan Karpeles wrote a great post on what he calls Reverse Branding which echoes this idea:

“People rarely think of your actual brand first. They think about what they want. Then they decide who, specifically, can fulfill that desire. Being that “who” is the essence of Reverse Branding.”

Getting customers to drive your brand in this way is the holy grail of marketing. To get there, you first need to understand that it’s the hole they want, not the drill. Once you get that, focus your efforts on being the best damned hole maker in the business.

 

Now Is Gone – Helping Companies Leverage New Media

now_is_gone.jpgOn August 11, 2006, at a campaign stop, incumbent Virginia Senator George Allen twice used the word macaca (a perceived racial term) to refer to S.R. Sidarth, who was filming the event as a “tracker” for Allen’s challenger, Jim Webb. Webb’s campaign moved aggressively to spread the video through social media channels like YouTube and blogs. Mainstream media echoed these reports and Allen’s fate was cast. Once considered a serious contender for the 2008 Presidential race, Allen lost his re-election bid and in doing so, shifted the balance of power in the US Senate to the Democrats.

It was a powerful demonstration of the power of social media and the speed with which messages can be shared broadly. It was also the event that convinced Washington, DC PR guy Geoff Livingston that his world had forever changed.

In this new age of the empowered public, organizations have lost control of the conversation. People increasing turn to peers for opinions, news and even entertainment. Empowered by powerful new tools and social networks that are not bound by geography, the people formerly known as “the audience” are now in control. Livingston points out that:

“Businesses are realizing they will be forced to communicate to their customers in the consumers’ own preferred social media forms. Instead of businesses trying to find customers, this time businesses are trying to play catch-up with their customers.”

….and that fundamentally changes the Public Relations game. The problem is most organizations don’t know how to market through social media. Recognizing that opportunity, Livingston, a well respected blogger whose PR firm has real world experience applying social media principles to businesses, has taken the time to distill that experience into a set of ideas others can use.

In his new book, now is gone, Livingston discusses the general strategic principles and major aspects of social network marketing, providing executives a primer to begin their effort.

Start With the Right Attitude

The introduction (written by Brian Solis) does a great job of educating the reader about the new realities of marketing in the age of the hyper-connected, empowered consumer:

PR 2.0 starts with listening and reading, and leads to insight, understanding, and perspective. This inspires respect, which is the critical ante for participation in the social economy.

  • Listening is marketing.
  • Participation is marketing.
  • Media is marketing.
  • Conversations are marketing.

Understand and Apply The Basic Principles

Over the following chapters, Livingston discusses the increasing role of new media in consumers’ lives helps the reader understand the basic principles of marketing effectively using social media. What makes this book so useful is that Livingston uses his background in traditional PR to explain these principles using terminology and strategies familiar to traditional marketers. Those Seven Principles of Social Media Communications are:

  1. Relinquish message control — Command and Control is dead. Businesses will have a hard time with this, but in a conversational marketplace, two-way communication rules. Organizations that refuse to give up control “will be met with anger, distrust and either rebellion or distrust”
  2. Honesty, ethics, and transparencies are a must — No one wants a relationship with someone who doesn’t behave well. This is about “human relations” and applying The Golden Rule.
  3. Participation within the community is marketing — Just putting out content won’t cut it. You have to participate withing the community, reading and commenting on other people’s content.
  4. Communication to audiences is an outdated 20th century concept — Audiences receive one-way messages (as in mass communication). The audience has been replaced by the community and they are talking. You had better be listening and engaging.
  5. Build value for the community — The is about getting to know your community and what they care about through listening, reading and understanding. Then making a conscious decision to deliver content back that they will value.
  6. Inspire your community with real, exciting information — A press release to your stakeholders does not inspire them. Product details don’t get them excited. Leverage you subject matter expertise to build intrinsic value.
  7. Manage the media form with intelligence and you will build a community of people who become very loyal to you — Here’s a concept that shows up everywhere – Make it Easy for your community come back through calls to action, intelligent RSS feeds, a central landing point. Cultivate sustained interest through regular content updates.

Throughout the book, Livingston uses real world examples to illustrate successes and failures. now is gone is a great tool for organizations who are ready to start participating in their communities. Are you ready? Chances are your competitors are. What are you waiting for? After all, now really is gone!

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