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Innovation Requires Going Fast, Slow and Meta

Innovation Requires Going Both Fast and Slow

GUEST POST from Greg Satell

In the regulatory filing for Facebook’s 2012 IPO, Mark Zuckerberg included a letter outlining his management philosophy. Entitled, The Hacker Way, it encapsulated much of the zeitgeist. “We have a saying,” he wrote. “‘Move fast and break things.’ The idea is that if you never break anything, you’re probably not moving fast enough.”

At around the same time, Katalin Karikó was quietly plodding away in her lab at the University of Pennsylvania. She had been working on an idea since the early 1990s and it hadn’t amounted to much so far, but was finally beginning to attract some interest. The next year she would join a small startup named BioNTech to commercialize her work and would continue to chip at the problem.

Things would accelerate in early 2020, when Karikó’s mRNA technology was used to design a coronavirus vaccine in a matter of mere hours. Just as Daniel Kahneman explained that there are fast and slow modes of thinking, the same can be said about innovating. The truth is that moving slowly is often underrated and that moving fast can sometimes bog you down.

The Luxury Of Stability

Mark Zuckerberg had the luxury of being disruptive because he was working in a mature, stable environment. His “Hacker Way” letter showed a bias for action over deliberation in the form of “shipping code,” because he had little else to worry about. Facebook could be built fast, because it was built on top of technology that was slowly developed over decades.

The origins of modern computing are complex, with breakthroughs in multiple fields eventually converging into a single technology. Alan Turing and Claude Shannon provided much of the theoretical basis for digital computing in the 1930s and 40s. Yet the vacuum tube technology at the time only allowed for big, clunky machines that were very limited.

A hardware breakthrough came in 1948, when John Bardeen, William Shockley and Walter Brattain invented the transistor, followed by Jack Kilby and Robert Noyce’s development of the integrated circuit in the late 1960s. The first computers were connected to the Internet a decade later and, a generation after that, Tim Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web.

All of this happened very slowly but, by the time Mark Zuckerberg became aware of it all, it was just part of the landscape. Much like older generations grew up with the Interstate Highway System and took for granted that they could ride freely on it, Millennial hackers grew up in a period of technological, not to mention political, stability.

The Dangers Of Disruption

Mark Zuckerberg founded Facebook with a bold idea. “We believe that a more open world is a better world because people with more information can make better decisions and have a greater impact,” he wrote. That vision was central to how he built the company and its products. He believed that enabling broader and more efficient communication would foster a deeper and more complete understanding.

Yet the world looks much different when your vantage point is a technology company in Menlo Park, California then it does from, say, a dacha outside Moscow. If you are an aging authoritarian who is somewhat frustrated by your place in the world rather than a young, hubristic entrepreneur, you may take a dimmer view on things.

For many, if not most, people on earth, the world is often a dark and dangerous place and the best defense is often to go on offense. From that vantage point, an open information system is less an opportunity to promote better understanding and more of a vulnerability you can leverage to exploit your enemy.

In fact, the House of Representatives Committee on Intelligence found that agents of the Russian government used the open nature of Facebook and other social media outlets to spread misinformation and sow discord. That’s the problem with moving fast and breaking things. If you’re not careful, you inevitably end up breaking something important.

This principle will become even more important in the years ahead as the potential for serious disruption increases markedly.

The Four Disruptive Shifts Of The Next Decade

While the era that shaped millennials like Mark Zuckerberg was mostly stable, the next decade is likely to be one of the most turbulent in history, with massive shifts in demography, resources, technology and migration. Each one of these has the potential to be destabilizing, the confluence of all four courts disaster and demands that we tread carefully.

Consider the demographic shift caused by the Millennials and Gen Z’ers coming of age. The last time we had a similar generational transition was with the Baby Boomers in the 1960s, which saw more than its share of social and political strife. The shift in values that will take place over the next ten years or so is likely to be similar in scale and scope.

Yet that’s just the start. We will also be shifting in resources from fossil fuels to renewables, in technology from bits to atoms and in migration globally from south to north and from rural to urban areas. The last time we had so many important structural changes going on at once it was the 1920s and that, as we should remember, did not turn out well.

It’s probably no accident that today, much like a century ago, we seem to yearn for “a return to normalcy.” The past two decades have been exhausting, with global terrorism, a massive financial meltdown and now a pandemic fraying our nerves and heightening our sense of vulnerability.

Still, I can’t help feeling that the lessons of the recent past can serve us well in creating a better future.

We Need To Rededicate Ourselves Tackling Grand Challenges

In Daniel Kahneman’s book, Thinking, Fast and Slow, he explained that we have two modes of thinking. The first is fast and intuitive. The second is slow and deliberative. His point wasn’t that one was better than the other, but that both have their purpose and we need to learn how to use both effectively. In many ways, the two go hand-in-hand.

One thing that is often overlooked is that to think fast effectively often takes years of preparation. Certain professions, such as surgeons and pilots, train for years to hone their instincts so that they will be able to react quickly and appropriately in an emergency. In many ways, you can’t think fast without first having thought slow.

Innovation is the same way. We were able to develop coronavirus vaccines in record time because of the years of slow, painstaking work by Katalin Karikó and others like her, much like how Mark Zuckerberg was able to “move fast and break things” because of the decades of breakthroughs it took to develop the technology that he “hacked.”

Today, as the digital era is ending, we need to rededicate ourselves to innovating slow. Just as our investment in things like the human genome project has returned hundreds of times what we put into it, our investment in the grand challenges of the future will enable countless new (hopefully more modest) Zuckerbergs to wax poetic about “hacker culture.”

Innovation is never a single event. It is a process of discovery, engineering and transformation and those things never happen in one place or at one time. That’s why we need to innovate fast and slow, build healthy collaborations and set our sights a bit higher.

— Article courtesy of the Digital Tonto blog
— Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

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Amazon Changes Everything in a New Way

Tide Dash Button

The arrival of the Internet began major disruption to decades old methods of consumer packaged goods (CPG) distribution. The tried and true method of manufactures selling to a collection of wholesalers, who then sold the product on a range of retailers began to be reexamined. We saw the arrival of online retailers like Amazon who sought to compete with brick and mortar retailers, trying to offer a wider selection while also offering potentially a more convenient (and possibly cheaper) shopping experience for a few (or possibly for many). We saw retailers experiment with selling on Amazon (adding an extra layer of intermediation) and grocery stores experiment with online ordering and local delivery.

But at the same, in 2010 we saw manufacturers like P&G start to experiment with selling direct to consumer over the Internet via sites like pgshop.com and then in 2013 P&G started selling their wares on Amazon. Below is a screenshot of a Pampers product listing on Amazon:

Pampers Amazon Screenshot

As you can imagine, when companies like P&G start selling direct to consumers and via Amazon, this makes traditional retailers nervous. And while maybe some day their nervousness will translate into major volume declines, we’re probably not quite there, yet. But for manufacturers, the possibility of selling direct to consumers or via Amazon changes everything. It changes everything because it requires companies selling consumer goods to build new marketing capabilities, and possibly even new manufacturing and distribution capabilities as well.

Frito Lay Amazon Box

Here we have an example of a Sweet and Salty Box being sold to consumers via Amazon by Frito Lay. Compare this with a P&G Pampers page on Amazon and you’ll see that Frito Lay is still learning how to market via the Amazon channel and hasn’t completely figured out how to optimize the experience they create for consumers or likely how to maximize their conversion. But, you may also notice that the Amazon channel offers Frito Lay the opportunity to sell something they probably couldn’t sell in a Krogers, or Whole Foods, or Tesco, or 7-11.

In both of these examples, Amazon is taking and selling the inventory much as a grocery store would, but the customer wants, needs and expectations in the Amazon channel are different, and the skills to effectively market in this channel are different too. These are the reasons that Amazon changes everything for CPG companies. As Amazon continues to grow in importance as a channel for nearly everything, and as other sites like Facebook make a stronger push into eCommerce, and as consumer preferences for where and how they want to buy things changes, it presents a great opportunity for the forward thinking among us to take existing products and create new offerings that resonate with consumers showing a preference for existing and emerging digital channels and to create entirely new solutions that may involve a new product or possibly move beyond a product. Companies in CPG must continue to ask themselves:

  1. What is possible online that isn’t possible in-store?
  2. What do online shoppers want that is different than in-store shoppers?
  3. If we were to move beyond the confines of the product (and how it is packaged and presented), what would resonate with this type of consumer?

You can see on the Pampers page on Amazon above they’ve done a number of different things without changing the product:

  • Offering a range of product quantities
  • Coupons
  • Amazon Dash buttons (push the button and it automatically orders for you)
  • Etc.

And Frito Lay took their existing products and re-packaged them in a different way to suit the capabilities and needs of the channel because selling one individual bag of Doritos doesn’t make economic sense (and so Amazon won’t let you do it unless it is part of a larger Prime Pantry box).

If you were in charge, and had the product range that P&G or Frito Lay have, what would you do to optimize your results in the Amazon channel, or even more broadly in a direct to consumer context?

Please add your comments below.

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Pull Marketing – Upside Down Social Web Design

Pull Marketing - Upside Down Social Web DesignPicking up where my hugely popular article ‘Rise of the Social Business Architect‘ (PDF) leaves off, I thought I would examine the world of web design in a world where the tools of social media are becoming increasingly important and integrated into how business gets done (and even how searching and search results are done).

When it comes to putting up a web site, most entrepreneurs and marketers unfortunately look at it from their perspective (what do I want to say?) instead of from their potential customers’ perspective (what do they want or need to know?). This causes most entrepreneurs and marketers to start building web sites for their new product or service in the same basic way (a push marketing approach).

First, they go out and hire a web designer to build them a web site, only to have the web designer ask them three main questions:

1. What kind of visual design are you looking for? (…and what are your favorite web sites and why?)

2. Do you need the web site to run on any particular technology platform?

3. What kinds of content do you have? (…and what is your menu structure going to be?)

The third question often provokes a deer in the headlights kind of response – “Oh shoot, we have to write something” – and then after the entrepreneur or marketer recovers from the shock they think about what they want to say.

The entrepreneur or marketer hastily runs off and sketches out a set of pages that they want to have (or they use another site as a template) and then they write (or hire someone to write) copy for each page, and when the copy is written and the design is complete they have someone build the web site using the design and content as a guide.

The end result is a web site that stands alone as a new domain in the digital wilderness, disconnected from the rest of the digital world. This may be great for putting on business cards and email signatures, but the chances are low of someone finding the new web site and actually caring about the product or service.

Frustrated that nobody is coming to the new web site, maybe the marketer or entrepreneur creates a Facebook page or a Twitter account, but then those likely sit there – lacking a clear purpose or a point of conversation.

Still trying to provoke activity on their web site, maybe the marketer/entrepreneur starts to create deeper level content that their potential customers might actually care about, with the potential of moving them along the customer purchasing journey, and put it on the site. When few people find the new content that the marketer/entrepreneur created at great time and/or expense, maybe they buy some pay-per-click advertising (PPC) to drive people to it, wondering when the financial bleeding will stop.

Finally, maybe they place the content off-site in places where potential customers actually gather and might find it (and find the new web site as a result).

What would happen if you flipped the traditional push marketing web design paradigm around and used a pull marketing approach instead?

I would contend that is exactly what you should do if you want to build a social business, and to prove it, over the next couple of months I will flip the traditional web site design model on its and head and use an upside down social web design model for my new domain in the wilderness – http://b2bpull.com – which will be the home of a new digital agency focused on b2b pull marketing strategy and execution services.

So what does an upside down social web design approach look like?

Well, the first key is to keep the customer at the center of your plans, not the product or service you plan to offer. My current web site – https://bradenkelley.com – is all about me – my thinking, my services, my creations, etc. I am the product, and I sit at the center. The web site in this evolving case study – http://b2bpull.com – will be built with b2b marketing managers at the center, and now I’ll lay out what the steps in a pull marketing approach to social web site design should be.

Blackjack!

Here are the 21 steps to building an Upside Down Social Web Design:

  1. While you are exploring what product or service to offer to potential customers, also explore how they shop for the kind of product or service you are going to offer. Seek to understand where their areas of confusion are, and what kinds of information they seek out to help them make the decisions about which companies to consider and which products or services they are interested in learning more about.
  2. Create a simple landing page that tells people what is coming soon, and that contains a simple form asking people what they’d like to know more about. If you go to http://b2bpull.com now you will find not a web site, but a landing page asking people what they’d like to know about b2b pull marketing. So, please let me know what you’d like to know about using content to drive an increase in inbound sales leads, and I’ll work to build answers to share with the world.
  3. Create a simple logo (you can change this later) that is a square image (this is for use as a profile photo in any profiles you create – i.e. Twitter/Facebook)
  4. If your prospective customers are on Twitter, then create an account on Twitter – if they are not, then skip this step. At a minimum, populate your profile with a description of your product or service, a profile image, the URL of your landing page, and a background image to make your profile more visually engaging and distinctive. Send a tweet or two letting people know what you’re planning to do and inquiring what people would like to know more about (as it relates to your specialty area). Do research to find out who else tweets interesting things about your specialty and start following them. Retweet one or two interesting things that they share (every day) – be sure and use appropriate #hashtags in your re-tweets to help people find them.
  5. If your prospective customers are on Facebook, then create a Facebook page and at a minimum populate it with a profile photo, a cover image, and an about us. If your prospective customers do not spend time on Facebook, then skip this step. Add links to the one or two interesting things that you find on Twitter each day that relate to your specialty area. That will start giving you some interesting content on your Facebook page (instead of it staying blank), feed it into your fans’ Facebook content streams, and give people an idea of what to expect in the future.
  6. Look for interesting groups on Linkedin that focus on your specialty area and join them. Consider starting your own Linkedin group. See what people are sharing in the groups you join. Consider sharing some of what you find on Twitter in the discussions area of the groups that you join (or create) to add value.
  7. Scour the web for sites and blogs in your specialty area that are ideally independent of any one company, publish interesting content, and have multiple contributing authors. Ask your friends and network connections in your specialty area for recommendations too. Use Alexa, Compete, and other tools to identify which of the sites get the most traffic.
  8. Refer to your research in step #1 to identify which topics in your specialty area that customers look for information on the most to help them further their progress along their purchasing journey. Hopefully one or more of these topics you will have deep knowledge and expertise on. Commit to writing a white paper on one of these topics.
  9. See if one or more of the sites in step #7 will allow you publish an article announcing your research effort for this white paper on their web site in order to build interest and hopefully participation in this effort.
  10. Write the white paper (ideally with contributions from current or prospective customers), and when complete, create one or more articles for digital publication from each white paper.

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  12. Add another simple form to your landing page for people to fill out with name/company/title/email/phone in order to download the white paper (make phone optional) and ask their permission (with a check box) to send them information about an upcoming webinar to discuss its findings.
  13. Create an electronic presentation to share the findings of the white paper you’ve created. Be sure to embed contact details in it and a link to your landing page (which will become your web site later).
  14. Create accounts on presentation sharing sites like Slideshare and Scribd and share the presentation you’ve created. Be sure that you fill out your profile on these sites and include a link to your landing page as part of your profile if possible.
  15. Inquire with the most promising sites identified in step #7 to find out if they accept article submissions and submit one or more of the articles you created from your white paper.
  16. Identify short snippets from the white paper and articles that work well as quotes or insights and will fit into status updates on Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, Google+, or other communities where it makes sense to share them. Be sure and include a shortened url (bit.ly, su.pr, ow.ly, etc.) to the article, presentation, or white paper.
  17. Look for professional associations and complimentary vendors in your specialty area that conduct regular webinars and ask if they would be interested in doing a webinar with you to share the findings of your white paper with their members or current/prospective customers. If you do a webinar, be sure that they record the webinar and share the link with you to the recording (and hopefully the email list of attendees). Check to see if they can provide a recording of the webinar in a video format that you can share. If you can’t find someone to do a webinar with to share your findings, consider doing one yourself. While having a large number of people attend live is helpful, what is more important here is the recording (you can help potential customers find this 24/7/365).
  18. Add the link to the webinar recording to your landing page.
  19. Create an account on YouTube and possibly also on Vimeo and populate your profile in a similar manner to Twitter (not neglecting to link to relevant assets). Upload the video file from the webinar (if you were able to get one), plus add it to your Facebook page if you’ve created one. If you are comfortable in front of the camera, consider recording a separate video segment highlighting the key findings from your white paper to upload to your video channels.
  20. Be sure and share links to the white paper, the webinar, the webinar recording, and any articles you created from the white paper through your Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, and any other communities linked to your subject matter.
  21. Repeat as many times as necessary until you have enough content to build your web site.
  22. Last but not least, design and build your web site, incorporating all of the content elements that you created. Not only will it be easier to build the web site because you have already built a lot of the content required to populate any design your web designer might come up with, but the quality of your web design may improve and be more social because the designer will have a clearer idea of what you are selling and the goals you are trying to achieve with your new web site.

The importance of social media in the internet ecosystem is only continuing to grow, and so it is time to design web sites in a different, more social way. The way that people buy things, especially more complicated products and services with longer cycles (particularly B2B products) is changing as well. This will make marketing organizations focus more on pull marketing and less on push marketing. This will force marketers and entrepreneurs to focus less on building beautiful, flash-driven web designs and more on building valuable, socially-driven, content-rich ecosystems (of which the web site is only a part).

In short, the future of marketing belongs to marketers who are good at creating social pull.

So, how strong is your social pull?

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Dumping Facebook Ads the Obvious Choice for GM

Dumping Facebook Ads the Obvious Choice for GMThe twittersphere erupted with news of GM’s announcement that it was refusing to pay for 2013 Super Bowl advertisements and $10 Million worth of advertising on Facebook.

Much of the popular press and self-proclaimed social media experts are jumping on the bandwagon and calling GM “idiots” for ending their advertising of Facebook and talking about how GM “doesn’t get” social media. If you listen to the amount of noise out there you would think that there was consensus that GM was wrong in making these moves.

I disagree. GM is making the right move.

Companies need to re-think how they spend money on marketing and advertising to make money in the showroom. Traditional advertising is becoming more expensive all the time and as the saying goes “I know I’m wasting half of the money I spend on advertising, only I don’t know which half.” The key here is that with advertising you pay to blast everyone that sees it with a single message – including people who just bought what you sell and those who will never buy what you sell just to hit the people who are considering a purchase of what you sell. As a result it is expensive and nearly impossible to place the right message with the right people at the time (and only those people). So I am not surprised at all that GM is re-evaluating its advertising spend, possibly investing more (not less) in the future in social media. Done well, you can be more impactful with pull marketing and social media than you can with push marketing and advertising.

So, personally it seems odd to me that so-called social media experts are in favor of a company spending money advertising on social networks. Wouldn’t it be smarter for them to advocate that GM spend money on build an interactive, engagement-driving social media campaign instead of spending money on advertising?

Something like the Chevy Game Time App?

Wait a minute, did the same company that doesn’t “get social media” launch an app built by hometown company – Detroit Labs – before Super Bowl 2012 that rocketed into the Top 10 free apps for the iPhone on Apple’s App Store (a top 10 that included Facebook and Instagram)?

“For all intents and purposes, all of the expectations that we had and that GM had were far exceeded… in a positive way!”

– Henry Balanon, Detroit Labs Co-Founder

Hmmmm…

First let’s be clear. Social networks and social media are two separate things, but people talk about them as is if they were one thing.

A social network is a place where people connect online and interact, whereas social media is content that is created to be shared. But, many so-called social media experts confuse the two, and confuse advertising with social media too. Advertising on a social network is not a social media strategy – it’s still advertising. Identifying the content that you should place on your Facebook page or other digital destination and creating a reason for people to tell others that they should come to that digital destination, well that’s a social media strategy.

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Now, I must disclose that I specialize in helping companies creating pull marketing strategies to drive an increase in inbound sales leads by researching the customer purchasing journey online and then helping them attract and engage customers, partners, or employees by placing the right content in the right places at the right time. Part of this is achieved by using my proprietary single content input, multiple content output methodology and yes, that sometimes includes using social media. But social media is a tool not a religion, and it needs to be used only when appropriate.

I think GM made the right call in ceasing to advertise on the Super Bowl and Facebook and here’s why:

  1. Super Bowl advertisements are expensive and for GM much of the cost is allocated against people who will probably NEVER buy a GM car
  2. Facebook advertising is not very prominent or engaging
  3. Their Chevy Game Time App experience should have given GM an idea that next year they can drive huge engagement during the Super Bowl (without advertising)

If GM is so clueless at social media, then why does the Facebook page for Chevrolet look so much better than the Facebook page for Ford or Toyota or Dodge. Honda is the only one I looked at amongst the car companies that had a more social feel at first glance, oh and Honda has the most likes of these companies too – go figure. But the engagement of people on Facebook around these brands is tiny in comparison to BMW, Mercedes-Benz, and Harley-Davidson – both in terms of the numbers of likes and the number of people talking about them.

So, yes GM still has things to learn about engaging on social media (and about building better products too), but then so does every company. Social media and pull marketing are two new tools in the toolbox for every CMO, brand manager, and product marketer, but as long as we all continue to instrument for learning, as marketers we will continue to get better at utilizing these new tools to attract, engage, and retain the people who will love our products and services as much as we do.

Keep innovating!

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Who is in Your Social Media Band?

Who is in Your Social Media Band?It used to be that when you formed a rock band to seek fame and fortune, all you had to do was find a lead singer, a guitarist, a bass player, a drummer, and maybe another guitarist or a keyboard player if you wanted a richer sound. But the digital age presents a level of complexity and opportunity that John, Paul, and Ringo never had to deal with.

If video killed the radio star, or tried to, then YouTube will certainly finish the job.

In the old days (come on, rock music is less than 100 years old), bands played at their local high school, then maybe the local club circuit, recorded a demo and sent off demo tapes, and finally if they were lucky they were ‘discovered’ by a record exec and signed to a record deal.

In the digital age, aspiring rock stars need to consider the social media and marketing skills of potential band mates as much as they scrutinize their skill with a particular musical instrument. In the digital age your skills with YouTube are almost more likely to make you a rock star then your skills with a guitar.

Just look at Pomplamoose – nearly 80 million video views and 340,000 subscribers. They have more YouTube subscribers than mega-stars Coldplay.

If we look at a new song as an invention and at my Innovation is All About Value framework through a music lens, you will quickly see why social media and creativity are so important in the music business and why new singers and bands can seemingly come from nowhere on the Internet.

1. Value Creation

  • A new song (Is the song any good?)

2. Value Access

  • How easy do you make it for people to find this new song, listen to it and buy it?

3. Value Translation

  • Do you do a good job of making people want to add the song to their playlists and to share the song with others? Do you engage them and make the song a part of them?

The power of #3 is magnified on the Internet (both if you do it well or poorly). Just look at the fact that Gotye created an AWESOME song ‘Somebody That I Used to Know’ and the video for it has received 600,000 page views, but a little known Canadian band Walk Off The Earth released a YouTube video covering the song and their cover has generated 83 million page views and an appearance on The Ellen DeGeneres Show.

Why?

More passion, and a better, more engaging story (ultimately better value translation that was worth sharing).

So all you teenyboppers out there putting together the next great rock band, beware. In this new digital reality we all live in, you can’t think just about guitar, vocals, bass, drums, and keyboards. You must also think about who in the band you are considering putting together (unless you actually have money to pay someone) will make you look awesome on:

1. YouTube
2. MySpace Music
3. Twitter
4. Facebook
5. Band Web Site
6. Other places (Spotify, iTunes, etc.)

Yes, I said MySpace. The site remains incredibly relevant despite being eclipsed by Facebook thanks to its understanding of how to help bands create valuable pages for fans. Facebook still sucks at this. If I were Google and didn’t want Google+ to die a slow death, I would buy MySpace and incorporate the Music capabilities into Google+. It would make a great pairing with YouTube. They might want to buy Spotify while they are at it to bolster their unfortunately pathetic Google Play offering.

One other interesting contrast to draw between the successful bands spawned by YouTube versus the successful bands spawned by the old guard. YouTube successes tend to be very human and engaging in their approach, while old guard bands tend to be very aloof, distant, and well-packaged.

What kind of musical band and social media band will you be?

Here are the two different ‘Somebody That I Used To Know’ videos, starting with the original by Gotye:

Followed by the Walk Off the Earth cover:

Image Credit: Foxhound Studio

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How Not to Do Social Media

How Not to Do Social MediaDespite the fact that Twitter has been around since 2006 and Facebook has been around since 2004, social media is still the bright shiny object in the room (it’s still the current marketing fad). People still think they are being innovative if they use it, and unfortunately many people still approach it as something separate and scary instead of treating it as just one tool in the toolbox of anyone working in marketing or innovation. Yes, I linked social media to innovation in the last sentence and that’s because in the same way that social media is a tool that all marketers must learn how to use as part of an integrated marketing campaign, innovation managers must also learn how to use social media properly as part of their innovation efforts.

So let’s get to our latest case study of how not to do social media by taking a look at a poorly run Facebook contest.

Back in July I wrote an article about the effect of social media on contests called – Does Social Media Corrupt Contests?

This article was written from an outsider’s perspective looking in. Well, in December I decided to dive into the Facebook contesting world and enter a contest for an energy-efficient big screen television hosted by the NEEA in hopes of winning a 55″ Samsung LED TV. Here is a quote from their Energy Efficient Electronics micro-site about what they do:

The Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance (NEEA) is a private non-profit organization funded by Northwest utilities, the Energy Trust of Oregon and the Bonneville Power Administration. NEEA works in collaboration with its stakeholders and strategic market partners to accelerate the sustained market adoption of energy-efficient products, technologies and practices. NEEA’s market transformation efforts address energy efficiency in homes, businesses and industry. Its mission is to mobilize the Northwest to become increasingly energy efficient for a sustainable future.

My local utility, Puget Sound Energy, is a member of this organization.

Now let’s get to why my experience with this contest makes this an example of how not to do social media.

Background: The contest organizers – MartketShift Strategies (on behalf of NEEA) – operated the contest on Facebook. It was only open to people living in a handful of states and involved submitting captions for up to five photos provided by the contest organizers for public voting and judging of the finalists. Five televisions were up for grabs as prizes. There were two example captioned pictures – one using humor, and one focused on energy-efficiency. I decided to focus on humor. The rules stated that the five entries for each picture receiving the most votes would then be considered the finalists and would be judged, and that nobody could win more than one prize.

Here is a quick chronology of my experience highlighting some of the strategic failure points:

  1. I never saw the contest mentioned anywhere – including in my utility bill – a friend of mine who enters contests as a hobby suggested that I enter – so I did
  2. In order to enter the contest I had to “like” the Energy Forward page (and allow the contest app access to my Facebook account) – which I was hesitant to do
  3. Anyone who I asked to vote for my entries would have to also “like” the Energy Forward page and then also allow the contest app access to THEIR Facebook account. This is a big hurdle, and in fact most contest entries ended up with ZERO votes or one vote – including some of the ultimate ‘winners’ – but more on that later.
  4. I’m assuming the contest was run to support of some sort of educational goal or action goal around some televisions being more energy efficient than others, but the benefits of one TV over another were not immediately clear or integrated into the contest
  5. My wife and I each voted for my entries ONCE PER DAY and I picked up a few votes from other people. Meanwhile, apparently there was a hole in the application that allowed some individuals to cheat and vote for themselves lots of times per day by refreshing the page and voting again or whatever. The end result was that on the leaderboard you could clearly see that most of the leaders had many more ‘votes’ than ‘views’ (a legitimate vote registered both a view and a vote while a page refresh vote did not increment the view counter).
  6. When the votes versus views issue was brought to the attention of the contest organizers, instead of disqualifying the offending entries they chose to hide the number of votes entries had received
  7. Tweets to @nwalliance with concerns about the contest went unanswered
  8. The gaming behavior was allowed to stand and so three of my entries did not qualify as finalists, but even with the gaming behavior two of my entries did qualify as finalists
  9. The contest organizers then chose to not even follow their own rules, and when the winners were announced there were two ‘winners’ who were not even finalists – in fact one of the ‘winners’ was not even in the Top 14 vote getters – meaning that their entry probably did not even receive any votes (most entries had zero votes). This of course caused a huge uproar.
  10. Then probably most shockingly, the contest organizers in response to the public outcry responded “NEEA has full discretion…to change the rules at any time if needed for the best interests of the Contest and the participants.”
  11. In the end the contest organizers decided to award two more televisions, but ended up awarding them to people who gamed the contest (more votes than views), so the end result was that of the seven televisions awarded, five went to people who gamed the system (more votes than views) and two to non-finalists.

So what can we learn?

The most important thing to learn from this example of how not to do social media is that when utilizing social media as a tool to help you achieve your innovation or marketing campaign goals, you must keep those goals front and center in everything you do and ask if each campaign component supports your goals and your strategy. This is also a great example of how lots of people will tell you they are social media experts, and not really know the first thing about how to utilize the tools properly to support innovation or marketing campaign goals.

You can also see from this example that contests can be a hornets nest and that more often than not people try to game the system. This is why some people who provide idea management software solutions have chosen not to have badges and other similar elements (or to allow for those components to be turned off). This is also why if you choose to have any kind of voting component, particularly where any kind of prize is involved, that you set very clear guidelines for voting and do so in a way that maximizes the chance that the voting ends up being about the quality of the submission and not about the size of the entrants’ network.

‘Viral’ doesn’t come for free. Social media experts will try and convince you to use the tool to go ‘viral’ and get the crowd involved, but when you choose get the crowd involved and let them vote, you need to be ready and willing to let their votes count, otherwise you’ll destroy trust (and even brand equity). If you choose to engage the crowd in a public way you need to use their input, otherwise you’ll suffer very public consequences. If you’re looking for a higher level of quality in your submissions from a large number of people, consider using a more expert crowd instead (Innocentive, Hypios, Idea Connection, Nine Sigma, 99 Designs, TopCoder, etc.).

And last, but probably most important in my mind is that you need to walk the experience and look for potholes. The Marketshift Strategies folks definitely fell down on the job here. There were far too many barriers to participation in this contest, very little strategic integration, they should have anticipated the gaming of the system and written the rules better, and they should have actually followed their rules and the spirit of the contest a little better so that the people who didn’t game the contest and instead legitimately gathered votes were rewarded. The good thing is that without examples to dissect of how not to do social media, we wouldn’t all be able to learn how to use this powerful but dangerous tool in our innovator’s and marketer’s toolbox.

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Joy is BMW – Marketing Innovation or Marketing Failure?

I came across the following video of a BMW advertising installation thanks to a tweet from Blogging Innovation contributor @RowanGibson and I think it serves as a perfect case study of how one firm – in this case BMW – can succeed and fail in utilizing some of the modern incremental innovations in the traditional marketing methods (including social media) to bond itself to an emotion – in this case ‘joy’.

First, watch the video, then we’ll examine where BMW has done well and where they have failed to harness the power of social media in creating the perception that ‘Joy is BMW’.

Successes:

1. BMW attempts to stake a claim to an emotion (joy) that no other car company is pursuing
2. The video has already had 115,000 views in one week
3. Lots of people are re-tweeting the video and including ‘BMW’ and ‘joy’ in their tweets on Twitter

Failures:

1. If you do a search on Google, Bing, or Yahoo! for “joy” – BMW is not in the top ten search results
2. Compounding this failure is that BMW is not doing any search engine marketing on the term “joy”
3. The startup video was herky-jerky after waiting a long time for it to load on the Joy is BMW page
4. The ‘Joy is BMW’ page is boring, not search engine friendly, and not social – there is no way for people to participate – no real value to the page
5. The 3D building projection event from Singapore is not featured on the ‘Joy is BMW’ page
6. There is no way for people to have conversations about the video (other than on YouTube)
7. BMW is not active on Twitter and makes no mention of Singapore event or ‘Joy is BMW’ campaign
8. No videos or photos related to ‘Joy is BMW’ on Facebook or mention of it by any of their 679,000+ fans
9. http://www.joyisbmw.com not purchased by BMW before launching the campaign
10. http://www.miseryisbmw.com also not purchased by BMW before launching the campaign

Unfortunately the failures list could be much longer, but I will stop here in the interest of brevity. The really sad thing about the ‘Joy is BMW’ campaign is that people want to be more social with BMW, they crave it, but they are not really being provided the opportunity.

To be honest, after watching the video of the experiential event I was expecting BMW to have created this forward-thinking integrated conversational marketing campaign to go with it, so imagine my surprise when the emperor’s new clothes fell off when I started looking around the social media universe.

BMW, there is still time to save the campaign. If you need some help (which it looks like you do), let me know and I’ll be happy to jump in, line up some great creative teams around the world, and knock out a great conversational marketing strategy to salvage the campaign.

What do you think? Has BMW blown a golden opportunity to go social with ‘Joy is BMW’?

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