Can marketing and social media coexist?

I posted this as a comment on a LinkedIn discussion forum in the group “Marketing Your Printing Company.”  I’ve pretty much thought of this as my approach since I started down the social media trail.  It’s kinda nice to have it down a paper though.

I think we need to look at the entire process of a sale. The old adage is you need seven impressions on a prospect to make a sale. When I was a headhunter I tracked the numbers and found this more or less accurate.

With social media however – what constitutes an impression? We know back in the “dark ages,” an impression was a phone call or personal letter. With the advent of the internet, emails were also thrown into the mix. But does an email carry the same weight a letter? Probably not. And for that matter, does a word processed letter carry the same weight as one hand addressed? Again, probably not.

Facebook, Twitter ... oh my, what's best!

When we bring social media into the equation, we have to also look at the weight factor. If you’re receiving the same tweet as 400 or even 4000 other people – what’s that worth. Minimal at best. If the tweet includes a @yourname, then it’s worth more. And if the tweet gets your prospect or customer to go to your site or blog (and hopefully stay there for a few minutes), it could be worth as much as a phone conversation. Social media is just another avenue to make impressions. And after enough quality impressions, the goal of gaining or retaining business … should be realized. But quality isn’t about tweeting to the universe and expecting magic.

I’m not a big believer in social media as a lead generation tool. But then again I’m not a big believer in any campaign that doesn’t start with a targeted prospect that you know at least some information on. But with social media, you can gather information on your prospect. For example by using Twitter, you can find out an awful lot about someone. From their tweets you can see what they’re interested in, and if they blog – you find out what they’re passionate about. I’d be hard pressed to find a better avenue into someone’s head than this. But you must have the patience and desire to use this information constructively.

My social media methodology is not to generate random leads, but to build relationships and credibility with people I enjoy spending time with. Through my blogs, comments, tweets and other content I put out there – I hope to come across as someone who people will entrust their business with. That’s assuming what I was offering was pertinent, and that’s assuming I was offering something at all. Most importantly, I hope I would attract the type of people I share interests with and who I want to do business with.

Now my business is different from most. I would suppose the more unique the company is, the more applicable my methodology would be. Heck, I’ve been working on an “elevator speech” for four years trying to succinctly describe what I do – but still to no avail.

Regardless – as in any marketing effort, results from social media marketing take time. It’s no short cut – no matter what the “gurus” profess. Whatever the road you take to your company on, it’s going to take work and persistence. It’s kind of like Thomas Edison said, “Success is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration.”

All this bring’s up a bigger question. What is the purpose of social media? Is the purpose of a blog different from that of Twitter or even Facebook? Much attention is made of the financial implications of marketing “socially.” But is that really why we do it? Is marketing the reason why we stay up way later than we should, and wake up saying good morning to our Facebook friends and Twitter followers before even our family, just down the hall.

I’m willing to think … probably not.

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If you like what you read … please Tweet and follow me on Twitter at @clayforsberg

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Would you follow your own firm’s social media site?

Currently, the next  “great thing” – is marketing your business on Twitter and Facebook.  Being in the direct marketing arena … it’s no different here.  But, I really don’t see a whole lot of benefit for a lot of a these companies that have jumped on the bandwagon … at least how they’re doing it.

Social media ... the Holy Grail?

Social media is really nothing other than another vehicle to communicate with and deliver content.  Now, because of the interactive nature of it … it has enormous potential.  But to realize that potential, companies have to be creative and deliver content that is conducive to interactivity.  Now let’s see what going on and what could go on (at least from my observations).

Current situation:

  1. Basic talk about what the company does and what their services are.  This could be done on a web site since it doesn’t change very often.
  2. Announcement of events / press.  I see companies announce things going on with them and things going on in their communities.  Not bad I suppose.  But most of this content can delivered via print or email assuming they have contact info (which they should if they are followers).  In fact, that would be more effective since a message could be altered to fit the recipient.
  3. Announcements of internal blog posting.  This a good use due to the hot links and the potential to inform your clients and followers of new information and advice that may help them.  Unfortunately, very few printers have blogs and write any original content.  There is great opportunity here to present your firm as the expert.
  4. Referring other relevant industry information.  The key word here is relevant.  This can be a good use of social media.  It can keep a company’s customers and prospects abreast of  “stuff” going on their industry (i.e. trend, tips, etc.).  The problem I see here is that everybody mentions the same articles.  And most of them are about how “print isn’t dying.”  Enough already.

I summary – a couple of the above applications make sense and are probably worth the time and effort of the social media upkeep.  But aside from blog comments, they don’t accommodate any interactivity, thus missing the real potential of social media.

What a company should do:

  1. Don’t push your services.  Unless a service is new, your following probably already knows what you do and what equipment you have.  Save this for the website.
  2. Announce your events, relevant community items and your blog postings.  Social media is a targeted efficient way to show that your firm is alive, from a personal sense.
  3. Create a Twitter or Facebook forum pertaining to the business they do with you.  Best Buy does it and they answer every Tweet.  In the digital printing industry, it could involve a discussion on gathering and  preparing data for 1:1 marketing jobs.  Having your followers interact with each other creates a community … a place that they will come back to – giving your firm more opportunities to stay in front of them.
  4. Create a mini job board.  Again, this could be as easy announcing opportunities your clients have on Twitter and Facebook.  Nothing provides you with more kudos than helping advance somebody’s career or helping your clients with an important employment need.
  5. Create a “Doing good things” forum.  Have your clients post causes near and dear to their heart.  This creates camaraderie amongst your followers and let’s them “take a break” from just work issues.  People do have lives outside of work.

Social media like Twitter and Facebook is not there to boost your short-term ROI.  It’s about building relationships, a community, one that will benefit you in the long run – especially at times when the market is not so great, like now.

Your online community needs to be a place where your followers and clients will go back to again and again.  Be a conduit for help.  The more you give, the stronger your bonds will be.  Look at your community as a “general contractor,” for building your clients and followers businesses.

Also, involved members will help you in your “construction” efforts by getting the word out and referring people your way.  You will be considered the expert – somewhere someone can go to get their printing problems solved … whatever those may be.

Your social media presence is a living, growing organism.  If you feed it with the right food and nurture it … it will give great rewards and satisfaction.  But remember, it takes time and attention – and if you don’t give that, it’ll wither and die.

And most of all ask yourself:  Would you follow your own firm?  If so, you’re on the right track.  Just be patient.  If not … well, you have some work to do.

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I can be reached on Twitter at @clayforsberg

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Millennials Rising!

Over the past year I’ve been writing about the Millennial Generation, Generation Y and their propensity to band together and move as groups. We see it with the proliferation of social media, heck, social media was invented by this generation, literally. Recently – here and elsewhere, I’ve talked about how workplace and societal treatment needs to be different for this generation. Stress collaboration not competition.

Most Boomers in power however just don’t get it. They view this “grouping together” as being clingy and over-dependant. “If you can’t fight on your own then you can’t fight.”

Well, as generational analysts Neil Howe and William Strauss, authors of the Fourth Turning, so rightly pointed out … history repeats itself. And the generation labeled as “clingy” is actually the same generation labeled as “the Greatest,” the heroes of Normandy Beach. Our boys, and I say all the boys of the Allied forces banded together and did what only a couple of years earlier was assumed impossible. They won World War II.

I believe we may be seeing another Normandy Beach, this time in Egypt and before in Tunisia. Only, the common foe is not Hitler, but rather the dictators on their own soils. The fight for democracy in the Arab world is the war of the Millennials. These are educated young adults who only want a chance. They see their peers in other parts of the world, United States included, having access to opportunities they can only dream. And these are opportunities they see every hour of every day. Because remember, they associate with each other – they communicate. And it doesn’t matter with who or where they’re at. As long as they have common interests.

I’ve been following the uprisings in the Middle East in-depth other the last three weeks. One thing I’ve noticed:  Nobody talks about why what’s happening is happening now. All you hear how is it going to effect us here in the United States, and what would happen if the dreaded Muslim Brotherhood gains control of Egypt. It seems as if there is an edict from above (and where that above is I don’t know), that we keep our ubiquitous “war on terror” front and center. “Anywhere there’s a Muslim, terrorism is sure to follow.”

Well boys and girls … this whole thing in the Middle East is not about being Muslim. It’s not about being a Christian. It’s not about Israel. And it sure ain’t about terrorism.

It’s about generational discontent. These are educated, well-connected, aware young adults who are driving these rebellions. It’s all about loving their countries and wanting to make a go of it. They don’t care if the person fighting next to them is Christian or Muslim or Buddhist or whatever. They’re all on the same team – “the Pursuit of Opportunity Team.” And their team is not prejudice.

It only seems like it’s the western media, the CNNs, Fox News’s, etc – that wants to create division where there are none.

Boomers, take notice … the Millennials are not like you. They’re not hung up on race and religion and sexual preference. They’re way past it. These are your issues – not theirs. Case in point, look at this picture:  “Christians protecting Muslims while they pray.”

I find it interesting that while Egypt’s Generation Y continues their battle for their country in the streets – their Boomer elders are jockeying for positions of power in the new government that will undoubtedly transpire. There are members of current regime claiming to be reformed. There’s members of opposing parties, claiming to be reformed. There’s even someone who’s been in exile claiming he’s the one to make everything all better. They all say they’ll listen to the “youth movement” and hear their plights … whatever. Never mind the only reason we’re having this conversation is because of the “youth movement.”

How this all turns out in Egypt, in Tunisia and wherever else the next rebellion is – is anyone’s guess. All I know, is that with the Millennials new-found confidence in political activism … it really doesn’t matter which of the Boomers take over next. If they don’t pay attention  – they’ll go the way their predessesor did.

They’ll just be an irrelevant old man.

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Will Gen-X and Gen-Y kill the printing industry … or save it?

Over the past couple months, I’ve been following several discussions on LinkedIn concerning the fate of the printing industry.  The talk is all about convergence.  The consensus is that printers, specifically digital printers,  have to embrace electronic delivery systems, including social media, in order to survive.

Now all this is fine.  We all know the industry is in a period of change that is unprecedented – and something has to be done.  We know the what.  The big question though … is the how.

Will this survive?

How do digital printers start becoming full-scale communication firms … or as I contend, communication delivery firms?  I firmly believe the industry is missing the point, however.  And this point will become even more evident in the coming years.

This point is age.  There is a generation gap in the printing industry.  And it’s occurring on two fronts:

  • First:  Who’s going to transition the printing firm into this convergent marketplace.  The majority of the people running the firms are Baby Boomers, age 50 plus.  I’m one of them so I can talk about this.  Is your average print company owner or general manager going to spearhead an effort into social media.  I don’t think so.  Most don’t use Facebook or Twitter, let alone use it effectively.  This transition involves talent … and the talent is in their twenties and thirties.  How many printing firms not only have key people in this age group in positions of authority, but also let them make strategic decisions involving the future of their companies?
  • And second:  Let’s look at the demographics of the people doing the print or communications buying.  Most of the old print buyers have long since retired.  They have been replaced by either Gen-Xers (age 30 to 50) or the younger Gen-Yers.  How many of these people even check their mail on a daily basis.  If they’re anything like my daughter, not many.  Their primary mode of communication and media exposure is electronic and with the younger ones – social media;  Facebook and Twitter.  And on top of that, even if you do recognize this demographics shift – who’s selling to them.  If you have traditional “suit and tie” printing reps driving around delivering proofs … neither your reps nor you will be employed much longer.

All is not doom and gloom however.  We’re in a recession, or at least the end of one.  With recessions as with any economic change – come opportunities.

Business in the communications industry, all sectors of it, is not good.  This includes the companies that are doing the content.  Now I’m talking about social media, web design, back-end programming and all of the other neat stuff that most us know absolutely nothing about.  And guess what, the people owning and operating these firms are same Gen-Xers and Gen-Yers that I spoke of above.  I’m willing to bet that a lot of them would be more than willing to join forces and collaborate with an established printing firm – if not outright sell and stay on as a consultant.

In this scenario, you not only have an inroad from a technological standpoint – you would also have a conduit to the generation of buyers that will determine your future.  You could go out and hire a staff.  But why?  Who’s to say you’re qualified enough to put together the right mix technically and socially.

I wrote a post last year in the middle of the recession and reposted again this year called the Alliance.  The message is still appropriate.

The Sioux and Cheyenne realized it and formed an alliance.  How did that work out for Custer?

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The Baby Boomer, Gen Y communications gap and social media … the solution or the problem?

I got up this morning at 4:30am – and as I do every morning, I attacked my “1st thing To Do in the morning task.”  Today it was clean out the people I follow on Twitter.  I was getting to the point where I couldn’t even delve into the links because there was too much stuff – stuff I had no room in my brain for.

One thing I found myself doing today was taking a look at the age demographics of the people I followed.  I’m a generational analysis freak, so I got off on this.  Out of the 100 or so people I follow, I found that they were pretty much equally distributed after taking out my industry related stuff.  I have about the same amount of Baby Boomers, Generation X and Gen Y tweeters.  As a reference point:  I’m fifty-one, on the cusp of the Boomers and Gen X.

This got me thinking:  Is this a normal distribution?  After looking into who the people who I followed, I looked to who they followed.  I surmised that I wasn’t the norm.  Humans have a tendency to gravitate towards comfort.  And comfort normally lies with those of similar age.  My observations backed this up.

Now this bring us to this post.

As we all know, the mechanics of communication and socialization have changed greatly with the advent of social media.  God, Facebook has 500 million members, Twitter has almost 100 million and LinkedIn has 80 million.  Countless people all over the world spend countless hours tweeting, following, connecting and friending.

The generation gap

Social media has been touted as bringing the world together – connecting people from disparate cultures and enabling them to get to know each other.  But how much “bringing together” is actually actually going on.  From a geographic sense, sure.  But other than that … is social media bridging a communication gap – or is it creating one.

As I mentioned above, according to my informal research, people are spending more time with others in their own age group due to the time they spend on social media sites.  In “the old days,” we made contact with people of all ages because … well, because we just physically ran into them.  When we were teenagers, if we went to our friends’ houses – we saw and talked to their parents.  With no social media, any contact we would have would have to be either on the phone (normally limited because of only having one house phone) or in person.  If you didn’t get out in the real world, you didn’t socialize.  Remember the term “homebody?”

Seldom do the younger people have contact with the people my age, and vice versa.  On the surface this might not seem like a big deal.  There’s always been generation gaps.  But never has there been an opportunity like this with the ubiquity of social media and the connection and communication possibilities it brings.

And not only are we not taking advantage of it … we’re using it to our disadvantage.

The young need mentoring.  They need to hear stories about what happens if they do stupid things.  The need to know that life is not a straight line, but rather a series of ups and downs and cycles.  And the Baby Boomers like me need the nieve optimism that we once had but has now been replaced by risk aversion.  We need the energy.  We need to know that we may be 50 or 60, but we sure as hell don’t have to feel and act like that.  Satchel Paige once posed the question, “How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you were?”

I participate in four social media venues:  LinkedIn, Facebook, Brazen Careerists and Twitter.  Let me tell you how I see these four shaking out from a generational perspective.

  1. LinkedIn: As my twenty year old daughter says – LinkedIn is Facebook for old people.  That kind says it all.  Since it’s broken down primarily by professions, I associate with those within profession, digital printing and database marketing.  I would guess the average age is just about my age or maybe a year or two older, within little age diversity.  I also belong to a social media group.  Average here is about fifteen to twenty years younger – and again with little generational crossover.  In summary … I talk to people may age.
  2. Facebook: I don’t really spend much time here.  My only contacts are mainly those people I went to high school with – my age.  And because of the requirement to approve any “friends,” you circle is probably pretty closed and limited to your real world friends.   Any chance meeting with somebody of another age group is small.
  3. Brazen Careerists: This is a site populated mainly by Gen Yers.  Most of them are go getters and I joined to get the “younger” perspective on things.  A lot of the conversation centers around careers (thus the name) and how to move ahead.  My question is, how can a bunch of twenty somethings give career advice when they’re in the middle of the process themselves.  There’s a resume forum which drives me crazy.  “Employers don’t hire resumes … they hire people.”  I know this may sound trite but the focus should be on making contact with those people in the hiring positions (not human resources).  And these people are my age, 50+, or at the least Gen Xers in their late 30s and 40s.
  4. Twitter: This is my favorite – and until this morning I really didn’t know why.  Now I do.  I can follow and listen to whoever I want to.  And anybody can follow me and listen to what I say.  There are blocking features, but who actually uses them.  As I said at the beginning of this post, my Twittering is “equal opportunity across all age groups.”  I like this.

As you can see, with the exception of Twitter, social media (at least the ones I use) restricts intellectual diversity as much if not more than they accommodate it.

OK, enough of the problem.  Let’s fix the game. Together we can all find a phone booth and put on our capes.  Here’s my solution on using social media to bridge the gap.

First for us old people.

  1. Get on Twitter.  Forage around and open your mind to things that you wouldn’t normally.  Follow young people.  Especially for motivation.  Start with @marsdorian and @jennifer_good.  If you can’t make it happen after reading their stuff – go back to bed and start over.  If you find somebody you like, see who they’re following and get their inspiration from.  Try to follow people across the age spectrum equally.
  2. For all you LinkedIn and Facebook people and followers of other permission based sites:  Find people in the real world and on Twitter and invite them to be your friend and /or connection.  Now I’m talking about people of other generations.  Because of the viral nature of social media, people you bring into your circle will automatically be exposed to your existing group and your existing group to them – and your efforts will be leveraged.
  3. This isn’t really a social media thing but I’m including it anyway.  Listen to music outside your comfort zone, i.e. the stuff the kids are listening too.  “It’s the best way to bridge the communication chasm.”

Now to all you Gen Yers, yes Alexandria – you too … you’re not off the hook.  You have to meet us half way.

  1. Join LinkedIn.  Facebook is not the “be all end all.”  Maybe if you expose some “parent types” to your rambling  machinations, you’ll clean things up a bit.  Just maybe. The more the “old people” (the people who will make your career) are exposed to you the more opportunities you will have.
  2. Get on Twitter.  Again Facebook is not the “be all end all.”  See above for my reasons.
  3. And finally … phones still work.  You can still text your friends till your fingers fall off, but don’t let your vocal skill set totally petrify.  Us “old people” still use the phone.  And at last notice, I don’t think texting has evolved into an mainstream interview tool.

I don’t know much protection these suggestions are going to have against the kryptonite of the social media segregation … but it’s better than just continuing down the road of the status quo.

Enough of my ramblings … I have to get back to Eminem.

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10,000 hours … or is it 10,000 tweets?

I guess this is Malcolm Gladwell day.  My post this morning was on his 120 Rule.  Now this one references the key point in his book, “The Outliers.”

Malcom Gradwell

For those of you who haven’t read “Outliers,” which is probably not many of you, a central premise of the book was that to be an expert at something you had to put 10,000 hours into something.  He cited Bill Gates, Michael Jordan and others.

But how does that equate to social media and specifically Twitter.  As we all know, Twitter is just a bunch of text messages, 140 characters at most, organized and available to who wishes to expose themselves to that litany of literary overwhelm.

Aside from the character restriction, Twitter is pretty much an open content platform.  You can say whatever you want.  That could be announcing a blog post, announcing your breakfast of choice, retweeting one of your follower’s breakfast of choice … and so on.  Some people even use it as a “not so private” communication vehicle.

I’ve followed, unfollowed and re-followed various tweeters over the past few months.  I feel pretty good about what’s coming my way right now.  Maybe there’s some stuff I can live without, and some stuff I like to know about, but haven’t been exposed to yet.  That”ll come.

Tweeting is a skill … an art.  It’s one thing to write down what you want to say in 500 words and get your point across.  It’s something completely else to do it in 140 character bursts interrupted by any one of your several hundred followers at the time when you’re just making your point.  And no I’m not this person. I don’t have several hundred followers.  Even the new math of the ’80s won’t stretch my sixty-five that much.

This brings us to Malcolm and Ben.  Ben is my daughter, Alex’s roommate and my friend.  He’s a video game aficionado, and in fact works for a gaming company and is currently developing his own game.

Ben tweets probably twenty times a day.  Normally, there’s no way I’d follow somebody that tweet prolific.  But Ben is different.  He has a Twitter Tribe of 300 to 400 followers.  Many, if not most, follow everything thing he says, whether it’s gaming or his fragmented and enlightening discourse on current events.

For the most part, his tweets are a sequential interactive dialogue on various topics.  This dialogue may continue on for an entire day or even more;  for example, the Mosque on the 911 site (or two blocks down to be exact) is still going on days into it.  His commentary is witty and thought-provoking.  Seldom does he retweet, and when he does, often it reinforces his point on the original topic.  Ben has refined his Twitter technique through practice and lots of it.

Now, I’m going to add an amendment to the Gladwell “10,000 hour constitution.”  I’ll call it the Twitter Amendment.  If one tweets 10,000 times … they are an expert!

Ben, congratulations on your 10,000th tweet.  You are an expert!

P.S.  Ben is @MarcianTobay on Twitter.

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I can be reached on Twitter at @clayforsberg

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Gladwell’s 150 rule … how does it apply to social media?

In his 2000 book, “The Tipping Point,” renown author, Malcolm Gladwell, cited the example of a manufacturing firm on the East Coast and its adherence to relationship building and numbers.  This firm determined that having more than a certain amount of people in one building or facility would actually prove detrimental to building teamwork and camaraderie.  In other words … the employees wouldn’t get to know everybody and they would form cliques instead.

The magic Tipping Point number

Their magic number was 150.  Up to this point everybody, more or less, would exist like a large extended “work family.”  Any more contacts than that was beyond the normal person’s ability to maintain let alone nurture.  Once they got to 150 in one building (due to expansion), they would split that facility’s workforce and build another building.  They had done this several times and Gladwell was amazed at the teamwork throughout the company.

Further research by Gladwell found that this wasn’t an isolated example.  It was a sociological phenomenon across many disciplines.

I noticed the same situation when I was recruiting.  I may have had a database of over 6000 candidates … but really only communicated regularly with only about 100 to 150 of them.  I actually flagged these as “preferred.”  This was in the nineties well before the “Tipping Point.”  Some faded away over time, but others took their place in the regular call rotation.  However, the number of my core group stayed about the same, 100 to 150.  When I tried expand the number – my rapport with the core suffered.

Now, this brings us to social media.  If you look at the numbers;  Facebook friends, LinkedIn connections and Twitter followers – you’ll see numbers well into the hundreds if not thousands for some people.  The question is, “Is having this number so high beneficial or detrimental?”  Social media is not like working in a company or having real life contacts though.  The difference is how many of these people are active in your life.  How many make comments, tweet your stuff, receive your replies, etc.  And how many are wallflowers – just out there to unilaterally receive whatever you choose to send them.

I suppose a person’s social media “group” is pretty much like my recruiting candidate database.  A certain amount will be your “core group,” those that will be a regular part of your life.  And the rest will be … well, just will be there – being just a number.

What can we learn from this.  Everybody’s situation is different … but is it really?  We use social media to make and further relationships (for the most part).  These relationship are professional, personal or in some cases just conduits for information.  But they are still relationships that involve time and attention.

Maybe we should look at our social media strategy first in terms of numbers.  And maybe that number is 150.

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