Marketers underestimate the ‘owned’ in ‘owned media’

Facebook reportedly slashing organic reach for pages. Or Why you should subscribe to our newsletter. Why am I not surprised.

Whatever the online media mix I’ve always been convinced that a company’s website is the central building block. There are many beliefs that have evolved over time, yet this one hasn’t, I think it’s key for brands to consider the main website as the most important owned media. That and the development of an direct email program. The biggest mistake brands can make is to consider social media as being part of their owned media because social media are at best ‘rented’ but definitely not owned. If it were owned, you would be in control. Hence why you want to make sure that the central element of your online mix is something you can control.

It’s like we’re trying to fix a problem that shouldn’t have been a problem to begin with. The same reason why I don’t like to use the term ‘corporate website’. It defines the website as being a boring thing on the web that holds information about the brand, when it was founded, where it’s located, etc. In that regard I get it that we thought more exciting things could happen on social media. But it’s because we’re using it wrong, look at what Coca-Cola is doing with its corporate website, now here’s something interesting. How come nobody is doing that?

Think about the traffic and engagement you could have created if you would have invested in it all along. Think about how search made every page a homepage and how we can use to design user experiences. How you should invest a lot of effort in making sure there’s no link left behind when you change platforms.

Seriously. Do use Facebook and other platforms to experiment with different types of user engagement, I do too, it’s fun and there’s some really good stuff that can be done. But first and foremost, reconsider the importance of your website and your own email program, that’s an investment in the future that is never lost. It’s the smart thing to do. It’s yours. And quite frankly, if you cannot think of anything interesting to do with your own website, why do you think that problem will fix itself when creating content for social media?

Big data, big promise

Big data is the whole grail of marketing. And yet not many is actually making lots of progress. There’s a good good on that captures well what the state of big data is if you ask me:

“Big Data is like teenage sex. Everybody talks about it. Few do it and they do it in the dark”

As always also here there are the exceptions that prove the rule. Companies like Starbucks or Taco Bells have showcased that they are actually using data to the extreme to help improve their business activities and communications. But in general only little data is being used, it’s something we encounter only occasionally during the marketing activities and also as a consumer I don’t see much return on the fact that people seem to know quite a bit about me.

And I wonder if that isn’t going to become a problem sometime soon. As a tech savvy consumer I know that companies have data on my consumption behaviour, I am very aware whenever I need to give someone personal data and I know that a lot of my online behaviour is public for everyone to see. Because I know, I also expect something in return. There’s a very one on one relationship between filling in a form before being able to proceed to a next stage and in that case you can immediately judge whether handing over that bit of data was worth the return. But that counts also on general consumption, on the data that companies can gather by tracking your behaviour. I know they do and also there, even if less one on one, I expect a return.

I’m ok with my data being used, I want my data being used or even more, I demand my data being used. I think consumers will get ever more aware of the fact that their data is being collected and as a result become more demanding on how they are treated. No more useless questions, seemingly random suggestions, repetitive data collection, … And that makes in my opinion the need for companies to start really using their ‘big data’ even more important. Not just because they indeed can improve their business and communications if they use it right, but because they have to as consumers will start demanding that. So big data is great, but it’s also a big promise!

So if you’re a business owner or a marketing specialist I think you really need to start figuring out which data you currently gather and how you can connect that to make consumers lives better. All in all I believe there are 3 kinds of data we have to think of that are key to improving your marketing & sales efforts:

  • Form fill: data that you’ve asked consumers to fill in, can be at various types of touchpoints, all data people hand over to you to get something in return
  • Usage: usage/consumption data from both sales as marketing activities, everything you collect through the customer journey
  • Public domain: everything people share in public online & offline that relates direct or indirect to your business

So think about it. The companies that are using it are outperforming you and taking a lead and your customers will move to those companies because they are living up to the data promise making the gap even better.

Image credit Avnet.

Social Media Forum: Social Currency

Yesterday I did a talk at the Social Media Forum 2011 in Brussels. It’s a topic that I’m interested in since 2006 or so, the time Hugh MacLeod started talking about “social objects”. You’ll find out why when you keep on reading.

I started the presentation with a quote from Mark Twain I had found only a day earlier:

“The two most important days in your life are the day you are born, and the day you find out why” (Mark Twain)

The reason for that was mainly that as usual in social media related conferences (or actually on many of the stuff that is written about it online as well) is around tactics, hardly ever about the reason why. One of the other speakers asked a question about whether you need to be active on social media or building your own web presence, I think he used the reference ‘fish where the fish are’ to reference social media. To stay in that analogy that is like saying you should either ‘fish where the fish are’ versus ‘making sure your fridge is at the best possible temperature’. In that idea the tactics we’re all focusing in so much is just the same as thinking about tricks to get the fish to hop in the fridge themselves… that’s a silly idea isn’t it?

Enough about fish already. When I think about Social Currency, I can only think of it as the most interesting thing possible in social. What do other have to say about it though? That’s what you can see on the first few slides. A lot of explanation etc, and I can only think NOPE (thank you Chuck Testa). Why do I think it’s more than that? There are 2 cases I used to prove my point.

First one: The Blue Monster. You can read about that on my blog as I’ve written about it several times before, it is that what I believe made Hugh start to talk about ‘social objects’. Explaining what it meant for him. He called it the hard currency of the internet:

“The interesting thing about the Social Object is the not the object itself, but the conversations that happen around them. The Blue Monster is a good example of this. It’s not the cartoon that’s interesting, it’s the conversations that happen around it that’s interesting.”

It was the Blue Monster that gave me, Steve and many other Microsoft colleagues a way into the tech community to talk about Microsoft and how we (as employees) were convinced something was changing on the inside. Only because people didn’t understand why we used the cartoon ourselves. The question to explain that created that window of opportunity.

A more recent example, the second one I used in my talk was the “Bikers” viral we made for Carlsberg 2-3 months ago. I haven’t talked about that video on my blog before, yet there’s a chance you have seen it – as did about 13 million people since launch. You have to see it first before I can further explain:


Apart from thinking it’s funny, what was the first idea on your mind? There’s a good chance it  was something in the lines of ‘would I have done that?’. Carlsberg launched their new baseline recently: That calls for a Carlsberg. And with that also a new proposition. It’s about a ‘reward for a daily act of courage’. And this was our (first) answer to that. Notice that you didn’t just talk about it, you probably discussed about it. It’s almost a social experiment.

That’s what Social Currency is about, a way to create value. That’s also why I think it’s a better word than object. And, it’s not just about talk value, but about discussion value. Make stuff worth discussing. If you keen on doing this, you build Social Capital. And that’s fundamentally much more interesting than learning about a few (ever changing) tactics first.

Hope you like that, feel free to comment. You can find the (small) presentation up on Slideshare:

True innovation

There are probably not a lot of words that get misinterpreted so many times as the word innovation. Anybody today who builds a friends list on their site, who releases an API, who created a ‘viral’ ….(you catch my drift) is innovating. Bullshit. Innovation refers to something that wasn’t done before and most of what happens on the web today is a copy of a copy… so hardly true innovation.

Why this statement? A few weeks ago I met for lunch with the founder of an independent financial services company. He and his marketing manager (who’s an ex-colleague) wanted to know more about whole this social media stuff and they knew I was kind of ‘active’ in that area so therefor the lunch. A quick initial check during lunch on what they knew and didn’t know didn’t take long. Flickr? Never heard of. Okay – get it.

To get the right idea of what needed to be done they then started to explain what their business was and how they saw their company move into the future. And to be honest, they explained me the most innovative business approach that I had heard for a while. Unfortunately I can’t tell you what it is but just take it from me that it was. Everything was there. It’s totally different from the typical business approach in that sector, it gave incredible power to their communities, they really let go of control, … Very cool. So what was missing? The right tools, techniques, services, etc to do so.

And then it hit me again. It’s not because people are on Twitter, Friendfeed, Facebook and blogs that they’re necessarily innovative. On the contrary. If ever that is what an agency or a social media consultant comes to tell you then run away (fast). Don’t turn away though because someone hasn’t heard about Twitter. They still might be more innovative thinkers than the rest of us and you know what the coolest job of all is? Making sure you work with the right people and use the right toolset to translate that really innovative idea into reality. That’s what me thinks.

Oh and for the record, my friends at the independent financial services company is looking for someone to do exactly that.

Euroblog 2008

This last Thursday and Friday I attended and participated in the Euroblog 2008 event in Brussels organized by Euprera – the European PR Education and Research Association. The symposium was very much an academic event with a lot of academic speakers and attendees, and less practioners (at least that’s how I experienced it).

That wasn’t a surprise though, as the event was clearly set up to try and have the academia embrace the need to change. Still, sometimes, I felt like I didn’t belong there. Now I don’t mean anything bad with this, there’s just a very clear gap between the way we all approach things. It made me think of trying/testing out the water in a swimming tool. If you’re a practioner like myself you will get ready for the pool, put your toe in to get an idea of the temperature, probably feel like it’s colder than you would have wanted it to be but you’ll get in the water anyway and start swimming. You’ll talk to other people in the pool, maybe about the water, or maybe about that new glide which you then try out as well. This is the way me (and other people) started their blog, signed up for Twitter, Friendfeed, etc etc. After the presentations from the academia, it became clear that they approach ‘the pool’ in a different way. They talk to people outside and next to the pool about the temperature of the water, use a whole bunch of metric equipment to test the water conditions, relate all that info to ideal human body conditions, etc etc (this still fully dressed of course) to work out a project trajectory to get into the water at some point in time.

And I know this analogy is a bit black&white, but I think you get my point. On Friday I sat on a panel myself that was a mixture between academia and practitioners and there the difference was less visible (on the panel itself). The discussion itself with the panel and audience was pretty interesting to me as well. It highlighted once more some of the fears but also strengthened the idea that there aren’t enough case studies to go by.  At one point I feel this is just another ‘reason’ to keep away of change as long as one can. But as you (might) know from an earlier post I do feel we have to reach out more to get more people embrace the need to change so maybe we should just see what we can do about it – there really is more than just Kryptonite you know ;)

Don’t get me wrong, I did like the event. Some discussions where pretty interesting, some presentations like the one’s of David Jennings and Martin Oetting where very enjoyable and it was very good meeting up with the Edelman Digital crew: Steve Rubel, Marshall Manson, Rick Murray, … but also David Weinberger or Neville Hobson, the latter whom I met in person for the first time after being in several online conversations before.