A case study for the acceptance of social media

It can be difficult to convince non-users of the social web about its real world benefits. One method that can be effective is to take a brand that virtually everyone has used or is aware of and point to their success. Exhibit A:
NPR has been one of the more aggressive and forward thinking of all media outlets in their adoption of social media. The end of virtually every single show on their air is tagged with a call to action to go to their website and download a podcast. They have essentially perfected the Tivo for radio concept that I have been longing for forever. The music player (which we have written about in the past) is great and they allow you to  create your own programming day and listen to it in the order you want, whenever you want. I have found this especially useful for shows that I like but are not available on my local NPR affiliate, or might come on at an inconvenient time.

Well, now they are adding more social media functionality to their site. You will now be able to create Facebook-like profiles and list your favorite books, movies, NPR shows, friend up NPR hosts etc. The station is also expanding its API library so local radio stations, and ordinary people, can incorporate its content into their own applications. One tool plots the subjects of NPR stories on a world map. Another lets people listen to stories on their iPhone.

NPR also plans to increase the flexibility of its podcast downloads, which have tripled in use over the past two years.

“The initiatives will both further its goal of spreading information worldwide, and draw in younger audiences — which represent the future for fundraising at NPR’s member stations,” says the AP.

So what have been the results year over year? We already mentioned that podcast downloads have tripled, but unique site visits have gone up 78% since last year. What about money? Well, wouldn’t you know that fund raising is up, too.

All of these changes did not happen without a fight. In fact, former CEO Ken Stern left last March over his hesitancy to adopt some of these changes, but NPR is moving down the right path and prospering as it does.

An ear-opening case from a recognized brand.

Echoing some thoughts on the social media echo chamber

The blogs written by Jason Falls and Chris Brogan are ones that I quite enjoy, and are well worth checking out. (Jason is the Director of Social Media for a Lousiville-based brand building firm called Doe-Anderson and Chris works for Cross Tech Media in Boston, advising companies on how to use social media to build relationships and deliver value.) It’s probably not a coincidence, but they each recently posted about similar topics: How marketers and PR people can best advocate for the incorporation of social media tools into a client’s overall communications strategy.

The gist of what they were both saying was the time has come for all of us in social media consulting  to stop talking to each other, and better communicate to the “outside world” why this stuff matters. I made a similar observation back in October 2007 after returning from the New Media Expo, a trade show which focuses more heavily on podcasting. I think the three of us agree that there needs to be much less emphasis on cool tools and the next shiny thing and more emphasis on what the net benefits are to the client.This lesson sometimes gets lost.

I believe it is equally important to communicate that a social media strategy does not REPLACE what companies are already doing (unless, of course, they aren’t doing anything at all) but augments and adds nuance to what they’re doing.

I think all of us consultants have had the same experience while attempting to initiate the uninitiated. Some clients don’t understand, some are skeptical and some are even downright hostile to the notion for various reasons.  But there are no silver bullets and it is becoming increasingly important to help clients realize that one size never did, and never will, fit all.

Here’s a suggestion: instead of jumping in and listing all the things a well-executed social media strategy can do, try grabbing their attention with a couple of stats, anecdotes or success stories. I tend to use ones that are more video related, such as a recent study that showed that YouTube accounts for 10% of all North American internet traffic. (Not video search, ALL INTERNET TRAFFIC.) Or another study that suggested that 93% of all Americans believe that companies should have a social media presence. What I am getting at is, you need to help people understand why they should care, show them that social media is more mainstream than they realize and that it’s not just 12-year old girls on MySpace and Facebook.

The tools don’t matter. Results matter. Engagement matters. And I bet their company’s growth and prosperity matters to them.


Some cool apps we love

We’ve got a new podcast episode up in iTunes. We don’t usually do podcasts with tips, tricks or lists but this time we couldn’t resist. We’ve come across a few very cool apps that we wanted to share with you that help in three important areas: music, productivity and sports.

Also, listen for a special announcement at the end of the podcast.

Thanks for listening. And tell a friend.

Listen live by clicking here.


E-mail is not dead

As a follow up to our last post, I wanted to give a tip about how to extend the reach of your video content. This may seem like a no-brainer, or perhaps even unfashionable, but there is really no substitute for e-mail. We have seen the tendency within corporations to create a series of videos and then “post ’em to YouTube,” as if you were casting breadcrumbs on a duck filled pond. If you’re not in the pond where the ducks are, you are looking at a long, slow build to getting your video content seen and shared.

There is a parallel argument out there that “no one uses e-mail anymore.” I am loathe to even address this argument as it is demonstrably false. All the consumer trends indicate that we are using it more and it’s more pervasive in our lives than ever. Sure, there is texting and Twitter and other things that in certain instances may offer a better option than e-mail. But just think about how big a role e-mail plays in your own life.

There are lots of reputable, reliable e-mail marketing services out there that you can sign up with and they offer lots of wonderful features for not a ton of money. (We have used ConstantContact with great success, but there are others.) Tracking open rates, stats, good looking HTML templates or the option to create your own, if you’re so bold. As a business owner, you probably have a pretty solid e-mail list and you probably do a good job of communicating with your customers already. Adding video to an e-mail makes it that much more likely to be opened and maybe even forwarded. So along with the “post it to YouTube” strategy, I would take a long hard look at e-mail marketing, too.

The lesson we try and hammer home on this blog is that in this ever fragmented world of content creation and distribution, you can no longer force people to come to your content. You need to deploy it to where the audiences are.

Become your own TV network

Clearly, I am biased, but if you’re trying to tell the story about your company’s products or services, video will trump text everytime.

But what other benefits are there to creating, AND OWNING, your great video content? Well, in the first place, you have complete control of your own brand’s story and message. But, perhaps more importantly, you control the distribution. Instead of buying out of reach advertising on TV, you can create your own channels online to distribute your content. It’s worth remembering that “www” stands for WORLDWIDE web. Nowadays, internet users (read: everybody) expect to find video when they search.

Online video can help you reach multiple goals at once:

  • SHOW, don’t tell, about a new service or product or destination.(Remember what your high school English teacher used to say? I think the band Rush might have said it, too.)
  • Introduce your employees or executives to the public. This is not ideal or even necessary for every business, but imagine if your people ARE your business. Think of a law firm or accounting practice. Maybe even a dental practice where people can be hesitant, or even fearful, of engaging. There is an adage that people don’t buy things, they buy people. If you can jump start the sales process, you are ahead of the game.
  • Enhance your company’s credibility and shorten the sales cycle with potential customers.

There are so many ways to get your content distributed, and tracked, widely nowadays that there is no excuse to NOT be online. Obviously, you want people to come to your website, but they might not. So you need to be where they are. You must deploy your content to where the audiences are.

Don’t misunderstand: quality matters and slapping up any old video can often do more harm than good. But a well thought out and executed online media plan is a must in today’s marketplace.

Now, how do you make sure people actually SEE your awesome video? Check back next week for that all important follow up post.

Tivo is good for your love life

I just LOVE stories like this. Makes me feel vindicated in my Tivo-centric sedentary lifestyle.

According to a recent survey, 70% of DVR users say they can’t live without it. They go on to say that among technology gadgets, it is ranked second in importance only to the mobile phone. (I would mention that the company that conducted the survey creates the technologies necessary to deliver digital content to set top boxes and DVRs. Kind of like the Egg Board revealing that, gasp!, eggs are good for you! I said I WOULD mention it, but I’m not going to. No, I am not going let a conflict of interest get in the way of vindicating my nightly entertainment ritual. I will only cite surveys that already echo what I know in my heart to be true.)

60% of DVR owners with a partner felt it improved their relationships since it eliminated fights over what to watch, and exposed the other one to new programs. See, honey, “American Chopper” IS great, isn’t it?

Ah, Tivo. You’ll never abandon me.


Measuring the success of your online video strategy

As we all continue to refine our thinking about how “success” is measured in terms of your online video strategy, it is important to keep a couple of things in mind.

First, what IS your strategy. Too often I hear things like, “We need to get a video on our website,” or “We need to be on YouTube.” Maybe you do. But have you fully considered why? And exactly what the videos are meant to achieve?

I would agree with Forrester research analyst Jeremiah Owyang when he suggests that job one needs to be making your content embeddable and, consequently, more easily shared. As we have written before here, here and here, to  give up control is to gain control. I’m not trying to go all David Carradine, Kung Fu master on you, but think about it: people are sharing videos and talking about your company or product already. Naturally, you hope they’re saying positive things. And if they are, moving pictures beat words on a page any day of the week.

But while people are using your content however they wish, we need to stop thinking so much about the hit or click as the sole measurement of success. The conversations are happening. You may as well do all you can to try and lead them.

Internet perspective

I have been thinking a lot lately about how one’s perspective and frame of reference informs worldview. Many of us in the geekosphere lose sight of the “real world” sometimes as it pertains to the latest tools, software and other gadgets we love to play with and talk about. I am constantly reminded that the vast majority of the population has never heard of Twitter, doesn’t understand how easy RSS and a feed reader can make your life, doesn’t realize the significance and power of messaging through embeddable online video, etc etc etc. When you talk over people’s heads, you run the risk of alienating people, perhaps permanently.

I recently returned from a European vacation that terminated in Barcelona. I went with my friend who, like me, loves to eat. He spent a lot of time before we left the US researching places to try, using resources like Chowhound and others. It led us to a somewhat difficult to find tapas place on that was better known only to locals. We struck up a nice conversation at the bar with a mid-30s couple who lived around the corner. They were surprised that we had found the place at all since it’s far from the main drag. The woman made a point of saying she lived in Barcelona and it had taken HER a long time to find out about it.

Somehow the conversation turned to the internet and I asked them about their online habits, especially from home after they put their little ones to bed. The husband asked me, “What’s on the internet? I mean, I know there’s tons of information there, but why would I spend my time hanging around online?”

I didn’t have the heart to tell him how we had found the restaurant in the first place…

What Social Media does for businesses

Social media continues to make inroads into everyday business practices. Yet I still find myself spending a lot of time explaining the value and benefit of a social media program (notice I did not say “campaign”). I know that many of you Social Media professionals out there face the same problem. Chris Brogan’s recent post entitled “What Social Media Does Best” does a great job of enumerating the many ways companies large and small, for profit and non-profit, can benefit from a well-crafted plan. You can check the post for yourself, but here are a few items on the list that I thought deserved highlighting:


  1. Social networks can amass like-minded people around shared interests with little external force, no organizational center, and a group sense of what is important and what comes next.
  2. Social news sites show the popularity of certain information, at least within certain demographics.
  3. Social networks make for great ways to understand the mindset of the online consumer, should that be of value to you.
  4. Online versions of your materials and media, especially in formats that let you share, mean that you’re equipping others to run with your message, should that be important (like if you’re a marketer).
  5. Online versions of your materials and media are searchable, and help Google help you find new visitors / customers / employees.
  6. Conversations spread around, adding metadata and further potential business value.

As the first commenter elegantly laid out, social media fundamentally changes the way that people discover information, communicate and connect.


Social Media Camp Miami

This weekend I participated in Social Media Camp Miami, a one-day event on Miami Beach as part of Mashable’s US Summer Tour 2008. If you’re unfamiliar with the “un-conference” format, the agenda is set by the attendees and they follow these four basic rules:

    1. There are no rules.
    2. Everyone is equal.
    3. Give back to the conference by participating actively.
    4. All sessions must obey the law of two feet. If you’re not getting what you want out of the session, you can and should walk out and do something else.

I was very curious to see who would be in attendance and why, since I am still trying to assess the level of activity, interest and participation in new media, social media and 2.0 in Miami. There were a lot of familiar faces, but far more unfamiliar ones, which was encouraging.


On the spur of the moment, I decided to present about the issues I sometimes face with clients in trying to measure the success of a social media strategy. You’re only allotted 15 minutes, but I tried to get information from the attendees as to who they were, what they did and why they had decided to attend this particular event. My feeling is, if I just get up there and drone on about myself, my company and my services, then it becomes a conference like any other, and there would be nothing “un-” about it. Not sure if my presentation added any value, but I did feel a little let down by two things I saw at this particular event (and I have been to many of them).

First, I felt that the some of the sessions turned into product pitches which did little to adhere to the stated goal of having “the brightest minds…share what they know with the world.” There were some pretty shameless sales pitches going on when what was needed, which I TRIED to provide (not making any claims of success), were some tales of experiences in working with social media. I think the South Florida market is still very young as it pertains to social media adoption on the enterprise level. I understand that not every single person in attendance was there because they find themselves in the SM business. But, if the goal is to build awareness and understanding and try and inform people about what is going on in the space, then I think the event may have fallen a little short.

Second, it strikes me that if you’re going to talk about what you know, it is critical to know to whom you are talking. If I am in front of a convention of plumbers, I better not bring my speech geared to the Greater Minneapolis Association of Travel Professionals. Not sure how to tackle this problem since the point of these events is to cast a wide net and, getting back to the law of two feet, if someone sticks with your presentation, presumably they are interested in what you have to say. An issue that goes hand in hand with “know your audience” has to do with promotion of the events themselves. True to its calling, the promotional efforts for this social media camp were done using strictly social media tools (as far as I could tell). I found out about it through both Facebook and an RSS feed I subscribe to. What this produces, however, is a choir of converts who already get it. Again, what’s needed, in my opinion, is a forum to explain to the curious but uninitiated segment of the population who want to learn more about the power of SM but don’t know where to turn. Informal gatherings like these are the perfect, low pressure venue. But it’s not even a matter of all of us preaching to the choir. We need to get a whole new set of people into the church.

Miami’s 2.0 community continues to grow and there are encouraging signs of life in terms of the network of developers, PR people, producers and visionaries. That Miami was even on Mashable’s list of tour stops is hopefully more than just a signal that the event’s organizers wanted to hang out on South Beach for a weekend.

[Yoono.com deserves special mention for their efforts in organizing and keeping things flowing.]