Making A Change: Leaving Ignite, Joining Pace

Oct 28, 2011 | 7 Comments

A bit of news on the personal front: Today is my last day as Director of Strategic Innovation with Ignite Social Media. As of next Tuesday, November 1st, I’ll be joining the team at Pace Communications (@PaceComm) as Director of Digital Strategy.

Working at Ignite for the past two years has been incredible, both in terms of the daily experience and the insane growth and change the agency has gone through – such as growing 4x in staff count and picking up ridiculously cool clients like Samsung, Microsoft and Chrysler, among many others. I have no doubt that their already impressive client list will become even more enviable as time goes on.

I also had the privilege of working with insanely smart and funny people and getting a crash course on how social media marketing for large brands is *supposed* to work. Throw in all the behind-the-scenes stuff that truly makes Ignite Ignite - like Mystery Trips (Jamaica anyone?), Nerf wars, sarcastic Yammer threads, pups in the office, out-of-context quotes, inspirational and occasionally disturbing brainstorms – and it all adds up to not so much a job as a slightly crazy and very inspirational home away from home.

All of it has been wonderful, and all of it will be missed.

Sometimes however a great opportunity pops up that you just can’t pass by, and that’s the case with Pace. It’s a combination of the right team, role, timing and circumstances that’s making this move happen, and I can’t tell you how excited I am to get started.

Content drives conversation, offline as well as on, and as a content marketing agency Pace is in a unique spot to help companies spark and nurture conversations around their brands, products, experiences, and communities. I get to help drive and shape those efforts across both digital and social – all in all, it’s a pretty cool challenge.

As a bonus, Pace is located just a few minutes from my house, shrinking my daily roundtrip commute from nearly 3 hours to less than 20 minutes. My wonderful, and very patient, wife and kids will get to see a whole lot more of me in the near future (ready or not!).

I’ll share more here and on Twitter (@kevinbriody) as I settle in. Thanks again to everyone at Ignite, and to my future colleague at Pace I’ll see you next week!

Photo by delphwynd via Flickr an CC License

Two Insanely Bad Social Media ROI Arguments

Oct 7, 2011 | No Comments

Doubters notwithstanding, there are some very useful methods and tools, available right now, to understand the return on investment (ROI) for your social media marketing efforts.

I’m not revisiting those here. Rather, this post is about two arguments I’m still seeing pop up time and again from speakers, marketers, columnists, and strategists alike. Arguments that will get you exactly nowhere when it comes time to fight for, and justify, your social media budget.

What are they?

  • The Opportunity Cost Argument aka “What’s the ROI for social media? Well, what’s the ROI on picking up the phone? What’s the ROI on your secretary?” This line of reasoning uses fear to scare managers into investing in social media efforts, in effect saying that your customer expect it, and if you’re not active, not listening or engaging, there is a risk for huge customer dissatisfaction.
  • The Aspirational Argument aka “Those who really know social media aren’t talking about ROI.” This relies variously on the appeal of the shiny and new mixed with the fear of being left behind as a company or professional.

Don’t get me wrong, buried in both arguments are grains of truth and worthy sentiments, particularly around opportunity cost. Depending on your industry, yes, your customers might be very active on social media and your lack of monitoring and engagement could result in both lost opportunities or worse, a disconnect with the needs and interests of your customers.

But acknowledging that doesn’t excuse you from taking steps to quantify what kind of ROI you could reasonable expect for taking the social media plunge – whether it’s a concrete metric like new sales generated or a more indirect, proxy ROI metric like higher customer satisfaction. Your job as a business professional is in part to understand what your company stands to get for money you propose investing – relying on fear and generalities unsupported by numbers is just not going to cut it.

I have less sympathy for the aspirational argument, which seems to be flung around by people who have never run a serious budget, are making their living on the speaking circuit where you aren’t generally accountable for actual results, or simply can’t be bothered to do the hard math. Supporters of this argument fall back on the “cool kids” line of thinking, making others feel dumb or like anti-social luddites just for daring to ask smart business questions.

Social media is rapidly maturing as an element in the marketing and communications mix, and just like the other elements – email, direct mail, TV, PR, digital, etc. – it is reasonable and necessary to try to calculate what you get out of the resources invested.

Don’t make the mistake of falling back on either of these two arguments if you expect to get your next social media initiative funded in the real world.

The Fine Line Between Brand Cause Marketing and Exploitation

Aug 29, 2011 | One Comment

Embracing a cause to help drive your brand is a tried and true marketing tactic, from supporting worthy athletic events to running Tweetathons, there are literally thousands of examples of how to do it right (start here or here, both great resources).

Unfortunately, there are also many examples of how to do it wrong – some well-intentioned if misguided or misinterpreted, and some just flat-out boneheaded or exploitative. It’s in the latter group that Kenneth Cole’s Where Do You Stand campaign sits.

Apparently Kenneth Cole has decided to double down on exploitation of controversial issues. You may recall just in February 2011 the now infamous tweet that so genuinely supported the rising Arab Spring playing out on the streets of Eqypt by…promoting their new spring clothes lineup:

“Millions are in uproar in #Cairo. Rumor is they heard our new spring collection is now available online at http://bit.ly/KCairo – KC” (ed: the “KC” being a shorthand way to attribute the tweet to CEO and namesake Kenneth Cole directly)

As mentioned above, I think cause marketing can be a very effective marketing tactic and one that can be positively received by all sides. However what Kenneth Cole is attempting to do with Where Do You Stand crosses the line from genuine support for a cause into outright hijacking of controversial topics and debate in order to push their completely unrelated product line.

If you haven’t seen it, the campaign poses a range of questions around guns, abortions, gay rights, and war, such as “Are anti-war protests unpatriotic?” and “Should the government have the right to choose?” For each question Cole encourages you to vote yes or no via a Facebook Like button, which helpfully pushes the Kenneth Cole brand and campaign into your Facebook News Feed. It also pulls in a range of Facebook comments and Tweets. While the Facebook comments at least seem to be specific to the Kenneth Cole campaign, the Tweets appear to be a curated list from across the Twitter landscape.

From a technical perspective, it’s not a bad implementation. It’s on moral grounds that this campaign falls apart.

Kenneth Cole is not tying this site or campaign to any charity or broader organizing effort, and any argument that it’s all about raising awareness is undercut, in my view, by the ridiculously blatant and inappropriate ties between emotionally charged statements and Cole’s latest fashion looks. There are no next steps, no guidance on how you can take action, no opportunity to give, no tips on how to make your voice heard. There are just classless promotional items such as the cheesy and useless marketing phrases like “Wear Not War!” on the ridiculous models in the downloadable wallpaper (one of several) below:

So soldiers and civilians are dying by the thousands on distant battlefields, and rather than providing support for worthy organizations on any side of the debate, Kenneth Cole feels their contribution as a company should be to leech off emotion, pain, and suffering by showing off models and providing “helpful” links to a portion of the site called “What You Stand In” where you can pick your fashion looks from among Cole’s selection.

I was trying to end this post on a positive note by coming up with suggestions on how I would fix this campaign – criticism should be constructive wherever possible – but I don’t think that’s possible in this case. This campaign is just too ill-conceived and too far gone. Kenneth Cole should pull this down, lay off Twitter for a while, and take a few weeks or months for a serious gut check of the morals underpinning their marketing practices.

This one should go in the Cause Marketing Hall of Shame.

Being the Corporate Facebook Gatekeeper: 6 Questions to Always Ask

Aug 15, 2011 | One Comment

“We want our own Facebook page!”

This is a post for the beleaguered corporate marketer, who by virtue of talent, vision, policy, or just (possibly bad) luck, sits as the gatekeeper in the organization who gets to decide which brands, sub-brands, teams, or products get to have an official presence in social media.

First off, every organization should have this role, whether it’s vested in one person or, more typically, a virtual team or committee. The alternative is often chaos, where a brand’s social media presence ends up fragmented across tens or dozens of Facebook pages and Twitter accounts, many of them ignored or abandoned.

That’s not hyperbole – I’ve seen it in many clients, and it happens far more often than you might think and even among companies viewed as fairly mature and competent when it comes to social. Brands get that way either by lacking a gatekeeper role, or the when gatekeeper doesn’t ask the right questions of those who want their very own shiny Facebook page.

The following six questions are a starting point to help corporate marketers filter, and are based on a set of recommendations I’ve discussed with numerous clients. The “they” refers to the team asking for their own social channels, distinct from the existing official higher-level corporate accounts:

1. Is their brand sufficiently distinct from the overall corporate brand identity?

Mountain Dew is part of Pepsi, but the brand is completely distinct. Diet Pepsi is much more of an edge case. Is the brand in question just a subset of the primary corporate brand, or something – in the customer’s eyes – completely different?

2. Do they have a unique target audience that differs markedly from the parent brand?

If the target audience/demographic is largely the same as the parent brand, then the case for creating a new set of social accounts becomes less strong. There are likely other ways to get that brand involved in social – a Facebook tab, or some percentage mix of the recurring content updates on the primary accounts, for example.

3. Do they have a unique and compelling fan value proposition?

In short, can they answer in a single, clear sentence “Why should I follow XYZ service on Facebook? What’s in it for me?” If not, and the answer is either vague or simply “because people expect to see us on Facebook” then no, they shouldn’t get their own official social accounts.

4. Do they have staff or agency resources to build and maintain the channel over the long-term?

Someone has to build the tabs, the logos, the backgrounds; someone has to craft and post updates or tweets; most critically someone has to monitor and moderate (if applicable) the conversation taking place around each social channel, and actively engage with the community. Do they have the resources available and committed?

5. Do they have a content plan sufficient for at least 3-6 months?

The fastest way to end up with abandoned social accounts is to launch them without a clear, consistent plan for creating and posting content (posts, tweets, etc.). Ask anyone who’s managed a company Facebook page, blog, or Twitter account – coming up with good content, day after day, week after week, is damn hard. If they don’t have a plan, either they’re not taking the challenge seriously or they don’t know what they’re getting in to.

6. Do they have a plan and resources for promoting the accounts through other marketing channels?

Build it, and they will come is not an acceptable social media marketing strategy. The team asking you for their own unique Twitter account, YouTube channel, Facebook page etc. must have a solid marketing plan for how they will drive awareness of and traffic to those brand new channels. Otherwise in all likelihood they’ll end up twisting in the wind, and eventually abandoned as they team realizes they’re not seeing any value in them.

These are simply a starting point, an initial set of questions to ask internal teams both to identify those with a real and justifiable need (and the resources and commitment to back it up), and to get those who lack that thinking in the right direction.

What other questions should be asked?