Monthly Archives: July 2013

Why You Suck At Social

I’m feeling a little snarky this morning so I’ll apologize in advance if this comes across as yet another bitter old guy (all you kids get off the lawn!).

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I ran into yet another so-called “social media guru” the other day.  OK, I ran into the chaos they left but felt as if I’d been smacked across the face by their incompetence in person.   Oh, they market themselves far better than I do – that’s how someone of their abilities manages to get nice gigs with otherwise smart clients – brilliant marketing.  They excel at leveraging themselves online.  Bringing those tactics to bear for clients in a manner that grows the client’s business?  Not so much.  Let me explain.

Even as we’re five years into the age of social media marketing (I hate that term), many clients aren’t told the truth about it by those of us they employ to bring them up to speed.  Some of my so “peers” don’t explain that social is hard work and it’s not a place to stash the interns (since they’ll be on Facebook and Twitter all day anyway).  Make a page and magic will happen!

That’s an apt analogy except very few of us point out that when “magic” happens as we watch a performer do a trick, hundreds or thousands of hours of prep and practice have gone into making it seem seamless.  There are often specialized boxes or mirrors involved and one false move brings disaster.  Of course, “smoke and mirrors” is not exactly the type of reputation I think we’d want for our brands but I could be wrong.  Magicians put in the work and have the right tools.

So let’s try this one more time.  To do social well, companies have to blow up a very fundamental part of their thinking.  While most marketing is all about the product or brand, social is not.  It’s about your audience, and you need to focus squarely on them with the odd brand message here or there.  What’s helpful to them?  If you’re not willing to make that investment as well, maybe think about print or TV or some other medium where you can just barf out messages about how great you are.  You need to have a plan and tools and people with enough business acumen to assure all the stakeholder interests are aligned, including those of your customers.

And you “gurus?”  Get off my lawn…

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Today for our TunesDay song, let’s consider an entire genre of them.  The unfortunate thing is that no two people would agree as to which songs qualify for this classification so I’m going to talk about one which does for me.  You can take it from there with a song of your own choosing.

I was driving back from a meeting yesterday afternoon when Tom Waits‘ Jersey Girl came on.  Of course, it was the live version by The Boss which I’ve loved from the moment I saw it live in 1981 as Bruce opened the new arena in the Meadowlands.   Danny Federici‘s organ sounds like the calliope on the boardwalk – the carnival referred to in the lyrics – and the  backing vocals sound like a great doo-wop group singing on some corner as their sound drifts up into the night air.  The song gives me goosebumps every single time I hear it – every hair on my arm stands up.  It’s a strange and wonderful physical reaction brought on by the power of the music.  Which is, of course, the business point.

We should all be trying to achieve that reaction in what we do.  In many ways, goosebumps – piloerection for you scientific types – is a reflex left over from our animal pasts.  It’s something that happens in response to strong emotions such as those music inspires that touch us deeply.   It’s an obvious goal for any of the arts – film, culinary, or otherwise – but why not, say, industrial design?  I imagine some people had that response the first time they handed the first iPhone or saw a high-def plasma TV for the first time.

Maybe shoes move you.  Maybe it’s a brilliantly written analysis of last month’s sales.  Whatever we produce, I think I’m putting the goosebump standard up there with the Dylan standard I use when discussing musical acts (will my grandchildren listen to and discuss this artist and if not, are they really worth the time?).  Sure it’s a lofty goal – but why not set the bar high?

Touching people’s emotions in ways of which they’re maybe not even conscious is a guarantee to success in business and life.  How are you going to do that today?

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Being Fearless

I played (badly) in a golf tournament over the weekend and on the heels of that I saw an article that triggered some business thinking.

Tigers fight

(Photo credit: @Doug88888)

The piece was from last week and was on ABC News’ site.  It is about a paper written, as it turns out, in 2010 by a professor at the Kellogg School of Management and concerns what the author called the “Tiger Woods Effect” (you knew it would relate to golf, didn’t you?).  The author – Jennifer Brown – explained it this way to the Wall Street Journal:

Ms. Brown argues that the superstar effect is not just relevant on the golf course. Instead, she suggests that the presence of superstars can be “de-motivating” in a wide variety of competitions, from the sales office to the law firm. “Most people assume that competing against an elite performer makes everyone else step up their game and perform better,” Ms. Brown says. “But the Tiger Woods data demonstrate that the opposite can also occur. It doesn’t matter if the superstar is an athlete or a corporate vice president. After all, why should we invest a lot of energy in a tournament that we’re probably going to lose?”

Do we set ourselves up for failure by surveying the competitive landscape and recognizing the presence of some superstars in our competitive area or is that motivation to beat them?  I always make the distinction between losing and being beaten.  The latter is easier to swallow in my book – you did your best and someone was better that day.  Losing, however, stings – we know we were capable of so much more and didn’t perform.

It’s an easy out to discount your chances due to the presence of a superstar brand or firm or individual.  Mike Tyson used to win a lot of his fights without throwing a punch because his opponents would see him across the ring and a look of fear would cross their faces.  Pre-game trash talking is, in my mind, as much about bringing the opponent down to your level as it is false bravado.

We need to be fearless.    Even superstars have a bad day.  Once Tiger’s veil of invulnerability was lifted due to him being beaten on the course and his troubles off of it, the rest of the field recognized that they could win no matter what he did.  That was the case all along, by the way – they just stopped beating themselves.

What will it be?  The choice is yours.

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