Grace and Grinches

This time of year seems to bring out both the best and the worst in people. I almost succumbed to the latter this week after reading enough nastiness and social media BS to feel inspired to write a contrarian blog. But instead of becoming yet another grinch, I opted to write this appeal for grace.

The holidays can offer a beautiful time of year, but they can be really depressing and hard. Not everyone has a strong family, if they have a family at all. Some people are alone. Some people just feel bad. And others don’t want to be held, talked to, or greeted.

Holiday misery is a condition, a rut that sometimes we cannot escape. I have been there. One Christmas when I was in my early 20s I was so depressed I decided not to come home, and just sat in my house in DC, and tried to drown my misery in booze, food and other pleasures.

Today, I know that when I surround myself with such negativity, I often succumb to it. It’s so easy to lash out when I feel bad. And as you can see, it creates a ripple effect.

But I am older and more experienced now. Instead of contributing to the angst, this year I am simply passing on it, and choosing to be present for those who want a warmer conversation. I understand those who are suffering, but at the same time grace is about rising above, and offering a warm spirit no matter how hard the Grinches try to spread their seed of misery.

Desperately Wanting

Whoville by L_D_SAINT

So welcome to the Whoville Christmas (from a Christmas Tree Jew, no less)! What could I offer during this time of year when so many people are focused on getting the gifts they want?

Perhaps what we all desperately want in our deepest innermost souls: To be acknowledged and respected regardless of place or time or position or race or…
We live in the era of the selfie and the like. People want to be acknowledged and want attention. Whether it’s a grocery clerk working extra hours or the social media celebrity posting their 80th selfie of the year, people do want their peers to respect them.

While social media empowers and amplifies this desire to a sometimes distasteful level, that base need to be liked remains. Just like it did before Biz, Zuck, Jack and the rest of the social networking pioneers empowered us.

Here it is, a big shout out to some of the many people in the online world who made my 2013 brighter.

Kaarina Dillabough: You coached me up off the floor last January. I will always be in your debt.

Scott Stephens: For being my friend on and offline even when my knee wouldn’t let me run again.

Margie Clayman: You are always lifting me up, whether you know it or not. You have a big, big heart, lady. Thank you.

Patrick Ashamalla and Shonali Burke: xPotomac… It’s back, and better than ever thanks to you.

Seth Godin: I did my rounds and made my amends over the past two years. You were the last one. Thank you for your grace, welcoming me into your office, and treating me with respect. I will never forget that. Thank you.

Andrea Weckerle: Thanks for asking me to help your Civilination fundraiser. It helped me, too, and I think we did some good.

Erin Feldman: We grew together quite a bit this year. Thanks for being my editor and mobile media cohort!

Jennifer Stevens: Hard to believe that we have worked on three books together. To our fourth next year!

Howard Greenstein: You really have become a fantastic friend. Thank you!

Mitch Joel, Jay Baer, C.C. Chapman, Tamsen Webster, Tom Webster, Scott Monty, Jeremiah Owyang, Christopher Penn, Laura Fitton, David Armano, Richard Binhammer, Todd Defren, and Jason Falls: You remain kind and present, and I have noticed. Thank you.

Jess Ostroff: You worked so hard to help me make my novel-writing dream come true. Thank you!

Rogier Noort, Ralph Rivera, Shelly Kramer, Todd Jordan, Brian Meeks, Ian Gordon, Chuck Hester, and Rob Whittle (who just published Pointer’s War), Susan Cellura, and so many others I can’t even possibly list them. Thank you for supporting me on Exodus. It was a scary leap of faith to publish that thing, and the most fulfilling words I have ever released to the world.

Brian Vickery: Your presence is amazing, consistent and always friendly. You rock, sir.

Daria Steigman: Where to begin? Nats, baseball chatter, and all things Exodus.

Bob Fine: Another Nats fan who has paid it forward in so many ways. Bob, I look forward to returning the favors.

Anne Weiskopf: You are a deeply courageous person. Thank you for your strength and beauty.

Bob LeDrew and A.M. van den Hurk: Your punk fundraiser showed me the good side of PVSM when I least expected it. Cheers.

Michele Price: Lots of love my friend for many good radio shows and conversations. Cheers!

Kevin Chick-Dockery: We learned a lot together, and more than any person you helped me to stay on Facebook. Because I really did come close to pulling the plug on the Zuck.

Brian Solis: Thank you for your words at INBOUND.

Kami Huyse: You helped on that thing via the backchannel. I didn’t expect you to, and you did.

Jason Konopinski: What a roller coaster ride of a year. You ended up where you wanted to be, and we got to share a few stogies along the way. Cheers!

Lisa Gerber: We are not alone. And we both like guac, who knew?

Liz Scherer: We seem to be on the same path of gradually softening, maybe. LOL! Love you, Liz.

Richard Becker: Your fight with cancer this year was scary and courageous. Congratulations on making it. Glad we will have a few more conversations about this and that.

Stacey Miller: It was a blast newsjacking and shredding up the social web together on behalf of Vocus. Cheers.

Brian Driggs: Your comments are insightful, your vision is admirable. Thank you for visiting as much as you do!

Grace is not my strong suit, so forgive me if I left you out in my sleep deprived dotage. If you liked this post, rather than sharing it, please pass the spirit along and give someone a random appreciation today. Everyone could use a little more peace and happiness rolling into the new year.

Thank you, and I hope you all enjoy the holidays.

Image by Barry Graubart

Choose Your Own Adventure

Susan Murphy wrote a post a couple of months ago called Choose Your Own Adventure. The post played off the children’s book series to discuss how social media really provides people the opportunity to opt-in or out of any particular group or conversation. But really social offers a larger Choose Your Own Adventure principle, which is break rules when you see fit and reap the benefits or the consequences.

Social media winners, at least during the pioneer stage, represent a group of entrepreneurial spirits who went out and broke away from established business norms to create their own voices. People like Arianna Huffington and Jack Dorsey.

D.J. Waldow and Jason Falls talk about breaking marketing best practice rules in their book The Rebel’s Guide to Email Marketing.

We live in a time when pundits dictate the way it should be, where best practices dominate conversations. From a business standpoint, the only rudder should be customers and a brand’s larger community.
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Blog Against the Machine

Heavy Industry

They say that professional blogging is a dying social marketing tool. The University of Massachusetts revealed a 25% drop in the number of corporate blogs in the Inc. 500 (from 50% of the general surveyed population to 37%).The next generation of trade media — team and professional “blogs” — have risen to the fore and dominated their various niches. Lost in the dust are the individual and small business bloggers who can’t create enough content to compete effectively against the content machines.

In the marketing sector we have strong professional trade media plays from Hubspot, MarketingProfs and Copyblogger. Individual blogs like Jason Falls’ Social Media Explorer have augmented the individual voice with guest posts, providing daily or near daily offerings to remain competitive. In the nonprofit sector, I helped start a similar professional team blog, Inspiring Generosity.

Most individual bloggers — blogs like this one, which feature, one, two, maybe even three posts a week — simply cannot command the traffic to generate competitive market attention in the face of these machines. They don’t cover breaking news like these more professional outlets. Responding to the news cycle requires a dedication to blogging. Most people with jobs that are tied to other activities beyond social simply cannot afford to spend the time necessary to compete.

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CONTEST: Social Business or Social Bullshit?

bull riding
Image by Emmett Tullos III

The sales pitch for social business (see IBM’s definition) has spread from the technology industry to the social media echo chamber. Social media tools will bring a promised evolution of business, but how much of this buzz is bullshit?

Recently, Jason Falls and I visited Dell’s social media command center. We were both impressed with the company’s deepening commitment towards social as a means to facilitate better relationships across the enterprise. Clearly social-media empowered business can become a reality.

At the same time when you start seeing social media experts across the blogosphere setting up social business shingles, you have to wonder. Am I being sold the real deal or just another dose of unicorn powered super conversation?

In that vein, I’d like to invite you to sound off. Is social business a great thing, or yet another overhyped promise from social media experts looking to break into the enterprise? The best five comments pro or con (as judged by me on Friday afternoon) will win a copy of Jason’s book, No Bullshit Social Media.

No Bullshit Social Media

C.C. Chapman holds a couple copies of No Bullshit Social Media

To get you started, I’ve listed three reasons for and against social business. Good luck!

Three Pros

1) Perhaps the best argument for social business is speed. Watching Dell’s team respond to situations by integrating communications, legal and more was impressive. By empowering and encouraging interactions through process and social technology, businesses can better respond to customers and situations. Speed is a competitive advantage in any market.

2) One of the best comments from the Customer Is Not Your CMO came from Ben Kunz, who noted there are three ways to become a great business. One of them is to become completely customer centric. Social business empowers widespread dialogue across enterprises all the way to customers and other stakeholders. This in turn creates the opportunity to become completely customer centric, from sales to operations.

3) While companies like Walmart are leading the innovation wave amongst traditional consumer enterprises, technology players like, IBM, Atos and more are acquiring social technology companies, changing their cultures, and moving towards the social business ideal. The technology industry is eating its own dog food and leading by example, just as it did with blogs and other initial social media a decade ago. History is repeating itself.

Three Cons

1) Social media experts are beating this drum loudest, and that triggers a big red flag. Many social media experts don’t know marketing basics, and in some cases refuse (or can’t) to deliver return on investment. Now they are suddenly telling the business world how everything must change. So, someone who knows how to game Twitter suddenly understands how to run a multimillion dollar enterprises? Social business sounds like the pedantic ramblings of middle managers ad consultants trying to justify a bigger piece of the pie.

2) Businesses still struggle to integrate social media into marketing, yet, in large part because they don’t see the value. According to a survey of the CMO Council, 66 percent of marketing organizations are not integrating social media into their full marketing outreach.

Facebook Marketing Q5

Social media’s best chance of becoming a part of the regular business mix is through the auspices of the marketing department. But don’t expect it to change everything and transition the CMO’s office into social marketing. Social will only play its role within the larger multichannel experience.

3) The word social doesn’t mean anything anymore. It’s gone the way of other cliched technology and media terms, like “2.0” and “.com”. So what are we really talking about here? Widespread social media throughout an organization revolutionizing business structures?

Isn’t this the revolution of email and intranets argument again? Sorry, but while those technologies facilitated better communications and workflow, and evolved businesses, silos stayed silos. Why will commenting faster and quicker change power dynamics between departments and people? Will social technology fundamentally change people? It hasn’t so far. This argument lacks substance.

What do you think?

Reflections on Dell’s Social Media Facility

Dell continues to be one of the most innovative companies out there in social media. Yesterday, on the one year anniversary of its Social Media Listening & Command Center, Jason Falls and I toured the computer giant’s headquarters.

We met with several critical players on the Dell team, from perennial leader Lionel Menchaca to Amy Heiss, program manager for the Command Center. Along the way we learned quite a bit about how Dell evolves with its clients needs, in the United States and globally.

Perhaps the biggest impression made on me was the experimental and open nature of the Dell social team. When I walked into the cavernous room that houses Dell’s social media group, I noted several things:

  • A wide open space with no cubes or barriers
  • The team sitting together is cross disciplinary, ranging from communications and social media to customer service and legal. They literally have no excuse for silos as they all sit within strides of each other.
  • The Command Center (featured above) is the room immediately next to the open office space, readily accessible by all
  • An ambiance that’s generally light, fun and curious

Dell has become a “socialprise”, and is actively experimenting with the best ways to enable fluid business dialogue in the enterprise, critical to its online success. The company clearly understands that empowering departments to interact quickly extends beyond process. The result is increased access through physical space and location.

Data, Training and Falls

Dell's Social Media Listening and Command Center

Dell is listening to its current and potential customers in a very organized fashion across a wide range of data points. For example, the above video details influence tracking, just some of the incredible data the Command Center tracks. The diverse data points range from products to conversations to global regions to all the industry players involved.

In conversation with Rajiv Narang, executive director for social media and marketing innovation at Dell, it became clear how analytical this company is. We’re talking the ultimate data geeks here. Dell sees data, conversations, trends and corresponding behaviors, and deeply analyzes to distill knowledge. Then it mindfully addresses its business direction to serve the market. It’s fantastic.

Another factor that became clear was how incredibly social the company has become. In meeting with many diverse players in Dell, from enterprise sales to sustainability and social good, almost everyone of them had been certified in the company’s social media program. Knowledge and practice ranged, but it was clear that the 5000+ employees who have been trained are interested, and see social as a critical component to the company’s success.

It was great to do this trip with Jason Falls, too, who will add his insights next week. Jason is clearly doing really well, and is at the top of his game with the release of No Bullshit Social Media. Congratulations, Jason. You deserve all of the success as one of the hardest working people in the sector.

The Long Tail of Media Grows


When I wrote Now Is Gone, Long Tail theory was prevalent throughout social media conversations. Applied, WIRED Executive Editor Chris Anderson’s economic theory did a great job of visualizing the ascent of new media forms in context with old traditional media. Since that time, social networks and mobile media postings have arisen to assert their place within the world of media.

Just to recap what Long Tail theory that with a large population of customers the selection and buying pattern results in a power law distribution curve (Pareto distribution). A market with a high freedom of choice will create a certain degree of inequality by favoring the upper 20% of the items (“hits” or “head”) against the other 80% (“non-hits” or “long tail”).

Head of the Tail

Let’s go back to the power curve for media now that the dust has settled with the ascendancy of some new media forms. The above chart plots the effectiveness or the weight of various media tactics in the current 2010 media environment.

Red hits have the most impact (top 20%), while the long tail (yellow, 80% of media) still makes up the majority of the media marketplace. This chart defines the marketplace as word of mouth power and readership.

Like my original chart three years ago, this is subjective and various earned media forms have disparate degrees of weight. General classification is the best we can do without the correct measurement tools using a real world full on case-study with all types of earned media opportunities. Further, this assumes PR owns social media within a company. As we know, social media is often divided amongst the larger marketing department.

As you can see at the head of the tail we have the following media forms:

National broadcast – ABC, CBS, NBC and FOX

Major newspapers – New York Times, USA Today, etc.

Top magazines – BusinessWeek, Fortune, WIRED

Major social networks – Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Foursquare, etc.

Top cable channels – CNN, ESPN, etc.

Top 100 blogs – Huffington Post, Techcrunch, Treehugger, etc. Generally speaking, blog content can vary from print to video.

The Turning Point and the Tail

At the turning point in the tail, roughly the 20 percent mark, you have several other forms of traditional media, which reflects the fall of some media, and the rise of new online and mobile media.

Major trade journals – Obviously, the powerhouse in any industry still holds sway, but the secondary journals have suffered quite a bit

Secondary social networks – For every FourSquare, there’s a Gowalla, not as popular, these secondary networks still drive tons of traffic

Regional newspapers: You don’t hear about the Denver Post much nationally. Still very powerful in the Rock Mountain region.

Secondary cable & TV: A&E, TBS, VH-1, etc.

National radio: ESPNRadio, FOX, etc.

Leading vertical blogs: And the winner here, no question. In PR for example, Brian Solis (who wrote Engage, and the intro to Now Is Gone), will get as many or more reads as a Secondary PR journal.

Major “influencer” profiles: Finally on some of the social networks, you have highly “influential” profiles which either through mass followers or strong engagement can set of tidal wives of action via their profile

After that, you have the long tail, the vast majority of content. From the old world, I think you can list the following: Local TV, local radio, local newspapers, secondary journals, corporate web sites, email newsletters, and press releases. From the newer social media world, you can list: Social network profiles, secondary blogs, videos, photos, maps, and mobile updates & check ins.

The Taxonomy Problem

The issue with this chart is the taxonomy, which seeks to isolate individual media forms and tools and their weight. In reality — given today’s fractured media environment — one hit in any of these areas can trigger successive hits in others. When a word of mouth campaign has actual substance it usually cascades. Smart communicators understand this. That’s why integrated outreach — not just social media or traditional PR & advertising — matters so much.

In Chapter Four of Now Is Gone, we talk about this “ping pong match” between traditional and new media outlets. From the draft material in June of 2007:

One great way to promote your new media initiative remains traditional media, who often use well-respected blogs as sources or even the subject of stories… [Social media attention] drives information into the spotlight forcing traditional media to pay attention – or look like they’ve missed the news, and most importantly the conversation. Blogs [can be] a more effective way of reaching and inspiring traditional media to react than most PR professionals and wire services combined.

Ping pong matches demonstrate that weighting one tool by its actual total community and eyeball impact fails. As Seth Godin said in Meatball Sundae, “It doesn’t matter if the socially generated earned media only gets one percent of the hoped for attention if it’s the right one percent.”