Hope for Better Conversations

Virgin Island Sunrise

by Beth Harte and Geoff Livingston

So we know what we don’t want to hear about any more. How about increasing the volume on some conversation that push people to think or act more mindfully, bettering our professions, our societies, and our day-to-day lives? Our last post was tongue in cheek, but this one is full of hope (and a little humor, too). Here are 10 current or would-be memes that could better our online conversations.

1. Stakeholders Are Smarter Than Most : Wouldn’t your job would be 100% easier if you let your customers/donors and/or volunteers do their job? And that job is to participate in a relationship with your organization as extended members of the enterprise, either as customers, donors, volunteers, or brand investors. Let’s take it one step further shall we? How about letting stakeholders sit at the heart of your organization so that they help to design (or at least influence) the products and services they want to buy. (Was that you shuddering at the thought?!).

In Greg Verdino’s new book ‘microMarketing’ (a book we highly suggest you read), he shares the story of Lauren Luke. Lauren Luke is a young makeup entrepreneur that created a following using social media tools and eBay. Even now that she is recognized globally (her line is now carried by Sephora), she still keeps her customers (not the media, not herself) at the heart of her business. They help pick colors, names, etc. and they are extremely loyal to Lauren. Imagine that? Customers that are loyal. Hmmm.

2. Citizen Journalism: It’s so promising, and there are great examples emerging periodically. Having experienced this personally with CitizenGulf, it’s a great way to move from pitching to providing seriously valuable information. Further, good citizen journalism – if encouraged – can help with the general degradation of content quality we are seeing across all media. How can citizen journalism be encouraged, bettered, and more widespread? Besides, who doesn’t want to be (or maybe be with) Anderson Cooper?

3. I Screwed Up, So?: Why is it when it comes to social media (and marketing & PR) we only hear self-patting back echos? It’s doubtful that corporations and agencies score a perfect 10 every time. Mistakes, or their cousin, flops, are always made (Pepsi, anyone?). Perhaps if people were more open to admitting that sometimes mistakes come from trying to do something different or innovative they’d be more empathetic and less tempted to skewer a brand in a meme. How about having the guts (being nice there) to publicly fail? Even better, how about an effective apology?

4. Using Open Government Data: So the Obama Administration is opening up all of this data, and generally civilians, nonprofits and businesses are not using it. While this may be as far as the mighty O can deliver on open government, civilians and the private sector can do more. This open data represents an incredible resource from a semantic, societal and general pragmatic basis for online media. So how can we create better analysis, applications and uses for this fantastic data? While there are initial thought leaders starting to discuss and use this data, we could stand for much more conversation… and action.

5. Culture Shifting: Unfortunately, the days of office politics are far from long gone. There are just some people (a lot of them!) who can’t see beyond their own insecurities and needs in order to be a part of something larger than themselves. Anyone who has been neck deep in social media knows this to be true. Customers could care less about personal issues, they have their own problems. There are companies and nonprofits trying to lead the way to culture shift change, why aren’t we hearing more about it? Is it too soon? This evolution from industrial silos to networked structures is the future. Let’s talk about it!

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6. Better Crowdsourcing: As soon as the vote for me meme ends… Wait, let’s shift it towards better crowdsourcing. By far, crowdsourcing is the most difficult of social media strategies to master. Even some of the industry’s leading thought leaders seem to have a hard time getting down to actual mechanics and experiences. We’d like to see a lot more conversation about what does and doesn’t work with crowdsourcing and why.

7. Marketing 3.0: Given that some marketers don’t even get Marketing 1.0 (‘cause you know, anyone can be a marketer), it’s with hesitation this one is even mentioned. Marketing 3.0 is about getting to the level where our stakeholders are today (as we know, they aren’t sitting back waiting to receive your marketing campaigns). If you are still focused on what products and services you want to bring to the market, you’re still at 1.0. If you are focused on social media, you’re at Marketing 2.0. If you see the whole customer (and no, sCRM isn’t the way to do it) as people — not just consumers — Marketing 3.0 is where you want to be.

In addition, Marketing 3.0 organizations have aspirations to add value to the world as a whole, not just to their bottom-line. They in essence want to be responsible citizens, not just cause marketers. Example: The Body Shop.

8. The 2010 Election: It’s going to happen with or without us. And most people are groaning. But elections represent a period of innovation in communications, and there are inevitable experiments and successes that occur. How are the GOP trying to leapfrog the Democrats sensational social networking success in 2008? Will it work? Why? How will the Democrats counter? Arm chair communicators should celebrate and talk about the Super Bowl of PR that’s about to occur.

9. Augmented Reality: Talking about toys, er, tools, seems to be inevitable online. So maybe we can talk about the next game changer instead of Steve Jobs, for crying out loud. We’re so over Mister I Don’t, er Do, Flash. Once augmented reality goes mainstream, it will change the way we interact online, and in reality. This means a paradigm shift for communicators. We should be talking about this, seriously.

10. Your Turn. We thought the right thing to do since it is supposed to be a conversation is open source our last meme. What do you think the conversational market place is missing and why?

The Meme to End All Memes

Guanicos in the Chilean Patagonia Mountains

by Beth Harte and Geoff Livingston

The anti-social media guru meme received a death wish from Shel Holtz last week. As early co-authors of two top 25 posts that put some early flames to that fire, we couldn’t help but take notice. And we thought to ourselves why just stop with the anti-social media guru meme, there are so many rehashed tired conversations that could stand for a shorter shelf life.

With that, this is the meme to end all memes! Or at least these 10. This is written with a bit of east coast humor so take it tongue in cheek, please.

10) Social Media Gurus. We’re going to give Shel (and Jason Falls, who started it last year) the social media gurus meme. At this point in the game, it’s ridiculous. Not because people are or aren’t, but because so many companies are using social now that there are thousands of competent social communicators now. How about we give it a rest? It’s like debating about being an expert e-mail marketer. Zip A Dee Doo Dah!

9) Defriending, Friending, Following, whatever. OK, so you got unfollowed. Going to schedule a therapist appointment? Don’t like someone one else’s follower policy? Then unfollow them and move on. It’s been years since social networking began, live and let live.

8) Everyone Is an Author. OK, this is more of a back channel nasty one. And really, it’s so untrue. Even amongst the top tier marketing bloggers not even half have written books. Think it’s easy to write a book? Go ahead, make our day. It’s much harder than you think. In any year there are only 175,000 titles published in the U.S. by a smaller number of authors. Once you publish a book, you’ll see why it’s such an achievement.

7) Requests for My Time Suck. Really, stop whining. If you’re a successful blogger, people will pitch you for all sorts of things, from blog posts to free evaluations of their business plans. The lousy ones — including several from supposed expert 2.0 agencies (see above) — will pitch you crap, including press releases. This is a by-product of success, and really separating the good opportunities from the bad ones is an entrepreneur’s dream problem. If it’s that bad for you, then stop blogging. Otherwise, learn how to press delete more frequently.

6) The Social Media Clique. Have you been to high school? The world hasn’t changed much since then. So why is it social media seems to propel us back to high school behavior? (See above.) There will always be cliques that won’t let you in (but will take your ideas as their own) in and nerds that will embrace you… and everything in between. Stop looking at numbers and clout, because they are typically meaningless. Gee, even the big boys are ignored from time-to-time. Get over it and do something smart and meaningful with your time.

5) Vote for My Contest. We’re tired of it in our feeds. It’s time for the popularity-based charity craze to evolve into a much more productive form of crowdsourcing that can better benefit society sans social network spam. If you are running a contest, whether it’s for a charity or not, consider the traditional marketing aspect of targeting people in your market (novel, right?). Just because people are social, doesn’t always mean they will support every contest, even if for a good cause.

4) Personal branding posts. Anyone who reads either of us could count on this one coming. No one cares about your personal brand except you. And the people that care the least are the ones you are trying to impress; potential employers and contractors. There are so many more valuable things to invest mental energy in.

And trust us when we say, you don’t have enough time to truly understand and implement intelligent branding. Often it’s suggested to brands by experts (see above) that they “change” when their customers are unhappy and voice discontent—will you be willing to do the same? Change your personality? Didn’t think so. And that’s only one reason why personal branding is so disparate from real branding. We won’t even go into brand parity, but let’s just say everyone in the social space sounds the same. If you thought personal branding would be your unique qualifier, you’d be wrong.

3) “Social” CRM Posts. Particularly from PR and marketing bloggers who have never spent one week in a customer service position. It’s like watching an IT professional give a lawyer legal advice. Granted, social has opened new strains on the CRM sector and now creates more visible reputation issues, but this seems to be a business issue beyond the talking heads.

The biggest challenge here is that most CRM systems that PR and marketing folks have access to are set up for lead generation, not real relationship management. Adding a social element would require a few new positions in those departments like analytics, sociologist and ethnographer. Social CRM not be about only adding your customers Twitter handles and blog URLs. It should be about collecting data that helps you to get an outside-in view of how your customers see and interact with your company.

2) Social Media ROI. How many blog posts do we need to read on ROI? Seriously, if corporate executives and management can’t recall how to calculate ROI from grad school (or heck, undergrad for that matter), there are much bigger issues to deal with—how about focusing on those?

There’s a simple answer here that no one wants to hear. It’s this: Write a plan that includes a goal, measurable objectives, solid strategy, and tactics that include metrics (this is where you calculate ROI). Really, let’s move on. The ROI discussion isn’t a game changer but the discussion on how to change the corporate mindset to planning before wasting money on untargeted campaigns is. Can we focus on that?

1) The Influence Conversation. Bloggers (and the second tier business magazines fueling the conversation) turned sociologists analyzing their own influence, pros and cons, have created an even more vapid meme than the social media gurus or personal branding memes. We need more studies based on scientific evidence and less conjecture for this to move beyond a fight about whose Schwartz is bigger. And really the current posts aren’t as entertaining as Mel Brooks. Give it a rest.