Updating Mad Men: The Focus Group

This week Mad Men featured a staple of the media world: the focus group. Whether it’s a telephone survey, like the call I received from Nielsen this weekend, or grabbing a group of people off the street, the focus group is a key part of any media outreach campaign. Before understanding the messaging and positioning that world work for the whole, you must first undersand what will work for a small, carefully selected group.

The women of the Mad Men focus group

But today the focus group is open to everyone with a search window. You can open up Twitter and be greeted by a flood of information or check out the LinkedIn groups to find out what business folks are truly feeling. You can even enter traditional forums and hear the complaints and concerns of thousands of people. However, like the PhD who is running the Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce focus groups, people need a guide to understand what they’re reading. It’s very easy to get lost in the “Rats Nest” of social media.

In fact, sometimes you need to entirely dismiss what you’re reading or, in other cases, provide additional emphasis. I was quoted in Mashable saying that the social media realm offers imperfect data. The point is, just a few numbers will never tell you enough of a story, you need to understand the context of the person conveying the information, online and off.

Coming back to focus groups for a moment, how they are compiled affects the information you glean from them. In Mad Men the group was made up of young, unmarried women. In fact, just before grabbing the last unmarried secretary an older secretary commented that she wasn’t wanted in the room because she was, in fact, older and married.

The results of the session were that women want to be beautiful to attract a man, according to the doctor who ran it, but it could have turned out differently with the older women in the mix. Of course, this is where Pond’s finds itself today, with an older, more mature demographic. The eventual conclusion that women are simply looking to be married and that’s why they use beauty products was rejected by top Mad Man Don Draper, who noted that putting out a year’s worth of messaging would change the conversation.

In the social media world, people put out information for a reason. When looking at social media for market intelligence you must ask yourself “why did this person say what they’re saying.” Otherwise you’re only getting half a story. Social search tools can help you find information and many social CRM tools exist to help you get graphs, charts and numbers to show certain trends, but there is so much more available within the social stream.

Over here at Fresh Ground we have started working with customers on a social intelligence service. That is, we look at interesting pieces of information, put them in context and then distribute that information to the appropriate internal audiences. This is how we help our clients dig up everything from sales leads to competitive intelligence.

So what would Pond’s do differently today? Well, first they’d have a lot more information about their target demographic. Then they would use that information to understand the individuals who visit their site. If they wanted to try out new messages they’d probably do a bit of A/B testing on their site to see what works. They may also test certain messages in certain demographic areas, either through online advertising, carefully located display ads or buying air time in specific programs. They’d also dig into the social media intelligence to find out what people in their targeted demographics are discussing, then find ways into those conversations.

And hopefully, when they’re done, no one ends up crying or throwing heavy objects at Don Draper.

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Social Media DNA: Does Your Company Have It?

LaunchCamp divided pretty easily into two camps, companies and executives who:

  1. Understand social networking technologies inherently; and
  2. Know they need to do something, but are not sure what.

This divide isn’t new and frankly, it’s not going to end any time soon. In the past I’ve been asked to design training programs only to find that some people within an organization understand social technologies and concepts very well and wanted to move on beyond the basics. Then there are those who are still figuring out how to sign up for a Twitter account or maybe have just dipped their toe into Facebook.

With this type of audience one size never fits all.

But for LaunchCamp it wasn’t just a division among individuals as Isis Maternity Community Manager Cindy Meltzer noted during our recent conversation. It could also be felt in corporate culture.

During the startup panel it became apparent that most tech-based companies being founded today are steeped in social networking tools. Not just because the founders are young, in fact their ages run the spectrum, but because the genesis for their ideas come from first understanding social networking. In other words: the aspect of marketing that takes conversation into account is built in. It’s part of their DNA.

Jules Pieri, CEO of the Daily Grommet

Take the example of the Daily Grommet. When moderator David Beisel asked about how much each company spent on launch marketing, the answer came back as nothing. Though, as Jules will tell you, it was nothing EXTRA. Frankly, marketing is baked into the idea of “Citizen Commerce,” which is the idea that the customers drive the direction of the products featured each day. This isn’t a one-way system of “we produce, you buy” but community conversation of “we find what you want.”

Since the community members are, by nature, excited by the products they’re more likely to take action and talk about them.

The same goes for Runkeeper, which factored sharing right into the product. From the start the idea wasn’t only to use a mobile device to track your routes and save information about you, but to share that information with your friends. By doing that you are, in fact, sharing the product you’re using. If friends want to share back they need to get that product too. The viral nature is built in, not tacked on later.

By contrast I hear from companies that have traditional business models and are looking for a way to build social networking into their marketing programs. This isn’t a bad thing (in fact, it’s great) but it’s also just the start.

To truly engage in this world each company must look beyond their marketing departments and find their communities, then use the tools to engage them. After all, that’s how new companies are finding their way.

Todd's 2010 Predictions

As promised, however late, here are my predictions for 2010:

  • Twitter still won’t show that it can make money. Twitter doesn’t want to show that it can make money: all the better for valuation, according to many. Sure, there will be more deals, including some form of Twitter Pro account I would guess, but I predict you’ll find Twitter (and Facebook for that matter, although they’ve monetized quite nicely) with its ear to the ground for technology and competitive developments in 2010, waiting for sunnier pastures before exiting. What will that exit look like, and when? Ain’t nobody saying.
  • It’s all about the RT. No, I’m not talking about Twitter’s “re-tweets” here: I’m talking about the real-time web. The money that Twitter did get in 2009 came because it has its finger on the Zeitgeist of the web: the day-to-day, minute-by-minute trends and interests that content producers and attention whores alike want to get their hands on. Any technology that can help companies (or governments) put their fingers on the pulse of the public will be a prime target for money in 2010, both from private as well as semi-private and public coffers.

  • The PDA will be reborn alongside the intention web. The “personal digital assistant” was a really cool idea, but nobody wants to carry around even two devices, let alone three, four or five (e.g., phone, PDA, camera, iPod, ebook reader, etc.). The next generation of the PDA is being incubated inside your smart phone, with umbilical ties to all of your online services, from calendaring to movie preferences to shopping lists. Jeremiah Owyang calls this “beyond real-time” wave of innovation the “intention web” (see graphic below), and your smart phone will be the nexus for it:
"When Real Time is NOT Fast Enough"

"When Real Time is NOT Fast Enough"

  • The newspaper industry deathwatch will lose steam. Speaking of death, the newspaper industry will also stay afloat, thanks to technological and business innovation. Dan Kennedy put it best:

    At a moment when the newspaper business is hanging by a thread, it seems strange to suggest that maybe things aren’t that bad. After all, as the Newsosaur, Alan Mutter, points out, 142 American newspapers shut their doors in 2009, and nearly 15,000 jobs at US newspapers have disappeared during the past year.

    Yet if you had believed the headlines, you would have expected the mediascape to look a lot worse for print.

    Paul Gillin puts it similarly:

    Most daily newspapers, in fact, operate in the black but massive debt accumulated during multiple rounds of consolidation earlier this decade were threatening their existence. The threat is still there, but it looks like there was more fat in newspaper operating budgets than many observers had believed. Washington Post publisher Katharine Weymouth has pointed out that her paper employs twice as many journalists as it did during the Watergate years, even after multiple rounds of cutbacks.

  • Augmented reality will be a reality, sans the cool shades or half-blind pedestrians. Yes, we’ll get a few pedestrian accidents as people try out phone-based augmented reality apps like Layar (below). But the real usefulness of AR aren’t quite AR apps yet, but transitional steps toward AR. These include apps like Google Goggles, which does photo-based mobile searches (although it’s far from ready for prime time); and the many barcode scanning apps that are starting to tie into price check databases and shopping apps.

  • The PR lines will continue to blur. Speaking of PR, it’s clear that the lines between paid and unpaid media are rapidly blurring, and the consequences are disturbing. While some pros are optimistic about this trend, I share Mark Story’s and Shel Holtz’s concerns about the trend, as exemplified most recently by the Huffington Post’s decision to offer sponsored posts and tweets. As Shel points out, will this prevent companies from participating in conversations about their company online, simply because they don’t want to pay to play?

  • [LATE ADD] We’ll find something more interesting to measure. With all the talk about measurement and ROI this year, I couldn’t resist adding one more prediction: we’ll finally find something both interesting and useful to measure when it comes to PR and social media success. It certainly won’t be ad equivalency or followers, and it probably won’t even be ROI. Will it be engagement? No, that’s just a fancy way of describing followers. I’d like to hear your thoughts…

  • [LATE ADD (29 DEC 2009)]: Amazon will have much more to worry about than the Nook. Rumors abound that Apple will take a stab at a portable tablet device taking aim at eReaders and netbooks both. Will Apple try to get into the book business like it’s done with the music business? They’ll have a much tougher go at it, but it seems like a logical step.

Okay, that’s all I have for you. Let’s see how I do. Have a very happy new year, everyone!

Five Facebook Privacy Tricks You Need to Know

Finding Your Privacy Settings

Finding Your Privacy Settings

Facebook continues to be on my list of companies that people seem to love despite every effort on their part to the contrary (that list, for the record, also includes Apple, Google and occasionally Twitter). Their latest attempt to alienate me involves the changes they’ve made to their privacy policy and mechanisms, which overall give you less privacy, not more.

Here are five things you need to know about the new privacy and security settings on Facebook:

  1. Know what is now considered “publicly available information.” Here’s what the EFF has to say about this:

    Under the new regime, Facebook treats that information — along with your name, profile picture, current city, gender, networks, and the pages that you are a “fan” of — as “publicly available information” or “PAI.” Before, users were allowed to restrict access to much of that information. Now, however, those privacy options have been eliminated.

  2. Visit All Five of the Privacy Settings Pages

    Visit All Five of the Privacy Settings Pages

    Visit all five of the privacy setting pages. There are settings buried in all of these pages, so make sure you take a few minutes to peruse all of them to make sure.

  3. Keep your friends close and your pages closer. You’ve heard of the Facebook “gaydar” project, right? People can tell a lot from who you friend. While sharing who your friends are can help you get more friends, it may reveal more information than you know. The EFF again:

    [A]lthough you used to have the ability to prevent everyone but your friends from seeing your friends list, that old privacy setting … has now been removed completely from the privacy settings page.

    You can now tweak who can see your friend list by going to your profile and clicking on the pencil on the top right corner of your friends box. What you still cannot change is who can see the pages you are a fan of — there is simply no way to remove that information from your public, searchable profile unless you make your profile not searchable by anyone, a rather harsh setting that will significantly limit your ability to grow your friends network. If you’re a little embarrassed by your fan pages, delete them.

  4. Create a dummy test account to test all your settings. While the “Preview My Profile” button is helpful, the interaction between the various complicated settings is sometimes surprising and the best way to test all possible settings is to create a temporary fake account. This is relatively easy to do, and last I checked, doesn’t even require a valid email account to accomplish. Use it to test how viewable and searchable your profile is. For instance, it’s not completely obvious how to turn off your Wall to non-friends, but this can be adjusted in the “Posts by Me” section” (which I was surprised to see defaulted to “Friends and Networks” — umm, no, thank you).
  5. CUCme? Remember playing that game with a child young enough not to realize that if they cannot see you, you may still be able to see them? The same holds true in Facebook — there is no reciprocal privacy on Facebook, so just because you can’t find somebody else doesn’t mean that they cannot find you. If other people have their search privacy settings more constricted than you, they will be able to find you while you may not be able to find them. The most problematic effect of this could have to do with banning other profiles — in order to find the person you want to ban, they have to be searchable by you, so banning only effectively works while you’re still friends with someone. This seems strange, because — not that I’m in the practice of banning lots of people — banning is typically an afterthought that occurs to Facebook users after they unfriend someone.

PC World has their own “top 5” list of things to consider. In summary, to quote an old TV show, “be careful out there!”

The Social Media Culture

I’ve been pondering a lot recently about the cultural changes that need to be put in place inside organizations to effectively implement Web 2.0 and social media across the enterprise. This recent research from SNCR ‘s Don Bulmer and Vanessa DiMauro shows the reach beyond marketing very clearly. I highly recommend you read this.

The research shows that social media is having a tremendous impact beyond the realm of just marketing: it’s impacting professional decision making. Here are the highlights of the research (directly from Don’s post):

1.  Professional decision-making is becoming more social – enter the era of Social Media Peer Groups (SMPG)

  • Traditional influence cycles are being disrupted by Social Media as decision makers utilize social networks to inform and validate decisions
  • Professionals want to be collaborative in the decision-cycle but not be marketed or sold to online; however online marketing is a preferred activity by companies.

2.  The big three have emerged as leading professional networks: LinkedIn, Facebook & Twitter

  • The average professional belongs to 3-5 online networks for business use, and LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter are among the top used.
  • The convergence of Internet, mobile, and social media has taken significant shape as professionals rely on anywhere access to information, relationships and networks

3.  Professional networks are emerging as decision-support tools

  • Decision-makers are broadening reach to gather information especially among active users

4.  Professionals trust online information almost as much as information gotten from in-person

  • Information obtained from offline networks still have highest levels of trust with slight advantage over online (offline: 92% – combined strongly/somewhat trust; online: 83% combined strongly/somewhat trust)

5.  Reliance on web-based professional networks and online communities has increased significantly over the past 3 years

  • Three quarters of respondents rely on professional networks to support business decisions
  • Reliance has increased for essentially all respondents over the past three years

6.  Social Media use patterns are not pre-determined by age or organizational affiliation

  • Younger (20-35) and older professionals (55+) are more active users of social tools than middle aged professionals.
  • There are more people collaborating outside their company wall than within their organizational intranet

Todd's 2009 Predictions & Recap

It’s predictions season again. As I mentioned on Friday, the Society for New Communications Fellows got their heads together a couple weeks ago on this very subject. I won’t spoil the fun by sharing all of our trends and predictions, but I will look back at my own predictions from last year and some of the big trends we saw. In my next post, I’ll look forward even more and make some predictions for 2010.

The Birth of Web 3.0
Despite the continued prevalence of “2.0” everywhere we turn, last year I issued a few trends/predictions on my own blog, focusing on the semantic web, or “Web 3.0” as it’s sometimes being called. Here’s exactly what I said late last year — I gave a two-year timeline, so hold my feet to the fire next year on these:

  • Trust. Trust is one of two remaining economic scarcities in the Internet Economy—there’s just not much of it out there. Chris Brogan put it nicely: “Though a company like Microsoft spent millions and millions of advertising and marketing dollars trying to improve our perception of the brand, none of us gave a sh!t until Robert Scoble came along and put a human shape around their online and event presence for us.” The trust barrier will be solved by understanding how human “trust agents” (as Chris puts it) work, and by allowing us to layer “trustworthiness” over all of our online interactions (not just in search, but social networking, bookmarking, blogging, etc.)
  • Attention. Attention is the other economic scarcity remaining. There are only 24 hours in the day, and we have to sleep for a good chunk of them. The competition for the rest of them is fierce. Applications that are smartest at competing for our attention—or at helping us understand what we should be paying attention to—will have a distinct advantage in the web 3.0 world.
  • Agents. Chris Brogan talks of human trust agents, but digital agents will finally come back into the public’s view as well. I’m not talking about the old school “tickler” agent (”Hey, don’t forget you’ve got to pick the girls up from soccer practice tonight”), nor am I talking about Google Alerts (”You asked me to keep an eye out for blog posts mentioning ‘Web 3.0?, so here you go…”). It’s closer to the kind of capability you see in good contextual advertising (my favorite example of which is all the “Bacon Salt” ads I get on Facebook after I signed up as a fan of the bacon page), but it’s both cross-platform and cross functional. As just one small example, you tell it that you want to be kept abreast of upcoming social media events, and it checks Upcoming.org, Facebook, Evite, Meetup, etc. and shares with you the events it finds, allowing you to sign up for them through its own interface.
  • RSS. I can’t tell you how wrong-headed so many interpretations of Forrester’s recent report are (Paul gets it right in this link). RSS is not dead. It’s simply buried so deep that most people don’t even know it’s there. But that doesn’t mean they’re not using it. Content syndication will be at the heart of web 3.0. It empowers almost everything I’ve been talking about in this post to some extent. Don’t sell it short. Look for ways to use it and build applications around it.
  • Semantic Web. I’m sorry. I hate to use this term. It has such negativity surrounding it. But let’s put all that bias aside for a second, and ask ourselves a question: What if there was a way, for instance, that my blogging software could understand that what I was writing about—in plain English—was an event I was trying to promote, and could translate that information so that it could automatically be shared with Upcoming, Evite, Eventbrite, Facebook, etc.? Tell me that wouldn’t be cool. The AI behind something like that isn’t too far away—hell, the Turing Test is pretty close to being passed.
  • OpenID! A conversation between myself, @RodBegbie, @al3x and @sbtodd on Twitter made me realize how important something like this will be to Web 3.0. If you assume that trust and interoperability will be at the heart of Web 3.0—go ahead, try to argue otherwise—then an idea like OpenID becomes critical. It provides a common identity platform for interoperability. YES, to quote Alex Payne, “It’s confusing for users and developers, it doesn’t bake security in, and it doesn’t solve a problem that non-geek users care about.” But it’s just confusing because nobody’s been able to explain it well. Security can presumably be fixed. And Like I said on Twitter, it might not solve a problem most non-geeks care about*, but down the road they might!

    * THIS geek certainly cares about it. I am LIVID every time some sites password security mechanism forces me to create YET ANOTHER password that I will ultimately forget. And what about interoperability? To make that happen, you’ve got to give away some security. For instance, for a lot of the cool (not to mention necessary) Twitter apps, I need to share with them my Twitter username and password. Having a security layer on top that ultimately ensured that Twhirl doesn’t have to know my password, or that I didn’t forget the super-strict password that I had to create especially for one service, could ultimately make my life easier.

Trends in 2009
The SNCR fellows called out some interesting emerging trends in 2009. Here are some highlights:

  • The line between journalism and blogging has blurred to the point that U.S. government is starting to pay attention (e.g., recent FTC rules)
  • Business schools have gotten on the social media bandwagon (finally)
  • It’s easier to measure more aspects of your PR, advertising, marketing and social media programs; and big companies are rethinking how they pay for services based on this
  • Speaking of measurement, ROI was on everybody’s minds and lips (but we’re still not quite sure what to measure)
  • Government 2.0 is slowly, sporadically becoming reality, but (here’s a surprise) very slowly
  • Privacy continues to be renegotiated
  • Customer service is now social

Stop, Look and Listen: Your Customers are Everywhere

“My customers aren’t on Twitter.”

I hear that a lot. And not just about Twitter, but replace “Twitter” with just about any social networking tool and you get the idea. However, these assumptions are pretty dangerous.

A jeans and workboots guy at a job site in Boston

Taking a break from working on the job.

Let’s look at general contractors and construction workers who build skyscrapers and state-of-the-art hospitals. You’re probably thinking that these folks aren’t checking their twitterfeed or reading blogs online, participating in webinars, let alone viewing video blogs on their iPhones.

Well, you’re wrong. Vico Software, which makes software for the construction industry, gets 17 percent of its Website  traffic from work it does on LinkedIn. That’s nearly as much as it gets from Google. This is, of course, thanks to the work of the marketing team who works hard to keep the Vico User Group vibrant and updated, but they also reach out to the 27,000 general contractors they communicate with regularly on LinkedIn.

The executive team and product managers blog regularly about current industry news items, trends, and best practices.  These blogs are shared on LinkedIn and new discussions start every day, leading to new connections. According to Holly Allison, VP of Marketing at Vico Software, “The LinkedIn Community is ripe with networking, opinions, and sharing what works.  Our target audience utilizes LinkedIn and other social media outlets on a daily basis in order to stay one step ahead of the competition.  And in this rough economy, every advantage counts.”

Vico also hosts a bi-weekly educational webinar called Fridays with Vico. Over the last 5 quarters more than 7000 people have viewed one of those webinars, either live or recorded, with 25 percent of those being new prospects, all generated from social media outreach such as LinkedIn, Twitter or a forum in which Vico participates. As far as leads go, those 7000 people turned into an average of 90 leads a month to each US sales representative.

All this outreach has  the industry talking, with partners telling Vico executives that they see Vico Software everywhere.

Let’s move on from construction workers to teachers.

Credit: Chicago 2016 Photos via Flickr

Credit: Chicago 2016 Photos via Flickr

Picture a public school teacher in your head. She is on her own in the classroom, maybe with an assistant, but facing a roomful of children. What if she has a question? What if she needs help, on the fly, with a lesson? What if a student asks a sensitive question and she just doesn’t know where to go with it?

Twitter to the rescue!

Thanks to Karen Miller of DoInk.com, I learned how teachers are reaching out to each other through Twitter. So if a teacher has a question or needs help, he simply picks up his mobile phone, sends out a Tweet and in minutes has an answer from a community of teachers around the country.

So, what if you’re a company, like DoInk.com, that has a business model focused on attracting teachers? Then you get involved in those teaching discussions, and that’s just what Miller and her team do. That work has led to a boost in traffic for the young company and increased use among students.

So before you dismiss any social media tool as being “irrelevant”  to your audience, take a listen. You may be surprised at what you find.

Ad Age: PR is About More Than Pitching

If you’re still hiring a PR firm to do little more than pitch the media, Ad Age has a wakeup call for you: it’s not working.

Today the name of the game is to create compelling content that gets  your community (customers, partners, investors, etc.) interested and invested in your brand.

What’s interesting about the campaigns profiled in the piece is that social media does not play a supporting role, it is the main focus. Most PR agencies are still media relations agencies that are tacking on social media programs to simply support what they’re already doing.

These programs took a different tact from day one, though for large brands. That’s similar to the work we at Fresh Ground are trying to bring to the SMB audience. Of course, this doesn’t mean throwing out traditional influencer relations completely:

And while they haven’t completely abandoned traditional media outlets, big-name marketers such as Procter & Gamble, Best Buy, MasterCard and Coldwell Banker are among those who have taken matters into their own hands by creating content and bringing it straight to consumers.

The great part about social media is that size doesn’t matter. Even a small real estate agency can create localized content that would put them on the map, it doesn’t have to be Caldwell Banker. The goal isn’t always to reach the largest audience, just the right audience for you.

Case in point is UrbaneApts.com, which utilized a content strategy to increase its traffic and rent more apartments. Author Eric Brown, who wrote an article on UrbaneApts.com called “Social Media Myth: It isn’t about conversation, it’s about sale” goes a little far when he says that sales matter more than conversation. It happens that UrbaneApts.com were part of the conversation and that, in turn, created more opportunity.

When Todd and I set out to create a content strategy we first want to understand the corporate marketing goals. It’s the only way we can measure what’s working and what painpoints the content must answer. All these pieces are intertwined.

And for you, the right content strategy will help reach the right audience like nothing else.

Social Media Breakfast Club

In my very first post on this blog, I wrote that “social media is about change management. It’s really about changing the way you do business.” I went on to argue that “integrating social media across the many customer touchpoints (not just the website and phone system, but every single employee of your company) requires a new way of thinking about your business. In reality, it needs a few key characters. In that vein, and with all due respect for the Social Media Breakfast, the Social Media Club and John Hughes (and with all credit to Adam Zand, who first mashed up social media and high school and who lately specifically mentioned The Breakfast Club), I offer:

The Breakfast Club

The Social Media Breakfast Club

  1. “The Change Agent” When you first look at the change agent, he might seem like “The Criminal.” He’s not satisfied with the status quo and is willing to go to lengths to challenge the system, even if it causes a little trouble. But he’s a necessary character in the Social Media Breakfast Club.
  2. “The Champion” Call him “The Jock” if you want to, but you’re still going to need him, because he’s the guy who can rally the troops and, if necessary, force some of the change that needs to happen down the team’s collective throat.
  3. “The Creative” She might seem like “The Kook”or “The Basket Case” to some, but that doesn’t mean you should lock her up and hide her from the world. Tap into her creativity to help lend some authenticity and originality to the content that you develop.
  4. “The Nerd” While social media is getting easier and easier, it doesn’t mean that throwing a little technology savvy at it can’t significantly improve the end product. Tap “The Brain” — or find your inner nerd — to work with The Creative to find some news ways to do old things, and maybe even some new brand new things!
  5. “The Collaborator” She may seem like “The Princess,” but she’s not as stuck up as she seems — she’s just intensely aware of what others think and feel. In reality, she’s an incredible collaborator, and can be great at finding and working with others to achieve a common goal.

None of these characters can, by themselves, succeed at implementing social media across an organization. But together, they can find common ground and work to make a much better place for everyone.