The State of Trust (in Under Three Minutes)

The 13th annual Edelman Trust Barometer contains some very interesting developments on the state of consumer trust.

Some points that caught my attention included:

Technology is the most trusted industry, while banks and financial institutions are the least trusted.

Only 18 percent of those surveyed trusted business leaders, and only 13 percent trusted government leaders.

Influence and authority has shifted from the few top leaders to the many (with the help of social media).

Messages in the new media age must contain humility, transparency and a willingness to explain mutual benefit.

Great insights…

Who Defines the Brand?

Does the age of social media and connectivity spell the end of “branding?” Many people claim this is the case. In reality, it’s not true.

Social media does present some unique challenges to brands. People can complain publicly when expectations are not met. These complaints, if they persist and spread, can also damage a brand. But, brands for the most part still control their own destiny.

The best definitions and concepts related to branding often come from company CEOs. I had the chance recently to listen to some great branding wisdom from Greg Brown, CEO at Motorola Solutions, a company that’s had great success developing its brand internally and externally.

Here are some of the insights he offered:

“Brand is the image you create and the experience you deliver.”

“Implement a brand framework around a cultural identity.”

“Create a brand purpose. Is what you’re doing fitting that purpose?”

“Determine ‘how’ the brand speaks, not so much what it says. Be concise, human and imaginative.”

These aren’t comments that indicate a loss of the ability to develop a brand. Much to the contrary, developing a consistent and powerful brand is still very achievable, despite the prevalence of social media.

22 Key Takeaways from the Program “New Social Media Marketing Tools and Rules”

I had the privilege of attending the Chicago American Marketing Association’s “New Social Media Marketing Tools and Rules” on Wednesday. Speakers for the program were Adam Lilly, Brand Director at Goose Island Beer Company and Nader Ali-Hassan, Associate Director, Social Media at Razorfish. It was an afternoon filled with actionable social media information, including the following key takeaways:

Adam Lilly shared:

  • Make time to connect with people on social media.
  • Generate new and fresh content; don’t say the same things over and over.
  • Social media is a destination. Participate in the conversation.
  • Enable others to talk about your brand.
  • Practice timely storytelling.
  • Social must be a commitment and ingrained in the culture of the brand.
  • Good brand social media frontline employees are good storytellers.
  • Metrics are not as important as engagement.
  • Share in a creative and meaningful way.
  • Weekly digital content meetings can help generate ideas.
  • Encourage widespread use of social media by employees.

Nader Ali-Hassan shared:

  • The story and how you tell it is important.
  • Social media is about creating and connecting.
  • People don’t want to connect to a brand, but the people behind it.
  • Think about utility: providing value to the consumer.
  • Have a consistent brand voice across platforms.
  • Don’t reinvent the wheel; take advantage of the technologies that are available.
  • Think about social as a paid, earned and owned proposition.
  • Always plan ease and sharability into your content.
  • Trust your gut: If the shiny object doesn’t feel right, don’t use it.
  • Be willing to cede control of the brand to others.
  • Include social media in the overall marketing mix.

What would you add?

To Blog or Not to Blog

It’s been a rough couple of weeks for blogging, or business blogging at least.

First came the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth study that delivered these findings, among others:

  • Blogging declines for the first time among the Inc. 500.  Fifty percent of the 2010 Inc. 500 had a corporate blog, up from 45% in 2009 and 39% in 2008.  In this new 2011 study, the use of blogging dropped to 37%.  Companies in the Advertising/Marketing industry are most likely to blog while companies in Government Services and Construction make very little use of this tool. This decline mirrors a trend in other sectors as this mature tool evolves into other forms or is replaced by communication through Facebook or Twitter.
  • New tools replace older ones.  Facebook and LinkedIn lead the way. The platform most utilized by the 2011 Inc. 500 is Facebook with 74% of companies using it.  Virtually tied at 73% is the adoption of the professional network, LinkedIn.  Twenty-five and 24% respectively report that Facebook or LinkedIn is the single most effective social networking platform they use. Texting, downloadable mobile applications, and Foursquare are being utilized by 13%-15% of the 2011 Inc. 500.

The study was followed by a Digiday post by Jack Marshall that indicated creative agencies are ditching their blogs as well. Here’s the quote that sums up the gist of the post:

“Nobody reads agency blogs, and there are so many out there it’s impossible for people to keep up anyway,” said Sam Weston, director of communications at digital agency Huge. “We put ours on hiatus while we figure out what we want to do with it. We do use Facebook and Twitter. We’ve figured out what works for us there.”

Marshall’s Digiday post caught the attention (or ire) of popular bloggers Mitch Joel, Chris Brogan and Shel Holtz.

From Joel:

Here’s a dirty little secret: I hope more agencies stop blogging. I could also name some bloggers that I’d like to see stop. Why? Am I being mean? Absolutely not. I see too many agencies and bloggers struggle with their blogs. It’s both obvious and painful to watch. They wind up spending too much time writing about themselves or covering the same areas of interest that everyone else is talking about. They’re afraid to have an opinion, step into a territory that they’re uncomfortable with and – most of all – they’re afraid to go “off brand.”

From Brogan:

I’ll tell you without even having to look why nobody reads a blog: because it’s boring. Because it’s poorly written. Because it’s utterly self-referential.

Nobody has time to read junk. Why would you? There’s so much great material out there.

From Holtz:

The assertion that nobody reads agency blogs came as a surprise to Niall Cook, one of the architects of Hill & Knowlton‘s blogging initiative. Cook left H&K last year to start his own consultancy—Sociagility—but says that by the time he left, the agency’s blogs “were generating more traffic and higher search engine rankings than the corporate website.” The website, he says, cost considerably more than the few thousand dollars invested in getting the blogs up and running.

“Even today, there are way more links to blogs.hillandknowlton.com than to http://www.hillandknowlton.com or http://www.hkstrategies.com,” Cook says. His new company’s blog covers topics like why there will never be a standardized social media ROI metric. There isn’t a new-hire or we-won-an-award post to be seen.

In fact, those self-promoting blogs Marshall seems to think characterize agency efforts don’t represent the best agency blogging. Agency blogs that produce the kinds of results H&K has achieved spotlight thought leadership, not awards and new-hires. The ain’t-we-great style of blog—whether from an agency or a company—never appealed to anybody, a fact reinforced by Forrester research that dates back 3-1/2 years.

It could be, given the data from the Dartmouth study and at least the appearance of a decline in blogging among agencies, that businesses overall are coming to the conclusion that blogging isn’t for them, and that’s okay.

I’m pro blogging from a marketing standpoint and feel there can be numerous benefits to the tactic. Not every business, however, fully understands blogging and how to execute it successfully. Or, it could simply be that these businesses have found other channels that yield increased ROI and choose to focus on those. That’s perfectly fine.

The idea that businesses must blog or that blogging is some kind of silver bullet holds no truth. Blogging, like other forms of marketing requires strategy, commitment and hard work. Even then, in most cases business blogs take time to mature.

So, choose wisely. Blogging holds great promise, but should be undertaken with great care and planning. If that’s not the right approach (for your business), the marketing world has many other avenues to choose from.

What do you think? Do you feel business blogging is on the decline?

Who Should Manage Social Media for an Organization?

Since many organizations lack the resources to hire dedicated social media professionals, I see this question quite frequently. I don’t think the answer is as straightforward as some would say, but for sure there at least are several guiding principles to consider for anyone making this decision.

Internal vs. External

First and foremost, if at all possible, the best case scenario would be to have the organization’s social media channels managed internally. In the case of a small business, this might not always be an option. Time constraints or unfamiliarity with the different social platforms can seem daunting. Eventually, managing social media internally would be a great goal to set. After all, nobody knows an organization like its employees. They should be able to represent the brand with the most enthusiasm, authenticity and efficiency.

If internal management just isn’t an option, an established digital or social media agency can help. The agency selection process should be entered into with the goal of developing a long-term relationship so that the agency personnel can fully learn the business and represent it most effectively.

Marketing vs. Public Relations

If an organization has marketing and PR professionals, which group should manage social media? Many organizations have professionals that have both marketing and PR responsibilities. If so, these would be the ones to take on social media as well.

What about larger organizations with separate marketing and PR departments? Generally professionals with PR backgrounds would be better suited to manage the social media activities. Their training and experience in communicating with various publics in many different types of situations would serve the organization well in its social media communications.

Introvert vs. Extrovert

Neither one would necessarily be the “ideal” personality type. The person or people should however have a desire to be social, have an understanding of the platforms and how to use them effectively, along with a desire to be pleasant, helpful and committed to representing the organization well through social media.

Let me know what you think. Anything you would add?

Putting Social Back in Social Media

In some quarters, the social part of social media is missing in action. You don’t have to look very far to see examples of social media used mostly for broadcasting, building personal brands and generally for promotional purposes. If one way self-promotion isn’t how we would act with someone in person, why do we feel it’s fine to use social media in this manner?

The longer I’m involved in using social media (which hasn’t been that long compared to some), the more convinced I become that things should be more natural than they seem to be in many instances.

Social is about being open, transparent, helpful and engaging. For many people these traits come easily, for some not so much. That’s not to say one can’t grow in these (like I feel I have) and experience more success and enjoyment using social media. The areas above are definitely examples of where we should be trying to improve.

When it comes to business use of social media, antisocial behavior is even more prevalent. Many businesses have a long way to go to become truly social.

A SideraWorks presentation titled “What Is Social Business?” beautifully defines the six core principles of a social business.

They are:

  • Agility
  • Openness
  • Empowerment
  • Smart connectivity
  • Active intelligence
  • Adaptability

For businesses that haven’t started to embody these principles, now would be the time to start. Our digital society likely won’t become less social in the years ahead. The good news is that becoming a social business is achievable, and it offers great benefits. Check out the presentation for more information on those.

Whether it’s personal or business, we could use more social in social media. I’ll be working on it. Will you?

Let me know what you think.