Social Media Top 5: Lessons Learned From “Lessons Learned from Star Wars” Posts (NO SPOILERS)

Image credit: Zsolt Andrasi on Flickr
Image credit: Zsolt Andrasi on Flickr

Image credit: Zsolt Andrasi on Flickr

Here we go again: the long-awaited new Star Wars movie is out (side note: I’m ok with spoilers; either the movie is good or it’s not), and the predictable “Lessons Learned” posts are pouring in from PR, marketing and social media bloggers. Yay.

Here’s one with PR lessons!

Here’s another, with business lessons! (It’s an old one, but whatever)

More PR lessons!

Even more PR lessons (PR agencies should just have a Jedi Training School, right?)! – Oh wait, it’s the same article on a different web site- is there a lesson there?

Marketing lessons!

Small business lessons!

More marketing lessons!

Even IT lessons!

Rather than just hate on obvious, easy-to-mock posts (or alternatively, well-thought-out posts tenuously tying real professional advice to a clickbait-friendly pop-culture event), let me think of 5 other things you can do.

  • Make sure there is real relevance: Is there a direct relevance of Star Wars to your “lessons,” or are you straining to make the connection? “Count on your business rivals to consistently miss the mark like Stormtroopers” would be an example of a poor reach. If you find yourself straining too hard to cram relevance into a subject that holds none for you, your readers will see it and move on from your post.
  • Mix it up and avoid being a hack: use language other than “lessons learned.” Perhaps you can personalize it by finding inspirations in the story or the movie marketing that you can apply. Did you do that? Do they have to be “lessons learned?”
  • Have a unique angle: Perhaps there is a niche within the movie or its characters that you can focus on, rather than just lazily pasting “Star Wars” on to your blog post and writing some gibberish about the Light and Dark sides of the Force. Maybe you can invent fake “spoilers” to make points about marketing etc., which gives you more leeway to force (Force!) the topic to be relevant to you, rather than the much-more-painful other way around.  
  • Be counter-intuitive; How about “6 Ways Star Wars has Absolutely Nothing to do with Marketing?” You can make substantive points, and still be a little subversive without offending people. Or maybe go full-on funny and do a “Lessons Learned from Spaceballs” instead (yes, I put “Spaceballs” and “funny” in the same sentence, as evidently there are people who got more laughs out of that turkey than I did).  
  • Stay away from Star Wars altogether: Do you really need to pander to pop culture to get clicks? Is that where your audience’s minds are at? I suspect they are not.

That said, here are are my marketing lessons from “Star Wars: The Force Awakens”:

  1. Be owned by Disney
  2. Have a zillion dollar budget
  3. Advertise everywhere (again: budget!)
  4. Create something forty years ago that people love so you can go back to the well again, clean out their wallets and still have them thank you
  5. Harrison. Freaking. Ford.

Count me in!

 

Social Media Top 5: DisLike-sia and Other Facebook Stuff

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Image Credit: Rebecca on Flickr

Dislike-sia

Is Facebook finally implementing the long-discussed Dislike Button? Of course not. It’s a silly idea that makes no sense, not to mention that Facebook has long said it wouldn’t do that.

That did not prevent people from breathlessly reporting that Facebook was doing just that after some comments by founder Mark Zuckerberg last week. Of course, it was bunk; Facebook is looking at ways for people to express empathy or sympathy when acknowledging someone’s bad news on Facebook- times when a “like” feels awkward or inappropriate). Apparently, simply commenting isn’t enough, which I suppose I can understand (or empathize with).

The real story here isn’t the button, but that people rush off to publish in this age of the continuous news cycle without considering to absorb the actual facts. There was some backlash straightening out the facts, but the damage continued through the weekend, for example the incorrect original reporting being the basis for a quiz question on NPR’s “Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me.”

Reading is easy. Comprehension is hard.

So for now (and forever), haters will have to dislike Facebook content the way they know best – by trolling, bullying and creative hostility.

 

Signal for Facebook

Meanwhile, in news about products Facebook is actually introducing, the curation (my word) app Signal is being rolled out for media partners. Signal allows media partners to embed Facebook content in stories. I see it as some version of Storify, albeit limited to Facebook, but likely with some better tools for finding and collecting content.

The real news to me is that this product presents the possibility that Facebook is improving its search. If that is true and becomes available as improved search for all users, that would be a huge improvement; and Facebook will have to improve search if they want to become the de facto Web for people.

Strangers in my Facebook Feed

Small bother, but I had recently noticed more unfamiliar names in my Facebook feed. I wouldn’t think too much of it but a few other friends who are power Facebook users definitely noticed the same thing. I haven’t found any confirmation that Facebook has done some tweaks to the main feed to show more friends of friends or something like that, but I’m curious, if anyone knows more than I do.

Crystal- Meh? 

Not a Facebook item, but saw a recommendation for a service called Crystal that analyzes a person’s online social media and recommends how to interact with that person. Not sure of the algorithm or the accuracy, but here’s how you can talk to me, for what that’s worth:

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One Last Time – I Repeat: Facebook is Not Introducing a Dislike Button

Please make it stop.

Something Fishy About “Top Marketing Influencer” Lists

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It seems to be “list season” in the marketing world, as bloggers and companies merrily link-bait their way through the usual suspects in the hopes of mentions, thank you’s and general reciprocal tongue baths of appreciation. Lists can be great, if they spotlight someone new that might interest you and give you some informative reading. They are also good for boosting the profiles (and egos) of consultants trying to make names for themselves in a crowded field of guru-dom.

However, I sometimes wonder how helpful these lists are. For research, I took a list from a standard source (Social Media Today) and picked an influencer who unquestionably belongs on most marketing “best of” lists, Seth Godin. Here is how his entry looks on the Social Media Today list I found:

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Curious about how others compile these lists, I cross-referenced his name with other “best of” compilations. To be honest, I came a way a little confused. Perhaps you can tell me what you think after seeing the examples I found. I suspect there are shenanigans afoot:

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Swearing as Business Model – Bad Idea or Good For You?

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Image Credit: A Syn on Flickr

Anyone who knows me know I can out-swear any sailor, and be creatively obscene in the process. However, when it comes to speaking or writing in public, I very rarely use those blasted cusswords – yes, rarely, as I have on a few occasions let context be my excuse for a naughty syllable or two. I’m ok with swearing, and you would have to try really hard to offend me.

I have, therefore, mixed feelings when I see people in the marketing industry use swears as part of their business personality. I get that people want to have an edgy personal brand (speaking of obscene phrases), but when conducting business and attracting new clients, is it a wise idea?

There are several examples out there now, by people that I like and know do good work- to name three off the top of my head: Jason Falls, Gary Vaynerchuk and, a recent addition, former Forrester analyst Josh Bernoff.

These three guys have been reasonably successful, right? In fact, I was quite enamored of one of Bernoff’s posts, a rant on writing well in a business context that was detailed and practical. However, I was hesitant to share it, because I didn’t want to tweet the “BS” in the title of his blog. Thre are ways around it, of course, but it does create work for some people who don’t want to share the swears.

Still considering it? I’m not going to stop anyone, but here are some things I would consider if I were so inclined:

  • Is it really necessary? Can you get your point across without cussing? Yeah, I thought so. I generally can. In fact, it’s a good challenge to get around swearing by using more creative language. I don’t mean double entendres (or maybe I do- W.C. Fields was one of the best at getting around censors), I just mean trying a little harder to express yourself. The one thing that deflates Bernoff’s example is that swearing can be seen as lazy by a person who is actually giving very good advice on writing and messaging.
  • Does it fit your voice? If you have an edgy persona to your brand, whether it be a company or just you, I guess it can make sense. Vaynerchuk’s mouth has been ready for the soapdish since I can remember seeing him online and in person. Not only should it fit your brand, but it helps to be unapologetic- whatever your voice is, stand behind it. If you must swear, then make sure it is seen as part of you and not an attention-getting gimmick.
  • Will it affect your ability to attract customers? I feel that this is the biggest consideration. Is your image as a professional tarnished by a salty mouth? Are your clients- or the clients you want- put off or accepting of swearing? Why drive away business in the name of being cool? Even a brand with a much milder epithet, Gini Dietrich’s blog Spin Sucks (See? It’s mild; I typed it here so it must be OK), has suffered the occasional waggled eyebrow of propriety.
  • Do you have a flippin’ problem? What are you looking at? I just wanted to make sure you were paying attention.
  • Is it really necessary? This is worth asking again. If you’re really sure, go ahead, I guess.

So, hypocrite that I am, I am not a big fan of swearing-as-business. I’m not judging those who do  it, I just don’t see the point, most of time, of excluding certain valuable members of your business audience. Or maybe I’m just an old fuddy-duddy, or worse, a cotton-headed ninny muggins.

Whatever you decide for yourself: Good For You.

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Stop Using “Humblebrag”

Photo Credit: Thomas Hawk on Flickr (per CC license)
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Photo Credit: Thomas Hawk on Flickr (per CC license)

It has been a few years now, and people are still using the term “#humblebrag.” I have about had it.

It’s not a word.

The very use of this non-word shouts- no, SCREAMS – “I’m not really being humble and I want you all to bow down to how cool I am.”

But you are not being cool, you are being a jackass.

Let’s break down this non-word via Merriam-Webster. Here is humble:

hum·ble

adjective ˈhəm-bəl also chiefly Southern ˈəm-: not proud : not thinking of yourself as better than other people

 

And here is brag:

brag

noun ˈbrag :  a pompous or boastful statement

I would prefer a less pejorative definition of “brag” as my point is that it’s ok to talk up an accomplishment, a great idea or something else one should rightly be proud of, that we might even learn something from,  and is worth sharing. Bragging is ok by that definition, as one can back it up. Also, I am not saying one should not be humble. However, pointing out that one is being humble shines a glaring spotlight on that least humble of behaviors: false humility.

I like to think of “humblebrag,” then, as an oxymoron; I choose to define that as a moron who is willfully driving his or her brain of the oxygen needed to prevent jackass-like behavior.

Within my profession, the biggest worry I have is, as usual, perception: one person’s self-important jackass is another’s social media guru – and a third person might not see a difference between the two. Whether or not you see that as a bad thing might actually define how I view your professional IQ.

So, please.

For the love of Pete.

Stop using #humblebrag.

If you have something worthy, just brag. If it really is worthy, we’ll agree with you. (If it’s not worthy, then you’re still a jackass, albeit one that doesn’t use that non-word.)

For a less-ranty version of similar thinking, see Daniel Newman’s post on the Millennial CEO blog.

Please brag about stuff in comments below.

Platform Shaming – No, It’s Not Twitter’s Fault

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Photo Credit: Chris Vreeland on Flickr

In the marketing, PR and communications field, we (well, the smart ones at least) take great care to remember that what we do – and what happens – both good and bad, is rarely if ever the fault of the communications platform. Generally, the culprit our hero is sound communications strategy supported by a legitimately good product or service.

Just the past week we have had online blowups regarding Bill Cosby, Uber and the NFL’s New England Patriots. Not that people are widely blaming these gaffes on Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr and the other social media platforms, but often enough that is the knee-jerk reaction. As parent of a teenager, I am attuned to hearing other parents worry (often preemptively) about social media being to blame for bad things that could happen, when experience tells us that bad (and good) things have happened well before social media, and will still occur in their banned absence.

So why do we blame Twitter or other platforms when things blow up? I have a few theories.

  • People are lazy

Why examine the real reasons for a PR disaster – a bad product, an out-of-control executive, a just-plain-rotten idea – when we can blame Twitter or Facebook for the bad reactions? That’s easier, and if it makes people feel better about themselves…wait, that’s a bad thing. Fix the real problems and social media will be nice to you. The Gap logo flap a couple of years didn’t happen because of social media; it happened because people hated the logo. Social media may even have helped speed up their course correction.

  • We want the Magic Pixie Dust of social media to be real

Social media is a great part of any communications tool set- but strategy drives it, not the other way around. That said, this Saturday Night Live Sketch made me laugh:

  • Old-school ink-stained wretches just can’t seem to get those mom’s-basement-dwelling-bloggy-people off their damn lawn.

This is my favorite, and seems to be more prevalent with sports columnists than anyone else (at least here in Boston). The idea that the old-school daily paper sports columnists automatically have more knowledge, experience and gravitas is bunkum; for among the legions of idiot typing away in his Cheeto’s-encrusted underwear, there are a few future media-mogul idiots. Most columnists do have that over most amateur bloggers, but the curt dismissal I see constantly is short-sighted and undignified. Another symptom is more in sync with the initial premise of this post- it’s easy to blame Twitter et al rather than the real cause of the problem, such as in this column shaming Twitter for the Patriots’ accidental endorsement of a hate speech-bemonikered Twitter account. That article, to bury the lead, is the inspiration for this post in the first place. Traditional media won’t get far by misunderstanding the newer channels.

Don’t  be lazy, and when it comes to solving PR and communications problems, don’t fight the wrong enemy.

Kim Kardashian Gives Better Social Media Advice Than You Do*

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3776887321_7772630e5b_oOne of the funnest spectator sports in social media marketing is tearing apart the advice of others. Add to that the constant hand-wringing over whether conference presenters should give “101” talks or “advanced” seminars brings the whole thing to the brink of becoming a spectator sport. Well, what if someone outside the marketing bubble gives advice, and some silly web site gives it some editorial space? That’s just wrong, isn’t it? How dare they! Let’s tear it down!

Over the last week or so, I saw an article on ReCode titled “Five Social Media Tips From Kim Kardashian West.” It’s easy to make fun of that; after all, what’s not to laugh at when a Kardashian is trying to give advice to people? Actually reading the article, however, I found that most of her advice was common sense, and worth adopting – seriously. Here is my reasoning:

  • She is talking about using social media the way you or I might use it: Her last tip, “Don’t be weird and post more than three pictures from location,” is actually pretty sound for everyday users – and if people (God forbid) have a habit of doing Kardashian West’s bidding, there might be a little lower volume of annoying oversharing on social media. Yes, I said Kim Kardashian West could conceivably help slow the stupidization of the Internet.
  • The advice is terribly basic — But it’s not basically terrible. “I use Twitter as my Google” sounds like one of the tragically idiotic buzz-phrases you might see in any Social Media book, but on the other hand, think about how you use Twitter. I did, and I do use Twitter search frequently when looking for discussion and links to current events. It doesn’t replace Google, but Twitter works better this way than as a conversation platform these days; it’s easy to get behind the meaning of that tip.
  • It’s counter-intuitive not to make fun, so I’m on board: Being dismissive of vacuous celebutantes is overdone. Considering the (almost-complete) lack of bad advice, I think I’ll take all my advice from such famous people from now on. It’s much easier to follow, with success, than most “what time of day to Tweet” posts. And it’s much cheaper than buying a stack of glorified monitor supports from Amazon.com.
  • This is not “Five Social Media Lessons from (Today’s News Story That is Irrelevant to Social Media)”: The article is just personal tips from one person. It is far less despicable than “Five Social Media Lessons from the Ebola Panic” or other offensive desperate attempts at “newsjacking.”
  • Caveat: I can’t defend the Blackberry shout-out – I assume that was a paid endorsement. God bless ’em.

This is an admittedly long way to go to make one simple point: sometimes the insipid make sense, while it is just as easy for industry professionals to recycle marginally helpful – or even flat-out wrong – advice. It is up to you to know the difference. So, yes, Kim Kardashian West gives better social media advice than you do.* Plus, if you really want to make fun of her and her ilk, I guarantee there will be plenty of other opportunities.

Viva Kardashian.

*Actually, no disclaimer here. She really does. I mean it. Step up your game, gurus. 

Image Credit: jen collins on Flickr

Who Killed Scott Monty?

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Image by coltera on Flickr

Last week, Scott Monty, a friend I have known dating back to his Boston days, announced he was leaving his position at Ford Motors, where he ran digital communications, i.e. social media (or at least including social media).

The reaction? Well, Scott is popular and well-known in the social media community, and had a visible role in one of the world’s most famous companies, so I guess you could say people noticed. What was ridiculous, however, was the hand-wringing over what it meant for social media in corporations. Surely, it must be dead, as professionals with high-profiles have left Dell (Richard Binhammer) and Comcast (Frank Eliason) over the last year or two. Three makes a trend, right? One of the more picked-over posts has been Shel Israel’s “Will Big Brands Kill Social Media?

What nonsense. First off, we don’t know why Scott left Ford until he says so (as I write he has not announced what he is doing next, or if he even knows). What we do know is that he was at Ford for six years. In an industry where three years in one job is an eternity, Scott may have been growing moss at his feet, being in one place so long. It is natural to look for a new challenge if the current challenges have been exhausted, no matter how much we think landing a dream job will be the “forever job” where we grow and retire after many decades of service. Again, I don’t know why Scott left, but he stayed a lot longer than what is surely the industry average.

The idea that high profile people leaving their positions means the death of social media? Again, complete nonsense. See the landscape clearly, and you will note that the Fords, Dells and Comcasts of the world adopted social, at least to some scale, early. Other companies have too. But many others have not, or adopted much later. Perhaps these early adopters have reached a certain maturity stage where they change how they organize around social. Maybe not. But if we take Scott Monty’s example and add a rash assumption that there is change in Ford’s program, then companies starting now won’t get around to this “change” until 2020. I admit it’s ridiculous to apply that hard number to all companies, but that’s the point; there is still plenty of opportunity for strategists and tacticians to get their hands dirty helping companies navigate social media, content marketing, brand publishing, or whatever buzzword gains momentum between now and then.

There is a fine line between discussion and overreaction. I prefer to see a bigger picture.

P.S. Shel Holtz and Neville Hobson of the For immediate Release Podcast did an interview with Scott on the topic here.

 

 

The Social Media Backlash is Here

Well, it finally happened.

Almost a decade of hubris by a new wave of marketers telling that social media was the be-all and end-all, and declaring advertising “dead” has finally turned.

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Photo by Retis on Flickr

First, we have Bob Hoffman’s Advertising Week Europe speech, “The Golden Age of Bullshit” in which he defends the still-quite-alive-thank-you-very-much advertising industry from the slings and nerf-tipped arrows of “engagement” and “brand relationships” crowd.

Ok, fine.

Calling advertising dead was always over the top, and poking the bear inevitably results in a mauling. Hoffman followed up, unrepentantly, with a thoughtful blog post that yet continues his mockery of the self-appointed social media elite.

Ok, fine.

From within the comfortable confines of Social Media Marketing, I have always cast a cynical eye to what many of us referred to the “snake oil” of social: the over-reliance of engagement over results; the emphasis of soft results over hard numbers; the circling of the wagons-of-peers over the service of business goals.

But here’s the thing: that’s not the entirety of social media marketing. While he acknowledges that not all social media marketers are full of it, I do have the distinct  feeling that Hoffman has found a fun new axe to swing; he is going to use the fact that he is largely right as an excuse to beat social media into the ground in favor of King Ad, with a resulting swing of the pendulum all the way back until Madge is soaking in it up to her neck.

In the meantime, social media marketers have found religion; we are seeing multiple blog posts decrying the social media imperatives that brands need to engage as humans, that people want to be Facebook pals with corporations, all as if this were a new idea.

The latest I noticed is Jason Falls’ post, “An Apology to Brands on Behalf of Social Media Experts Everywhere.” In it, Jason (who I know and like from the Social Media blogging and conference circuit), lays out the crime that social media marketers have been committing against brands since the beginning: that our insistence that brands be “human” and engage” was a lie.

Speak for yourself, Jason. I won’t claim never to have fallen in with the “engage” crowd, but I’m not a big fan of one “guru” trying to speak for the entire industry. And since I had a cuss-word to start, I’ll keep this R-rated; we didn’t all fuck this up. In fact, most of us still think we haven’t fucked it up.

The smart people in the industry haven’t called for the end of advertising (as if we could); we valued engagement but not at the expense of sales and attainable metrics; we were aware of the scale of social media versus the rest of our clients’ and employers’ business goals.

The idea of brands being able to publish and speak for themselves online is still pretty new and still forming and changing–

— in fact, stop —

The whole reason this painful self-examination and these attempted assassinations by the never-threatened ad industry is clear: it’s Facebook ceasing to pretend that brand exposure is free, isn’t it? Just ask Jeff Esposito. This set off the hysteria in the guise of a salvo of smoke bombs to distract the world while social media scrambles to understand “paid media.” Pardon our appearance while we re-brand our industry.

–ok, where was I? Oh yes —

— Social media is still pretty new. We are going through painful transitions in some quarters. But you know what? The false social “gurus” will still be full of crap, and the people who are honestly helping companies- the majority of us – will still be helping companies succeed in their communications and marketing programs.

So, when Bob Hoffman speaks of the “roiling cesspool of arrogant, insufferable charlatans,” well, we know what small part of the social media crowd they are. So what? Clean up your own cesspool and stop making crappy ads (while you’re at it, tell Geico to pick a campaign and stick with it – what a waste of money. I vote for the lizard).

On each side of the coin, the people who are good at their jobs know the real impact of what they do, the real reach of what they try, and the pitfalls of doing the wrong thing. I don’t care if social media marketers want to figuratively light themselves on fire, and if ad people want stand by and  roast marshmallows; I’ll just continue to do work that interests me – and that I hope is good and has an impact within the wider world of marketing and communications.

I Made Fun of Upworthy Headlines; What Happened Next was Amazing*

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I like to be grumpy online about things that bug me; however, I try to be fair and limit my (usually) good-natured condemnations to an element that bugs me, rather than an entire organization or effort (an example of this ethos: think “people do stupid things” rather than “people are stupid”).

One good example of this is Upworthy. Nothing makes me crazier than the “Upworthy” style of headline, which usually goes along the lines of: “The Sun Rose Today: What Happened Next Will Amaze You.”

I guess I don’t like to be told that I will be amazed: I WILL BE THE JUDGE OF THAT.

However, what happened next shocked me; I quickly began to notice that some – perhaps many – of the stories being shared with these atrocious headlines were actually pretty interesting or moving (amazing? let’s not get carried away). How would I know that? Because friends- people I trust – said the content was worth looking at. When I bothered to click, it often was worth reading; at least, it was more often than I expected (I know, amazing, right?). That’s enough for this cynical old troll to stop crabbing.

So, no, Upworthy stories are not worthless; in fact, it’s just another lesson along the lines of “don’t judge a book by the Hello Kitty protective cover some shallow middle schooler put on it.”

I still hate the headlines- they do a disservice to the better stories out there.

And stop using the word amazing (or don’t); it has surely lost its meaning by now.

 

* Not really