Monday, August 31, 2009

pay for play

Some of these discussions around "earned media" vs "paid-for media" remind me of sex (I'm a man, everything reminds me of sex).
  • Earned media is presented as inherently better than the paid-for kind at a moral level (as opposed to just a financial one) in much the same way that "earned" sex is inherently better than the paid-for kind*.
  • Men who pay for sex do not necessarily do so out of desperation. They may want sex but not a relationship. Is deceiving someone that you want a relationship with them when really all you are after is the sex more moral than paying some for it? Isn't a honest transaction better than a fraudulent relationship?
  • A lot of earned media seems to consist of stressed journos recycling press releases - like a relationship where one partner trades security for sexually satisfying the other?
  • As the cliche goes "You always pay for sex". What are your actual costs with with not seeking paid-for advertising?
*I don't particularly want to get into arguments about the morality (or otherwise) of prostitution but it exists in many cultures and it seems to fulfill a basic human need. However it doesn't seem like an appealing career choice.

has marketing eaten social software?

First off, let me say some nice things about the people that put on the Social Media Club in Sydney. They volunteer their time. They put on very professional events that attract a lot of people. They are kind to animals and help old ladies across the road. The first session was especially good because they had a bloke from a marketing agency and they also had Leslie Nasser - who is not a marketing guy but did something cool online.

Now I am not a marketing guy. But I am interested in social software (blogs, wikis, Twitter, etc) and I am interested in people who are doing cool stuff online (regardless of who they work for). And I don't feel there's anything at the Social Media Club for people who aren't in PR or marketing agencies. Now that may be who its intended audience, in which case they ought to change the name to make that clear - the "Social Media for Marketers Club" is nicely unambiguous.

However if it does go down that path then it risks being less interesting as a result. It's like a "Television Club" that only discusses ads or a "Telephone Club" that focuses on call centres. There is a whole world out there and there are plenty of people in it who aren't after a "social media expert" title.

So I'd encourage the organisers to broaden the kind of presentations they have and possibly experiment with the format as well. One or two people on stage separated from everyone else feels very traditional, very old media (as another Gavin mentioned). How could it be done differently?

Sunday, August 23, 2009

intelligent design?

Intelligent Design is best understood as a failure of the imagination. We look at the world and see something with order. Jungles with thousands of species existing in equilibrium. Coral reefs, polar icecaps, rolling hills. The idea that is could have been shaped by forces without intention is ridiculous to us. Someone must have built it. Someone like us but bigger.

Because order only comes from intention, doesn't it? The world is a machine, fashioned by the Great Engineer.

Could the tents of Organizational Design be a similar failure of the imagination? Are our organizations more like machines or jungles?

Monday, August 10, 2009

social software measurement as asymmetric warfare

A couple of weeks ago, I was at the Sydney Social Media Club where there was much discussion of measurement by Paull, Jye & Matt.

After the event, I was pondering this well-known story:
Two campers are walking through the forest when they suddenly encounter a grizzly bear. The bear rears up on his hind legs and lets out a terrifying roar. Both campers are frozen in their tracks. The first camper whispers, "I'm sure glad I wore my running shoes today." "It doesn't matter what kind of shoes you're wearing, you're not gonna outrun that bear," replies the second. "I don't have to outrun the bear, I just have to outrun YOU," he answers.
When you are asked to demonstrate the ROI of social software, all you have to do is prove that SM delivers the benefits of traditional media at a lower cost - because it seems that most marketing is a cost of doing business rather than a generator of sustainable growth.

There's a problem here however: What if it doesn't? If you compare Twitter to TV using TV's metrics then TV is probably going to win. TV's metrics have coevolved with the medium over decades. It's a fixed match. TV is wearing the running shoes and you're looking like a tasty snack for a Mr Grizzly. Julian does some very interesting crunching of Twitter reach numbers and concludes: Knowing this is great for planning but who is going to take back a reduced number when traditional media agencies are still talking inflated reach into the 100,000s?

In making this move, I would suggest that the SM crowd risk doing a Mullah Nasrudin:
Nasrudin found a weary falcon sitting one day on his window-sill. He had never seen a bird like this before. "You poor thing", he said, "how ever were you allowed to get into this state?" He clipped the falcon’s talons and cut its beak straight, and trimmed its feathers. "Now you look more like a bird", said Nasrudin.*
Even by calling it "social media", we clip its talons. As this article by Malcolm Gladwell explains, if you are a David and you play by Goliath's rules then you then he will squash you. If you are engaged in an asymmetric struggle then you need to choose your turf and your weapons - not let them be chosen for you.

Some hypotheses (which may well be wrong because I don't work in marketing):
  • Social software is that it allows you to do multiple things at once - customer service AND promotion AND sales AND research. Organisation with a combined approach to selling, marketing & service would be more open to social software plays that offer an integrated approach to the customer (not that are necessarily many of those about).
  • Social software is speed. Measures around "time-to-market" and "response time" become critical here (which are more associated with new product development & customer service than advertising).
  • Social software is cheap (unless someone is greedy) - "cost per message" anyone? This means that you can run multiple experiments in a short period of time at low cost. Iterating TV spots is not cheap.
  • Social software is interactive - you'd expect that cross-selling/up-selling metrics might be relevant here.
Of course, these measures don't help you persuade people that Twitter is better at TV's job than TV is - but should you be trying to do that in the first place?

There are two other riffs in my head:
  • Marketing & media as ecology (with prey, predators, parasites, symbionts).
  • Measurement as social proof.
But those will be other blog posts.

*Thanks to Dave for introducing me to this story.