Keeping social media “Real”



This story today from Fox News brought to light the not-so-secret practice of sponsors using their athlete’s social media channels to share a message.  It’s a tactic that I’ve used with athlete marketing partners in the past in order to share news about an onsite event promotion or to try and drive website traffic or social media chatter around an online promotion.  It’s great when it works – just about any celebrity is going to generate more positive buzz than just about any brand can get on their own online.  However, it can also feel forced and inauthentic if not handled properly.

Here are three tips to keep in mind when drafting what we refer to as a “Social Media Run-of-Show”:

1.  Encourage Collaboration:  Look at the big picture for all of the potential celebrities, sponsors and partners that may get involved in your social media outreach activity.  At a NASCAR event, for instance, that includes not just the brand, the track and the driver, but also the crew chief, pit crew members, team owners and associate sponsors.  You can generate a lot more traction by keeping everyone informed and getting everyone involved.  And, frankly, a partner re-tweeting a brand message can feel a lot more real than an original post that may be out of context.

2.  Suggest Messaging, Don’t Dictate Language:  While it’s much easier for everyone to follow a script, social media messaging can often come off as just that.  Whenever possible, take the time to explain the strategy behind your campaign to the relevant partners and spokespeople that you’re coordinating with, and let them craft the messaging in their own words.  Especially with athletes, posting a message in the voice of the sponsor feels fake.  Telling the story in their own words feels real.  It’s a balancing act for sure, but one worth considering for the sake of authenticity and a stronger connection to the fan.  Speaking of the fans . . .

3.  Invite Fans to Participate:  A social media promotion is really designed to generate buzz.  And that means two-way communication.  Invite fans to share a message, and reward them for doing so.  As a sponsor, re-circulate their content, surprise them with rewards for posting relevant content, and give them ways to get involved through live events (a Tweet-Up with other fans, Celebrity Meet-and-Greets and social scavenger hunts, just to provide a few examples).  Making them feel part of the promotion can really help extend your social reach.

Remember, the key to successful social media campaigns is to create an aura of authenticity.  Keep that in mind when working with athletes or other celebrities.

What are some of the most authentic athlete/sponsor social media campaigns you’ve seen?



How Strategic is Your Marketing Plan


In the past five years, like many of you, my business has changed dramatically. As a marketing and advertising professional, the introduction of social and mobile media has produced a brand new paradigm for brand management, retail marketing, and customer communication. So much in fact that it has thrown the entire agency model into chaos.

No longer can advertising agencies count on a 15% media commission for revenue, or rely on some clever television ads to drive the business goals of a client. We have had to become more responsive, more creative and more diverse in what we do.

Plus, now outside marketing consultants find ourselves competing with internal resources when it comes to things like plotting Facebook strategies, deciding when to rely on Pinterest over Twitter or implementing QR codes on a mobile platform.

An organization needs to make a lot of marketing decisions these days.  And, it’s not always clear where and how to start.  This is what makes the development of a strategic marketing plan so important for any organization.

Developing a Strategic Marketing Plan

A strategic marketing plan is a document that helps make sure your organization’s marketing efforts are tied directly into achieving your business goals and objectives.

It is equally important no matter whether your organization is a consumer-facing business, a business-to-business or business-to-government supplier, or a non-profit.

Your strategic marketing plan should be developed collaboratively based on input from both internal and external stakeholders, and presented in an easy-to-follow format (think PowerPoint, not Word) to your entire organization.

A well-executed plan should define your business goals and relate them to marketing objectives that lead to an achievable number of strategies with tactics that your organization has the resources (both in terms of time and personnel) to implement.

It is a measurable plan, with built-in metrics to help judge success, and should establish reasonable milestones for evaluation. In short, it is the marketing rules by which the organization will operate.

Strategic Marketing for a Digital World

In today’s fast-paced and constantly changing world of marketing, a strategic marketing plan is more important than ever. Particularly when it comes to social, digital and mobile media. One of the wonderful aspects of social media is the ability it presents for any organization or individual to respond to market conditions in real-time.

One of my favorite examples of this comes from last years Super Bowl blackout, when Oreo sent out a tweet that read “You can still dunk in the dark,” complete with a picture of an Oreo cookie and milk against a blacked-out background that mirrored the effect inside the Superdome at the time.

While this message and the creative were dictated by the situation at hand, the organization laid the groundwork for this type of response much earlier when they decided strategically how they were going to use social media to help impact their business goals.

And, if you recall, they also ran a TV spot during the game, taking advantage of the immense audience available. This type of synergistic marketing can only come through a well-executed strategic marketing plan.

So, as an organization, sit back and ask yourselves the following questions before starting your strategic marketing plan:

  • How do we make marketing decisions currently?
  • Do our marketing strategies always sync up with our business goals?
  • Are we aligned with the right individuals (internally or externally) to think strategically about how we approach marketing?

If you don’t know the answers to any of those questions (or the answer is “no”), it may be time to get onboard the development of a strategic marketing plan. You’ll be glad you did.


Note:  Originally Posted in the Wood Street JournalGreat web design and digital marketing firm that you should totally check out if you haven’t already.

Be Careful What You “Like”


ImageA good family friend of mine is running for Lt. Governor in the great state of Maryland.  We’ve literally known the family for a lifetime (our parents grew up together) and while we don’t get together as often as we like, it’s a wonderful relationship.  Which is why I was surprised a few weeks ago when I started seeing Facebook posts from my father supporting one of his challengers.

“Dad,” I asked.  “Is there something I should know?  Is there a reason you support the other guy?”

“What are you talking about?” he quickly shot back.  “I didn’t post anything on Facebook at all, much less a political message.  I keep those kinds of opinions private.”

Or does he??

Privacy is a loose term when it’s applied to Facebook.  My father found himself victim to a “Sponsored Story”.  At some point during his Facebook lifespan, my father did indeed choose to “Like” this particular candidate – probably during a previous campaign when running against a challenger from the other party (and because my mom told him to – she’s the politically active one in our family).  And when this candidate chose to run a Sponsored Story campaign (ads that appear as endorsements from your Facebook friends), lo and behold, my father told all of his friends how they should vote.

It’s a powerful thing, the social media endorsement.  Studies say that consumers are more than 70% more likely to make a purchase based on a social media referral.  Just think of your own habits – how often do you select something that has been recommended to you by others?  Word of mouth has always been a powerful marketing tool, and social media has merely amplified its power.

This article from the Chicago Tribune really puts the issue of “Sponsored Stories” in context.  By “liking” anything on Facebook, you’ve given them the implicit approval to use that endorsement in a marketing context.  And, people have lots of reasons for liking something – entering a contest, truly liking a product, having a positive experience, because it supports something that you support.  But it’s not always because you endorse whatever it may be that you are selling.

So, be careful what you like.  But also, be careful what you think your friends like.  Be sure to reach out and connect to make sure that endorsement is real, not marketing-driven.  Which is really what social networking is all about anyway – connecting.

NeoCon East – Here I come!



Tomorrow I start a two-day speaking engagement at NeoCon East in Baltimore.  The conference bills itself as “The premier design expo and conference for commercial interiors on the East Coast,” and I couldn’t be more excited to attend.  I’m giving two lectures – one on “Demystifying Social Media” and one on Blogging.

Two goals I have set for myself at this show:  1)  Meet at least one potential new business opportunity and 2) Learn something new.  Two goals I have set for my presentations:  1)  Teach something new and 2) Launch at least one new blogger.  Hopefully, I’ll accomplish both sets of goals and make some new friends along the way.

I always enjoy speaking to professionals outside the field of marketing about social media.  Their perspective is often refreshing, as elements that I may find commonplace they find incredibly new and exciting.  I often learn something myself, by looking at social media through a fresh set of eyes without any preconceived notions.  And they usually ask the best questions, making me reflect on my own experience in the field to help develop the best answers.  I enjoy and appreciate the challenges.

I’ll do a recap of my experience on Friday, and share some of the new office furniture items I have the opportunity to experience.  (I’m looking forward to sitting in a lot of chairs and seeing some exciting new concepts.  I’m expecting Ikea, but on a much grander scale.)

Let me know if you’re going to be there – I know I have a lot of friends who are designers, architects, building planners, etc.  Hope to see a few of you this week.



NASCAR and Social Media


NASCAR and Social Media

Last post for the week, as I’m headed to Dover for the AAA 400 this weekend.  Check back here on Monday to see how brands interacted with fans at the track, hopefully along with a few up-close-and-personal images of the cars, drivers and personalities that make the sport go.

Meantime, here’s a great read from my friends at USA Today on what goes on behind the scenes at the NASCAR social media command center, and how that data helps the decision-making process inside the privately-held organization.  Many teams, leagues, and other organizations have integrated a social media command center into their operations over the past year.  With so much being shared about your brand (or product or service or sport), being aware of the conversations as they are happening should be a critical piece of any communication strategy.

What tools does your organization use for social media monitoring, and how have you used that information to improve the operation?  (If you don’t have a good answer, maybe shoot me a note and we’ll see if we can help!)

For Shopping, Email Beats Social


For Shopping, Email Beats Social

I saw this article yesterday on one of the email marketing newsletters I subscribe to.  The summary is that while people are increasingly consuming social media, they still prefer to shop via more traditional channels online.  Email is still a better trigger than social media ads.

I noticed this first-hand last year, while working with a venue client who was looking to sell event tickets through their social media channels.  We collaborated to develop a strong offer with assets unavailable to the general public, delivered it exclusively to consumers via targeted social channels (Facebook ads, as well as organic Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest posts) and drove a significant amount of traffic to the website.  But a strange thing happened once they were there – no one purchased a ticket through this offer.  Why would this be?

We brainstormed a number of reasons:  Those interested in the offer already had their tickets; People clicked on the link, but weren’t ready to buy; Maybe the offers weren’t as compelling as we believed.

However, my belief now is that consumers just don’t shop while socializing.  Think about your own behavior – Do you scroll through your Facebook page looking for offers?  When was the last time you clicked on a Twitter special offer?  It’s not that you aren’t interested in the offers you might see, but that mentally you aren’t in a “shopping zone”. 

With email, you can hold onto a relevant offer much longer than on social media channels without immediately acting on it.  If I’m at work, I may let an email linger in my inbox till later in the evening when I’m ready to shop.  Email is a series of individual events – I read one email, delete or file it, then move onto the next one.  So it’s more “interrupt-able” than social consumption where my behavior tends to be more of a browsing or scrolling pattern.  If I “lose my place” on my Twitter feed, I’m forced to start over again – with email, this isn’t an issue.

So, what’s the answer?  Digital media platforms should be used for what they tend to do best. Web pages and social feeds are great for branding, introducing new products, and staying top-of-mind.  Just like traditional mass media.  However, when it comes to encouraging a transaction, stick with the mail – whether it’s electronic or traditional. 

Ask media to do what it does best, not what you think it should be doing best.  After all, these days every marketer has plenty of options to choose from.