Social Marketers – Step Your Games Up

In Tokyo, I had the privilege of meeting Oliver Reichenstein, founder of iA (Information Architecture) and we had the utmost delightful chat. Aside from his charm and brilliance, the way he approaches design really stuck with me. As a graduate of philosophical studies, he looks at problems a bit differently than most, and I was glued to his every word.

To explain how he begins looking at websites, he used the analogy of messaging tubes. That imagery was so vivid and effective, I think the same framework can be applied to social marketing, too.

To back up, the messaging tubes he spoke of, are pneumatic tubes from the 1800s. It’s the system where messages are delivered in this capsule like canister and delivered, shot through a tube to the appropriate department or individual. Like this:

I vaguely recall in cartoons or on a random television show the highly exaggerated versions, where tens of canisters holding messages, fly through different tubes at once — almost in a frenzy. The operator at the receiving end is sending and catching the canisters while they continue flying above, below and around his head.

This inefficient disaster is how I see the current state of corporate social media.

In my experiences working with brands — small and large across all genres — I noticed a commonality. When it comes to social media efforts, there are directives coming from all over the place. The social media manager becomes a gatekeeper, if you will, and controls what goes out on Facebook, Twitter…and Pinterest and Instagram and Tumblr and [insert whatever hot social network]. There is usually close to zero structure and the people tasked with social media responsibilities, ends up drowning in day to day deliverables.

To a lot of organizations, the social element is still an afterthought and I am very familiar with the: “Can you Tweet x now?” or “Will you post y on Facebook?” requests. Those email requests are the 2013 version of messages tucked into canisters and quickly shot through the tube — except in 2013, the canisters are emails. Those messages don’t come from one person or team. They come from multiple people and multiple teams.

The ideal solution is working with colleagues in order to understand each others’ job duties and more importantly, infusing a native digital mind-set with social elements already incorporated into marketing initiatives… but let’s be real. It’s not that simple. I know. I’ve been there.

Organizational changes start from the top down and it takes a lot of time to see change. (If you’re interested in helping change your org, Jeremiah Owyang at Altimeter has tons of case studies on social media management that are extremely helpful here.)

While long-term strategy is being built and shaped, I’ve found short-term solutions help those in charge of social. A lot.

I first start with helping colleagues understand what a social marketer actually does all day. We know that our jobs are more than sitting around Tweeting or Facebooking, but a lot of  people usually don’t.

Once a mutual understanding is established, I try to make sense of the madness and put a stop to disorgnization. I mean. It’s our jobs. A marketer should always distribute marketing messages with an objective — especially now in 2013, as it may tarnish your brand. You don’t want to be that brand known for social media fails.

It is also the marketer’s duty, to ask the questions a lot of people tend to forget:
1. what goals are we trying to meet?
2. how are we measuring the success?
3. what did we do right or wrong in the past and how can we best apply those learning lessons to what we are trying to accomplish?

In doing so, it will make your work load easier to manage and more often times than not, prevents unnecessary communication frustrations.

Try it. I dare you.

Marketing in 2013

I’ve been thinking a lot about marketing lately and how marketers need to evolve with current customer needs.

The Internet has shifted human behavior and people are not just customers but consumers and users. Consumers, as they consume the marketing media we create, and users, as they use digital services we create media for. So what does that really mean for marketers?

Traditionally, media that marketers and respective teams created were separated into three categories: paid, owned and earned. The advancement of the Internet has drastically changed the way we communicate and it is no longer a one way street. People — our customers — require more than one way megaphoning in order to be interested, feel involved and most importantly, delighted.

So what are we — the marketers — to do? How do we elevate our messages?

The first and most important step is to toss all the marketing jargon and tactics aside. The necessary skills to successfully digitally market, comes down to traditional marketing methods: how do we get a message across, while capturing emotion. As emotions, are what ultimately converts someone from knowing a brand to liking the brand. The what and the how are simply tactics to deliver our objectives.

I always recommend those interested in learning how to become a social media marketer, content marketer, digital expert or what have you, to step back from the noise (ex: How to Write Headlines that Convert, How to Become a Social Media Guru, 10 Ways to Get Re-Tweeted, etc., etc.,) and re-learn the fundamental principles of copy writing and marketing.

Internet or print or television or film, the people that we create media, write copy and deliver our media to, are human beings. And fundamentally, humans haven’t changed that drastically in 100 years — only the mediums and how humans react to the mediums we have.

David Ogilvy’s “Ogilvy on Advertising” is a great resource for any marketer. The context is still very relevant.

Evernote Accelerator …and this, is how it should be done

I never post about news but I just couldn’t resist. 

Evernote teamed up with Honda Silicon Valley Lab and DoCoMo Innovation Ventures and launched a month long dev camp for entrepreneurs. 

  1. zero cost to entrepreneurs — they are providing travel, housing and even a stripend
  2. taking zero financial stake — no equity
  3. providing a startup curriculum which includes workshops, mentor sessions and team-building exercises

I mean. This is exactly what an accelerator should be doing. Partnering with companies that have money so there is no cost to aspiring entrepreneurs. Holding a competition to narrow down those who are capable, those who are not. And most importantly, providing global aspiring entrepreneurs the opportunity to live, work and learn in the Silicon Valley. 

What most people outside of the US don’t realize, is it’s expensive to come to the US — even for a few months just to learn. The rents are sky high, it’s a pain to get around the Bay Area and without a proper network and fundamental understanding of the Bay, it can take up to a month just learning how to get around. What may seem like common sense to native Northern Californians, is really not.

The one thing that shocked a lot of out of town visitors I noticed, was how inconvenient transportation is. People also don’t realize that San Francisco and Mt. View (where Google and Facebook HQ are, for example) is about 30 minutes south of San Francisco (with no traffic) and takes about a good 45 minutes or maybe more on Caltrain (the Bay Area’s dumpy train service). 

Also, the one month period is perfect for international people, as Visas are such a pain to obtain. Certain countries have automatic three month tourist Visa (like Japan and Switzerland for example) but for other countries? A person has to jump through hoops. 

Anyway, just wanted to say kudos to the Evernote team for pulling this together and I really hope it sets the examples for other accelerators to follow suite! Way to bridge the global gap of movers and shakers – what an incredible idea and opportunity. 

To learn more about the program, go to Evernote’s site here.

Innovation cont…

Following my last post, I can’t help but to laugh at the irony of stumbling on this post from a VC/Entrepreneur blog from Africa. Some excerpts:

“[…]innovation has become quite formulaic with rules as strict as a limerick or sonnet: find a problem, build an app to solve it, develop for smartphone and add social integration.

The tech ecosystem is slowly setting itself up as a playground for mavericks, dropouts and quick-talking 20-somethings just itching to change the world. The current atmosphere suggests fresh possibilities for a continent desperate to prove itself as an innovation and entrepreneurial destination. But is innovating more important than a real, solid business model?”


Innovation may be the death of us

In Africa there is a lot of pressure to innovate. Many wheeler-dealers, bored of the corporate humdrum, ready to turn an industry on its head, with a basilisk gaze are primed with the perfect quality for entrepreneurship. Good solid businesses become boring, making money is an afterthought and innovation is the watchword. The pressure to innovate is as overwhelming as the burning sun on delicate skin. Investors want you to innovate, mentors advise it and journalists flock to it like moths to a flame. Its appetite is insatiable and most startups are victims of it. Truly, we ought to rename Africa “the place where good companies die of too much innovation”.” — via Entrepreneurs in Africa: forget innovation, focus on profitability

Funny how some African entrepreneurs are a little worn from the term ‘innovation’ as well. Perhaps the tech community as a whole, has diluted the definition of ‘innovation’, creating a cycle of unrealistic expectations from entrepreneurs and investors alike, thus harming the ecosystem more than encouraging it.  

Sidenote: I feel as though I copied and pasted a significant chunk of the piece; that is not the case — please read the whole post here, it’s a good read. Hopefully it will not be construed as plagiarizing, as that is not my intention.


Sometimes, I forget how lucky our generation is to have seen so much innovation, especially in technology. When I go abroad, I realize more so than ever how grateful I should be, to have grown-up in the Silicon Valley watching hardware, software and Internet advancements – literally – disrupt the country, then the world. The tech industry, is such a magical place to be.

This trip, I had many conversations with people from various technological backgrounds and countries of origins. No matter the various experiences we had, the running topic was: “Where do you see the next wave of innovation coming from? The Silicon Valley, NY or another country?”

Coming from the US and especially raised in the Silicon Valley, people seemed to be caught off guard by how I think tech is moving in two different directions. The tech we see coming out of the US and other developed countries are naturally, technology enabling us to make our lives easier — convenience technologies. Like a car service app or shopping app, news, music, fashion and beauty apps. Technology that dents the industry but doesn’t shift the world like products our parents or grandparents for some of you saw. Imagine living in an era when televisions, home phones, cell phones, personal computers and the likes first hit the market. Then came the wave of software and services that changed the way information is exchanged worldwide — Microsoft, Google, Apple, Facebook and even Twitter.

When you think about it, do you see the holycowisthisreal-type innovation happening in developed countries any time soon? Innovation has plateaued and I see the next wave of innovation happening in under-developed countries. Environments, where there are many problems humanitarian groups have been trying to solve for decades like India, China, Africa and similar nations where there are respective experts, on the ground, researching and developing technologies, products and services that saves lives.

Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing but utter respect for every entrepreneur taking the chance to build something to leave a mark in history. I just wish words like innovation and disruption were saved for technologies that could potentially solve the world’s clean water problem (probably out of India). Or a piece of hardware that conserves energy (will most likely come from China).

Though if you take a close enough look, you may notice innovation already happening. Starting with “something designed with the poor and for the poor, and with the word ‘diarrhoea’ in it” winning an international design award against Bang & Olufsen, Nike, an ‘innovative’ ketchup bottle designed by MIT… amongst others. And I have a feeling this is only the beginning.

Just something I’ve been thinking about.