Advertising Isn’t Very Social

by Jim May, PR Manager

It’s amazing how many companies are caught up in the social media craze, while completely ignoring the plain meaning of the name of the medium. These folks are easy to spot. Look at a business’s Facebook page. Are 90% of the wall postings by a representative of the company? Even worse, are they all links to press releases, print ads and commercials? If so, that company doesn’t get it.

Now hop over to Twitter and look at some company feeds. How do the Tweets break down? Are they just a bunch of links to the aforementioned traditional messaging vehicles? Is the tone conversational or formal? Are any customers responding to the company’s Tweets? How many of the company’s Tweets are responding to customers? See where I’m going with this?

Yes, social media is exciting. Yes, it holds the potential to transform the way companies interact with their customers. It seems that just about everyone knows that much. Unfortunately, there are a whole lot of companies out there that have no idea why the phenomenon’s exciting or how it can transform customer relationships. They just know it’s something that everyone who’s anyone is doing and they’ll be damned if they’re going to be left behind. If you’re wondering if you’re one of those people, there’s a good chance you are. It’s ok. Relax. Let’s talk a bit about social media.

This Technology is About Community
Advertising is a one-way communication with the goal of getting customers to identify with a brand or product. Social media isn’t. At all. Some say it has more in common with customer service than with advertising. That’s definitely the case, but it’s still missing the mark. It’s a substantial evolutionary step beyond interacting with customers on a one-on-one basis.

Social media is all about community. Companies that want to have success in the medium need to really think about the ramifications of that statement. You might set up an online forum or Facebook profile, but once they’re out there, they belong to your customers and you’re just a participant. If you can’t accept this from the get-go, you’re not ready to participate in the technology.

Here’s a quick litmus test. Say a customer visits your Facebook wall and posts a lengthy rant about how they had a product fail and then received horrible customer service. Within a day, a couple more customers post that they’ve had similar experiences. Would you:

1. delete the post and pray that very few people saw it?
2. leave the post, but provide a strongly worded response indicating libelous statements may be met with legal action?
3. post an apology and tell the affected customers that if they provide their contact information, someone will be in touch to remedy the situation?

If you went with #3, congratulations, it sounds like you have a good grasp on the medium. If you picked either of the other two options, you’re not ready to play this game.

Companies have to realize that once you establish an online location for your customers to form a community, you’re no longer in control of what’s said about your brand. If you stamp out any whiff of dissent, customers will be quick to abandon the presence you’re trying to establish and your efforts will have amounted to a waste of time, at best. Even scarier, if customers have already started identifying with each other and building relationships and they see you ‘breaking the rules’ to preserve your image, there’s a good chance that they won’t just leave. They’ll form a new virtual meeting place that you don’t know about and can’t participate in.

The above scares the hell out of many executives. There’s an upside, though, and it’s a pretty big one. Say the hypothetical situation above actually occurred. If you’ve truly fostered an online community for your customers, guess what… they’ll come to your defense. They’ll respond with their own positive stories about your products and services and it’ll be far more credible than anything you possibly could have said. Yes, you may still want to post a quick ‘Sorry, give us a call,’ to the disgruntled party, but if your satisfied customers start talking, let them defend the brand. They’ll do a better job than you could ever hope to.

By now, I’m hoping anyone reading this understands that social media is about giving customers a place to connect and discuss your products. That said, I’m guessing at least some people would still think, ‘Bah, I don’t need to build a community. People are there and I just want to use these sites to expand my brand presence and drive sales.’ That’s all social media is to a fair number of executives. They’ll adapt or they’ll pull out of the medium. Establishing a profile on a social media site for any kind of push communication is going to be about as effective (and beloved) as cold-call telemarketing.

That’s all for this entry. Next week, I’ll be talking about different avenues of social media and how to select the right ones for your business. If you have any questions in the meantime, leave a comment or send me an email at may@dgsmarketing.com.


Wor(l)d of Mouth

By Justin Brown, Senior Art Director

Have you noticed what’s trending on Twitter? Did you tell Facebook what’s on your mind? Are people watching your videos on YouTube, Vimeo or uStream? How many Flickr albums do you have? Where does Foursquare say you are? Oh my…

Welcome to a new way of life called social media. Shake hands, sit down and learn it, live it, deal with it.

Social media has become a fundamental shift in the way we as individuals, businesses and business leaders communicate globally. We no longer have to find news but rather the news finds us. Let’s face it – social media is not a fad but rather a new way of life. You don’t even have to like the idea of social media but you should learn and understand it in order to build a level of credibility with your customers and be marketable to your business. Even though your mother told you all the kids are doing it and you shouldn’t, do it anyways – at least this time. But tell her you’re sorry. You may need money from her later on.

I’m a self-proclaimed early adapter of social media. Whatever it is, I probably have an account for it. Do I use them all? No. Do I remember my login information for some? Nope. But do/did I use them to learn something new? Yes. I would say I’m more social in media. I tweet and post to Facebook. I have followers and I have friends. I’m a designer – a creative genius if you will ☺. (That’s self-proclaimed too I guess.) The majority of people I follow are other design professionals who have made their career in sharing what they know with the world. They write and share and I learn and do. Do I know them? No. Do I feel like I do? Yes. Why? Because they have the same interests as me and on some level we can relate to each other. I may never meet these people but I feel by reaching out to other designers has allowed me to learn new things. Since Twitter is searchable, I can search for all sorts of Photoshop tips and tricks, creative portfolios, latest technology – whatever I want (as I sit here with an evil grin and tapping my finger tips together… muwahaha).

Unfortunately, *sigh, there are some who have not embraced the idea behind social media and the impact it can have on a brand. Shame. Frankly, they are stuck in their old ways and refuse to accept, at times, personal opinion as a way of thinking. But in fact, this refusal is what keeps them from utilizing the invaluable ways of communication. The majority of social medium is comprised of free tools for goodness sake. Why not use them? Sure it costs to pay someone to do it, but perhaps consider interns or new graduates.

Can social media be disappointing? Sure. Take the newest device created by Apple – the iPad. The iPad has been a trending topic for months and months before it was announced last January. All sorts of feature rumors were talked about and when it was revealed and those features were not part of it, the world felt let down. People, in a way, did it to themselves. They should have known Apple wouldn’t have put all those features in its first attempt – that would have been so un-Apple of them. Apple didn’t have to do a teaser campaign. Instead, the Apple folks sat back and let social media do the work, and allowed people to discuss their product, and allowed them to build product recognition before it was even revealed.

From blogs to texting; podcasts to viral videos; Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Flickr, LinkedIn and still MySpace. We’re just scratching the surface of social media network. If a survey were given today, it would be no surprise that it likely would show an overwhelming majority of people use some form of social media. After all, we all have email, right? Don’t you think this is a form of social media?

Look at it this way. Social media is basically the world’s largest focus group.. It has become less about a company’s website, and more about its overall web strategy. It’s about how companies can use this new communication technology to push brands further into our lives. It’s about how they interact where their customers are spending their time. It’s cheaper and faster. Pepsi is practically putting its entire advertising budget into social media these days.

Companies all over are begging for fans. If it’s free, I’m a fan. I recently became an Einstein Bagel fan on Facebook because they were giving out a free bagel for each fan they received. Dunkin Donuts was giving out free donuts. Chad Ochocinco invites his friends and followers to a restaurant where he is at and the bill is on him. As sad as it sounds, parents are using it to be more involved in their children’s lives. Executives are doing online videoconferences to communicate with employees and politicians are even blogging about current bills, etc. It’s much easier to use social media than traditional methods to stay in touch with family and friends.

It’s a wor(l)d of mouth. If you haven’t already, you should learn to use social media. Love it, take it on a date, and buy it some flowers. You need to experiment with tweeting about your business’s latest project and try posting pictures of it on Flickr. Discover your old and new friends on Facebook. Whatever it is you do, subscribe to blogs of interest and leave some comments. Learn it. Take off the blinders and jump in the Social media ocean, and see the change it can make in personal and professional communications and relationships.

(P.S. In real life, I don’t talk this much. Just ask anyone who knows me. Like I said, I’m more social in media.)


The year of the online publication?

Happy New Year to all!

Another year is upon us and with that we can be sure of one thing. Change. That goes without saying, right?

Well, it does if you’re in the trade publication industry.

In the last year (let alone the last 5) we’ve seen some pretty significant changes in the trade publication landscape. As you know, we deal primarily with technical audiences including industrial and manufacturing folks – industries, by the way, which were particularly hard hit by the current recession. The trade publications serving these industries have suffered some pretty staggering casualties, casualties that beg the question – what will become of the industrial/manufacturing trade press?

In one year’s time, we’ve seen the demise of ShopTalk and EDM Today, as well as the demise of printed editions of Tooling & Production, Modern Application News and, most recently, the iconic masthead American Machinist. Needless to say, these are some pretty big changes,not the least of which is the lost voice of these editors, people who have spoken on behalf of US Manufacturing for decades in some cases.

These changes have also affected the return on investment potential of our clients. Put simply, there are now far fewer pages that more people are fighting for. This alone makes things a bit more difficult. Now, in our case, we still have a fighting chance – our clients are leaders in their respective industries and have continued to develop new technology even during these trying times. Meaning, well, they are still newsworthy. But what happens to everyone else?

Is the answer simple? Is it the web?

Tooling & Production, MAN and American Machinist have all relegated their editorial to a virtual environment. No more page turning. No more pass around benefit. No more paper. Is this good or bad? Will today’s engineer respond positively? Perhaps. Perhaps the younger generation of engineers will embrace this new wave of online reading. Perhaps this is a new standard set out of need, but bolstered by practicality.

Truth be told, no one knows. What we do know is that the role of print continues to change. I think the real question is whether this change be an evolution or a redefinition entirely?

We’re not sure. What we do believe is that the strong books will persevere. What we’re anxious to learn is how.

What do you think?


To Blog or Not to Blog…That Is the Question

At dgs, we have chosen the former. And, we’ve already seen results. So far so good – we feel we made the right choice. To date, all of our posts have been picked up by Google and other feeds, and we have a few followers.

So, this begs the question… Why do some clients resist?

Perhaps the main reason is the most obvious reason. With a blog in its purest form, you give up some measure of control. You allow comments from the peanut gallery, and invite discussion and potentially criticism. BUT, don’t the benefits outweigh the risk? From a message standpoint, authenticity is key. If a blog is a blog in its purest form, don’t customers and prospects appreciate the transparency?

Blogging is a hot topic. We don’t have all the answers, yet. But, we’re willing to give it a go to learn the dos and don’ts and reap the benefits along the way.

Let us know what you think.