RTM and Sports Sponsorship – The Next Big Thing?

Standard

oreoRTM = Real Time Marketing.

RTM has been all the talk this week, mostly in connection with social marketing surrounding the Oscars broadcast. Here’s the basics if you’re not on top of this yet… You may already know how we got here, but if you don’t – the background is essential to get to my idea.

Remember the Superbowl blackout? Well, there were more tweets and social activity about the blackout than any other part of the event. A couple of brands jumped on the “opportunity”, most notably Oreo, who tweeted this “You can dunk in the dark” on the fly.

Oreo (and its PR team) was praised for its agility and willingness to pull this off, and was prepared with designers, executive buy-in and a good sense of timing. The background here of course, was that Superbowl advertising is extremely expensive, gets previews and hype before the game and is widely regarded as the height of broadcast advertising as you well know. But here was Oreo, leveraging “free” social media, and stealing the spotlight. The shark was jumped.

So RTM became the overnight forefront of social marketing (even though the concept originated in the 90′s).

Then, along come the Oscars – the next big, wide-spread event with real-time potential. And everybody was ready to see what brands were going to trot out and attempt to capture the moment and opportunity. At the end of the event, nothing really stood out – as the marketing pieces were not really ground-breaking by any means, and unlike a Superbowl blackout – there was no real-time “opportunity” to capitalize on.

But the Oscars RTM tweets did prove one thing. RTM is now, officially, part of a brand strategy mix.

Personally, I think this is really cool – and requires some innovative corporate culture, creative ability and risk – there is a lot of risk associated with RTM, and that makes it exciting – well, at least to me, and I hope for you as well.

So – what’s the tie in with Sports Sponsorship?

Teams and sponsors are always looking for innovative ways to activate sponsors. I’ve worked with teams to help monetize and package social assets and help train corporate sales teams on selling them – and I believe there is a great opportunity here for teams and sponsors a like.

Sports events are PERFECT for RTM. There are several real-time opportunities present here for teams and brands that are looking to innovate – and deal with risk. The benefits and the rewards are potentially great here, but this is not for team and for every brand (nor was it for brands during the Oscars). RTM Sponsorship is highly customized, within a high trust relationship – and needs to be mediated with both team and sponsor involved.

I believe this is a huge opportunity – one that I am looking to spend more time looking at, and hopefully – testing out. There are great dynamic benefits here for the right situation. I think this is an exciting opportunity, and one that could provide strong value for fans/customers when done correctly.

If you want to talk about RTM Sponsorship, leave a comment or send me a message.

Digital Leadership 2.0

Standard

When I first joined Twitter back in 2007, I followed a lot of different people. I was bullish very early on regarding social marketing, and a number of people who I followed helped to shape and reinforce my experience and opinion.

Over time, I began to find my own voice and at the same time, began to unfollow a number of those influencers – it was an evolution and a healthy one not unlike many “real world” relationships. Those days were a very optimistic time for the social media industry, when the arrival of tools like Facebook and Twitter were seen as a democratization of marketing where the tools of real-time, mass dissemination, “free” communication were at hand. The future was limitless, bright and fun. It was almost a revolution, as converts were continually faced with the challenge of having to “sell up” the benefits of social tools o the executive level.

Many digital leaders at that time were rife with appropriate optimism. Digital Leaders 1.0 were also inherently “cool” as these marketing practices were explosive and truly game-changing. Terms like “rock stars” were abound, with “killer apps” and strategies to “make your content explode”, we were a bit caught up in it. Rules changed over night, and the possibilities kept expanding.

But there is still this lingering evangelicalism that has been outpaced by the progress and acceptance of social marketing. The current landscape is not composed of renegades and rock stars, but professionals at all levels. I often see tweets continually punctuated with exclamation marks! Because everything is awesome!!! There is also this penchant for “life coach” type of advice; Tony Robbins-isms if you will.

Is it just me, or are these the kinds of people you avoid at parties or gatherings? Why aren’t more people rolling their eyes at this kind of activity?

I see effective leaders (in any industry/setting) as catalysts. This is a time for transparent experience when over 100,000 Twitter profiles claim to be social media experts. It’s time for a grounded approach, focused on business outcomes. We don’t need hype, what we do is not radical. A catalyst initiates and enables. A leader is not the hammer, it’s the nail. It’s time for Digital Leadership 2.0.

If you want to be a leader – don’t get in line, find your own voice. Start today.

Social Integration vs Destination

Standard

LikeI made some predictions at the end of 2012 and stated my advice was to view social as less of a destination for the coming year.

So, what does that mean, exactly?

I’ve seen a number of brands do a great job with social media marketing – but have the “social too” focus. That gets enacted something like, “Like us on Facebook!”, or “Follow us on Twitter!”. It made sense to do this at first, as social media really took a firm grip on how to market your brand and saw rapid adoption and staggering growth.

This led to brands prioritizing their Facebook Page over any other asset. Broadcast TV ads directed consumers to Facebook Pages, not their website. I always viewed this cautiously – as Facebook is a separate entity. Facebook changes all the time, and as I have often said – it’s the fans/customers/consumers who really own social media, the brand is simply providing a structure for them to participate in. Brands don’t own their Facebook user data. Facebook is a completely separate business with its own agenda.

Now – where I’m coming from is to discontinue this practice of using Facebook as a destination. Its simply not enough to drive toward Likes and Follows – drive users towards goals and targets that are integrated into a larger marketing message. Drive them to a reason – to a focused message. Prioritize your own assets – your website, your app.

Social sites are still of huge importance – but what I’m saying is how you strategically integrate them into your mix is the real key. Remember, most Facebook users consume your content through their Newsfeed – and rarely come back to your page. When’s the last time you checked out a brand’s Twitter profile page? And increasingly – all these activities are happening via a mobile device.

So don’t just be “social too” – make social central to how you communicate. Don’t make someone else’s business the destination for yours.

Straight Talk on Social Marketing

Standard

I’ve got to say this – I’ve seen way too much fluffy language on social marketing for way too long.

Statements from very well known professionals that just ring empty for me, like the requirement for brands to “create value” through social marketing.

Other over zealous statements purporting that your “social score” (don’t get me started on Klout) is the “new credit score” are well, lets say debatable at best. I’ll take my credit score any day – which is based on real dollars, not the return on my “influence”.

What does it mean to”create value”, anyway? Just how are you supposed to do that? Well, that’s the tricky part… I used to provide sales training sessions back in the day and I’ve told countless sales people to “sell the value” of their product. This only goes so far… I approach sales in a completely different way now.

Don’t take these kinds of statements as “advice” – make your own logic. Determine your own goals. People (like me and others) can help you focus those goals and draw tools and platforms to help meet them. Taking a tactical approach is crucial here – How you get there depends on your business, your people, your market.

What I’m essentially saying here is to just keep it real. Don’t accept luke-warm ideals. Don’t set out to “create value”. Set out to achieve X. Set out to make Y. Set out to promote or build. Be specific.

You are in business. Businesses sell products or services. If you do that well enough, you’ll be able to establish a decent credit score. Take that to the bank.

Mark Cuban was Wrong and Facebook is Right

Standard

CMark ubanMany of us have lost our way. It took the Mark Cuban/Facebook story to help me realize it.

Here’s where I’m coming from…

Essentially, Cuban was pissed that he (or the Dallas Mavericks to be specific) would have to now pay a fee per Facebook update – to ensure all that all a brand’s community would see their post. Cuban was upset that he’d have to pay for a platform that was previously free. Now, it’s true that a brand’s updates weren’t previously being seen by a number of its “Likers”, and Cuban did follow-up with an article in the HP further explaining his position on Facebook.

But the key take-aways were that this was a grab for money to increase shareholder value, and that Facebook was decreasing in importance vs. other social sites.

I agreed. I saw this as a clear stab at driving some revenue for Facebook. It made sense. I had also had discussions with friends/contacts about Facebook’s standing in a basic social media strategy – and Facebook fatigue.

Cuban’s opinion made sense to me – it gave me the feeling that my internal Facebook criticisms and client advice that I was giving was not in isolation. I felt validated because I think that Cuban is a pretty smart and successful guy (NBA Championships and billions of dollars tend to prove this).

That lasted a while – but then I realized that I had broken my own rule. Keep social media social.

Here was a major sports brand – upset that it would have to pay (and quite a bit per post I will add) to reach its entire Facebook fan base. I had previously blogged about keeping social media social, that this was not your website – but the fans’ space, that by prioritizing brand posts over fan content was basically a bad idea. If you want to broadcast – use your website. Especially if you are the Dallas Mavericks. Keep Facebook a “fans first” environment. I realized that I had lost sight of this.

Facebook charging a fee (that all your community will see)  per post is good thing – if you struggled for clear sponsorship cost justification, that problem is now solved for you (remember of course, keep sponsored content engaging and fun). This is your fans’ space – not yours, so treat it appropriately. Facebook never should have been the core of your digital strategy – you don’t own it and you can’t control it. If you are overly concerned about your content being seen, you are missing the point of Facebook.

Take this as a reminder – as I did. Use Facebook for what it does best – a daily opportunity to connect with your fans. Talk with them, feature their content, keep Facebook a place for and about them. Be smart about what content you do feature, either sponsored or your own. Don;t forget where you came from in social media – and keep it social, will ya?

Klout: My 2 Cents

Standard

So the (somewhat) controversial Klout has once again changed its algorithm last week and in doing so, adjusted the Klout scores of its users.

Many users’ Klout scores went up, which made them happy. Justin Bieber’s went from 100 to 92, which is cause enough for worldwide trending. Klout’s update led me to share some of my ideas, and here goes…

The idea of Klout is a noble one – a measurement of one’s social media influence. But it is troubled to say the least. First off, Klout isn’t out to just make the world a better place, it’s a business and it’s business is to identify users interested to help promote brands and products. Klout calls them “Perks”. When users sign up for Perks, they may get some samples, trials, freebies, swag, etc… The idea is that the user now takes to their social platforms to broadcast their experience and experience with the product or brand. So what’s wrong with that? Nothing.

But Klout’s measurement, is for its own purpose, not yours. If you have a high Klout score, all this means is that you are potentially more useful to Klout than someone else. Congratulations.

Klout’s (secret) algorithm for determining your social influence (a whole other story) is irrelevant. It doesn’t matter how it does it, when you know why it does it. The other fatal, major issue I have with it is that users can give Klout points to other users based on their completely subjective assessment of perceived expertise on a given topic. So I can award you “+K” for your expertise on “relationships” for example. And your score goes up. Again, all this serves only Klout and it’s perceived value for users to reinforce the system with virtual back pats. It’s kind of like foursquare points – they only have meaning inside the platform and mean that you use foursquare a lot (but I am a strong foursquare proponent).

So all in all, Klout isn’t “bad. It seems, at a glance, to fulfill a need; the need to quantify social influence and relevance. In reality, it does fill a need. But that need is focused on Klout’s business model, and not you or your influence.

Breaking Down #London2012

Standard

With #London2012 behind us, I thought it would be a good time to talk about social media and the Olympic Games.

Twitter Wins Gold

First off, for all the talk of “social media”, the only platform that anybody was talking about or using was Twitter. There are, of course, Facebook Pages (London 2012 and the Official Olympics Facebook Page) with millions of followers, and apparently decent levels of engagement. But it was Twitter that made “the news” – there are a couple of reasons for this as I see it.

  • Facebook engagement is structured on “Post and Comment/Like”, where the brand initiates most of the dialogue. Twitter is far more democratic in its structure and “initiation” is not as important as inclusion via hashtags.
  • Twitter is much better at mobile than Facebook. Facebook’s mobile app is weak making it less useful to consume and also share content as it happens. Twitter is excellent for handling real-time events and information. And to be clear – when I say “mobile” I don’t mean that people are out on the go (though many are) or attending the Games in person, but that users are watching the events on TV, and then tweeting about it in real-time. Mobile is really a handheld, portable device, like a smart phone or tablet.
  • Athletes themselves took to Twitter, tweeting about their experience

This should be a clear warning sign for Facebook. The world largest collective event just took place in the Olympics, and the world’s largest social network did not make the podium.

#NBCFail

The topic of mobile and real-time also came to a head on the issue of “tape delay” of broadcasting the events on NBC. Since Twitter is completely plugged into real-time, many fans in the USA were dismayed to see the results of events long before they were broadcast on TV. This resulted in a huge uproar on Twitter encompassed in the hashtag, #NBCFail.

There are some interesting points of convergence here. First off, there was an Olympic Partnership with NBC and Twitter going into the Games. A British reporter, Guy Adams, who was frustrated with the NBC tape delay of the Games, tweeted the email address of the head of NBC Olympics, Gary Zenkel. Strangely enough, when NBC was notified by Twitter about the tweet – which allegedly violated its guidelines and best practices – Twitter employees recommended to NBC to report this violation against their own company. A hot mess, to be sure.

Huge volumes of tweets emerged from #NBCFail, with users complaining about not being able to see the Games in real-time and being beset by spoilers across Twitter before getting the chance to see the events on TV. NBC countered by stating that the Games coverage was receiving extremely strong ratings; that it didn’t matter. I see two take aways from this:

  1. The Games reaches an audience far beyond Twitter, and the typical sports fan in the USA. Viewers watch not only to see their athletes compete, but it’s also the story lines and national pride that draws them. The ratings proved this.
  2. Tape delay just doesn’t work anymore. It’s an older model that doesn’t fit with the current reality. The world is completely plugged in now. Real time coverage, with prime time recaps/highlights is the only way to go.

More Followers = Better Endorsements

Gabby Douglas was not a household name going into the Games ,but she held a very respectable Twitter following of 37,000+. Not long after her Gold medal performances, she reached 600,000+ followers. Usain Bolt, already an international superstar, entered the Games with 600,000+ followers and left with over 1 million.

It goes without saying that stronger follower counts will only improve endorsement opportunities. But I’m going to tie this back to Twitter as the preferred platform of engagement. Why are athletes taking to Twitter and not Facebook?

  1. Ease of use/interface with a mobile or handheld device.
  2. Capping tweets at 140 characters keeps it short and sweet
  3. Facebook imposes a 5000 friend limit (well there are subscribers, but that’s a different story), and Twitter has no such cap

London 2012 was billed as the first “truly social” Olympics. I think that’s a bit much, but it is true that social media is well-integrated into the day-to-day of many, many people today and that will only increase.

For me, the real story behind the headlines was Twitter’s place as a platform, beyond boarders and broadcast – and beyond Facebook as well.

It’s Never Too Late for a Social Strategy

Standard

If you’re like most organizations, you started your activity in social media before really having a plan.

Now you have thousands of likes, fans and followers – the kinds of numbers that merit attention and strategy. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter how you got here, but it’s time to plan where to go now.

Start with this…

1. List Your Assets

Make a list of all your digital assets – web site, social networks, email marketing, mobile app, etc… Also, list the high level numbers/stats that you have for each asset.

Take a good look at what you have – can you identify why are you in those spaces? What sorts of “returns” are the producing? Is there anything missing? Is there too much of something? Have you been listening – what is your market saying?

2. Determine Your Objective

Now that you have an idea of what you have, what do you want to do with them? What is the goal or objective that you want to achieve with this? As with any goal setting, be specific. You might have overarching as well as specific goals. Goals could be anything: direct revenue, increasing stats, growth of X or Y, increase in A or B… But be sure to make things measurable so you can track your progress.

3. Align Your Resources

Lastly, align your resources – both staff as well as digital assets – to accomplish those objectives. For example, if you want to launch a point of purchase initiative, consider a foursquare promotion. But also consider how you will support it – how can you use your other assets to support this? Ideally, your digital assets are continually reinforcing one another as required to achieve both short-term and overarching goals and objectives.

There’s a ton of details that need to be flushed out in these steps – though the structure is simple, how you execute, innovate and strategize is the real key element. The main take-away here is to begin to structure your efforts within a defined plan.

Execution, innovation and strategy – the real meat behind the structure is exactly what the projects I work on are all about. If you have any questions, just let me know!

Your Brand Should Follow Everyone

Standard

Give me one good reason why your brand shouldn’t follow back ALL your followers on Twitter.

I don’t mean to be confrontational – really, can you give me a reason?

There are many brands out there that have several times more followers than those that they follow, and in the case of sports brands for example, they follow media personalities, celebrities and specific individuals. But are these people more important than your customers or the rest of your potential market?

Many digital marketers will counter with statements along the lines of “If there are too many followers, I can’t make anything out of it – the stream is too busy to manage.” This kind of defense doesn’t wash for me – most any fan/customer to brand communication takes place via # these days anyways. And if you are successful with Twitter, having a lot of followers is a pretty good problem to have.

It’s really about optics. In a time when a RT carries the same weight as an autograph, and followers continually ask for RTs on their birthday or other personal events – do your audience a simple favor and follow back. Does this mean that you owe each and every one personal engagement? No – and with 6 figure followers accounts, this is pretty impossible.

Is it too much to ask to follow your customers? Don’t assign status to who your brand follows – and if you do, your customers should come first.

The Unified Approach to Social Marketing

Standard

I previously blogged about the segmented landscape of social networks – it’s a niche world now with many valid places to be like Pinterest, foursquare, Instagram, etc…

So brands are now busy in many of these spaces, but I still think the approach is a bit scattered for the most part. There is a way out of this and I’m calling it the Unified Approach, but I didn’t invent it.

The idea here is to encompass all the social and digital spaces into a single entity. Gather up all your assets like Twitter, Instagram, Google Plus and locate them into a sub brand that unifies them all. A few sports brands have done this – a great example would be the Boston Bruins DEN (Digital Entertainment Network).

This makes sense for a lot of reasons. It provides an organized approach to multiple networks – fans can choose how they follow their team. But the key here is also how it impacts corporate partner and media sales. If you work in that business, then you know it can be a challenge for sales teams to position and sell social assets; and likewise, clients often require a lot of education on what they are buying and even how to buy it.

The unified approach provides a clear vision of what all these assets represent – but – the kicker is, by combining all your social assets into a single package, you can also position this on the media buy – not just the sponsorship buy. The total of all these social assets can be a significant number and allow you to position this as a media buy opportunity.

The unified approach makes a lot of sense for a lot of brands – and as a last point, I still think you need to pick your spots. Should you participate in all these possible social networks? How do you prioritize? How do you allocate resources to manage it? How can you monetize it?

That’s where this blog post turns into conversation – use my Contact Page if you want to talk about it.