Archive for category Social media
Focus on massive scale. In the fairly limited time spent working with Jeff Weiner when I was at LinkedIn I learned something from him in each and every interaction that is of value in what I’m doing now. One of his mantras back then was to focus on “massive scale.” In 2009, it meant having a LinkedIn member base that was in the hundreds of millions, densely interconnected and very active on the platform. I joined when we were at 30 million members so it was still very much aspirational and clearly has hit massive scale since. My takeaway on that now is for startup co-founders to plan for and anticipate bringing their business to a massive scale, because as I’ve learned, there’s a force multiplier effect on every aspect of the business when you go from 30 million customers to 300 million customers. And, if you can recruit someone to your team or board of advisors who has taken a start up from nothing to massive scale you must do it. That experience is invaluable and will help you anticipate the potholes that lie ahead while giving you immeasurable street cred.
The other thing Jeff used to say in meetings was “there’s always a downstream” impact. He’s right of course. Within a product environment like LinkedIn if you change something over here, something over there will be effected — maybe immediately or maybe six months from now. But, there is always an impact — intended or otherwise. Now that I am back in a consumer-facing startup, early in product development I have stapled that message to my forehead. It reminds me to go into every decision with eyes wide open — even if I don’t have a contingency for every consequence, I know to be ready to react. It echoes the Lean lessons to test, test, test your product before rolling out to a mass market.
Act like an owner. I’m not one for corporate missions statements. In fact, for the first 16 years of my career I used to roll my eyes at clients who spent time and money on these. When I got to eBay company values were everywhere. The one that stuck was: act like an owner. It works universally for whatever you do and especially within a startup. Something magical happens when an employee knows its his company, too. Suddenly, every detail matters and relationships with co-workers are worth building and protecting. Startups need to be generous and open minded about how to structure early employee compensation and hire people who fit the demands of that stage of the company. Being employee number 3 is very different than being employee number 3,000.
Your true self is revealed in the politics. At some point you will be faced with making a decision based on what’s right for the customer or business and what the internal politics want. Screw Myers-Briggs and all the personality tests, nothing reveals your true character more profoundly and swiftly than this moment. Someone asked me very recently and very bluntly why I had so many 2-year long jobs. Here’s your answer, pal. I made the decision very early on in my career that I was okay with losing a job for being unpopular with management, because I am not okay with losing a job because my programs or teams were underperforming. For founders looking to build a team that will be tasked with making the impossible possible and facing the 98% failure rate of all start ups, I ask: who are you picking first for your kickball team?
Managers run operations, investors manage their money. In the mid- and late-90s I did investor relations for a many micro- and small-cap technology companies (in a wide range of industries) during the first tech boom. I worked with some of the smartest CEO’s and CFO’s I’ve ever been around and prepared countless investor-facing materials and many Q&A’s for quarterly meetings and earnings calls. What I learned is that investors are in the business of managing ROI of their money. Period. While some were very knowledgeable and had good suggestions about how to make improvements that could drive growth and profitability — they never could see the full picture. Ever. In repositioning an equipment supplier to the then still burgeoning fiber optics market that would eventually serve this thing we call the Internet, a client’s investors were roiled about the change in strategy and positioning to capital markets. Management was very smart to stick to its guns because this new strategy turned a $10 a share stock into a $500 a share stock on a split adjusted basis — within 18 months. For startup teams who take on investors the lesson is really clear — screen your investors as thoroughly as they are screening you. Pick the ones who fit the stage of your business and have expectations in line with those of your company. For really early stage companies, listen very closely if a prospective investor wants to run operations or just provide capital.
Sometimes PR and marketing doesn’t matter. I once had a very heated run in with a product manager who got in my grill and stated “PR doesn’t matter” as it relates to an upcoming launch. I think my carotid just about exited my neck when he enunciated the m in matter. Turns out, though, he was more right than wrong. And this product manager has gone on to found a hugely successful company and probably could’ve retired four or five years ago. In the years since I’ve more than once uttered to another marketing person a quote I saw that said “at some point, the product is the PR.” I remind myself of this lesson all the time and that if the product truly adds value to the customer’s life it will get adoption. Solving for that first and foremost trumps any marketing or go to market strategy you and any consultant can cook up. When you’re sitting with your small team wondering if it’s time to turn on the marketing spigot — put your big boy pants on first and ask if it matters. Ask if you’ve proven yet that what you’re building is in fact a value add.
M&A gets done for one reason: Their growth, not yours. Specifically, the growth of the acquiring company. I’ve been involved on the investor relations or corporate communications side of well over 100 acquisitions and this is not a warm and fuzzy endeavor. The acquiring company’s agenda isn’t to give the owners of the other company a soft exit, it’s to grow their company by 1) buying revenue and customers 2) acquiring technology or IP they can’t build themselves 3) buying talent that won’t otherwise go to work for them. If you’re running a startup and your projected exit is via acquisition you better think through this now or you’re probably running a lifestyle business and don’t know it.
Lawyer up. In utopia there isn’t a need for lawyers, but this isn’t utopia it’s corporate America and if you’re building something with contractors and partners that is worth selling to the market it’s worth protecting your ass with strong legal counsel. LegalZoom is a start but soon after you fork over your $500 to get your LLC set up you’re going to need to sign on a contractor or investor and that will require a lawyer who understands your business, its risks and your objectives. Having the conversation with counsel about who owns the kernel to software many years after it was built with millions of users on the platform is an intensely stressful conversation — been there and it sucks.
Higher education PR and marketing people are rock stars. The demands of doing marketing and PR within a university are unparalleled. I tell my former colleagues who work in corporate and consumer roles that it’s a lot like having 10,000 of your customers living in your building with their parents right around the corner. If you’re looking for a marketing person to join your startup, look in higher ed. These folks tend to go under-appreciated but have the mettle to deal with unthinkable crises and have current experience engaging with the largest and most digital savvy generation in the history of the world — teens and young adults.
Customers buy what they want. If I had to list the companies I’ve worked with who promised a full suite of solutions to customers so that they can buy from a single vendor, I’d get a several dozen cease and desist letters and a bill from GoDaddy for the space I ate up on this blog. Its mind numbing how many companies — startup or mature — build their differentiation on the single solution provider value proposition. Meanwhile, I can’t remember more than 10 case studies when a customer actually said “Screw it, we’re firing all of our other vendors and going with just you!” Most businesses in the U.S. are small- to medium-sized businesses and most of those companies aren’t organized in a way to buy from and manage a single provider. So they tend to buy a la carte. Accounting buys bookkeeping services from a vendor of its choice while sales picks the CRM application it wants. It’s the reality of the market. For a startup — particularly a services company — looking to compete on this plane, I’d encourage you to think through this and focus first on the killer app, feature or product that could be your cash cow. Once you’ve proven that, build or buy adjacencies out over time. Google didn’t launch with Maps, Android OS, the Nexus phone, Gmail and ChromeBook on Day 1. It took them a couple of years to achieve world domination, so it might take you a little longer.
– Jose Mallabo
There’s been more research done to study Millenials than any other generation of American consumers. I’ve read my share of the studies, but the greatest lessons I’ve learned have been on the job at the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) as senior vice president of marketing and PR.
Here are my top 6 lessons (so far):
1. Be nimble. Before I made the move to higher education I co-founded a fashion and lifestyle startup built on the Twitter platform targeting early adopter Millenials. As we were releasing our second product the core of our targeted consumer was still very much in love with Facebook and flat out dissed Twitter. Four or five months later, after I had taken over marketing at SCAD, that all changed very dramatically. Teenagers and young adults started leaving the suddenly parent heavy Facebook for the easier and more mobile friendly Twitter world. These platform shifts will continue to happen so pay attention and organize your teams to be able to react to major media consumption shifts like this.
2. Have a point of view. Perhaps this is part of my personal opinion mixed in with the lessons this job has taught me but as the research has suggested Millenials have a more global view of social, political and financial issues than generations that preceded them as teenagers and young adults. More than anything they have a point of view about issues small and large that my generation simply didn’t start thinking about until much later in life. Trying to get your brand’s point of view in agreement with that of this generation would be a mistake. However, appearing to be neutral is a bigger mistake. It shows your company has no conviction and hints that perhaps your organization hasn’t bothered to give it any thought — which makes you neutral. In this very noisy, always on world neutral is invisible.
3. Account for family influencers. Remember that these are young adults who still rely on parents and other family members to make big decisions. This is especially true for making decisions about big-ticket items like college. The consideration to go to college runs very broadly into familial networks (i.e. legacy, heritage and location) but very specifically to mom. The lesson for college and non-college marketers alike is that when targeting Millenials you must address the conversation they will be having with parents and others in the family. Build a relationship with that influencer through the medium or channel of their choice – which will not be the same channel. See my note about Twitter and Facebook above.
4. Test your message. Millenials are nothing if not professional multi-taskers especially when it comes to media consumption. Gaming. Social media. Music. YouTube. Text messages. Chats. Email. All are used on multiple devices at a pace that makes us old farts rather dizzy. If your message is not on target immediately it is ignored. Unlike my generation (who disdained advertising and marketing as a rule) Millenials actually like to interact with great marketing but your message and content has to be framed within a worldview they already have. This is true for every consumer, but more so for the generation who has grown up with the unsubscribe button at their fingertips right out of the womb.
5. Email is not dead. Coming into my position at SCAD, I thought that email was irrelevant to our targeted consumer compared to search engine marketing, social media and PR. I was as wrong as acid wash jeans outside of a truck stop. Email can play a critical role in your communications strategy and media mix, but it has to be integrated with other content on social and the web. In my opinion, email to Millenials is something you introduce well after they’ve started to engage with your brand. It cannot stand on its own and less is definitely more. For people over 40 spam is annoying but tolerated. To Millenials SPAM is the devil burning Styrofoam cups on their iPhone. A few months ago, my team launched an email campaign (tied to other content) to an already used list of teenagers and we increased click through rates 383% and click to open rates by 502% from one campaign to the next — using the same list. We were very selective about the messaging, creative and time of delivery. It can be done. (See the before and after.)
6. Print publications are (almost) dead. I am writing this in a hip coffee shop where I am easily the oldest customer; and I just did a lap around the room. Not a single Millenial has the print edition of the Wall Street Journal or New York Times (or any print publication for that matter) open. As a 46-year-old who started my career in a New York PR agency, I love the feel of the New York Times in my hands. It makes me feel like a better person just clutching it let alone acting like I’m reading it in public. But I’m not my target audience, they are. So when it comes to launching an integrated PR/marketing campaign for Millenials save that earned print media push for their parents.
7. Understand a 15 year old’s motivations. Sophomores and juniors aspire to a lifestyle supported by a career and the money that comes with it. Your college is a way to get there, not a destination. Remember that when you’re drafting an email or copy for your web site — they don’t care about what it’s like to get there, they want to know what you can do to help them achieve their career goals. And despite the outcry and media headlines, money is no object. Families are more than willing to foot the bill to get their posterity on a career path.
Other stuff to read. Other than this brilliant post, if you’re going to do some reading about marketing for Millenials pick up “Chasing Youth Culture and Getting it Right” by Tina Wells. It is far more than a primer on the subject but really expounds on the many issues identified above and in more white paper like research about this generation of consumers. I pick it up and re-read chapters just as I do with “The Tipping Point” or “Positioning” before I build a campaign.
– Jose Mallabo
College, email, email marketing, Fahlgren Mortine, higher education, Jose Mallabo, Malcom Gladwell, marketing, Millenials, public relations, Savannah College of Art and Design, SCAD, Tina Wells, University
Sorry…for the all-too-obvious SEO- and Huffington Post-inspired headline. This post has little to do with getting more followers on Twitter. Could be worse. I could’ve named it: “Is Twitter more important than the Wall Street Journal?”
Social media, especially Twitter, is a global 24/7 session of Double Dutch. Only it’s with 500 million+ jump ropes none of which will slow down to let you in even though you just laced on a shiny new pair of Nikes and are carrying a swanky-fun handle.
Like Double Dutch you don’t run into the fray with your mouth open unless you want a 20-gauge rubber rope behind your bicuspids. You wait. You find the rhythm of the conversation then jump in prepared to be part of it.
- Before you start tweeting: Shut up and listen!
- Never build a company on the Twitter API. (Another story for different day.)
By listening for a bit you’ll get a sense what the language and conversation is on Twitter and you’ll see what gets the most interest in whatever topic you’re keen on. No matter what subject, I think you’ll see that people who have a constructive point of view get the most engagement on Twitter. So when you do want to start opening your mouth, think back to the way back days of TechCrunch (circa when we thought Friendster was the big ticket). Michael Arrington made that blog more influential than mainstream papers by having a point of view.
So, if you get stuck on finding a voice for your next tweet or post, ask yourself – what would @arrington do?
Then when you’re jusssst about to hit send on your 11th tweet stop, drop and roll. Take a look at the first ten tweets and count how many of those are about: A) broad topic of conversation that we all care about, B) dialogue with other tweeps, and C) how wonderful you are.
If more than two are focused on category C, put the mirror down and remember this guiding principle:
As @louhoffman reminded me last week no one you first meet at a cocktail party wants to hear a commercial about how wonderful you are. They want to engage with you about new and common areas of interest. And, they’ll stay for a full cocktail or maybe two if you’re a smidge entertaining.
New rule is the old rule: 50/30/20
Spend 50% of your time talking about broader subjects on Twitter. Then, 30% actively engaged with other people. And, just a wee 20% woofing about your parents’ progeny.
I lied. I’m giving you some tips. The last one is: Who you are on Twitter is somewhat reflective of who you are following. Follow wisely.
If you want to be seen and served up in the Twitter “Who to follow” engine as a global leader in M&A but are following 1,500 skateboarders . . . then odds are Twitter thinks you’re more like Tony Hawke than Larry Ellison.
– Jose Mallabo
. . . then entrepreneurship is forever.
Like Batman only with way cooler jeans and tee shirts.
The last few weeks have been very difficult for me and my team at Tweetalicious. But it’s interesting to look at what we’ve been doing since deciding to dissolve the company and shut down Mosaic. We broke up the band but have been out talking to other entrepreneurs to see how we can help or join forces with them to re-focus on the next next thing.
Even if that doesn’t happen, I have no doubt we’ll be back at it. Someday.
It’s only been a week but I miss the fight to build something out of nothing. I miss the heated discussions with my team. I even miss people telling us we were out of minds. It was a great ride and I’m proud of my co-founders for getting as far as we did with the MVP of Mosaic.
In the few weeks since we put Mosaic into beta testing at DiscoverMosaic.com it’s easy to see our user base has a palate for visual curation and design. The most visited tiles on the site are:
- Alexandra Spencer (@4THANDBLEEKER)
- Miranda Kerr (@MirandaKerr)
- Dolce & Gabbana (@DolceGabbana)
We curate content from three major areas: brands, fashion influencers and celebrities — and Alexandra is clearly a fashionable celebrity with influence.
So, what does this tell you about consumers and social content? Great visuals matter. The days of 140 text characters are dead like the Boston Red Sox. And I’d be willing to bet that if I looked at the least visited tiles on Mosaic – they’d all look like what happens when you cat stands on your keyboard.
Take a look at each of these handles and you’ll see commonalities. All of them create a steady flow of content often times posting updates five to 10 times a day. At least half of these tweets are pictures or videos. But what’s probably most important is that these are taken from a personal perspective. Even Dolce & Gabbana, obviously a company handle, pushes tweets out in a voice that makes it feel like a personal conversation. It’s an approach every social media pro aspires but often gets lost in execution.
Corporate speak: Boo!
Personalized visual content: Bring it. Yay.
I left LinkedIn about 18 months ago and remember marveling at the insane growth Twitter was experiencing at the time. They hit 50 million tweets per day so quickly and had driven so much activity within LinkedIn. That figure is now 340 million tweets per day driven by 140 million active members.
About a year ago Twitter reported that close to 500,000 new accounts were being opened each day. That’s about 180 million accounts on an annual basis, right? Or about 500 million registered users today.
The lesson here is that accounts do not equal people. A lot of those accounts are machines but a lot of those accounts also are dormant users who don’t do much once they create an account — because the pace on Twitter is impossible to follow and there are few tools built for consumers to help manage and consume it.
The reality is that a small fraction of people actually create content on Twitter. But people say that like it’s a bad thing. A lot has been written about how these above vanity numbers are just that — hype. The comparison to Facebook’s staggering growth and engagement rates are natural and daunting and only feeds the sentiment that no one is really using Twitter.
Not so fast you Nancy Naysayers!
Mass media — namely that little ol’ thing we media researchers like to call the ‘most influential medium in the history of mankind’ or simply ‘television’ — lends a great example of how Twitter content is used by the masses. People watch and consume content, not necessarily create it.
Think about it. If you’re old enough to rent a car in the U.S. odds are you averaged somewhere between 3 to 5 hours a day of TV consumption for a good chunk of your life. How many times did you create TV programming or call or write NBC, HBO, Cinemax or any other programmer to comment on their content? Answer: Zero times in the last (pick any number) years.
What if there was a tool to consume Tweets the way people consume TV programming? What would you call those ‘dormant’ Twitter accounts?
I’d call it an opportunity. Here I come.
– Jose Mallabo
Everyone wants to be on the winning team. It just takes longer for some people to see the winning.
I remember walking my first Bay to Breakers race about a decade ago. I had a very broken arm and lugged around a cast that ran from my fist to my armpit. An hour into the 7 mile race someone with a bullhorn was yelling to the masses: “The Kenyans have already won. Go home!” I laughed and limped along with the thousands of others — appreciative of the update.
Social media isn’t too different. The early adopters have been claiming victory over traditional marketing channels since Facebook and Twitter were mere puppies. Search, email and general multi-media marketing/advertising might have a few things to say about that. But if you just look at the growth of Facebook and Twitter memberships over the past year — they’re signing up more people now than they were two or three years ago — you can start to see the not-so-early-adopters getting on the bandwagon.
And that’s OK. We all can’t be died-in-the-wool Yankees, Patriots, Red Sox or Phillies fans. Someone has to get on the bus last. So grab your licensed apparel and get on the social media express. But to the newcomers to social, I’d caution you from drinking solely from the awareness pitcher. Check that box and skip ahead to finding out how social media can drive lead generation and business development — because that’s the Kool Aid pitcher the cool kids are filling up from.
It can look a little like this one that I know was used in generating ~$200 million on software/solutions business leads for an enterprise facing company with a big blue logo.
Not as sexy as a Facebook page with videos of the trendy people at your company doing fun things in skinny jeans. But it works. And it will take this kind of coordinated approach to driving business for social media to run with the Kenyans.
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