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Posts Tagged Facebook

Is this American Gothic 2.0?

This picture of Mark Zuckerberg and his new bride remind me eerily of American Gothic.

 

Add the pitch fork and Iowa. :-)

 

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Social media complements search and email marketing (for now)

Looking at this Forrester post almost a year later feels a lot like going back to high school after your first year in college. You thought it was a good idea to visit but then you realize by the end of it — not so much.

The blog post’s conclusion is to draw your own conclusion about social media’s impact on holiday purchasing. The post meanders from having an opinion that the ForeSee research was limited to having no point of view whatsoever. How am I going to join a conversation or rebut your point of view if you don’t have one?

While there are no official rules to blogging – the universal and unspoken rule is to have an opinion.

Here’s mine: The idea of social commerce (buying stuff on Facebook) is still a pipe dream. Rather, social media can drive brand, product and deal awareness and therefore serve as a complement to a retailer’s larger search and email marketing programs.

Since this post in late 2010, LinkedIn and Groupon have gone public. Facebook’s IPO has been delayed – but will be the biggest one in the history of ever. The point being, these companies are all well capitalized, have hundreds of millions of subscribers and are not going anywhere. So industry pundits and luddites alike need to bite down on the reality that marketers will continue to throw marketing dollars at them to hock their wares regardless of whether we have any proof of a causal relationship between the social media consumption and clicking the “buy” button on a shopping site.

At 2.9% e-commerce conversion rates there is no proof needed.

While this question of “Was social media a big factor in holiday purchases?” will come up again and again over the next few weeks and months, I encourage marketers and PR people to do one thing:   challenge the question.

As Augie Ray correctly points out social media is a mere infant and it will take time to prove its correlation with purchasing behavior. In the meantime it serves a lot of other organizational needs that are no less important than shopping cart clicks. Don’t get suckered into the conversation about social media and its impact on transactions because you’ve got more to attend to with your 2012 social and media dollars such as:

  • Reputation management
  • Product and corporate branding
  • Influencer relations
  • Partner relations
  • Customer service
  • SEO
  • Issues management and crisis communications
  • Recruitment and workforce engagement

While the analyst community continues to look under the hood for purchase conversion evidence, what they’re missing is that the owners of these social media programs may not at all be focused on driving holiday (or non-holiday for that matter) transactions.

Pause.

Bite down. Chew. Gulp.

And therefore, there might be some reason why the transactional or purchase conversion evidence is not to be found.

In fact, most brands and retailers I know are still investing more in tried and true search and email marketing initiatives to drive transactions and conversion online and in stores –- while using Facebook and Twitter as complements to those initiatives and for all of the other communications objectives listed above. That explains why search and promotional email remain the primary drivers for purchasing behavior for the holidays.

There. I said it.

Don’t go back to high school. But do take my poll on LinkedIn

-Jose Mallabo

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Has social media already won?

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.

-Jose Mallabo

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I quit Facebook

Hi, my name is Jose. I make a living on social media and doing PR in the e-commerce segment. And, I just quit Facebook.

Someone light my cigarette.

Back when I was working at LinkedIn and really driving my social network activity into a professional realm, I was itching to bail on Facebook.  I joined to re-connect with high school friends just before our 20th year reunion but since then had been wavering on my activity there.  It just felt too icky too often. The first ick moment came when a former boss asked me about something I posted on my Facebook profile. She was lurking me.

Ick. Double ick.Two years later, 98% of my personal social networking activity is on LinkedIn, Twitter and this blog. And professionally, I manage the GSI Commerce blog as part of my job.

Reconnect with high school pals? Done.

Ongoing Facebook purpose? Unclear.

But what really tipped me over was this quote from this 2-year old Newsweek article: “When I think about all the hours I wasted this past year on Facebook, and imagine the good I could have done instead, it depresses me.”  It’s basic macroeconomic theory applied to social networking. The opportunity cost of clicking through pictures of people in wonderful “look at me you’re not here” places is less time from things that matter.

I’m off Facebook. And off to spend more time on iFoster.org as a board member, other business ventures . . . and throwing baseballs to my nephew who wants to be the next Jose Reyes.  If I throw enough fly balls to him maybe he’ll be the next Torii Hunter instead. Either way, last I checked I can’t throw batting practice on Facebook.

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Why hasn’t PR made measurement core to its function? Q&A with Forrest Anderson

I’ve been kicking around the idea of doing a post about research and measurement in PR for some time. Namely, I really want to ask why PR hasn’t done a better job making this core to the function when there are scads of resources on the subject.  Frankly, I’m not the expert on this subject as I’ve spent more of my career creating content than measuring how it impacts the audiences its intended for.  Despite having an advanced degree in this area, I’m guilty as charged.   Instead I reached out to my former colleague — Forrest W. Anderson who is not just a measurement expert but one of the sharpest communications strategists I’ve been around in my career.

Below is an un-edited Q&A I had with him this week.  My questions.  His answers.  My parenthetical interjections.

Q: What is the single most important thing people need to remember when looking to measure the impact of communications programs?

A: The single most important thing people need to remember when looking to measure the impact of a communications program is their definition of impact, which should come from the initial, measurable objectives of the program.  If you’re trying to change behavior (increase sales, reduce employee turnover, etc.) you should try to measure that change in behavior.  If you’re trying to change awareness and/or attitudes, you should measure changes in awareness and/or attitudes.  Most likely you would do this with a pre- and post-program survey.  If you’re trying to increase media coverage, then you might measure clips.  If you’re trying to increase positive media coverage, then you need not only to count clips but assess the tone of the content in those clips.

Q: What is the most common mistake you see companies making in buying measurement and research?

A: To me, the most common mistake I see companies make when they do invest in measurement and research is they focus more on evaluation (or measurement) and less on the research they should do to plan the program. The first step in any program should be to articulate a measurable objective.  The next step should be to do research on the target audiences and the business environment so you know what kinds of messages and concepts will appeal to the target audience, which media reach the target audience and what’s going on in the world that might affect the way your target audience will react to your intended messages.  The evaluation piece is fairly straightforward, if you’ve created a solid measurable objective for the program.

The measurable objective is a big stumbling point.  Without one, you cannot evaluate.  This is why so many companies that invest in media evaluation systems that use online data bases are disappointed after a year of using the service.  Neither the client organization nor the evaluation system vendor thinks out what the measurable objectives should be for any given program.  It frequently turns out, then, that there is a mismatch between what the tool measures and what the organization wants to achieve.

Q: Communications research has been around a long time, why haven’t PR people done a better job making it core to their programs and the industry?

A: I think there are a number of reasons.

  • In the past it has been expensive relative to the investment in the program, so there was a question regarding whether you should spend the money trying to get more results or measuring what you achieved.  The online systems have made clip analysis less expensive than in the past, and we can also do surveys online for much less than in the past.
  • Some communications professionals are afraid of what they will find out if they measure.  An agency, for example, might not want its client to learn that a program had not achieved the goals the client requested or the agency promised.  This is a very unprofessional point of view because there is no way anyone can improve as a professional if they do not measure the effectiveness of what they do, learn from it and try to do better.  The same situation exists for some internal communications departments, with organizational executives taking the client role and the communications departments acting like agencies.  Again this is too bad.  There is a fair amount of anecdotal and some scholarly evidence that communications departments that do evaluate are more highly thought of by the CEOs of their companies than are those that do not evaluate.
  • Last, but certainly not least, I believe many people go into public relations to avoid having to deal with numbers and numerical analysis.

(So true. I’ve lost count how many PR people have said to me “I’m not good with numbers.” Cop out.  Reading cross tabs isn’t that hard. And who hasn’t had a client that was BS-ing his boss about results?)

Q: CEO’s often just want to pay for clippings and see their names in headlines, how do you get past this?

A: If a CEO is that shallow, you’re going to have a number of operational problems in the organization that probably will outweigh communications issues.  These will only be the tip of the ice berg.  That said, the best way I know to influence CEOs is with data.  If a senior communications person believes the organization should be doing something, he or she should look for data that supports their point of view and present it to the CEO.  For example, if our communications executive (CE) believes the main competitor is winning partly because of the good media coverage it is getting vs. the poor media coverage the CE’s company is getting, a quantitative report demonstrating this would be more likely to sway the CEO than just saying “I think we should do this.”

I once did a $200,000 communications audit for the U.S. subsidiary of a European owned company.  The whole purpose of the audit was to demonstrate to the European owner that the U.S. subsidiary needed to invest in public relations.  The study made the case and HQ supported a major increase in PR funding.

Q: Is social media helping or hurting research and measurement in communications?

A: I would say social media is confusing research and measurement in communications.  What it is helping is dialog. In the past, there were very few direct communications channels open between an organization and its stakeholders, so market research gave management insight into who comprised a stakeholder group, what they cared about, what they thought, etc.  However, with social media, organizations can actually communicate directly with stakeholders, assuming stakeholders wish to communicate with the organization.  This is great!

The danger comes when an organization begins to believe that a handful of active users of social media users represent the entire stakeholder group.  There can be a big difference between what a few vocal individuals think and what most the population thinks. So, I believe social media is a wonderful way to get some insight into stakeholder groups, but I also think we need to be very careful about extrapolating that insight to larger populations.  I do not believe social media is a replacement for research.

(I agree with that. And think the hype and sex appeal of social has done a lot to distract companies from focusing on the basics — like research and measurement. People are off building Facebook pages when they haven’t even studied their core audiences to see how they interact with existing PR content and programs.)

Q: Is agenda setting theory still valid?

A: Unless I misunderstand your question, the agenda setting theory is based on the idea that the media sets the news agenda by choosing which topics to cover.  Thus the news media exerts great influence over not only the topics its audience thinks about but also how the audience thinks about those topics.  I’m not sure I ever completely bought into this theory, because I believe good journalists tried to choose topics that were of interest to their audiences and did some research with their audiences to determine what these topics were.  So, the influencers were influenced by those they influenced.

Whether this last bit was true in the past or not, it is certainly true now.  Anyone with access to the Internet can publish now, and very many do.  Tools such as Twitter’s “Trending” will tell you which topics (or key words) are being discussed the most at any given time, and journalists can and do use those kinds of tools to choose the topics they cover.  I would say the influenced are influencing the influencers more than ever before.  However, this is just a theory.  I don’t have data on this.

Q: If you could build a strategic communications program for Facebook, what would it look like?

A: This sounds like what should be a paying gig.

I told you he was sharp.  It really should be a paying gig.

-Jose Mallabo

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Social vs. professional graph: Are the days of separate online identities numbered?

About 6 months ago I posted something on my Facebook account that had nothing to do with work.   It was a rant about a sales guy trying to sell me something completely unnecessary for my motorcycle.  Two days later, a friend on Facebook and superior at work asked me about it at work – the implication being that I was ranting about the workplace – where we ironically extolled that the social graph (or identity/profile) was and should be separate from the professional graph.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has been emphatic about a singular online identity – which obviously paves the way for Facebook Connect to be the way people log in anywhere online.  He’s quoted three times in The Facebook Effect saying: “You have one identity.”

And that…“The days of you having a different image for your work friends or co-workers and for the other people you know are probably coming to an end pretty quickly.” Further challenging the current separation of the social and professional graphs by saying: “Having two identities for yourself is an example of a lack of integrity.”

Well, we know how he feels about it.

In turn, LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner has maintained that the separation between social and professional graphs is vital to professionals and to LinkedIn.  At last fall’s Web 2.0 Summit in San Francisco — in his “keg stand” interview — he told John Batelle:

“While many of us in college probably were at parties having a good time, doing things like keg stands, or being exposed to keg stands, I don’t know that many of us would look forward to having a prospective employer have access to picture of those events.”

Who’s right? I’m less confident in the separation between the two than I was just 24 hours ago.

At a recent Ragan social media conference I attended, Shel Holtz echoed Facebook’s stance in his own inimitable and convincing way.  Of course, I Tweeted at him about this while he was presenting.

If I’m answering Shel literally, I’d say “see the first paragraph of this post.”

But I had to test this just a liiiiittle bit more.  The attendees of this conference were a better cross section of U.S. professionals than the early-adopting, Banana Republic-wearing, all technology-loving dot.com crowds that populated the early social media conferences. Insurance. Federal and municipal governments. Universities. Healthcare organizations. And, even the country’s largest cemetary.

They were all in the house — represented by professionals from every generation in the workforce today.

These are people working for really big, very regulated, widely and deeply impactful organizations from never-go-away industries — all there trying to figure out where to place their social media bets and budgets.  Shel’s point may be the most thought provoking point made out of all the sessions.  Because none of us are over-staffed or walking around with extra dollars pouring out of our back pockets, picking one may be a choice we’re forced to make.

So I put the question to the attendee group to see what they thought about the separation or blurring of social and professional graphs.  That group was on Facebook.  I’ll post the comments as they come in.

I’m not a Dead Head, but as I sit here during business hours while at the dealer getting my car repaired working on a post that has benefits to both my professional and personal brand, it’s hard not to think that maybe Shel has spoken for many of us.

My car is ready.  Back to the work.

- Jose Mallabo

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Social Exuberance

I’ve lived through a couple of bubbles in my time – dot.com and housing come to mind, anyone?  And something tells me the longer I’m around the more I’m going to have to live through.

Is social media another one of them? Maybe. Is a market cap of $80 billion for Facebook rational? Alan Greenspan must be trying his damnedest to make those old thumbs Tweet #social-exuberance.

Exuberant smile? Greenspan retired a while ago.

It strikes me that my framed Pets.com certificates and my wall have more than a nail in common – both were worth a hell of a lot more when I bought them (yeah, that was a stretch, thanks for sticking with me on that one). So now that I’ve said it, let me compare the stock market bubble to the housing market bubble to see what these bubbles might have in common.

There are basically three ways to value a stock, and they are pretty much the same as how the real estate market valued my wall.

My house:

  • Price per square foot (adjusted for how nice the stuff in my square footage is)
  • How much an identical house in my neighborhood sold for
  • Make shit up

A stock:

  • Discounted cash flows (predictions of how much money a company will make in future years, adjusted for how fast they will grow and how long they might last)
  • What comparable “peer” companies are trading at (adjusted for cash, debt (including options), assets and risks)
  • Make shit up

Both Facebook and Amazon have market caps of around $80 billion ($82.9 billion secondary market estimate for Facebook on 1/28, $76.8 billion actual market cap for Amazon on 1/28).  So if they were houses, and I was pre-qualified for an $83 billion mortgage, I could take my pick (well, my wife would, let’s stay grounded here).

As far as revenues go, estimates for Facebook for 2010 are around $2 billion while Amazon is on track for something north of $30 billion. In housing terms, Facebook is listing a very funky two bedroom loft conversion while Amazon is listing a 30-bedroom ancestral estate. So, there are either some really, really nice upgrades in that loft or there are 28 secret bedrooms priced into the deal.

Yes, an $80 billion estimate for Facebook is likely high. And yes, Facebook and Amazon don’t have identical business models.  But yes, the same people who sold me Pets.com shares are the same people who collateralized my mortgage and are the same people selling Facebook shares to foreign investors to avoid SEC regulations.

That must be one amazing loft.  I need to go check it out, I do need more wall space.

-Reid Cox

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Sudden hotness: Social + E-commerce = Social Commerce

Amazing how hot the juncture between e-commerce and social networking has gotten. It’s simple, really. E-commerce is eating into the overall retail segment. And, marketers go where the crowds are. Right now those crowds are not on AOL or WPIX (except for this page about Victoria’s Secret). They’re on Facebook and Twitter.

I remember having some very heated dialogue over using ‘social commerce’ as a thought leadership position within the corporate PR program at eBay about 3+ years ago.  I don’t recall what side of the argument I was on, but needless to say, despite the PR agency’s best efforts (you know who you are) to make it real, it took a Joe Pesci pen to the neck (Nicky in Casino) and never saw the light of day.

Until now.

Sudden hotness has arrived in that kink of a place where social and commerce are meeting.

After CyberMonday all the rumors were about Google to buy Groupon for $2.5 billion (Kara Swisher reports the offer is $5.3 billion). A colleague of mine asked if they’d call it Goopon? Heck, for that mountain of money, they can sponsor the TSA and rename it Gropeon. Today, Payvment announced a $6 million round of venture financing. In recent weeks Facebook has launched Deals to sit on top of its Places product. And, all you need to do is do a Twitter search for #CyberMonday to see how much traction commerce gets on Twitter.

So, while TechCrunch ponders if Amazon missed the boat on social commerce the reality is we all did. Or we would’ve called Nicky and his pen off back in 2007, created a Moto RAZR app for surfing the Urban Outfitters page on Facebook and retired on Black Friday 2009 on the speculation that Google was going to buy it.

Lesson of the day: A lot of the time the PR firm is right.

Update 1:  Dec. 2: Groupon: In the days since Mashable posted the Google buys Groupon rumor, most of the banter has been about how sexy the deal is. Rumors about M&A are dead sexy and dramatic. But we all know that most deals don’t work. And the honeymoon usually ends quickly once the hot company gets ingested.  I’m just happy someone is giving some sound analysis to this deal before it gets done.  Thanks, Sucharita.

Update 2: Dec. 3: Milo.com: Having worked with eBay Classifieds Group before and while classifieds was being integrated into the eBay.com marketplace, I find this $75 million deal to buy Milo.com…fascinating. I have to figure it out in light of all the above, eBay’s constant refrain about mobile as well as it’s M&A history. More later.

-Jose Mallabo

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Update: “Social Networking is a Stupid Fad”

Brian Womack at Bloomberg just pointed out what everyone in the Valley and technology have known for some time: Social networks are more valuable than many of the Web 1.0 companies that have come to be household names over the past decade.

Facebook valuation hits $41 billion. Say it a couple of times and let that sink in. Combined with secondary market valuations of Twitter and LinkedIn, the Big 3 social networks are worth more than $46 billion — that’s some serious coin considering all of these companies are about 10 years newer than the watch I’m wearing right now. (Note to self: buy new watch.)

Greenspan made his infamous irrational exuberance speech just after I launched a start up .com. Thanks for that.

To my post from the other day: “so what, who cares?” remains the refrain from many people around the world who stand on the sidelines and scoff at such lofty valuations and the utility of being social. Rational or irrational. Call Alan Greenspan because the exuberance is there. And when that kind of exuberance exists from the capital markets, things change. Big things. Think the Bull Market of the late 90s. The U.S. housing market from the same period. Justin Bieber right now.

Nevermind what Facebook has done in terms of surpassing eBay or Yahoo! valuation.  Look at it compared to iconic brands that have been around for generations. Its worth three times more than Xerox. Forty times more than Kodak. And, if you look at Facebook purely as a medium through which to reach consumers (like a newspaper) it absolutely humbles what is the greatest institution in journalism: the Wall Street Journal — which Rupert Murdoch bought for a skim-milk price of $5.6 billion in 2007.

Maybe social networking is the alternate reality. But, what if it’s not?

- Jose Mallabo

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“Social Networking is a Stupid Fad!”

I hear that sentiment a lot since leaving Silicon Valley.

It’s a refrain that reminds me of the woman on the bus in New York who scolded me with her eyes for answering my Motorola StarTAC — a decade ago. She’s probably tuning her TV with bunny ears now. I get it — not everyone will get on the bandwagon.  Cable TV in the US still doesn’t have 100% penetration.  But –

Note the price: $1,000 in 1996.

– at some point quantity does become quality. Breadth and depth of use changes the nature or quality of something — and in this case it’s social networking and everything it touches.

A lot of people will never network online, let alone write a blog about it.  Having worked at eBay and LinkedIn and now sitting in an e-commerce company whose clients are pushing hard into social media, it’s easy to say that this is not going anywhere.  It’s becoming the way people and companies communicate with each other. If anything the term “social networking” may be passe.  The breadth of adoption and use cases for it may have blown by the term two or three months ago.

It’s not just about discovering where old friends and colleagues are anymore.  It’s about exchanging ideas, knowledge, working collaboratively and even transacting commerce.

That my technology loathing friends is a marketplaceMarketplaces are the basis of communities, cities and dare I say empires.  Google: “Roman Empire” or “Dutch trading” to prove me right. Remember it was New Amsterdam before the English said otherwise.

The big 3 networks (sound familiar?) are quickly replacing the phone, TV and soon the mall. If you don’t think that possibility is compelling. . . go home and tear the telephone out of the wall, dump the HD-TV in the pool and move to the plains.

I’ll be here in my marketplace.

- Jose Mallabo

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