Real-Time Marketing and Facebook Drama Has Given Me Social Media Fatigue

I need to start this post with an apology to Ramon Ray, and a disclaimer that my penchant for being an early adopter may have led to, actually, a late adoption of the social media fatigue Gartner saw back at the beginning of 2011.

You see, Ramon was nice enough to send me an advance copy of his new book “The Facebook Guide to Small Business Marketing” so that I could review it. I’ve been reading it off & on for the past couple of weeks and I think it’s a terrific reference for small businesses. He’s got lots of great illustrations, tips and quotes from business owners who’ve been there themselves.

But, I’ve had the hardest time finishing it and writing a true review. Luckily for Ramon, others I know, like Gene Marks and Anita Campbell, have carried the ball I dropped. My slacking is no reflection on the quality of the writing or the content. It’s just that the girl who used these slides in 2010 to make my case for launching the Dell for Business Facebook page and who still manages content on the five-year-old Social Media for Business – Powered by Dell page is disillusioned with the platform.

I’m not saying I don’t think businesses should be there. I still think it can be a valuable part of your marketing mix. It’s just that after the EdgeRank algorithm change that reduced post reach, brought cries of extortion and even prompted Mark Cuban to tweet that he’d be moving his business to tumblr or MySpace back in September, was… followed up by adamant declarations that the launch of Promoted Posts had no impact on the news feed reach of the average Page and that poor reach was simply the fault of Page owners putting out poor content, Facebook now… makes a much less-hyped admission that a bug in Page Insights actually was responsible for a real change in reach, well… they’ve just lost credibility with me.

Like Cuban clarifying his statements, I’m not saying pull out of Facebook completely. I’m just saying it wouldn’t be top of my list of budget items. I have no trust that an investment in content creation and engagement will really show a return equal to the creative and human resources that takes. For a small, local business with a much closer customer base, there might still be opportunity and for them I would definitely recommend Ramon’s book. But, does it still make sense for large brands to invest in building up a fan base only to have to continue paying for sponsored posts to reach them post-acquisition?

Maybe that’s why Twitter is the new darling for them and the real-time marketing movement that leads me to my next jaded commentary.

As usually is the case, when something good happens, everyone wants to duplicate it. When your sports team wins a championship, you want them to keep winning. When I got FastCompany coverage for a lesser-known unit of my employer’s organization, managers of other teams immediately wanted me to do the same for them. When OREOS reached millions beyond their initial Twitter followers with funny images during the Super Bowl blackout, every other big brand wanted to do the same at the next big event.

And this brings us to the Academy Awards ceremony.

Tweet from @Owyang about Oscar Real Time Marketing

There were a lot of companies trying really hard to re-create a magic moment and a lot of marketing/advertising people debating the tactic in the same real-time it was being leveraged. AdWeek called it a “fingernails-on-the-chalkboard crescendo.” I mostly tuned it out.

Between my husband’s complaints about me watching the Super Bowl with Twitter rather than with him when he was in the room with me, and the excessive snarkiness in tweets about what people were wearing or saying (yes, I know we all do it, but some seemed really bad – although not all as bad as The Onion), I mostly kept my Twitter-addicted hands off my smartphone during the ceremony.

In his post titled “The Content Crash,” Mitch Joel asked what I think is a very prescient question: At what point do consumers push back, unfriend, unfollow, unplus and whatever else? Surely I’m not alone in feeling like I don’t really want to get tweets from the snacks I’m eating while watching an event.

Maybe I’m just part of the “Angry Mob Fun Run” pictured on this post about “Why the Content Marketing Backlash is Getting it Wrong.” The whole concept of – or maybe the hype of the concept of – content marketing just makes me tired. I have to wonder, then, if it’s true disenchantment or just temporary burnout that can be cured by a good vacation.

Well, I’ll be testing that out soon as I am getting ready to leave Austin at the exact time each spring when everyone else it seems comes to town. For the first time since 2007, I will not be attending SXSW Interactive. I will instead be trading the crowded panels and parties for long Spring Break lines at Disney World.

In the past, SXSW was actually the place to learn about those new technologies I crave, meet interesting people doing creative, crazy things and get inspired to apply the tech and the ideas to my work. But, I didn’t leave with that feeling last year, so I’m not terribly sad to miss it this year. And, there are only so many years left when my girl will actually be asking to take a family vacation.

So, SXSW will go on without me and we’ll just have to wait and see if that means I miss that next big thing that will take me from jaded to fresh, energized and enthusiastic.

LinkedIn’s Female Executives Beating Facebook

I’m not sayin’… but, I’m just sayin’…

Quick post to share two interesting articles that crossed my path today. First was one in Inc Magazine with the eye-catching headline “How LinkedIn Is Beating Facebook.” Primarily, this statement was based on looking at the two companies’ year to year growth.

Chart - Source: Facebook's 2012 10K, LinkedIn 4Q12 Press ReleaseSource: Inc.com, Facebook’s 2012 10K, LinkedIn 4Q12 Press Release

Why is LinkedIn doing so well? According to the column’s author, “… it comes down to business fundamentals. LinkedIn has a better business model, is less vulnerable to competition, and has better (i.e. smarter and more mature) management.”

But, could there be more to it?

Another story today from Forbes notes “LinkedIn Boasts Highest Ratio of Female Executives in Silicon Valley,” with the addition of their fourth female executive team member.

“It has often been said that ‘we cannot be what we cannot see.’ Today, LinkedIn shows us that even traditionally male-dominated tech companies can change the ratio at the highest level,” wrote contributor Leslie Bradshaw.

Jack Zengerand and Joseph Folkman drew a lot of attention on the Harvard Business Review blog last year when they asked “Are Women Better Leaders than Men?” Their study indicated women are rated higher in 12 of the 16 competencies that go into outstanding leadership. And later in the year, a Dow Jones VentureSource study suggested venture-backed companies with more females on their executive teams are more likely to be successful than companies with less female executive representation.

Girl power! 🙂

It makes me very optimistic for the success of my own employer since Dell made its debut among the Top 50 Companies for Executive Women by the National Association for Female Executives, which recognizes U.S. companies for commitment to female leadership!

Oh the Drama That is Girl Scout Cookie Time

National Girl Scout Cookie Day - February 8, 2012I don’t know why I’m feeling compelled today to defend something that I’m not unhappy to hear my daughter doesn’t want to do next year, but here I am about to do it.

A blog post came across my radar today about a Girl Scout, who after participating in a tweetchat to promote a website she’d created to raise funds to donate cookies to U.S. military troops, was told she couldn’t collect those donations through PayPal.

Using language like “@GirlScouts Crush [my emphasis] a Girl’s Social Good” and describing the Girl Scouts has having “utter ignorance to social media,” the post weaves a tale of overinvolved parents, jealousy, double-standards and backstabbing that could fit easily into a TV drama series.

Now, as I stated in my own comment on that post – one of more than 80 comments so far – I’m not going to say the whole Girl Scout cookie sales process is perfect. I’ve joked to friends that the mafia could probably learn a thing or two from Girl Scouts when it comes to controlling territory as tightly as booth locations and staffing are managed. And, there’s been drama aplenty in our own little troop when parents take it too much upon themselves to help their daughters succeed.

But, I feel compelled to come to the organization’s defense regarding their knowledge of social media. And, to point out that there are two different issues at play in this situation: online payments and competitive parents.  The first might be changing for the better and the second appears to be changing for the worse.

According to a Seattle Times story, while there have always been hard-to-please parents, some experts say parental micromanagement has gone mainstream: “Overinvolved parents and overscheduled children are the recommended ways to raise children these days,” said Dr. Alvin Rosenfeld, co-author of ‘The Over-Scheduled Child: Avoiding the Hyper-Parenting Trap.’ “And it’s really not to anyone’s good.”

“Some parents have a terrible fear that they won’t turn out to be good parents so they overcompensate by trying too hard. Some might be filling their own need to be as perfect in parenting as they are in other areas of their lives. These parents often find themselves competing with other parents out of a fear that their children will be less advanced than their peers, or even left behind, socially or academically,” said Dr. Alexandra Barzvi, Clinical Director of the Anxiety and Mood Disorders Institute at the NYU Child Study Center.

This type of competition can drive parents to get into fist fights at sporting events or to go overboard trying to make sure their daughter is the top cookie seller. This type of behavior is actively discouraged by the Girl Scout organization, though. When I witnessed it first-hand, I didn’t blame the Scouts, I blamed the parent.

Now the other issue involved in the story of the girl who couldn’t use PayPal is leveraging social media and new technologies. The blog author said “I for one will not support an organization that sells a product using methods that are so clearly out of date that it is in no way preparing their children members for the realities of the world today.”

I believe this statement itself is not made with a full picture of what Girl Scouts is doing to leverage technology, and more specifically, social media. You can find the Girl Scouts on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube, Flickr and their own blog. Just today my local Council sent out a link through Facebook to new cover photo images that moms like me could add to their Facebook profiles to let our friends know we can connect them to a “cookie professional.”

Yes, there’s room for improvement because these were targeted primarily at moms while there are cookie dads out there, too; but, maybe some involved dads will point this out to them and they’ll add more. People may wonder if that conflicts with discouraging parents from selling and whether that illustrates that they aren’t encouraging the girls themselves to use social media. Well… if they’re under 13 years of age they’re not supposed to have a Facebook profile per the site’s Terms of Service. The reality is a much smaller percentage of girls stay in Girl Scouts as teenagers. And, there is one image that they could use because it doesn’t mention being a mom.

But, back to the blogger’s contention that Girl Scouts methods of selling are out-of-date because they don’t allow for individual girls to set up PayPal accounts to accept funds. While online payments are not currently allowed (and we’re all told this up front), Girl Scouts are now making credit card transactions possible through the use of smartphone technology. Some Councils are using Sage and seeing great results, while ours has leveraged North American Bancard to provide me with a “swiper” we can use whenever someone doesn’t have cash, or just prefers the convenience.

I don’t have all the inside information into why online payments aren’t currently allowed, but I can think of a couple of things to be considered before the organization goes there.

One is the fact that approximately 70 percent of cookie proceeds stay in the local Girl Scout council and with individual troops to provide a portion of the resources needed to support Girl Scouting in that area. The balance goes to the baker to pay for the cookies. Girl Scout councils do not provide any portion of their cookie revenue to Girl Scouts of the USA. While, yes, my daughter can sell cookies to my family in another state, if she were to open an online shop, it takes the out-of-region selling to a whole new level.

Another consideration is the girls’ own safety. Girl Scouts going online and potentially giving out personally identifying information such as full names, location, school name, troop number, etc., goes against the basics of online safety for kids. Something awareness of was trying to be increased by yesterday’s Safer Internet Day.

I sure hope the 11-year-old participating in that tweetchat had read Girl Scouts Tips for Girls for Social Media before going online, and perhaps had taken their Online Etiquette quiz, and signed the Girl Scout Internet Safety Pledge. And, hopefully her parents read Girl Scouts Tips for Parents for Social Media before letting her open a Twitter account – something that is also against Twitter’s Terms of Service.

And, if you want any more proof that Girl Scouts embrace social media and other modern marketing methods, just see what The New York Times’ Diner’s Journal shared about National Cookie Day activity in The Big Apple.

So, while one blog writer and a few of his commenters will be boycotting Girl Scouts and their cookie selling, I hope others will not follow suit. Not because my daughter wants to win an iPad for selling 1,000 cookies, or whatever; but, rather so she will continue to build her business skills and her troop will be able to enjoy an educational – and, yes, fun – overnight camp-out at Sea World.

Please download the Official Girl Scout Cookie Finder app (iOS or Android) and support your local “cookie professional’ this Friday on National Girl Scout Cookie Day and every other day!

Was the Super Bowl a Twitter Win or a Facebook Loss?

FootballI got a lot of retweets this morning when I tweeted a link to a Marketing Land article titled “Game Over: Twitter Mentioned in 50% Of Super Bowl Commercials, Facebook Only 8%, Google+ Shut Out.” The fact that these statistics are so different from last year’s, when Twitter and Facebook both tied with only eight mentions is, I think, why it grabbed so many people’s attention.

With 24.1 million tweets about the game and halftime show, and probably at least as many if not more about the advertisements, it’s easy to say Twitter won the game.

Then there’s also the fact that brand usage of Twitter beyond putting hashtags into commercials is getting a lot of attention. Like the way names such as OREO and Tide quickly moved to capitalize on the loss of power in the Superdome by tweeting witty commentary and images that joined the thousands of other jokes being made at the time. Or the fact that it only took four minutes into the blackout for names like Bud Light and Speed Stick to bid on ads for search terms such as “power outage.”

What it got me to wondering, though, is could the brand love for Twitter be a backlash to the EdgeRank changes at Facebook? As much as Facebook has denied holding page owner’s updates ransom for ad dollars, the fact remains that pages are still not reaching as many fans as they used to reach. I see this first-hand on the Social Media for Business page I manage where the reach to our 55,000+ fans certainly fluctuates, but with much lower lows and lower highs than it did back in September 2012. And I hear about it from small business owners like the one who recently reached out to me for advice because she noticed her status updates weren’t getting to her followers and she wondered what she might be doing wrong.

She isn’t doing anything wrong. She’s doing many things right. And while I can give her advice such as encouraging users to request notifications from her page, or giving more calls to action, the even the stock market analysts at Seeking Alpha were calling out what’s happening as recently as January 23:

“…revenues grew on the back of Facebook page owners having to pay twice to show their fans page content. After Facebook altered their algorithm for Fan page posts appearing in users’ news feeds, back in the last quarter of 2012, fan page administrators could not reach all of their acquired users with just a simple post. In order to reach their existing fans, brands had to pay for promoted posts in order to see more ‘viral’ reach. This also gave Facebook a boost in revenues.”

And this, I think, is one of the reasons Twitter won the Super Bowl. I think Facebook page owners from small mom & pop stores to large corporations are getting frustrated with Facebook’s still-mysterious-after-all-those-explanations algorithm for reaching the people who have obviously indicated they want their information by “liking” their page. Twitter feels so much more unfiltered.

Add to that the speed and agility of the platform – five minutes after the lights went out, the @superbowllights parody account was already up and tweeting – and Twitter becomes the place to be for events.

Image via Creative Commons courtesy Rosh Sillars.