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Posted by Karl Taylor on

Team Ann Lewnes Is Crushing It.*

*Even If They Should Be Forming Deeper Relationships With Folks Like Team Mark Brickey.

One of my favorite parts of what I do is getting to answer questions.

I get questions from content creators about infrastructure and getting to the “next level.” I get questions from recruiters looking for help writing role announcements that can attract high-quality technical talent during a time when the landscape is shifting. I get questions from businesses about how to best navigate the complexity of a digital transformation.

But there are some questions, I’ve never quite grown comfortable with enough to “expect.” One such question: “what marketing do you like?”

The trouble with a question like that, is that so many decisions about what work gets to go “live,” happen in a venue that you just don’t have the ability to parse from the outside. Good work gets killed for curious reasons all. the. time.

It’s just hard to make judgments when you don’t have the necessary context.

The question is made even more difficult to answer given the way my role has evolved as we’ve grown. A few years ago, I could spend 100% of my time searching for great work.

I did, too.

The trouble is, as you scale, your attention just has to be drawn towards other directions. One of the easiest ways to “cut through the noise,” is to shift your focus. When you’re competing in a space full of hurried competitors, you want to build your marketing strategy where you know the world is headed.

The digital media landscape is one such battleground.

In part, that’s because clients expect you to demonstrate deep understanding of the space, and aren’t so quick to understand that not every platform you package your business on will be a platform they should present their business on.

This makes a sort of intuitive sense to communications civilians, who I’ve often heard address the phenomena by asking “well, who would buy a workout product from someone who is out of shape!”

Which is precisely why I’ve been so enthralled by the work of Team Ann Lewnes and the wondrous folks at Adobe.

there are worlds of possibility hiding inside of the Adobe product catalog. Breaking into each product line in depth would quickly balloon this post far beyond the “readability” threshold, so I’m going to keep my work “high level.” If you’re curious, however, spend some time exploring the offerings starting here.

The current approach seems to be breaking the offerings up into a handful of different “clouds.”

You’ve got your “Document” cloud including powerful tools for getting deals signed digitally.

That unique selling point lent itself well to becoming a focal point of this delightful spot:

You’ve got the “Experience” cloud, designed to help provide consistent cross-channel interactions, putting an end to troubling customer interactions like this:

(also I’d be remiss if I didn’t include an honorable mention for this delight)

In a recent Forbes interview, Ann explains that everything is content. For many businesses (particularly those undergoing digital transformations) matching that urgency with a measure of attention devoted to asset management is a struggle.

When you’re trying to change the way your business represents itself online, it’s easy to fall into the trap of applying your “old world” processes to new problems.

That’s understandable enough, but it will not and cannot work for long. It’s asking your team who is already struggling to keep from falling behind to take on a series of tasks they really ought to have been addressed further up the organizational ladder.

If, for example, you’re asking your design team to 10x the platforms they’re designing for, are you making arrangements for 10x the reporting debt? If not, can you really blame the team for the emergent reporting bottleneck?

While I’ve picked a “productivity” example to make this point, the truth is that the same temptation to apply the “old” models to the “new” world can result in leaving opportunity on the table, too.

There’s a lot you can learn about how to do this right by studying the work of Team Ann Lewnes — but I want to highlight the details of just one case.

There’s a lot of great things that can be said about this effort by team Daniël Sytsma and the wonderous folks at mcgarrybowen Amesterdam. So much so, that I’m sure a number of teams would have stopped their execution here — content to have made a well received, light hearted spot perfect for an industry that is often anything but.

But for Team Ann Lewnes, it was here that the magic really started.

A few weeks later, Adobe and the fine folks on the mgb team followed up with a solicitation for quotes from art directors they could record and use in an upcoming collectible.

A project like that does more than simply “extend” the cycle of coverage surrounding your spot.

Ask yourself, who might submit a funny quotable from an art director?

People who work underneath and directly above art directors — that’s who!

With a robust email list of in-industry and aspiring talent in that niche, the team has access to some of the best audience targeting capabilities modern marketing platforms can offer.

What can be done to engage those prospects? What can be done to message to an audience of users like those prospects?

How about a series of no-nonsense tutorials each about one specific use case that we can track and develop a greater understanding of the needs of our customer base?

Something like this, perhaps:

Or this:

How do we activate those engaged prospects and turn them into leads?

What about sponsoring a series of in-depth webinars explaining how we made our work and showing our audience how they can do the same?

Perhaps something like this:

Or this:

How do we identify the leads that are marketing qualified: people who are ready to do more than “talk” about what they’re interested in and are ready to get to work?

What about a contest, like this one?

Submission via social with a hashtag?

That’s a pretty clever way of highlighting the unique social listening features that make Adobe Experience Cloud so powerful. It’s a great way to ensure your activity has some inherently social sharing, too.

I think that one of the things that makes marketing marketing such a challenge is that it can feel a little bit like dancing about architecture.

But really, there just aren’t many better ways to show off what you do than having the courage to do it for yourself.

And that’s why I think Team Ann Lewnes is crushing it.

Team Ann Lewnes Is Crushing It.* was originally published in Notes On Digital Marketing.

Posted by Karl Taylor on

Why You Need To Pay Attention To Social Engagements.

or:; “How Do We Do Things That Get People To Share Our Promotion!?!?!?!?!?”

What if I were to tell you that there’s one surefire way of increasing your organic share rate on social — and — that the only thing you had to do to get there was to do a bit of math and spend a little money?

Earlier this week, I noticed our instagram reach dropped from 200% to 20%, which told me that the fine folks at Facebook had been making platform changes.

As I’ve worked out the necessary adjustments to our strategy, I’ve had a lot of time to think about one phenomena I’ve never quite understood: the misunderstanding of the value of engagements.

In large part, this is a failing of people like me who ought to be doing a better job of explaining how the part of this industry that isn’t magic works. The trouble is, more often than not, clapping back “What’s the ROI of your mom?” feels easier than taking the time to run through the unique calculus for each business you encounter.

The trouble is, something being “complicated” to “understand,” isn’t the same thing as being impossible to understand.

We all learned it the same way: one step at a time.

Facebook reports a handful of different numbers on a post-level export of data.

The trouble with this is that unless you’re already familiar with the peculiarities of the measurements offered up by the platform, it’s really really easy to miss an insight that could change the way you conduct business on the platform.

One of my favorite examples of a “useful” metric no one seems to know about is “Lifetime People who have liked your Page and engaged with your post.” (In the post level XLS export, this information is generally hiding out around column X.)

Let’s say you have a page with 1,000 likes and a LifetimeLikerEngagedPost # of 31. That means that 3% of the audience of your page has “engaged” with your post.

On Facebook “engagement” signals the creation of a story.

If you’ve ever watched your “recent activity,” (that tiny box above the “chat” dialog) you’ve seen this happen first hand.

Each reaction be it a comment or share pings the network of some percentage of the person doing the activity’s network.

The people you follow the most closely are the same ones who end up in the “top stories” view of your newsfeed. The recent activity tracker (and the “most recent” tab for those who hate reading small boxes/want to waste hours) show you the “firehose” of what’s going on. The activity log shows you precisely what stories you’ve generated as you’ve been browsing the platform.

So, when Facebook tells you that 3% of your audience has engaged with your content, you should be asking yourself another question immediately:

How much of my audience saw my post?

To find that answer, you should look for “Lifetime Post Reach By People Who Like Your Page” (Generally Column U) as well as “Lifetime Post Reach” (Generally Column J)

Let’s pretend you had 459 in column U and 468 in Column J.

You know that 459/1000 likers reached means that half of the audience of your page saw your content — and because you already know you had 31 engagements from page likers, you can work out what that means as a percentage.

You have a 6% engagement rate by people who have liked your page.

You can also compare that number to the % of non-liker engagements.

In the case of our example, the numbers are likely too small to be diagnostically useful but add a 0 to your reach number: they will be.

At this point you might be asking:

“OK, but how do I make the numbers go up?”

The first thing you can do is boost the % of your page audience that saw your post. You can accomplish this by creating an ad targeting people who are connected to your page.

You can further expand on this work by creating an ad that targets people like people who are connected to your page, and friends of people who are connected to your page.

What sort of ad?

Your mix should include a blend of engagement, reach and conversion.

Earlier on, “engagement” will help to cement the social signals that people expect to see on a post when evaluating the validity of a piece of content. Because you’ve already put in the hard work of building a page* you’ve got a readily available targeting source no one else in the world* can access.

  • if you haven’t put in this work, all isn’t lost, but getting engagements as a rando will always take more time/effort/capital to do right.
  • Rand owens has a pretty handy walkthrough of sniping competitor traffic.

When combined with “reach” ads you can encourage the platform to share “suggested” engagements — growing the footprint of your work exponentially as it gathers engagements.

A layer of “conversion” ads allows the platform to do the heavy lifting of looking for users likely to engage with the content for you.

Because you’ve already gone through the effort of building the audience, you should find that the adsets you hit edge out cost and performance metrics when compared to ads that target people who have no relationship to your brand.

This potent approach to looking at what it means when someone engages should help to put you in a position where you can calculate just how valuable any given activity on your page is — but you’ll still need to decide if the math makes sense for your business case.

Why You Need To Pay Attention To Social Engagements. was originally published in Notes On Digital Marketing on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.


Posted by Karl Taylor on

#TheWorldIsYourDiner Was An Expensive Waste Of Money: But You Can Learn From It.

All too often, overeager brands decide that they can “handle” a campaign on their own. The trouble is, this seldom works out. Details fall through the cracks.

The reasons are varied. A CMO might be looking for a reason to warm up a connection with an old employer. The “young social media kid” might not have the internal capital to get taken seriously when they point out something is wrong. A naive management layer might decide that they are more interested in doing things that “feel comfortable,” than things that “push the boundaries.” Confused stakeholders might decide that staying quiet is easier than confronting the unknown.

The trouble is that the reason why it happens, doesn’t matter. What does matter is that getting a campaign right means getting the details locked. Inconsistent details lead to waste. Waste reduces the efficiency of your spend. That can mean leaving money on the table, but it can also mean needlessly antagonizing would be customers.

Which is a lesson Denny’s will likely learn in a few hours.

When you buy Twitter campaigns in sufficient volume, you’re presented with an opportunity to promote a trend. “Sufficient,” is a matter of debate, but by one metric you’re looking at spending 200k/day for the privilege.

As is true of many of the other ad products, you can draw your audience in such a way to draw attention to your product in a desired segment of the userbase.

Sometimes, it makes sense not to limit the audience when you’re planning a big roll out.

In situations like that, you might find buying using a fairly broad location filter (such as DMA groups) fairly attractive.

The trouble is, a national rollout is expensive. If you don’t need it: don’t pay for it.

For many advertisers, users are just points on a spreadsheet. That’s trouble.

Imagine for a moment, you were as I was, opening Twitter around the noon hour to take a look at what was going on in the world whilst deciding what to have for lunch.

You notice that Denny’s is now delivering, you get excited.

You click, with every intention of purchasing.

“Strange,” you think to yourself.

They’re advertising in the metro area, surely they’re rolling out delivery somewhere nearby.

One location.

In the suburbs.

So, Denny’s is running ads to the whole of the Denver Metro with the explicit intention of driving delivery sales — when only one location in an outlying burb can service the demand.

Out of curiosity, I fired up the ads manager to see how many users Twitter might have in the 80033 area.

That’s a grand slam, alright.

#TheWorldIsYourDiner Was An Expensive Waste Of Money: But You Can Learn From It. was originally published in Notes On Digital Marketing.

Posted by Karl Taylor on

You Only Really Need One Metric To Evaluate The Health Of A Facebook Page

and that’s “Talking About This.” (PTAT)

If you’ve been working with Facebook longer than, oh, maybe 2011 or so, you probably already know this, and you can go ahead and skip this one.

If you don’t, you’re in for a treat.

I don’t know that anyone has taken the time to take a step back and write a little about Graph (Theory) By Zuck, but if you’ve spent any amount of time around the Facebook platform you’re likely familiar with all of the different ways a user may engage with a piece of content.

You might react (like, or sad or angry a post,) or you might comment. You could share a page with a friend in a message or by tagging them on a post. You could click through a stack of images and download a few. I’m not sure I’ve seen a complete list of the inputs in the current calculation, but AdWeek featured a look back in 2012.

The weighting of each of these activities takes place behind the scenes and is probably more nuanced than one could reasonably expect to cover in a blog article.

But the sum total of these interactions are quite insightful.

If you’re running a page with 30,000 likes but you only have a Talking About This score of 300? You’re in trouble.

If you’re running a page with 100 likes and 250 PTAT? You’re growing at a remarkable clip.

In an effort to encourage Advertisers to discover how changing each element of the total could affect performance, the fine folks at Facebook have made this number a little less visible, but you can still access the number for any page with a simple Google search.

Relying on this number isn’t authoritative. I happen to know that for this week, we’ll trend a little off from the screenshot.

I’m not guessing that or feeling it, I know it to be the case.


Because I took the time to look at each of the metrics and how they influenced the score.

You can do this too.

There isn’t any great insight or single trick or magic widget you need to buy that’ll help you sort out how to manage the winds of which feature is weighted how by the platform. But by paying attention to the metrics that the platform pays attention to when it decides which posts should be prioritized in a feed, is the only way to really know what you’re doing.

You might be making work that you think is really cool. You might be making work that you think that the audience you read about in a report will enjoy, but one of the best things about buying media on Facebook is that you get to talk to the people directly.

When they like a post, they’ll like it.

When they have something to say, they’ll say it.

If they see something you’ve read and want to know more about you, they’re going to Google.

You can see these things happen in real time, and by taking the extra bit of effort to be humble enough to accept that dynamic feedback you can accomplish remarkable things.

Running your digital presence this way isn’t always easy because it requires you to check your preconceived notions about what makes something “good,” at the door.

Content made by a kid with an iPhone gets consumed at just about the same clip as the stuff we painstakingly antagonize over. With more and more people looking to networks for “authentic experiences,” you can bet that’s code for content consumed by real people.

The best way to do that is to listen to some.

You Only Really Need One Metric To Evaluate The Health Of A Facebook Page was originally published in Notes On Digital Marketing.

Posted by Karl Taylor on

What I Think Content Shock Really Means For Advertisers And Marketers Alike

I’ve written a lot of articles over the course of the past year. Only of a fraction of them have made it here, and I’m not sure that I even know where I’d start trying to make an accurate accounting.


It’s easy to forget just how often the answer to the growing troubles of content shock is “better” which really isn’t that far off from “more.” That work doesn’t come out of thin air. It means better ideas. It means making things faster.

One of the first few days after we had reached the level of monthly billings where we felt like the sky wasn’t falling, I had a terrifying thought. It occurred to me that over the months prior we had planned every aspect of our business. We looked at the customer interactions, we looked at the experience we looked at the targets and objectives. We had looked at everything but the cost of actually doing the work.

I don’t mean that we had just made numbers up, we knew well enough to solve for each client’s unique needs. What we hadn’t done was take the time to step back and look at the demands that meeting each of those needs in aggregate would place on our organization.

To give you some idea of the volume, if one small business is active on two social platforms where they’d like post daily, that’s 10 pieces of content a week. Each of those pieces of content needs to be promoted if it has a chance of being seen — which takes about fifteen minutes a post to set up and should be checked once an hour for at least five minutes, each hour the ad is live. Higher volume ads should be checked more frequently.

Let’s say you’re servicing 10 accounts. That’s a pretty healthy start for a boutique, and while you can’t stay there very long, it’s a really good example and that’s all I’m using it for.

That’s 10 accounts, each on 2 channels a piece, for 20 properties, each getting five posts a week. Each of those 100 posts will require around a half hour of ad operations. This is assuming everything goes according to plan, and that very tight timelines are maintained. It assumes 0 meetings. There are never 0 meetings.

It would be very tempting to react by planning accordingly, but one of the things I’ve found most curious as we worked through that problem is the ease with which a creative task can expand to fill the time provided.

When I was working to find a way out of that mess, I had to take a serious look at the way we did everything. One thing I noticed was that when we were monitoring an account in real time (say, the comments on a post) we were losing a ton of time.

I was surprised by this.

Social media moves quickly, and you would expect that it would be managed in the same way.

As i examined our process, what I found was that while conversations on the network evolve rapidly, the high visibility means that any change tends to pass through a number of high-profile gatekeepers.

These gatekeepers serve an important role. They’re tasked with making sure that certain key objectives are satisfied. They’re tasked with making sure that things are done the right way. They’re in place to increase the odds of a “better” outcome.

But often times, they aren’t getting the right information because they don’t know they should be asking for it.

When I stepped back and looked at our post times and our obligations, it became obvious that what we had to do was streamline the way we kept things on message.

We haven’t found one solution that fixes this forever, what we’ve found instead is that many small things make for a functional approval flow. When we’re working real time, we make sure the people making the content are in the same room as the people who are engaging with the network — and that the person responsible for giving the go-ahead is right there in the mix.

There isn’t anything remarkable about that. It’s having a little bit better routine, and taking advantage of it to make more. But while I’ve been shocked that the mechanism is so simple, the outcomes have been remarkable.

A better process doesn’t mean you can make the challenges of standing out in a crowded landscape go away. A process that makes it easier to respond to what’s actually going on means that you’re going to be engaging with the world the way it is. I think that will always work. It works because that’s where the people who you’re trying to reach, live.

Posted by Karl Taylor on

How Can You Make Sure That You’re Getting Social Media Reach?

One of the rather curious things I have observed in my time working in this space is that overtime a particularly nuanced term will become adopted by a large class of folks who seem to understand it very shallowly. It will then be rebuffed by a smaller class of more vocal folk who feel everything is subpar. After a while, the term’s meaning can become so bruised as to defy resemblance to the original concept.

I think that if you’re asking yourself this question it’s probably a good idea for you to take a few minutes with me to explore some ideas about what we really mean when we talk about impressions, reach and frequency.

I think there are many ways one can explore these relationships, but I want to a moment to write up one I’ve always found more helpful than the others.

If you’re reading this, there is a nonzero chance that a smartphone is within armspan. If you happen to be reading this in a crowded space, it likely holds true for a significant percentage of the people you observe as well.

When I was first beginning my career, I got a piece of advice that was really helpful. It was suggested I spend a little time looking at people in public on their phones.

I found a spot and decided to stop by each day at the same time during lunch. I sat for ten minutes as I ate and counted the number “phone checks” I saw as well as the number of people. Coming at the same time and sticking to the same place was fairly helpful because I could compare my numbers and come up with averages based on what I found out.

As I watched, I couldn’t help but to think of something.

Each one of those phones has a world inside of it — for many of us, more than one.

They exist on forums accessed via webapps. They exist inside of native streaming content apps. They exist on albums and in digital newspapers.

While those worlds are accessed through programs, the truth is that in most of those sorts of cases the digital activity has an obvious offline analog. Though purists may object if you’re looking at the world from a post as media nutritionist, streaming an album isn’t that much different from spinning a CD.

If you wanted to, you could measure how long someone spends on each activity.

In the years since, it’s gotten a little more complex. Whole universes can exist on native chat apps clustered into message threads. You can’t always track those — yet. The truth is, we miss a lot of details.

When you’re buying an ad, a lot of times you’re renting access to an audience for a chunk of time. When you’re designing a marketing program that includes an advertising plank, you’ve got to ask yourself about what percentage of your target audience’s media consumption you can afford to purchase. If you aren’t thinking about the whole person, you’re missing out.

A lot of advertisers I’ve had the pleasure of working with learn a version of that trick to help evaluate which channels make sense for which business. That same trick makes thinking about these concepts feel a little more intuitive.

I think maybe that’s why sometimes as a business owner you may encounter the rather frustrating situation where every communications professional you meet seems to give you the same news. While it might seem like that would feel like a sign, I’ve heard it can feel a lot more like being ignored.

When your team plans that advertising program, they should be asking themselves questions about what they expect from each channel they include in the mix. Without answers to those sorts of questions, you end up setting performance expectations that are vague and poorly defined.

Without that bit of context, you won’t know how to interpret your initial results to figure out the rate at which your prospects convert.

That can in turn mean that when it comes time to scale up your budget, figuring out how many people you need to target and how often they need to see your message is also more difficult than it needs to be.

When you start off by asking “how can we get reach,” you’re leaving opportunity on the table.

I would suggest that if you find yourself here you instead stop and ask yourself if the activity you’re promoting is the sort of thing an interested customer would want to share with their family or friends.

(quick editorial note here: I know that some colleagues find it’s easier to ask if a content idea is something you would show your own family, but I always worry this encourages an overweighting of personal experience. If you’re capable of putting your experiences back in context, great. If not, I don’t think it’s easier to observe the dynamic at work in the lives of others. It’s a little different for everyone.)

While it’s likely most of your audience has Facebook, the truth is even if you’ve made the best most authentic experience out there, they can only see your content if they’re active on the platform. A lot of people just aren’t.

The percentage at which the general public has encountered the “new digital economy,” isn’t quite as ubiquitous as one might think.

Stop and reflect on the percentage of time each user could spend exposed to your channel and the percentage of time they spend on those channels. Ask yourself how long you’d like to linger and what sort of impact you’d like to have.

If you’re particularly worried about encouraging additional “earned” engagements, spend some time considering the rate at which your existing content is shared. In many cases, you may find that simple modifications to process can result in big performance wins.

In others, you may find that some of the most popular advertising channels just don’t make sense for your business right now.

There isn’t anything wrong with that.

When I first learned Facebook Ads, they were new. They were cheap. No one understood them. It isn’t like that anymore. But the truth is that Facebook becoming an evergreen channel doesn’t mean that those opportunities or opportunities like them are gone forever.

At the risk of overindulging that old entrepreneurial cliche you really can find one wherever people spend their time.

How Can You Make Sure That You’re Getting Social Media Reach? was originally published in Notes On Digital Marketing.

Posted by Sonne Taylor on

A Reason Auto Followers Are Probably Killing Your Engagement Stats At Scale.

A few years ago, I started noticing that everywhere I looked, it seemed like everyone was using CrowdFire.

Autofollowers have been around for a really long time. Long enough that I don’t actually know where I would start researching where the first examples may have come from. I remember using scripts on MySpace. I remember ranking robots. I remember single messages spamming servers full of IRC channels. Autofollowers have been around a really long time.

I don’t know that many of the folks who employ a strategy that depends on autofollowing take the time to consider how it works, as such I’ve really only ever gathered partial rationalizations.

A practitioner will develop a targeted list of people worth following, and engage with them. Some percentage of people will follow back which is a good identifier of a “real” follower. By unfollowing everyone who doesn’t follow back within a specific window of time, you can quickly connect a page or profile with a wide organic universe.

On networks where the greatest predictor of what you see is who you interact with, techniques like this can have an outsized impact on how far your content travels.

A lot of networks work this way and even some that don’t currently operate under this sort of distribution model got their start as a glorified power map with a better UX. (This is, of course, a large part of the reason why networks like LinkedIn are folk heroes amongst data scrubbers for their superior information-grubbing practices.)

Because of this, a tactic that might otherwise seem absurd (given the labor required) can appear very attractive to a niche brand looking to gain a following.

The principles of an approach like this aren’t entirely dissimilar from the approach one might take when identifying key publications to include in a traditional media strategy, for example.

The trouble is, that when working this way, it’s really difficult to model the impact any given stream of subscribers has on your engagement. It’s also entirely too easy to make radical changes to your subscriber base faster than you can adjust your content. That can mean presenting a wide audience of people work that you might not consider your best. That isn’t ever a good thing.

In a lot of situations, “more” feels like an easy answer. You can always get more traffic, you can always find a new audience with new people in it and you can always try new creative.

For the vast majority of well-niched products, this simply isn’t the case.

The only way to work around this is to prioritize your efforts in a different way. If you’re trying to grow, it’s much easier to focus on engagement than it is to focus on the top-line user numbers.

The reason why is simple.

If 5% of the 100 people who see your content engage with it and you need more engagement you have two choices.

One approach is to increase the number of people who see your content. While this can work, it generally works best in situations where there are a large number of people looking for content like what you’re sharing.

If you have a finite universe, you need another option.

You need to look for ways that increase the rate at which the people who do see your content engage with it. If you can do that, you’ll get more out of each engagement.

That means looking at tactics that can increase the number of people who engage with the average post. More often than not, that answer isn’t found by a better following game rather the production of higher-value content (which ought to be measured by the reaction it generates) or by engaging with others in more substantive ways (which ought to be measured by the audience and reaction it generations.)

A Reason Auto Followers Are Probably Killing Your Engagement Stats At Scale. was originally published in Notes On Digital Marketing. 

Posted by Sonne Taylor on

What Big Brands Taught Me This Week About Social Media Backlash, Filter Bubbles And What It Means…

What Big Brands Taught Me This Week About Social Media Backlash, Filter Bubbles And What It Means For Your Small Business

You Can Learn A Lot From Rage, Really.

So there it was.

I had woken up because one of our clients had a social media property that had offended someone. It wasn’t anything dramatic, a misspelling had suggested an offensive interpretation of a post we hadn’t intended.

A few kind words, an offer or two and just like that, things were back to normal.

Ever since, I’ve gotten into the habit of paying attention to the ways that brands respond to negative feedback. Some of my favorites are the big players.

A Big Brand

I have no real reason to pick on Home Depot, they just happen to be big enough (Facebook, 2mm Likes) to talk about, and when I had noticed that they had run afoul of a bit of fake news, I was interested.

One of the real challenges of working in social media marketing is that more often than not you end up in a situation where it’s late at night and you can’t get ahold of any of the stakeholders in your organization. It can be worse if someone has left a comment about something that doesn’t seem quite right outside of the normal hours, but the truth is these sorts of sudden off script moments present a real challenge for the modern marketing organization.

One of the real troubles with this is that all too often, you end up in the same unfortunate position that the fine folks on Home Depot’s social media response team found themselves in the encounter captured in the screenshot above.

All too often, we can find ourselves struggling to respond to something that can seem to well organized to be random. Maybe it’s a handful of users fired up about a flag story, maybe it’s a cross section of an audience offended about the way a message was presented.

Often this sort of backlash is the product of a brand receiving a measure of attention from a community or segment of the population that’s found something to object to.

That isn’t always random.

It doesn’t really matter: when it happens, it can catch even the most disciplined of teams off guard.

It would be easy to write a post about how the team could have made a joke or leveraged the controversy to their advantage. The truth is, that no marketing team on the planet should be expected to catch every reference nor can it deploy a strategy to take advantage of every opportunity that presents itself.

Easier still would be to explore the ways in which potential for outrage should be examined in any pre-posting review process.

But neither of these points would address the underlying problem that causes so many front line marketing specialists panic.

And, under that line of reasoning the reaction from the Home Depot team might seem strange. I think there’s more to it than that.

The truth is that backlash like this can’t be messaged around.

It can’t be predicted.

It can’t be avoided.

When it comes to backlash like this, you really only have one option. Your response has to be accommodating.

You can’t always prepare your team to anticipate the sort of situation where this kind of reaction is necessary.

That doesn’t mean you’re out of options.

Instead, try and cultivate a principled driven customer success program. Establish a system to evaluate the significance of different reactions. Highlight the values you know you need your team to exemplify. Set priorities.

That’s what I like about the example above. You can clearly tell that even if the CsR didn’t have a clue how to respond to the flag based inquiry, they knew to communicate the value of empathy and to offer to move the conversation to a more private channel.

It won’t work every time and it certainly won’t win any awards for elegance, but what I learned this week was that the truth is this sort of consistent discipline can make a big difference when it comes to maintaining your community online.

What Big Brands Taught Me This Week About Social Media Backlash, Filter Bubbles And What It Means… was originally published in Notes On Digital Marketing.

Posted by Sonne Taylor on

Dear Podcasters: Please Stop Listening To Other People’s Podcasts.

A Suggestion From Someone Who Listens To Way Too Many Podcasts

In the past week, I’ve listened to seven different podcasters lament changes in audiences, downloads or support metrics. The anguish reminded me of the way I felt when, after salivating over Jesse Freund’sThe MP3 Players,” and finally saving up over what had felt like an entire three lifetimes enough hard-earned cash to pick up my very first, I discovered most audio files were lousy fits.

(I should note here by way of tangent that Andrew Williams recently tried to resurrect one of these in an piece I wish had been called “The Diamond In The Rough.”)

I wanted to listen, but in 1999 fiddling around on my Compaq computer, it meant I had to start learning about audio file compression.

So I did.

It was a lot easier than I expected it to have been. Everywhere I looked online, the same people who were making the shows I wanted to listen to could be found talking about how they did it.

If you were quick with a search engine, you could find the specific tool or apparatus they were talking about, and more often than not start playing with it yourself.

IRC channels sprung up, there were blogs. I remember there being more to read than anyone could, and there being real feeling of excitement around the idea of what I think people were calling downloadable Internet Radio.

(For the record, yes this is a horribly revisionist history and yes there are great archival efforts like All Of The Podcasts that are amazing and worth checking out.)

That culture of sharing persists to today.

It isn’t unique to podcasters by any means, but of all of the different communities of content producers online, I’ve got to admit that I’ve always noticed that when I make a list of “best person to listen to about X,” a lot of the time, it’s a podcaster.

That’s why as I was hearing the very real anguish that surround the contemporary peculiarities of podcasting, I couldn’t help but remember a story I had read a long time ago.

I am in the uncomfortable position of needing to evoke an idea from one history’s best spoken lesser beings, through it should be noted “The Finest Story In The World,” is most often rightly avoided for its problematic account of a reincarnation of sorts. Nevertheless, I afford myself a bit of authorial luxury to highlight:

I think this portion gets missed.

“I don’t care about writing things any more. I want to read.”

In the story, the more Charlie reads the less he’s able to tell his own story.

Life intervenes, things come up and he always seem have an interest in chasing the best the world has to offer.

When you’re building content it’s natural to look at what everyone else is doing. You try to out-engineer their successes. You try to learn from their failures.

But before too long, you end up producing content that you really can’t tell apart.

Trying to keep what you consume from influencing your work is a losing battle, but making sure you work in silos can help you short circuit the inevitable bias towards what already exists.

Dear Podcasters: Please Stop Listening To Other People’s Podcasts. was originally published in Notes On Digital Marketing.

Posted by Sonne Taylor on

Gorsuch’s Twitter is a Ghost Town, or Why Donald Trump Has a Messaging Problem.

Humpty Dumpty Indeed

The Trump administration has been no stranger to a large amount of media scrutiny. It seems that every other day there’s some new scandal that is “breaking news”. Good or bad many people would, and do, argue President Trump and his administration are master at manipulating the media for attention.

I would argue they’re incredibly wrong.

Case in point, the strange and largely unnoticed Twitter account of Gorsuch Facts. This thing smacks of Donald Trumpisms right down to the fascinating way of speaking that even Kanye West has an admiration for. The profile description of “ Judge Gorsuch will be fair to all regardless of their background or beliefs. This is exactly the kind of #SCOTUS Justice @POTUS promised. #JusticeGorsuch” reads like a typical Trump speech. Yet, there’s something that’s just below the surface that highlights Trump’s communications problem. The reason that this official account about one of his biggest appointments has gone relatively unnoticed.

It references the man himself.

Republicans, Democrats, Berniecrats, High Energy Nimble Navigators, and everyone in between have made the claim that Trump is a master of manipulating journalists into giving him “billions of free advertising”. Even the CEO of CBS said “For Us, Economically, Donald’s Place in This Election Is a Good Thing”. This however doesn’t make him an effective communicator. It makes him effective at building a cult of personality, not of being a great marketer. Great marketers build brands that go beyond themselves. Among the world’s most recognized brands include McDonald’s, Walmart, Ford, Coca-Cola, and more.

Name one of these companies CEOs. Name one of their CMOs.

You don’t have to. They have incredibly effective communications specialists supporting them from both the inside and out that don’t rely on outrage and a cult of personality. They communicate their value through showing you, through consistency, through discipline.

I want to be clear, I have no specific axe to grind against Donald Trump. Surely we all have seen the “marketing gurus” who want you to take their class on how to get rich online. Yet you can’t name their companies, just the person. They can’t promote a product, just a cynical brand of narcissism that preys on the hopes and dreams of the naive. While they may read this and rightly criticize me that I have no Lamborghinis in my Lamborghini account, the truth is that I, and the people like me, have hundreds of wins that we will never be known for. We work for things bigger than ourselves. We build systems instead of a reliance on people. The true test of your ability to build a competent communications organization is how well it functions after you’re gone.

So for all the aspiring advertisers, and marketers, and entrepreneurs out there, don’t emulate these people. These 1 quick secret to building the startup of your dreams. These hollow dream peddlers. If you want to get shit done, if you really want to market your startup, if you want to grow your brand, start emulating people that do it without wallowing in their own crapulence. The people that get paid, the people that build empires, are the ones that do so silently and with discipline far from the spotlight.

Gorsuch’s Twitter is a Ghost Town, or Why Donald Trump Has a Messaging Problem. was originally published in Notes On Digital Marketing.