That’s 98.5% of Internet traffic from those three sources. So who’s watching all that porn?
That’s 98.5% of Internet traffic from those three sources. So who’s watching all that porn?
I often cite marketing automation vendor Marketo as a shining example of a company that gives away great information as a way to promote its business. Marketo recently contacted several B2B social media marketing pros to get their tips on how to generate leads with social platforms.
They report encouraging results. For example, 58% of marketers who have used social media for more than three years say it has helped boost sales. The marketers quoted here (I’m one of them) offer advice on how to create unique content that stimulates engagement, which is the currency of social media marketing.
Check out “How to Use Social Media for Lead Generation.” It’s a quick read and I think you’ll find some useful takeaways.
This lead from a recent Bulldog Reporter case study on business blogging certainly caught my attention:
“Recent research reveals that 64% of American companies will launch their own corporate blogs in 2014, and the average budget for corporate blogging will increase by nearly one-sixth. What’s more, 12% of American companies plan to hire a full-time blogger in 2014.”
Holy cow! Blogging is one of the oldest forms of social media and is not generally considered a high-growth field. In fact, statistically valid research conducted by the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth over the past several years has documented that about only about one-third of the Fortune 500 and fewer than half of the Inc. 500 have public blogs, and those numbers aren’t growing very fast. What new research now predicts this kind of mind-blowing growth?
It turns out to be research that’s not very good. A little background checking revealed that the numbers cited by Bulldog Reporter came from a study conducted by a company called DeskAlerts, which makes messaging software for use inside organizations. In a press release, the company summarized its methodology this way: “DeskAlerts asked businesses around the US a single question: what would inspire you to create a corporate blog?”
That’s all. Nothing about how the survey was conducted, who the respondents were or how many people responded. This is kind of critical information to know if you’re going to cite the results in a responsible publication.
I tried to reach the contact listed on the press release, whose name is Natasha Chudnova. I e-mailed Ms. Chudnova via PRWeb but got no response. I couldn’t find a direct e-mail address for her on the company website or anywhere else. Her LinkedIn profile says she’s in the Russian Federation, which isn’t surprising given that DeskAlerts’ website says that’s where its development is done. The headquarters are listed as being in Alexandria, Va., but when I tried to call the company using the phone number listed on the website, I got a recording saying only that I had reached a voicemail box. The recording didn’t even identify the name of the company.
So I’m having my doubts about the quality of this research. But you don’t have to do any detective work to figure out that these numbers are suspicious. The most obvious question is how DeskAlerts derived so much data from a question that didn’t ask for any? There is simply no way that response to a single verbatim question could be interpreted to reach these stunning conclusions.
That’s assuming the question is valid, which it isn’t. A professional researcher would never use a word like “inspire” in a survey because it creates bias. It’s like asking, “What would cause you to take on the drudgery of creating a corporate blog?” The term “you” is also indefinite. Does it refer to the person or the person’s company? Even if the research was conducted over a statistically valid sample, the results would be meaningless if the question was asked that way.
But the most damning evidence that the research is flawed is the data itself. If we accept the UMass research as a baseline, then DeskAlerts is telling us that 100% of American companies will be blogging by the end of this year. Um, no, they won’t. Then there’s the statistic that 12% of companies will hire a full-time blogger in 2014. Given that there are about six million employers in the U.S., this would represent the addition of more than 700,000 skilled jobs to the workforce. If that were true, the President would be holding a press conference to declare victory over unemployment.
Despite all these problems, I don’t blame DeskAlerts for releasing bogus research into the wild or for producing the obligatory infographic above. Bad data is only a problem if people believe it. The real problem is when respected brands like Bulldog Reporter put the badge of legitimacy on information that is so clearly wrong. Publishers owe it to their readers to at least run a basic reality check before validating third-party research, particularly when it’s from an unknown party. Bulldog Reporter publishes a lot of good information, but it dropped the ball on this one.
Three years ago I routinely advised clients to spread their content around liberally through multiple channels as a way to reach the largest possible audience. I recommended setting up multiple Twitter accounts for different functions like customer service and marketing. And I advised linking generously to influential bloggers as a way of generating reciprocal links that build search visibility.
Today I would recommend none of those things. As social networks have grown, so has the amount of noise they generate. Spammers have corrupted the value of outbound links to much that some bloggers no longer even use them. The factors that once made social media so appealing – accessibility and openness – have become a liability.
Last week David Spark launched an ebook that provides important updates on the social media practices that many of us have long taken for granted – but perhaps shouldn’t any more. Hazardous to Your Social Media Health (free with minimal registration) contains advice from Spark and 56 other veteran practitioners about 50 online behaviors that used to be cool but aren’t any more. One of my comments is included in the book, but that isn’t why I recommend it. I just think it serves a timely and valuable purpose.
An overarching theme of the ebook is to shut up. The din of auto-posts and pointless comments about nothing in particular is drowning out valuable messages and undermining social media’s value, say several of the contributors. Democratic media is great, but when everyone is shouting at once you can’t hear anything.
“This giant land grab of users was actually valuable when we weren’t so overwhelmed by social messaging,” Spark writes. “Now the influx is so overwhelming that we’re reliant on filters to manage the noise.”
For example, Leo Laporte (@leolaporte), who has nearly a half million Twitter followers, says he doesn’t even read his home Twitter feed anymore because it’s so clogged with useless messages. He now relies upon filtering and aggregation services like Flipboard and Nuzzle to sort through the noise.
The victim of too much noise is meaningful conversation. The opportunity to talk with constituents was the reason many brands went online in the first place, but it’s getting harder and harder to converse with an audience that’s overwhelmed with information.
So maybe it’s time for the media to evolve beyond collaboration. Giovanni Rodriguez (@giorodriguez), CEO of SocialxDesign, suggests that the next evolution of social media will “enable people to do more, not just talk more.”
He’s referring to the emerging so-called collaborative economy, which uses social constructs to create value. Services like AirBNB and Uber either enable us to do things we couldn’t do before or make it faster/cheaper/easier to accomplish tasks. The collaborative economy is an exciting development. A couple of years ago we thought it was cool to consult our social network for advice on where to book a hotel. Now the members of our network have become the hotel.
Spark and his collaborators are particularly harsh on practices that contribute to the noise level without adding value or that have selfish objectives like raising the sender’s profile at someone else’s expense. Sections like, “Stop Blogging About Everything” and “Stop Lifecasting” drive home this point. In “Stop Sharing Without Consumption,” he scolds Guy Kawasaki by name for openly advocating the practice of sharing headlines without actually reading the content. He also tweaks the practice of content curation if it’s done simply to build one’s social profile on the back of others’ work. Much as I love Kawasaki’s Twitter style, I agree completely with Spark’s criticisms.
I don’t agree everything in Hazardous to Your Social Media Health, of course, including Stowe Boyd’s advice to stop using RSS readers and Charlene Li’s admonitions against personal blogging. Some of the listed behaviors are also duplicative or appear to have been added to stretch the list to 50, but that doesn’t change the fact that this is a useful, timely and practical how-to manual for the next stage of social media development. I guarantee that in five years much of it will be out of date, but it’s sure a useful document to read right now.
Great companies go beyond just providing a product or service. They think of themselves as partners in the success of their customers. Three companies that do an outstanding job of advocating for the small business customer are American Express (with its Open Forum small business community and annual Small Business Saturday promotion, among other things), Intuit and Constant Contact, the Massachusetts-based e-mail marketing company.
I often use Constant Contact’s Twitter and Facebook profiles as models for other B2B companies to follow. About 90% of the content the company posts in social networks is intended to help customers succeed in small business marketing. Less than 10% promotes Constant Contact products. It’s like that in the company’s remarkable Pinterest account as well.
Now the company is taking customer advocacy to the next level with the launch of the Small Business Innovation Loft. That’s a physical space within the company’s Waltham, Mass. offices were startups can set up shop for four months at no cost and get $10,000 to spend on marketing activities. They also get free meeting space and priority support from Constant Contact’s support team. This press release has more.
Innovation labs aren’t new, but they are usually sponsored by venture capital firms or real estate companies that hope to cash in on them. In contrast, won’t take equity in the startups it nurtures. The value to the company comes from the promotional benefit and the word-of-mouth awareness that will develop as some of these companies invariably succeed and set off on their own. What better way to put your money where your mouth is?
Constant Contact makes it a point to get inside the minds of its customers and understand their ambitions, fears and motivations. That’s the secret of content marketing, however you define it. Check out this clever year-end video the company put together to celebrate its customers.
Here’s a Google video hangout I recently moderated on the subject of CRM futures. You might be surprised at what our experts said.
Earnest is a U.K.-based B2B marketing agency that says its mission is, “to chase out the humdrum and bring a lot of love and passion to B2B marketing.” Its work certainly bears out that goal. Earnest’s B2B campaigns have a lot of B2C energy inside them. Its research and how-to presentations on SlideShare are an excellent resource for companies that want to get into content marketing.
Here’s its latest collection of recent trends and statistics: This is the year that was in B2B Marketing crunched. Be sure to check out the links to some of the year’s best B2B videos on slide 37. You can also download the presentation as a PowerPoint if you want to borrow a few of these stats.
DNN (formerly DotNetNuke) has posted a listing infographic of the Top 10 Blogs Every B2B Marketer Should Read. I was stunned and thrilled to be included with phenomenal bloggers like Jeremiah Owyang, Seth Godin, Ann Handley and Brian Solis. I’m assuming my position at the top of this infographic is a happy accident, because I don’t hold a candle to most of these people.
In reality, I don’t blog very much at paulgillin.com anymore. Much of my recent work has appeared on the Profitecture blog. Profitecture is a small start up that provides social media training to B2B companies and their channel partners, and I’m happy to be a founding associate. I’ve also written extensively for BtoB magazine, but with the folding of that magazine into Advertising Age, I probably won’t be contributing there in the future. I maintain another blog called Newspaper Death Watch, where I chronicle the changes going on in the news journalism. I keep a list of all my posts and articles on Delicious in more-or-less reverse chronological order.
Here’s the infographic. Thanks to DNN for the very nice compliment!
I only update this blog occasionally because most of my writing these days appears on other people’s websites. But my blog is still my home base. Here’s a round up of what I’ve been scribbling about elsewhere of later.
What could possibly unseat Google as the king of the Web? The answer might be incubating in fast-growing media operations like BuzzFeed (right) and Upworthy. These publishers eschew search optimization in favor of creating content that people want to share. From an SEO perspective, they do a lot of things wrong. And they’re killing it online at the moment.
A new McKinsey & Co. report reveals a startling disconnect between B2B companies and their customers that should give every marketer pause to reflect on his or her priorities. The research shows that the themes that B2B companies emphasize in their marketing messages are wildly inconsistent with the factors that B2B buyers care about most.
A lot of marketers are frustrated by the perceived need to turn out a lot of content, but the problem is much more manageable if you reuse and repackage creatively. Here are some ideas for how to get more mileage out of the stuff you already have.
Marketing and sales organizations at most B2B companies have a relationship that can be politely described as strained. Sales complains that marketing gives them lousy leads while marketers charge that sales wouldn’t know a good lead is it bit them on the nose.
Both sides are correct. That’s because many organizations reward their sales and marketing people for the wrong things. Improve lead quality and a lot of the bad karma disappears.
Brian Solis (right) is one of the most consistently provocative and perceptive analysts in the world of new media and social business. I caught up with him shortly before his Pivot conference in October to find out what’s on his mind. He believes few CEOs know how dramatically their businesses will change as a result of customer empowerment. And he thinks any business can enchant its customers. Even one that makes hammers.
Many marketers treat social or “earned” media the same way they treat advertising and direct mail, but the two forms of media are very different. Earned media is more valuable because people volunteer to share your information. This benefits small and patient companies disproportionately. If you talk at customers in earned the channels the way you do in paid channels, your results will probably disappoint you.
Update Nov. 21: Social Rebate’s PR agency took issue with my opinions below, stating:
For a journalist of your caliber, I would have expected you to do more than just ‘scour the website pretty thoroughly.’ If you were interested in a story—even a story critical of Social Rebate—I would have expected you to reach out, interview a Social Rebate representative, and perhaps even interview some of the company’s small business clients. Perhaps your perspective would have changed, perhaps not. But, at the very least, you would have fairly, accurately, and properly REPORTED the story.”
The company’s founder and CEO submitted a response, which I have appended, in its entirety, to the end of this post.
The PR agency for a startup called Social Rebate has been asking bloggers to comment on the company’s somewhat novel approach to brand ambassadorship. I have some strong feelings about this topic, so I’ll oblige.
Social Rebate is a service that creates brand ambassadors by offering cash and rebates to people who share recommendations of products and services in their social networks. According to the company’s website:
Upon check-out, consumers are given the option to earn a pre-determined percentage back from their current purchase when they share your marketing on their favorite social network. They can immediately earn cash back just for posting — and then earn even more when THEIR friends click you YOUR posted link.
Social Rebate cites some well-known statistics to support its concept, such as the fact that recommendations from friends and peers are the most credible form of buying advice and that people are much more likely to buy a product or service if someone they know recommends it. It also claims to have more than 200 retail customers, including Sprinkles Cupcakes and SitnSleep, although I couldn’t find any mention of Social Rebate on either of their websites. To be fair, I may have to make a purchase in order to do so.
I’m sure the folks at Social Rebate researched their concept exhaustively. If they concluded that this is a good idea, then their findings contradict nearly everything I know about brand ambassadorship.
Boston-based BzzAgent is a word-of-mouth marketing agency whose customer list would turn any ad agency executive green. Founder Dave Balter (right) has worked on hundreds of brand ambassador program since 2001. He told me that one of the secrets of success of such programs is not to compensate people, at least not with money.
BzzAgent has a database of hundreds of thousands of consumers whom it activates to spread the word about products from the company’s clients. The only compensation brand advocates receive is free samples and perhaps an advance look at a new product. For most people, Dave says, that’s payment enough.
He adds that once you start paying people, credibility goes out the window, and that’s where I have trouble with the Social Rebate concept. I can’t imagine a scenario in which I would recommend a product or company because someone paid me to do so. Credibility with my network is one of the most valuable assets I have, and it simply isn’t for sale. I imagine most people feel the same way. People who don’t are probably not folks I want to get to know in the first place.
Does full disclosure resolve the issue? Not really. Think of it: If someone recommends a product or company on your Facebook timeline and adds that they were paid to do so, what does that do to the credibility of that recommendation? In my view, such a disclosure effectively invalidates the recommendation. And I might think less highly of that individual as well.
In a harsh review on VentureBeat, John Koetsier wrote, “The problem [with Social Rebate] is that it threatens to turn a social space into a space just about commerce.” I agree, but I don’t think there’s much chance the Social Rebate concept will catch on. Human beings just don’t work that way.
Social Rebate responds:
My name is Tom Larkin, and I’m the CEO of Share Magnet, and one of the creators of Social Rebate. I’d like to begin by thanking you for taking the time to comment on our product. Favorable or not, it’s good to get feedback from industry thought leaders so we can continue to make our product better.
That being said, there are some important points that your article doesn’t directly address. I hope that this response will serve to bring them into the conversation, and hopefully open a productive dialogue.
I appreciate Dave’s stance on product based compensation. I agree that the use of a product and subsequent review are a valid and positive form of brand ambassadorship. What your analysis fails to recognize is that the “payment” you’re referencing isn’t a payment, it’s a purchase price reduction.
The IRS, FTC and their legally affiliated entities all agree that a rebate is not income. So do we. We’re allowing businesses to engage in a transparent post-purchase agreement to engage people who are fans of their product or service to share them and get their money back.
The key here being that it is post-purchase. The person receiving the rebate has already spent their discretionary income at that particular business. They are then given the opportunity to share that independent action with their friends.
When ask your readership to “think” about how their recommendation would be affected by getting paid, you fail to address the most important piece of the credibility establishment puzzle: DID THEY BUY THE PRODUCT WITH THEIR OWN MONEY? If yes, then they do. If not, then they do not.
I’d be happy to talk further about the issues you raise, and the lengths we as a company have gone to address them. I’d be happy to talk about our plans to harness the positive power of earning social rebates to charity. If you’d like to speak with some of our customers, we’d be happy to help facilitate that as well.
CEO and Co-Founder