Tag Archives: podcasting

Party Like it’s 1997

I’ve just dropped into one of the busiest stretches of business I’ve had in a long time, and a lot of changes are looming on the horizon that may affect Marketonomy. It feels like 1997 all over again. For starters, I’ve been invited to guest blog for Unica for the month of February–which will actually start next week. Given the roster of previous guest bloggers, I’m taking this as a big honor and I’m quite excited to get started. I’ll be focusing on The Power of Social Media, and drawing together insights and opinions from across the marketing and media landscape. I’m not sure yet how I’m going to resolve my posts there with Marketonomy, but it’ll work itself out.

Additionally, I’m launching a new blog tied into the Value Added Marketing Association. I’m not going to say much about it before it launches, except to say that it’s brought me the opportunity to work with a lot of exceptional marketing veterans and newcomers, and I have a strange uncanny feeling that this will prove to be a much bigger step than it has seemed in constructing it.

I’m also in the middle of a major decision about MotiveLab. I didn’t set out to start another agency–I’ve been far down that road before with a lot of great successes and failures, the kind that make you pause before you do it all over again. But the work I’m being asked to do is leading more and more in that direction, and I’ve arrived at the point where I need to make a clear decision about whether to keep it a loosely defined consulting banner, where I can do whatever kind of work I want in marketing and tech, or whether to put a stake in the ground and launch an agency. The truth is, I’ve already made the decision–I just haven’t been honest with myself yet that I’ve made it. Isn’t life fun?

Finally, I’m doing some interesting and challenging work in podcasting and videocasting that I’ll be able to show soon. You don’t realize how much of a shift this medium is–it’s just audio and video over the web, right?–until you get down in the trenches and try to make a program that works. I’ve been working with a team at Informatica developing a series of vidcasts spotlighting some of their c-level executives, and we just wrapped the shoot yesterday, in preparation for syndication beginning the first week of February. I’m working on an analysis of videocasting and its impact on the evolution of social media, which I’ll be able to post when the series goes live.

So, here’s to being busy. And here’s to life on the near side of the next bubble.

Marketing ROI: Return on [Your Concept Here]

I got a trackback this afternoon from Brian Solis, and his post on ROI vs. ROP for social media metrics. ROP? Yet another formulation of RO[blank] intended to sound like a financial metric. Brian’s passion about the need to engage customers and the value of social media is spot on. But I have to groan when I see another new permutation of Return On Anything Short of Actual Revenue.

As I argued passionately during the last frothy marketing trend on "brand", marketers are great at creating, evolving and innovating ideas. But they are also trend-crazy. And when you combine those two predilections with serious business issues, you end up with a profession that continually confuses the hell out of the rest of the business group. Every marketer you talk to defines things a different way. But more important, especially on the topic of ROI, marketing loses all credibility with the board room suite when it twists and bends financial metrics designed to measure value creation into concepts that skirt the issue of accountability for actually creating value. This goes for Pepper’s and Roger’s Return on Customer as well–even though there are many good ideas there about how to value customers. 

ROI means something important that too many marketers seem completely unable to get their arms around. It means demonstrating in clear terms that the programs you’re pumping money into are returning real cash value to the company. Is that hard in marketing? Absolutely. Often it’s next to impossible, or at least the cost of measurement is greater than the cost of the program in the first place. But marketers need to be straight up with those challenges, and not dismiss or dilute the value of ROI by introducing ROFOTM (Return On Flavor of the Month).

Businesses are right to ask about the ROI of social media. If I put a dollar in the stockmarket, I get a ton of data that helps me peg the risk of getting my dollar back with interest. Sooner or later, marketers are going to have to learn how to explain why a shareholder’s dollar is better invested in the company’s marketing programs and not the stockmarket. Marketing will not win any points by responding with a feint and a dodge, and saying "these other metrics are more important", or my personal favorite, "they don’t get it."

Social media is early in it’s evolution, even if it is building on older concepts (remember The Well?). The value creating potential varies tremendously from industry to industry, and from company to company, and it also comes with some significant risks for companies used to commanding and controlling their messages and markets. Those challenges should not be swept under the rug, with social media packaged up, wrapped in a bow, and sold as the new Web 2.0 elixer of life. Those challenges–like how best to measure the potential ROI of social media–should be mapped, debated and addressed openly.

There are a lot of good arguments to proselytize social media today. It’s relatively cheap, it can generate market insights often more expensive to gain in other ways, it can improve customer intimacy, it can dramatically improve visibility on the Web–there’s a lot more, but good measurement is not on the list, yet. Let’s please spend a little time and energy figuring that one out before we package it up and sell the hell out of it.

The Value and Challenge of Engagement

I had a long and interesting conversation with Gil Roberts from PodTech yesterday. I was down in Palo Alto to talk with PodTech about working together on a couple of podcasting projects. He asked an interesting question during our conversation that I thought was worth repeating and discussing here.

Do you see companies investing in social media platforms, and would those platforms really establish working communities within an enterprise?

There are a lot of important threads knotted up in that question. But the two that popped out for me were the problem enterprises would want to solve with social media platforms, and how they would operate them.

The value proposition for enteprise social media platforms seems to be about knowledge exchange and collaboration. Businesses have been addressing these issues for a long, long time. Lotus Notes. Document management. Knowledge bases. Intranets. Wikis. How many relevant product categories and platforms can you name? The question any procurement team would ask when assessing a new platform is what it would bring to the table that these other systems don’t address. Not just how is it different, but how does the difference deliver value?

The second question is how a social system would be managed and developed inside a business. The holy grail is a self-organizing network that delivers value by distilling and disseminating knowledge. But self-organizing networks tend to develop around passionate and exciting topics. Politics, sports, dating… When you put a social platform inside the four walls of a business, that doesn’t seem to change much. Most people don’t get passionately engaged and self-organizing about business processes, or innovation. Especially when there’s significant potential for political fallout.

At some point the current drive to develop enterprise platforms for social media tools is going to run into the lack of organizational knowledge of how to successfully cultivate engagement. Let’s be honest. How many companies can you name that have a culture of engagement offline? Will a social media platform fill in for a cultural deficiency? Not impossible. But not likely.

Not that this lesson is new for anyone, but technology is never a self-contained solution. There are real cultural and organizational challenges for bringing the kind of social platform that works on the wild Web successfully into the enterprise. Someone’s going to have to start dissecting and analyzing the techniques for developing engagement in the enterprise, beyond just the flipping of a product switch.