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Although plenty of studies support the claim, most good marketers just know intuitively that Earned media and WOM (word of mouth) are more impactful marketing vehicles at the individual level than paid advertising…  You are significantly more likely to try something because your friend recommended it than because you saw an advertisement.  The challenge with Earned media is that it’s hard…  You have to rely on someone else (journalists, bloggers, etc.) to buy into your message and convey it effectively.  That makes it difficult and unpredictable.  It also rarely scales like Paid advertising.  Occasionally the story is so compelling that it can scale, with hoards of influential media writing about it.  That’s rare, though.

WOM suffers from the same issue of predictability, but is infinitely more scalable.  While there are a limited number of influencers you can Earn media from, anybody can become a vessel for word of mouth.  Importantly, both Earned media and WOM also suffer from a problem with Measurement.  Whether Paid advertising is actually all that measurable is a debate for another day.  Earned media and WOM are clearly “less” measurable than Paid media.
Enter Shared media.  Shared media is a slight but important pivot on social media, and refers to any marketing channel in which brands participate on an equal footing with their external audiences.  It’s important to differentiate Shared from social media because most leading social media sites have elements of all PESO media formats (Paid, Earned, Shared, Owned).  Whether it’s Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, or the top blogs, you can buy ads, build proprietary apps, pitch top influencers, and also engage on an equal footing with your audiences.

Why is Shared media so important?  Because it finally brings three critical (and missing) components to the Earned / WOM conversation:

  • Scale.  You can have conversations with millions of people in a cost effective way.
  • Predictability.  You can build an audience over time and continually engage with them.
  • Measurability.  The data here is real – not estimated based on circulations or panels.

Many marketers are beginning to understand the value of Shared media for these reasons, however, very few have effectively combined all PESO approaches to leverage the benefits of each.  Below is a chart that outlines the various PESO media formats and their associated benefits.
PESO Media

 

– Paul Dyer

 

Despite Edelman’s recent announcement that the PR firm is going to stick with what they’re best at (PR / Earned Media), there is no doubt that most agencies are converging their offerings, crossing swim lanes and aiming for the “integrated” value proposition. As a smaller firm (425 employees is relatively small in the agency world), W2O Group has been able to pivot and grow in this direction more quickly than others. Rather than hearing, “Oh, you’re the PR firm,” or “You guys are the digital agency,” we’re frequently hearing, “Where do you guys fit? Who are your competitors?” For us, this is a great place to be.

As we made the transition from a PR heritage, there is a critical but often overlooked mind shift that accompanied this change. This is the mind shift from people asking, “Can I Do It?” to instead asking, “Who Is the Best Person to Do It?”

Traditional public relations is inherently a “jack of all trades” or generalist discipline. Although things have evolved and become increasingly specialized in recent years, traditional PR firm staffing charts really showcase only one kind of talent – “Account” people. These people may be better or worse in different areas, but for the most part are responsible for planning, monitoring, writing, executing, client service, measurement, etc. In this sort of agency structure, people are rewarded for “wearing many hats” and being able to get things done on their own. In a nutshell, when a project comes in, they learn to first ask, “Can I Do It?” and if the answer is no, then look for help elsewhere.

Advertising and digital agencies, on the other hand, are inherently specialized in their staffing mix. You’d never find a copywriter also doing the measurement report or executing a media buy, and digital agencies are required to work more collaboratively given the diversity of technical skills that are required. In these constructs, people are rewarded for efficiency in their tasks, fitting into the supply chain, and knowing their role. When a project comes in, they learn to ask, “Is it My Job?”

Over the last 5 years, W2O Group has transitioned from a PR firm into an integrated marketing leader in the digital world. Perhaps the most important learning has been defining the middle ground between the generalist approach of PR agencies and the supply chain approach of Advertising agencies. Successful integration requires a different staff mix and approach to the business than either legacy model. Three things stand out as being critical:

  1. Having the right structure – if PR firms are a soccer team (anybody can score, defend, etc.) and Ad agencies are a basketball team (the Creative all-star with a team of supporting role players), the successful integrated marketing firm is a football team with a strong quarterback and a wide variety of players who are all excellent in their positions.
  2. Having the right people – not everybody wants to be integrated or specialize in their position, and lots of people would prefer to pad their own stats rather than let somebody else carry the ball when it’s the right play call.
  3. Having the right mentality – there are two mission critical perspectives.  The first is to always start by asking, “Who is the Best Person to Do It?” and the second is to approach every conversation by first assuming your colleague wants to do the right thing.

It took us a while to first understand, then plan, and finally institutionalize these three success factors at W2O Group.  And, as some people opted out for more traditional jobs, we learned that it wasn’t what everybody wants.  But, as the fastest growing agency of our size for several years now, we’re pretty confident it’s what clients want, and where the market is going.

One thing Richard Edelman nailed in his AdAge interview – the marketing mix is going to be jostled over the next decade, and Paid Media will no longer eat like a King while Earned, Shared, and Owned fight over scraps from the table.  We believe clients will need integrated partners to navigate this transition, much like Edelman believes they will need agencies who are good in their traditional disciplines.

 

It’s that time again when summer interns return to college for their last year of fully subsidized freedom. For most, they will begin the school year on top of the world – ready and excited to have the most flexible schedules, live in the coolest apartments, work on the projects that really interest them, and put a flag in the mountain of their adult social lives. However, somewhere in the second half of the year, the harsh realities of an exceedingly challenging job market will set in.

If you believe the headlines, the market will “force” some to defer that challenge through continuing education or any variety of other avoidance tactics. Others will gratefully take any job that gets them started working, even if it’s not what excites them… You can’t win the game if you’re sitting on the sidelines…

Yet, despite all the gloom and doom we’ve heard about today’s job market, companies are hiring. In fact, if you ask most hiring managers, finding and recruiting top talent is one of their biggest challenges. That’s certainly the case at W2O Group, where 30% year over year growth has become the norm, and bright young people are eagerly sought after.

This month we parted ways (either temporarily or permanently) with 30 interns who are becoming college seniors. Many of them were aggressive, driven, capable young people, who sought out 1-on-1 conversations with top execs in our firm as part of their learning experience.

As someone who was fortunate to receive early mentorship in my career, I believe strongly in sharing “down” the things that can help ambitious and capable young people get ahead.

This blog post is intended for the 1%.  The most driven, the most capable.  The ones who are going to succeed in the working world, no matter what…  The ones who will have multiple job offers when they graduate.

Here are five things I encourage you to focus on when selecting the right job when you graduate:

#1 – Where will you learn the most?
This should be the most important factor in your decision.  As a reform(ing) know-it-all, I can attest that people who know-it-all never learn anything… And you still have a lot to learn.  Put yourself in the position where you will learn the most, the quickest. This will not happen in training programs or books.  Now is when learning “on the job” becomes real.  Look for a job where you can have ownership of projects, flexibility to learn from your mistakes, breadth and diversity in what you work on, as well as accountability.  You should be uncomfortable.  You should fail sometimes.  If you don’t feel like a disappointment once in a while, you’re probably not pushing yourself enough.

 

#2 – Where will you build your network?
A lot of young people make the mistake of following big brand names into small silo’s of opportunity.  Early in your career it’s particularly important to build a wide network.  It helps you refine what you really want from your own career and also sets you up for fast growth several years down the road.  This means you need a job where you meet and work with people outside of your own company.  Many young people start their career inside a large company only to later discover their network is limited to just one company.  Look for a job where you work with a wide variety of companies – sales, consulting, and agency jobs are great for this.

 

#3 – Where will you become a leader?
One of my favorite definitions of leadership is that, “leadership is about managing energy… first in yourself and then in those around you.”  It comes from an MBA-school book called Level Three Leadership.  If it’s important that you learn skills on the job, it’s essential that you learn leadership from people who lead successfully.  Much of this is observing and absorbing how they manage energy in themselves and the people around them.  This can only happen if you have direct access to leaders.  It’s hard to learn leadership from your peers, or people who are just one step ahead of you.  You want a job where entry level staff get direct access to the real leaders of the company.

 

#4 – Where will you hone your personal acumen?
Every good employee-employer relationship should be two directional.  You should be able to answer the question, “what value does the company provide me?” but also “what value do I provide this company?”  I think about this in two ways.

Job Acumen in which you become increasingly valuable in your job over time.
Personal Acumen in which you become increasingly valuable to ANY job over time.

To use a very simple example, Job Acumen would be getting better at pitching your company’s product.  Personal Acumen would be learning how to be more persuasive in any business meeting.  It’s important that your first job nurtures both – you need to learn real skills and become valuable in a specific job, but you also need to nurture your own Personal Acumen in ways that are valuable in any job.

 

#5 – Where will you have a voice?
I list this last on purpose because it is badly desired but overhyped by most young people today.  I was the same way – believing my opinion was important enough to be heard the minute I stepped out of school.  In most good jobs today, your voice should be heard.  Any company that discourages its employees from voicing their opinion – internally and externally, is a warning sign for lots of other reasons you don’t want to work there.  It’s also true that good ideas can come from anywhere – even you, Mr. First Day.  But, I say it’s overhyped because there is something to be said for just shutting up and learning.  Something I’ve done in fits and starts throughout my career, but which I valued tremendously when I did.

It’s a complicated job market with increasing competition for the young people who will truly revolutionize business.  With more corporate influence in the hands of young people than ever before, you really do have tremendous opportunities if you choose wisely.  I try hard to be personally accessible to driven, capable young people, as do the rest of our firm’s leadership.  If you’re considering a job here, just reach out.  It’s your career…

Paul Dyer - Bull Run

I just returned from vacation, where I spent a week living the Spanish lifestyle, including an exhilarating day running with the bulls (that’s me in the photo!!).  The Spanish are known for being passionate about life – from food and drink to the best athletes in the world.  In my time there, it became obvious that we are often misguided in how we think about passion.

The fallacy is thinking that most people have “a passion” which may or may not be also what they “do” for a living.  We all know people who are lucky to “love what they do” (maybe it’s you?!).  However, there is no such thing as a limit to the number of things you can be passionate about.  What’s your favorite red wine?  Is that really the only one you can be passionate about?  What about your top five movies?  Can you not be passionate about the next fifty?  You probably have a favorite project at work – why can’t you be equally passionate about the rest of them?

You can find passion in everything from the extraordinary to the mundane, the physical to the intellectual.  Things you’ve never done before or that you do every single day.  And, yes, things that terrify you.

Passion is not a thing or even a feeling.  Passion is a way of presenting yourself to the world.  Importantly, passion is also not reserved for “passionate people.”  To pick on a friend at W2O Group, I’ve often heard Creative Officer, Paulo Simas, referred to as a “passionate person,” as if other people could not possibly be passionate about something every single day, as Paulo is.

It’s true that just like some people are intrinsically more organized, some people are intrinsically passionate.   However, just like disorganized people who choose to be organized, passion is a conscious decision we all make every single day.  If you are bored at your desk, that is a choice.  In school, I was so bored with math that I skipped it completely in college.  Yet, in my career I’ve found more passion in mundane Excel docs than most statistics majors.  Being passionate about the things you do is a way of experiencing and impacting the world every single day – not just when you’re doing your favorite activity.

Who Cares If I’m Passionate or Not?

Why is this important to social and communicative professionals?  When you bring your passion to the table, it becomes contagious.  People want to be with you in the hopes they can either feel passion vicariously or learn your secret.  They are driven to believe what you’re telling them because you’re so passionate about it.  Sales savant Zig Ziglar once said, “For every sale you miss for being too enthusiastic, you will miss a hundred because you’re not enthusiastic enough.”

Enthusiasm and passion are two sides of the same coin.  How can you expect a client to risk his or her business on your idea if you’re not passionate about it?  Why would a journalist or blogger share your news with their readers if your passion isn’t contagious?  It turns out, passion is what drives both joy in life and results in business.

Wait – There’s a Secret to Being Passionate?

If passion has one secret, it’s that passion is never too cool or too afraid.  Every time you withhold your passion, you miss an opportunity.  At W2O we celebrate “geekiness” as a badge of honor.  Yet, every single day there are people who feel passionately but don’t speak up.  Are you afraid of showing your passion?  What are you afraid of people seeing in you?  Bring your passion to the table in everything you do – personally, professionally, physically, intellectually.

Every time you pick up a new activity, you have a choice – and you have permission to choose passion.

There is a well known story of Henry Ford once saying that, if he had asked his customers what they wanted, they would have said a faster horse. Not only do consumers often struggle to see beyond the familiar (even free flowing online idea generation communities rarely turn up anything more than small, incremental innovations), they are also dependably bad about describing their own feelings and wishes.

Today, the ACSI (American Consumer Satisfaction Index) released their latest eBusiness report which ranked consumer satisfaction with a variety of Internet sites including search engines, content portals, news sites, and social media. According to the survey, 30% of consumers are unhappy with their social media experience, and Facebook in particular. That puts Facebook down near the bottom of all things consumers are most unhappy about (including even airlines, banks, etc.).

I will be the first to admit that Facebook does not satisfy my every wish. However, with 700M members, half of whom access the site every single day, it’s hard to believe that consumers are that dissatisfied with the experience.

One plausible explanation, however, is that consumers simply have no idea what they what or what makes them happy. The best web designers and user experience architects have known this for years. If you really want a website that outperforms, you have to be brilliant in crafting the information architecture, design, layout, user flow, etc. Then, you have to study the analytics that represent your visitors’ subconscious behavior on the site to optimize. If you rely on users’ self reported preferences you will arrive at all kinds of wrong answers about what you should do differently.

Wether you are at Facebook reading this or just thinking about how you balance Analytics with self reported information from your audiences, it’s probably best to take these kind of studies with a grain of salt. When users are real unhappy, they have no problem leaving (MySpace, NetFlix, etc.)

There’s a fine line when you’re trying to entertain consumers but you still have a product to promote. One of the best examples that’s continually held up is the Swagger Wagon video from Toyota, which has been viewed over 30 million times on YouTube alone. In the interest of analytics driving online engagement, we now have an analysis of the relationship between entertainment and product promotion for that piece.

Lyrically, Swagger Wagon has just 358 words in the song. Of those, the chorus can be classified as pseudo-promotional and there are three lines during the video that are overtly promotional for the Toyota Sienna. In total, the overt sections are just 33 words and the chorus (which repeats twice) is 31 words.

33 non-chorus, overt promotion      9.21%
62 chorus, pseudo-promotional     17.32%
85 total promotional                          23.74%

Similarly, if we look at the amount of time that the product is displayed in the shot, there are approximately 23 of the 156 seconds that show off the Toyota Sienna. That comes out to an estimate 14.74% of the video that promotes the product visually.

What’s the key takeaway? As marketers, we are in a constant struggle on two dimensions – how do we reach more people, and be more promotional (always got that one last key message to get in there!).  As consumers are increasingly uninterested in advertisements, this balance becomes increasingly challenging. If we use Swagger Wagon as one example of how to effectively do both, the answer seems to be somewhere between 15-25% promotional.

Intuitively, this feels right… If we want to reach a large audience, we need to focus 75 – 85% of our content on their interests.  But sometimes it takes this kind of analysis to ground ourselves in what’s working – how we’re really breaking through with consumers, and what are the key insights that are worth analyzing so that we can learn and become better.

Kudos to Jody Hill and Kimberly Gardiner (Toyota’s Social Media lead) on the breakthrough work with Swagger Wagon.  As the social media marketing industry continues to breakthrough with consumers, we’ll continue to analyze, dissect, and quantify precisely what’s leading to that success 🙂

Toyota’s Swagger Waggon Video is 9 – 25% Promotional

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ql-N3F1FhW4[/youtube]

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By a show of hands, how many brand marketers would like to get 100 million views on their videos? I thought there might be a lot of you…

That’s exactly what YouTube’r Klaatu42 has managed to do with his Talking Animals video channel.  The secret to his success?  You guessed it – videos with talking animals in them.  The most recent one, uploaded on May 1st (two weeks ago), has already amassed over 19 million views.

So what?  Why is this relevant for brand marketers?  We all know that LOLcats and funny animal videos have been popular on YouTube since the day it launched.  Some have even speculated that videos of cats playing piano alone accounted for at least 25% of the $1.65 billion sticker price when Google bought YouTube.

The important takeaway from the success of Kaatu42 is this:  Keep it simple.  We spend so much time inside of companies trying to ideate the next big, viral, disruptive style of video.  Yet, consumers have already shown us the things that entertain them.  You can see it in the view counts.  All it takes to reach them is good execution and a slightly unique spin on a popular type of video.

The key to this sort of social media phenom is that we actively study and learn from it.  It is easy to dismiss Kaatu42 as, “of course people watch funny animal videos… that has nothing to do with my brand.”  The challenge is to instead dissect the elements of his success and figure out how we can apply those same principles to something that does relate to your brand.

In the meantime, enjoy this video of the Ultimate Dog Tease.  Bet you can’t watch it just once…

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Every company is unique in how it embraces, organizes for, and resources social media in the organization.  Many times these things depend on the company’s specific goals for social media and how confident its champions are that social media will deliver real value.  Some of the common threads among what companies aim to get from their social media work include greater reach for their marketing messages, better understanding of their customer or marketplace, and a community of brand advocates that can either promote or defend the company online.  Unlike many traditional marketing vehicles, these things all take time to develop and nurture.  This leads many companies to ask, “how long will it take until I start to see the sort of high value return I’ve heard of through social media?”

While not a perfect or comprehensive model, the following social media maturity curve answers the question abstractly for most companies.

Social Media Maturity Curve for Companies
In this chart we evaluate Performance, or value to the organization, on the x-axis, and Resources required (being both dollars and time spent) on the y-axis.  The exponentially increasing Performance curve is what draws many companies to social media.  However, the sharp immediate slope on the Resources curve is what prevents many of them from achieving their goals.

The reason for the apparent tradeoff between high Resources but low Performance in the short term is that it takes time and investment to build a social media program correctly.  This time is spent identifying and getting to know the influencers, building trust with the community, attracting the right audience members, and learning over time what their interests are.  Done well, this all leads to an equilibrium point at which you have the right influencers on your side, an audience that has reached critical mass, and a content and engagement plan that is natural and effortless.  This means the Resources required actually taper off and begin to decline.  At approximately the same point in time, the Performance of your social media program will begin to really take off.  The represents a transition from the company needing to act as the main driver of community to serving as more of a support structure as the community builds itself.

The most common reason that companies often fail to reach this equilibrium is a failure to follow the four step process outlined below:

#1  –  Introduction

As with any community, you must begin by introducing yourself.  Part of this process should include identification of the top influencers as well as listening and fine tuning to understand the correct tone or voice that you should be using.

#2  –  Trust Building

Let’s face it – we as companies and marketers don’t have the best track record when it comes to engaging with our customers in a value-added way.  It is necessary that we spend time to build trust that we are here to enhance their online experience, not just to blast them with spam emails (sorry about those), annoy them with pop up ads (our bad!), or enter them into a sweepstakes (does anyone actually win?).  Part of this process requires direct communication with your top influencers to begin building real relationships, and earnest responsiveness to community questions or comments.

#3  –  Promotion

If you have successfully completed #1 and are well on your way to #2, you are probably ready to start promoting.  Consumers understand that companies need to promote themselves – and they join your community in the hopes of receiving some level of promotion.  The key is to identify the right balance between promotion and selfless community engagement and equity building.  This promotional period is where you will focus on mass drivers that are aimed at growing your audience size.  Things like contests, giveaways, and fun gimmicks are a great way to attract new members to your community.  If you have done a good job with the first two steps, these members will actually join and grow with you.

#4  –  Support

Once you have completed steps 1 through 3, you should have a robust community of people who are engaging with one another and relationships with the influencers who are leading.  You should also have enough internal learnings from having listened to and engaged with your community so that it requires less and less resources to provide the same amount of value to them.  You are now at the equilibrium point where the Performance of your social media program takes off on its own accord while the Resources required to maintain it actually begin to decline.  Your role now is to support this community while your customers build and grow together.

Very few brands or companies have successfully reached the equilibrium point today.  Starbucks is one example that has.  Who else?

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A lot of blogs weighed in earlier this year on Hitwise’s announcement that the phrase “Facebook” was the most searched for term in Google in 2010 (SearchEngineWatch, Pro Media Blog, eMarketer, and Digital Journal to name a few beyond the obvious Technorati, Mashable, cNET, Washington Post, etc.). Most posts reported the news and many weighed in on the ongoing saga of the Two Towers – Google and Facebook.

What few posts commented on, however, was the increasingly inseparable nature of search and social media in our online experience. We’ve known since the advent of social media that inner-site search engines (the search engine within Facebook.com or YouTube.com for instance) were critical components of the online search experience. Data like that provided by Hitwise, however, shows that the love affair goes both ways. We also use general web search engines to find social media (even when we already know exactly what we’re looking for).

Take a look at the insights below, borrowed from Hitwise’s announcement in December. The two things that should become immediately clear are:

  1. Social media is the most popular thing people are searching for online.
  2. Search engines define our experience and pathway online – even when we’re just going back to the same website we visit every single day.

As communicators, we have to ask ourselves – are we agreeing with this simple insight in principle, but failing to act on it in practice?  Do we truly have an integrated approach to maximizing the search journey and leveraging social media in search?  Or when we think of search, does somebody else handle that?

Check out the data from Hitwise:

Paul Dyer Hitwise Google Facebook

Also, the quick summary of Stats from Pro Media Blog:

* Facebook accounted for 3.48 % of all searches in the US among the top 50 terms (207% increase from 2009)
* YouTube accounted for 1.12% of all searches (106% increase from 2009)
* Craigslist accounted for 0.62%
* New among Top 50 Search Terms in 2010 were Netflix, Verizon Wireless, ESPN, Chase, Pogo, Tagged, Wells Fargo, Yellow Pages, PopTropica, Games and Hulu