Facebook: Power Tool or Sink-Hole? You decide.

I got this entertaining email a few months ago from a fellow marketer who is an admitted novice in the world of social media. He asks, in the simplest of terms, Whether Facebook is in fact A “Power Tool” or a “Black Hole” of Wasted Time.

-An excellent question that even the savviest among us has surely [at some point] asked!

I’ve been too busy dealing with idiots clients to get back to him, but I thought, perhaps sharing this with you all—you Geniuses-In-Waiting—would spark a healthy discussion.

And so… please, take a read:

Dear F**king Marketing Genius,

I have just voted for your f**cking presentation, which is, of course, f**cking genius. Plus, I’m forwarding it to a client of mine who’s asking about blogging, and will therefore make me look like a f**cking genius. Or maybe just an old F**ck. Which is what you’ll think if you read on…

One of the frameworks that helped me understand the power of social media is that of the many-to-many learning model. If I have a problem with my Mac (rarely, but it happens), I don’t go to the Mac website. I seek out other users online, and get an instant read not just on the problem and solution, but how to feel about it. How pissed off/happy should I feel about my computer problem/new feature? And who should I thank or say “f**ck u” to? There’s an emotional content as fellow consumer that’s very valuable here. I’m learning from a whole community, not just one bored academic who half-answers my question.

But try as I might, and this is a question for you, o marketing genius, there are some aspects of the SM thing I do not get. A friend of mine signed me up for Facebook. Okay, I’m game, I fought LinkedIn for a couple of years until it actually brought me some very lucrative contracts. So I joined Facebook, or “MyFace”, as I was calling it for awhile until some savvy sprite like you clued me in. Soon after, I started getting emails saying that so and so had bought me a cocktail, somebody else had bitten me, others gave me hugs and kisses. Not a real cocktail, mind you. A mocktail I couldn’t even drink. And, as far as I know, they actually did have to buy it. I think.

What is this? This isn’t the many-to-many learning model I thought would change the world. It’s using the vast power of the internet to waste my valuable time! I’ve heard about another site that allows you to record your every trivial moment for your friends and all eternity. There’s a guy over at MIT doing this, too. It’s like Bucky Fuller’s Dymaxion Chronofile gone crazy, which is sort of an oxymoron in the first place.

Anyway, O Marketing Genius, throw me a line. Give me a clue. Facebook? Why?

Yours in Perfidy and CussWords,

J.

Being the Genius that I am, I have plenty o’ answers to offer my pal J to his well-expressed question. But I’m curious… what do YOU think?

What value [if any] do you see in Facebook as a tool for connecting and engaging with your clients, customers, employees, colleagues, and friends? For building brand awareness? For building your business?

Or is it, as J worries, just another way to waste valuable time?

“Do 39% of Internet users REALLY subscribe to RSS feeds?” and other social media marketing myths dispelled

Today is the last official date for voting in the “World’s Best Presentation Contest” on SlideShare. (Speaking of which… if you haven’t yet voted for “What the F**K is Social Media?!”, DO IT NOW!!!)

Shameless self-promotion aside (but only for a minute), I thought this was a good time to address some of the questions and understandable skepticism that emerged in response to the not-so-subtle messages in said presentation.

So—let’s separate fact from fiction (or at least fact from hyperbole), shall we?

The first batch of “that can’t be right” criticism (and downright bitch-i-tude—you know who you are) was doled out in response to the following statements (from slides 11-16):

  • 73% of active online users have read a blog
  • 45% have started their own blog
  • 39% subscribe to an RSS feeds
  • 57% have joined a social network
  • 55% have uploaded photos
  • 83% have watched video clips

And now, for the shocking truth:
The Genius herself was more than a bit surprised by these numbers. You might even say they were the inspiration for the big ole “F**K!” that became the content of slide 46.

But the fact is, I didn’t pull them out of my cute little ass… they actually came from Universal McCann’s Comparative Study on Social Media Trends, April 2008, and they’re based on a series of surveys they conducted with over 17,000 respondents across 29 countries.

In Universal McCann’s own words:

“All surveys are self completion and the data collected is entirely quantitative. Every market is representative of the 16-54 Active Internet Universe. In this Wave 17,000 internet users in 29 countries were interviewed. To be included you need to be using the internet everyday or every other day.”

So, there!

The next pile of skeptical poo was flung at these juicy tidbits:

  • Only 18% of TV ad campaigns generate positive ROI
  • 90% of people who can skip TV ads, do.
  • Only 14% of people trust advertisements

And did these little beauties come from betwixt my perfectly peach-shaped buns?

Again—NO.

They came from a useful little book called Connected Marketing: The Viral, Buzz and Word of Mouth Revolution by Justin Kirby and Paul Marsden (buy a copy here).

Just for giggles, take a look at some of the other painfully compelling data you’ll find within its pages:

  • Average return in sales for every $1 spent on advertising: 54 cents!!!
  • The increase in TV advertising costs (CPM) in the past decade: 256%
  • Proportion of B2B marketing campaigns resulting in falling sales: 84%
  • The increase needed in advertising spend to add 1-2% in sales: 100%

Say it with me now: YIKES!!!!!!!!!!

Last but not least, a few people got their panties all in a bunch about the use of http://www.mystarbucksidea.com and the apparent lack of “real” case studies or ROI data.

[Here’s me rolling my eyes]

So, fine, I’ll satisfy your incessant and moderately annoying need for numbers by providing you with a few details on NikePlus.com (others to follow in future posts—maybe). If you want to learn more NOW, you’ll just have to hire me or invite me to speak at your next event.

Here goes:

The Genius Behind NikePlus.com!

Nike’s social media play did two things that most brands fall shamefully short on:

    1) They created a playground for anyone passionate about the activity enabled by the product (whether they owned Nike products or not)
    2) They enabled relationship-building with consumers who do own their product(s) that goes way beyond the initial purchase.

And here’s how they did it….

First, the smart folks at Nike recognized 3 simple things about their target audience:

    1. People who love to run, love to listen to music while running
    2. People who love to listen to music while running typically use an iPod to do so
    3. People who love to run like to measure and track their distance/time

Next, the smart folks at Nike created an online experience that caters directly to these three user objectives. They partnered with Apple to bring iTunes into the mix, offering celebrity running mixes (and a whole lot more), and developed products and online tools (like the ability to track runs, challenge other runners in the community, and engage in competitive events locally) that supported and enhanced the offline experience.

Since its launch in May 2006, the NikePlus.com community has not only grown but THRIVED, earning the brand a much-deserved Cannes Lions 2007 award and lots of positive press.

“But what about numbers? Where’s the ROI? WHERE’S THE BEEF?!”

Feast your eyes on this, my friends! As of February, 2008, Nike+ members have:

• Run over 50,000,000 miles
• Logged over 14,000,000 runs
• Issued over 450,000 challenges
• Created “the world’s largest running club” with >75,000,000 members!!!!!!

And here’s the crown jewel:

  • 40% of community members who didn’t own Nike+ ended up BUYING!
  • 94% of consumers agreed to recommend NikePlus.com to a friend

When was the last time your marketing campaign yielded a 40% conversion-to-sales ratio?

I rest my case.

Now, if you STILL haven’t done so, it’s time to go ahead and vote for the Genius’ presentation here.

The Secret to Overnight Viral Marketing Success

Catchy title, no?

Utter horseshit, yes?

YES!

I’ve said it before—and I’ll probably have to say it a zillion times again before anyone listens: YOU CAN’T CREATE “VIRAL.”

Viral is the happy by-product (or the unfortunate side-effect, depending on your perspective) of a campaign that artfully blends 6 key ingredients:

  1. Value
  2. Fun
  3. Creativity
  4. Timing
  5. Distribution
  6. Magical pixie dust

Ok, I’m kidding about ingredient #6. But the other five are not optional—they’re MUST-HAVEs. And they’re anything but “one size fits all”.

Recently, I had a client look me straight in the eye and say, “We need some good viral. And we need it FAST.” Some time between my desire to laugh hysterically—and cry hysterically—I found a moment to Tweet about my frustration with this ridiculous and ubiquitous request.

Here’s a quick sampling of the responses I got:

@mdurwin: Did you here this: Client asked for a viral video, I collected best ones showing kick to the groin, then asked for volunteers.

@meggiepoo: amen sister. i love it when a client says “i want to make a viral video.” it’s so adorable i want to smoosh their cheeks.

@mdaniel79: you mean there’s not a “Create viral campaign” key on your keyboard?

Sadly, no, my Mac did not come with the “create viral campaign” key. Perhaps if I upgrade my operating system?….

The next time a marketing pro or agency tells you they “do viral,” my suggestion is to run away. Fast. Or, just for giggles, ask them to show you the “create viral campaign” key on their keyboard.

Because it just doesn’t work that way. Your campaign might be brilliant, original, artful… but have no intrinsic value to the target audience—and it wont ‘catch’.

Or it could be immensely valuable but poorly distributed (read: Facebook aint a silver bullet)—and it wont catch.

It might even be useful AND strategically distributed… but boring as a conference room full of narcoleptics. If you don’t have all 5 of the first 5 ingredients… you’d better get yourself some pixie dust or kiss that promotion goodbye.

And speaking of promotion… let’s pause for a brief moment of shameless self-promotion, shall we?

The Genius is more than happy to help you—yes, even YOU—whip up some “really good viral, really fast”. So to speak.

At the very least, I’m happy to knock some sense into your boss/colleagues/clients about what viral really is and demystify the process of crafting a campaign that has the essential ingredients, and therefore, the potential to generate “tech-fueled word-of-mouth momentum” (a.k.a. BUZZ).

Gotta run… phone’s already ringin’…!