Here Comes The Connected Agency

In February 2008, Peter Kim (formerly of Forrester and now of Dachis Corp fame) coined a term called “The Connected Agency” and co-authored a report for Forrester that predicted a fundamental shift in the agency world.

. . . marketers will move to the Connected Agency — one that shifts: from making messages to nurturing consumer connections; from delivering push to creating pull interactions; and from orchestrating campaigns to facilitating conversations.

Upon Peter’s departure, Sean Corcoran has continued to flesh out the concept and has done some really interesting research. How does this idea start to evidence itself and what are the implications in the agency world? Well, it means that the focus moves from placements (and the reach, frequency, and share of voice associated with them) to conversations. And the main problem with conversations is that they can start anywhere, move, continue, move again, and finally end somewhere else. They are essentially placeless.

Social PR, Earned Media, and Community Websites

The lack of place in marketing built around conversations has started the slow obsolescence of the current agency modeled on specialization around place. Suddenly, everything is “social” and every type of agency is claiming it as their own in the rush to conversationalize themselves (it should be noted that some don’t seem aware of the rush and sit blithely by). PR is now Social PR, Media is now Earned Media, and Interactive websites are now Online communities. Everyone wants to be that one agency that helps the brand with its conversations – The Connected Agency. The Connected Agency has to have the PR savvy to manage a Twitter account without a costly misstep in representation, the Media savvy to be able to understand and track the flow and influence of posted links across Facebook, Delicious, and millions of blogs, and the Interactive savvy to be able to build a campaign microsite utilizing numerous content widgets, Facebook Connect, and OpenSocial.

Team Detroit (and the Walls Come Tumbling Down?)

The major marketing companies will soon start to leverage their true advantage as a confederation of agencies across the spectrum of place. They can pull their agencies up, cross-integrate them and allow them to pitch truly conversation-based strategies that meld PR, traditional media, direct marketing, and online assets to powerful affect.

For instance, WPP’s Team Detroit, formed wisely as an experiment in a large but offshoot market, is thriving. JWT, Y&R, Wunderman, Ogilvy, Mindshare, and The Park, all under one roof where “there are no walls, only ideas.”

Team Detroit’s strategy is one that I think we’ll continue to see explored by other holding companies as the restructuring toward connectedness continues. The positive for marketers is that the more that we connect with our customers, the more we can do for them, and the more fulfilling our jobs will be.

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Our New Webinar Series: The Social Marketing Help Desk

Lucy DoctorPowered does a lot of webinars, and has had many that were very well-attended this year. Every time, attendees submit great questions and have unique business problems they are trying to solve through social marketing, but we never have enough time to address them all to the benefit of the group. This year, over 200 questions have been submitted to our webinar panelists and we’ve probably only gotten to a handful of them.

So please join Powered on Wednesday, July 29th at 2:00 PM Central time, as we launch the Social Marketing Help Desk – our new, monthly webinar series focused exclusively on answering your questions – no powerpoint and no sales pitches allowed. Our first effort will feature me (Doug Wick) as host with Aaron Strout from Powered and guest star Adam Cohen, a partner from Rosetta. You can register here to attend.

A few real examples . . .

  • “Management believes communities should cost nothing and require no staff to maintain. What is the resource commitment required to develop and sustain them?”
  • “How are communities different from ‘panels?’”
  • “Do you think that Twitter and other micro-blogging tools will become more prevalent in community based programs or will they stop growing in the near future?”

We look forward to seeing you there! If you have any format ideas or questions you’d like to throw in the hopper, please share your thoughts in the comments.

Weekly Social Marketing Links: July 7, 2009

Each week, the members of Powered’s marketing, business development and product teams pick a news article, blog post or research report that “speaks” to them. With that article, they need to come to our weekly staff meeting prepared to give a 120 second update on what the article was about and why they found it useful. Links are below:

Beth Lopez (Marketing)
Facebook’s Own Estimates Show Declining Student Numbers; Now More Grandparents Than High School Users – Intereting article that speaks to changing demographics of Facebook users. What’s even more interesting is that the data is from Facebook’s own ad platform and the data is showing there are fewer high school and college users on FB today than there were six months ago. Interesting read to say the least.

DP Rabalais (Marketing)
My weekly article is, Three Ways Healthcare Brands Can Leverage Social-Media (from MarketingProfs). While the lead-in is actually quite good, the three big points that are promised… well, let’s just say they didn’t blow me away.

Here’s the Cliff Notes from this article. The big “Three Ways” are:

  1. Listen
  2. Participate
  3. Learn

I have to say, I’m a little disappointed that this article didn’t deliver a little more value (because MarketingProfs is usually pretty awesome)

Bill Fanning (Business Development)
The first post is from Scott Berkun (The Berkun Blog) titled Calling Bullshit on Social Media.  Similar to the post I shared a few weeks ago predicting the demise of Twitter, I had to read this one simply based on the title.  Scott takes an honest and somewhat cynical look at “Social Media”, the hype, history and the behavior of both participants and marketers of social media.  While he makes a lot of good points, I don’t think of most PR firms or Social Media Consultants as the “greedy” gaming the system.  Sure, there are always a few but typically they don’t stay in business long.  Call me naïve.     

The second post was written by Tim Walker and titled In Defense of Social Media Manager.  This post highlights the debate between Chris Brogan and David Thomas about the necessity of the role and job title “Social Media Manager”.  Included are links to each of their blog posts stating their positions.  Both worth the read.  In part, I agree with Chris that companies ultimately should focus measuring what they need to change like sales, trials, PR coverage etc and that Social Media is a set up tools to help facilitate the necessary changes.  He also says that using these tools is “part of a job function, not a standalone vocation.”  This is where I have to agree with David Thomas, especially with larger organizations.  Until everyone clearly understands the tools that are available to them and how to behave while using them, it probably makes sense to have someone focused on understanding the medium thoroughly.  As the medium becomes more widely understood, we will probably see fewer and fewer “Social Media Manager” titles.

Jay MacIntosh (Business Development)
The article is entitled A CMO’s Guide to Social Media. It’s authored by a woman named Dana Theus who is a strategic marketing consultant with years of client-side experience. Though it’s much longer than the 140 microbites we’re accustomed to, I found it to be very worthwhile (but of course I did else I wouldn’t be sharing it with y’all now would I?). Anyhow, it’s an insightful POV on the societal and technological trends that have made the world more “social”. AND she offers a few strategies that marketing leaders might actually pursue. One of the things she discusses is something I’ve been hearing a lot of marketers say during my past 8 months of social media immersion – “Social media is simply another communications channel.”

I agree that social media is a communications channel but it’s not “just another” one. It’s radically different. As one of my social media heroes, Doug Wick, points out social enables three-way dialog to take place; brands with consumers & consumers with consumers. That changes all the rules of engagement. Which reminds me, wasn’t it Einstein who said “insanity is doing the same thing over and over again while expecting different results?” Time for marketers to stop the insanity!

Doug Wick (Business Development)

This article is about Moonfruit’s high-exposure campaign on Twitter where they gave away Macbooks in exchange for retweets and followers. While the campaign was a wild success, it provides a little context on the downside. First, the campaign giveaway didn’t exactly link with Moonfruit’s real business, which is web design. There is a relevancy issue. Also, there are reports that Twitter had to cap or control the buzz because it was a strain on their infrastructure, showing that these free tools have their limits when used for marketing. An interesting case study in the evolving medium.

Don Sedota (Product Management)

Based on some of our recent prospect efforts, I found the latest Razorfish Social Media “Fluent” report  had some interesting info regarding the financancial services industry and social media. The report was Twittered pretty heavily yesterday and was also Yammered internally, but thought I would mention a few takeaways I had regarding their financial industry insights:

  • Out of 7 industries, Financial rated last with regard to propensity for social context interaction with a brand (only 13% being likely to interact)
  • As an industry, the financial industry ranks a very distant second to the Auto industry (92 vs. 6.3) as far as positive consumer sentiment (as determined from positive/negative conversations on the web) and ranks 6 times better than Pharma (6.3 vs. 0.96)
  • BofA has the highest share of voice (31.6%); almost 3 times more than Wells Fargo
  • Wells Fargo has the highest brand sentiment out of 6 financial brands at 71%
  • Online share of voice and sentiment is closely tied to offline voice and sentiment
  • With the recent tumultuousness in the financial industry, there’s a ripe opportunity to improve these metrics for financial companies

Why All the Talk About Dog Food?

Cross-posted from MarketingProfs (original publish date May 2009)

Have you ever heard the term “eat your own dog food?” It’s a funny sounding concept that essentially means that one is “walking the talk” or leading by example. For instance, a lot of well-known companies have talked about being “customer-focused” but how many really are? Unfortunately just saying you’re committed to do something is dramatically different than actually doing it. There is no place where this idea is more true than in the world of social media and online community.

To highlight this point, [several] months ago, Jeremiah Owyang, a senior analyst at Forrester Research released the first ever Social Platforms Wave Report. In essence, this report rated the top online community providers according to their tools, services and methodologies. What the report didn’t do (and I’m not advocating that it should have) was take into account of how many of the companies reviewed in the report were “eating their own dog food.”

Being the socially engaged person that he is (there is no question as to whether Jeremiah eats his own dog food), he announced the arrival of Forrester’s Social Platform Wave Report on his blog. In his post, he offered some color commentary on the process, the companies that were selected and why the companies that were picked made the cut. One of the first comments on Jeremiah’s post asked if Forrester had taken into account whether or not these social tool providers were “walking the talk” by offering communities to their customers, creating corporate blogs and engaging with potential customers, prospects and partners in social networks like Facebook, LinkedIn and even Twitter.

While I was honored to be mentioned as an example of someone that does “eat his own dog food,” it got me to thinking about how important it was for companies that were engaged in social media or their customers to engage in these same practices. The reason I believe the “dog food” concept has become so important to businesses thinking about “social” and “community “ is threefold:

  • Creating a great online community or social marketing program has just as much to do with the philosophy behind the effort, as it does the tools that facilitate these offerings.
  • Just like the field of e-mail marketing adopted best practices like opt-outs and truthful subject lines, the discipline of community building and social marketing has best practices that should be upheld. Piss off your customers by posting fake comments in your own blog posts or talking trash about your competitors and you’ll pay through negative PR or worse yet, customer attrition.
  • In such a transparent environment, there is little room for error (just ask Edelman how their “Blogging Across America” campaign for Walmart turned out a couple of years back). You also need to make a lot of decisions on the fly so having an experienced “pilot” can make for a much smoother ride.

To explore the concept further, I wrote a blog post recently called How We Market that talked about the importance of taking a “give before you get” approach, being authentic and embracing the social tools and sites one’s clients are using” while keeping in mind the need as a business to create awareness and leads. This is not always an easy balance to strike but it’s the key to succeeding in the new marketing world order.

In response to this post, I got dozens of comments from other “big brains” in the industry (including MarketingProfs very own Ann Handley). The resounding response was that social media is all about creating and sustaining relationships through active listening and conversation. Establishing valuable customer relationship online is much more effective when you are providing content to your community via social media channels.

With that as a backdrop, if you’re a brand looking for a company to build your online community or create your social marketing program, what should you look for?

  1. Do they philosophically embrace the concepts that they’re asking you to adopt e.g. transparency, authenticity and a “give before you get” approach to value?
  2. Are they practicing what they preach by blogging, engaging customers through their own customer support community, commenting on other industry blogs and engaging the public in places like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter?
  3. Do they have “community” or “social” experience working with brands like yours?

Once you find a company you’re comfortable using to power your community or social initiatives, the question will shift to whether or not YOU are ready to eat your own dog food. If the answer is “yes,” just be sure to do so in moderation. Your customers will be happy to see you eating your own dog food but not if you stick their face in the dog food. Or worse yet, if you pretend that you’ve ALWAYS eaten dog food and can’t imagine someone not enjoying the taste.

Engagement vs. Serendipity

Cross-posted from http://blog.stroutmeister.com

Earlier this morning, my Twitter friend, Michael Calienes who is also the co-founder of The Conversation Factory, tweeted out a clip he did on video social network, 12 Seconds. You can watch for yourself but for those of you that prefer the written word, Michael’s question was “What if over the next couple of weeks you un-followed everyone who’s never engaged with you on Twitter?”

What I liked about Michael’s question was that it wasn’t an “eff you” kind of statement but rather a thoughtful one. His follow up question was, “Do you think it would improve the relationships you have with the people who do engage with you?”

12sec

What I liked most about this quick video was that it got me thinking about engagement vs. serendipity, two things that are possible more now than ever via social media. The first concept, engagement, is obviously something that is high on any marketer’s priority list. The second, serendipity, is something that we love when it comes our way but rarely do we feel like we have much control over the phenomenon. To me, that is really the beauty of Twitter because it allows both to happen simultaneously.

But that’s not what Michael asked in his clip this morning. He wanted to know would paring down on followers that are essentially “dead weight” allow us to spend more time with the people that matter. In essence, this is something that I think we all grapple with in life in general.          

So here’s my answer… as tempted as I am to pare down my 8,000+ followers, I never will. You know why? Because every day someone new who was in the list of “haven’t previously engaged with” crops up and adds value to my life. There are a few personal examples of how this has helped here and here It’s also been invaluable in my professional life helping me helping me drive leads, create partnerships, find podcast/blog interviewees, or even land speaking engagements.

What do you think? If you had your druthers, would you slim down the number of people you engaged with based on reciprocity? Or are you like me — willing to roll the dice based on the possibility of what might be?

Double Shot of Weekly Social Marketing Links: June 30, 2009

Crap. How many times can I make excuses for not getting our group’s weekly links out there. Not many more I guess.

With that as a backdrop, let’s skip right to the good stuff.

Beth Lopez (Marketing)

My article this week Social Media Is Changing the Content Marketplace by Heidi Cohen. Article focuses on the ways social media is impacting traditional media and what traditional media organizations can do to capitalize.

DP Rabalais (Marketing)

Good, quick read from MarketingProfs on the value of Online Communities in regards to market research. The article is titled Three Essential Market-Research Methods in an Online Community by John Kembel

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My second article is titled, As Economy Impacts Online Retail, Companies Shift Marketing Focus

Bill Fanning (Business Development)

My article for this week is titled Why Twitter will soon become obsolete written by Jason Clark. I had to read this one given the title and I found it pretty interesting. To be fair, I don’t think he is saying that Twitter will not have a place at all, he is saying that Twitter is not the marketing miracle that it is currently hyped up to be. Furthermore, as Twitter becomes more “spammy” it will become a less effective marketing tool. Controversial topic and worth the read.

Jay MacIntosh (Business Development)

As the economy goes, so goes the marketing budget! Most corporations pull back their marketing spend, and therefore activities, during a recession. Though, I philosophically disagree with this strategy, it’s done because most of the marketing budget is hard to measure or not measured at all! I know, I know….just because you can’t measure something doesn’t mean it’s not valuable. Tell that to Wall Street where it’s all about numbers (revenue, EBITDA, comp sales, etc.). Anyhow, as a company whose purpose is to help marketers get smarter with their overall spend, it’s important to understand their top priorities, near and longer-term. This article summarizes an April 2009 study by the Association of National Advertisers about where marketer’s minds are now, during the recession, and where they anticipate being as we come out of the recession.

Doug Wick (Business Development/Social Media)

[Aaron here] Doug wrote a great blog post this week about Powered’s Offerings/Online Community serving as a company’s “401(k).” It’s too good not to include in this week’s update.

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My article for this week is from Gary Stein, who writes for ClickZ and is the VP of Social Media for Isobar.

The title is Open Position: Media Earner. Eventually there will need to be a way to unlock media dollars and let them flow into social, and the concept of “earned” vs. “paid” media might be conceptual connective tissue that gets us there. Here Gary makes it real by describing the person who is in charge of planning earned media. His mocked-up job description is really a description of what all marketing jobs will be in the future, where our job performance is measured by how well we are facilitating conversation, adding value to the conversation, and receiving positive mentions as a result.

Don Sedota (Product)

I’ve been involved in a few of the messaging/positioning discussions lately around the technology section of our new website and I fortunately stumbled across this great Pragmatic Marketing article on messaging/positioning that I think is well worth the read:

In the discussions I was involved in I think we were generally in line with this article but the article gave me additional clarity on architecting a top-notch product message that resonates with consumers.

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Really good blog post here on Comment Marketing by Shannon Paul . This is basically a guide for brands on responding to blog/forum/etc. comments with the intention of marketing the brand. She classifies several situations as green light, yellow light and red light situations based on the caution that should be placed on brands responding to an online comment.

Here are the highlights:

  • Green light – Your company is mentioned in product comparison btw Company A and Company B
  • Yellow light – Your company is left out of the comparison btw Company A and Company B
  • Red light – No direct mention, only a general reference of industry or market segment
  • Yellow/Green light – Reader asks about your company in the comments

Also includes some good links to related “comment marketing” posts.