10 Sobering Realities in Social Media

It is in  Heroik Media’s best interest to improve image and competitive climate of social business. So, to that end, we will make a substantial effort to raise the bar, increasing the expectation placed on the local social media and business community by advocating for more critical thought and authentic contribution. We will call out and seek to put an end to the everyday BS (Business solutions, Broken Systems and Bubble Speak) to drive progressive change and innovation while improving the quality of service and contribution for those in the same boat.

To steal a line from Sam & Dave, this is all code for you to Hold-On- Cuz I’m Coming

And to those who thrive in BS and disingenuous practice, get ready to be annoyed. In order to help  others get to ROI, we must first dismantle and remove some bad habits and notions that are getting in the way successful social efforts and that journey begins with tough love and addressing some sobering realities. Know thy enemy and know thyself. Take the journey as we identify some of the problems with the tools, practitioners and third parties in social media. The transformation to become Heroik in this space will require you to admit what you lack, what you don’t know and what your addicted to, as well as reconnect with the goals that brought you here in the first place.

ROI  in social media- is it measurable? This is an old question that dates back at least half a decade. The answer is  a cautious “Yes”. It can be, but it requires strategic planning and authentic content creation. The enterprise community has more resources to go about this but often finds bigger  ways to mess it up. Small businesses on the other hand, those making up a majority of attendees to this meeting, ignorant and naive to business objectives, are caught up in the novelty of tools and deceptive metrics (likes, follows, etc.). There is a scalable way of going about social media that is not only more efficient, productive, and cost effective, it requires less TEE, Time, Effort and Energy.

1. Social Media is a business objective multiplier. It is the frosting, the opportunity to connect and transparently demonstrate and share how you are upholding your principles internally with partners, employees and teams, and externally with customers and communities while pursuing honest business goals. If you have no business objectives,  how can you claim that you have a strategy? You haven’t defined the challenge, so how can you effectively go about meeting it? You can’t or rather, you shouldn’t.

2. Business Strategy and Objectives. There is a major lack of business savvy and ability to create effective strategy in the social media space. This is perhaps the most obvious and persistent problem, especially for small business. Those trained with traditional business skills and book smarts, tend to be too direct in their efforts, focused on a single move to get the audience to engage. Those more familiar with social media skills than business skills, lack the vision and discipline to discern metrics within tools from measurements that directly correlate to business objectives. However, these street smart individuals recognize that relationships are built in layers and multiple moves.  The book smarts know what they want, and the street smarts know how to get there. To succeed in social media requires one to see the whole board and reconcile and translate both worlds.

A relevant lesson from one of my mentors, Chuck Tweedy, a respected attorney, economist and Taekwondo master, echoes the teachings of Miyamoto Musashi: When focusing on the small you must think about the many, the broad, overall goals, and when you are thinking about the broad goals, you must think about the small; the customer experience.  The Social Media Club – or at least attendees were composed mainly of  small business people who do not enter into the practice with an eye for strategy or tactics.

3.Why We Do It- All the Wrong Reasons. Focusing on the faulty metrics give the illusion of personal validation and those who do so, novices, tend to rigorously defend and obsess over them. The false sense of validity doesn’t track to high returns or hard measurements. All too often, dollars don’t enter the discussion until it’s too late; long after everything is spent. In most cases people are participating for the wrong reasons, vague notions and undefined goals.

A Lack of Critical Thought. For a group that is focused on conversation, there sure is a lack of insight and questions being asked. The purpose of discussion is to drive to conclusions, new thoughts, best practices and bright ideas, yet every attempt to do this is often met with firm opposition. Those who don’t  cringe at at the thought of confronting challenges are the people you want to engage with.

Falling for the Hyper-Consumption Trap. Looking at Twitter and Facebook as paradigms of choice, make it quite easy to come to the conclusion that you need to crank out content at a high frequency to keep up with the feed stream of social media, but, it’s also short sighted. Social Media “experts” often forget that social media includes longer form content like forums and blogs, that the feed stream is dependent upon. These pieces have a longer shelf life  and steer larger returns than the bumper sticker tweets,  but that doesn’t stop people from trying to define their social media strategy exclusively on these paradigms.

Self Centric & Tool Centric. People reading content are like college professors. They don’t care that your dog was chewing on it while you wrote it, or you’re in the middle of a break up, or chasing other deadlines. You are graded on the quality of content and conduct of your character that is directly observed. Who has time to care why you can your tweets? Unless you are a mega celebrity, the masses will rate you lower for it, like it or not.  Despite this, many get sucked into defining and rationalizing their work around their egos and the tools used.

4. Twitter Reality Check. The audience is constantly evolving and unless you are regularly reaching out to cultivate strategic business wisdom about social media, they know what you know. You have the same education. They are keenly aware that a majority of tweets generated are spam, canned and scheduled messages and they have a keen interest in filtering it. If they don’t know this now, they will soon.  I’d be happy to tell them-because I’m sick of the spam as well.

As the crowd continues to evolve and the desire to combat information overload increases, the desire to save time and filter out the noise also increases. Why? The audience you likely want to reach is participating actively, while you are participating passively(scheduling tweets, pre-fab etc.). 80/20 Rule-If your audience can filter out 80% of the spam while sacrificing 20% of genuine business interactions, do you think they’d hesitate to pull the trigger?

The User Experience (UX) on Twitter- Why I Don’t Care The Reasons You Canned Your Tweets, Only That You Can Them. If you consider the user experience on Twitter for example, you’ll reconnect with the notion that  for your audience at least, social media isn’t about you, it’s about real connection and authentic communication. They see a disingenuous action and will judge and filter in a split second, and rightfully so I might add.

Case in point- HootSuite fits the bill for a perfect target.  Most marketing types are aware of the tool and many on Twitter are aware that marketers use this. In each tweet, you can see just how a user is posting a tweet, e.g. posted via Android/iPhone/Twitter. You can also quickly identify and thus ignore tweets with owl.ly links (those created by the HootSuite link shortener). Thus you have 2 different ways to identify 80% of the spam, in a split second decision, and you know what to ignore.

This isn’t yet the trend but as more people become aware of how nuts all this information overload is driving them, they will become more and more interested in filtering out the noise and crap.  A few important call-outs here:

  • This was a growing trend that concerned Twitter’s partners enough to get Twitter to change the interface.So now, if you’re looking at the stream, you can’t see how people are posting until you click to expand the tweet as seen here.
  • In the image example, Time magazine, is a major media outlet and can get away with it.

 

The response to this was less than positive. This is the truly concerning part as far as Sacramento is Concerned. I heard every excuse that is completely self-centered, personal and irrelevant to the customer/audience experience. Here are some examples:

“I’m too busy to tweet in real time. I have to do billable work. I can’t participate and actively tweet all day.” And the person reading the tweet cares about this little tidbit about your life because?

“If it’s authentic message, it will be appreciated.” This may be true, but where do you think the wave is pushing? Do you practice to react or conduct business in away that allows you to plan to respond?

“I take tweets less seriously if they aren’t on such a tool (HootSuite)” This is a classic example of a marketer, who has failed to realize that a majority of her following are other marketers and not the active audience she wants to reach for her business.

The looks I got from these people, especially from a few women were particularly stunning. The women in the room were far more personally offended by my assertions than the men, judging by the dirty looks. I find that interesting because women are more active in social media than men in terms of numbers. Judging from the response in the room, this may be because women identify and attach to the notion of metrics that validate emotions. Take “likes” for example; a number and measurement of perceived emotional investment. Men are attracted to numbers and novelty, and women care too about emotion. Social media provides an addictive experience for both, emotive value  and instant gratification/action. Whatever the reasons driving the crowd, they felt personally insulted – which is unfortunate and a clear indicator that they define their business identities on a single tool and are out of touch with business goals. It’s a harsh reality, but one that businesses who wish to succeed have to face. Just as Google changes their ranking formula to weed out those trying to hack the numbers rather than generate authentic content, Twitter and the rest of the social media community are doing the same throughout the experience- through platform and product design, 3rd party tools and consumption practices alike. Why make your job harder by trying to swim upstream? Focus on authenticity and your efforts and life will not only be easier but more fruitful. I said authenticity not just authenticity in message. It’s not just about what you say but how you say it and how you are participating.

Bottom Line for Twitter: It’s over saturated, customers are hard to reach and are learning how to filter. Twitter is should be an icing for your social media strategy not the platform or foundation for it. You can save a lot of TEE (Time, Effort and Energy) by developing a more inclusive, robust strategy that involves longer form content creation.

5. Moron Metrics. In the realm of physical fitness, there are traditional measurements that have proven to be reliable in helping achieve goals like losing weight, gaining muscle, and increasing cardiovascular performance.  Metrics like calories, BMI, heart rate (BPM), weight, and of course time, all play a role in judging performance and deciding where we are getting the most bang for our buck.  We have similar metrics in to measure business efforts as well. Social Media channels and networks however, create their own metrics that cannot be traced to our primary business objectives. In the fitness example, Imagine a new program that added new metrics like counting glances and giggles from pretty women you see while working out, or drops of sweat, etc. These are poor indicators of physical fitness and they distract from the objectives we seek to achieve.  Likes, Follows, Re-Tweets and Sentiment are similarly distracting and equally useless.

6. Steamy Pile of Sentiment. Sentiment is the latest layer to the steamy pile. The tools that track sentiment aggregate all of the bad metrics (likes, mentions, re-tweets, followers, following) to give you a more robust and accurate picture of overall trend. Essentially, this means that they round up all of the bad numbers and average them. How far off do you think these numbers are? Measuring sentiment this way simply adds a multiplier effect to your percentage of error. Likes, reviews, blogs, following, re-tweets, etc. can and are inaccurate representations.

Furthermore, these sentiment tools disguise themselves as steeped in metrics but are in fact very subjective. There are humans pulling the strings behind the curtain, there is no magic decisioning engine, thus making the tools flawed/subjective. This explains why many of the top tier tools are limited to the English language. They require a human judging the validity of content somewhere along the way before it reaches your screen. Bad numbers multiplied by others narrow, subjective opinion equals inherently fuzzy, untrustworthy results. What good are the numbers if they cannot be trusted?

7. Debunked: 99/1 rule- for every active member in a community, there are 99 lurkers. This so called rule is rarely true and most often the exception rather than the rule. The corollary is for every 99 lurkers, there are really 94 people not paying attention at all, and 5 guys with no lives lurking in the bushes. The notion of the lurking community member was an invention of some marketing team trying to bolster their numbers. Lurker implies they are actively paying attention; that they are stalking somewhere and therefor deserve to be counted. The reality is that most lurkers are dead accounts or people like you and me who deal with information overload on a daily basis. Lurkers do exist but not at the ratios currently described by social media  “experts”. This is yet another BS metric (Bubble Speak Business Solution to a Broken System).

Just how damaging are these bad metrics? Metrics motivate behavior and choosing to subscribe to the wrong metrics can compltely derail marketing, sales, support efforts, and drive business into the ground. They drive attention and focus to a board game and distract from business. The third party tools that reinforce moron metrics are costing companies billions now.

Don’t get me wrong. Secondary social objectives, such as increasing the bond/connection with customers, sharing adventures and challenges, and providing proactive support are good but you should always have an eye on your primary objectives. Businesses large and small are getting sucked in to the social media bubble speak and getting taken for a ride. The right way to approach Social Media starts with strategy and choosing metrics that matter.

I don’t advocate against subjectivity nor do I blindly root for the numbers. I do however, believe that the role of Social Media Director (whether that’s the business owner or someone on a team) should have what Hemingway referred to as a shock proof shit detector. It takes someone with the fortitude enough to trust their gut and have the cajones to be accountable and make a decision on the validity of data.

8. High Demand for Shock Proof Shit Detectors.The really bad news- Due to the persistant BSing, marketers, business, Tech Crunch, Mashable and the rest of Silicon Valley, trying desparately to create yet another B.S. bubble have many in the business world believing that these metrics are valid and accurate. I’d settle for a recent grad with a good, shock-proof shit detector over most of the tools out there.

9.You like Apples? The metrics are so bad that for the thousands spent on insights/social sentiment/analytic tools, you could have spent $12.00 on a magazine rack at a book store and got the same insight.  How you like them apples?

10. Using Fraud to ReachThe Locals. Tools that measure sentiment rely on search engine rankings and other SEO type numbers in their formulas.  As you may or not be aware, the world of SEO has been completely compromised by fraudulent activities and corporate hacking efforts. If part of the sentiment formula relies on the search rank, the number of times mentioned on the web, etc., the results will not be authentic in most cases. Combining multiple sets of fudged numbers to measure anything is a bad idea. Case in point, The economic recession of 2008, housing industry and the layer atop layer of bad numbers used to create the bubble in the first place.  The sentiment tools seek to create a similar bubble based on bad numbers.

One of Google’s largest ad customers, an ad firm whose name I’ll leave out, uses hack tactics to bolster their clients’ web ranking and pushing the competition to the bottom of page 4 of search results. Essentially this firm seeks to Reach Local businesses and advertise via brokering sales of search engine advertising along with other services. One of their more lucrative service offerings is to create optimized blog content on a massive scale.

There are often niche sites for many client’s and these ad firms simply partner with them (creating exciting new fudged number shenanigans) to take credit for every click to their clients’ sites. And, because the marketing budgets are spent according to cost per click, this is a huge money maker for them.

They operate on a mob mentality, luring search users into a van (faux blog without genuine content/substance) and delivers them as promised. These angry kidnapping victims are less likely to do business when they’re already aware that they’ve been taken for a ride. It all makes for wonderful theater and beautiful bar graphs but damages brand perception and does not drive revenue.

You see examples of their work all the time when you click on a search result and you are brought to a blog site littered with ads for that seem to go to the same page. They have  very little substance but just enough of the right stuff (cross links, hacked meta data) to ensure they make it into the top spots in search results.  At first glance, you may think the page was created by an amateur blogger trying to make a buck on ads, but much of that type of content is created by large ad firms. The content is often auto generated and placed there to drive clicks to client pages.

Buyer Be Ware! Any firm offering to help you reach local audience via clicks, search and ads, they’ll bring visitors alright; usually either unqualified, uninterested or delivered in a disingenuous way that makes them feel bitter and angry.

Understanding The Model-How it Works

– Ad firms Partner with local hub websites that create a lot of clicks but rarely any conversions. These local hubs get their cut of a marketing budget and in return provide local listings. Why do the firms partner with these sites? It’s true that these hubs are often at the top of the search results for their clients, but there is a more lucrative game afoot. They spend marketing budgets based on calls and costs per click. The more click activities they create, the more money they get. They have found a formula that allows them to have very little concern for their clients’ success, gets them discounted engagements with partners, and no one is the wiser as they are on contract for at least a quarter, before they’re dropped and onward to their next victim. It’s a white collar con job. An interesting side note on calls: in past dealings with multiple clients involved with this and similar companies, there was a major uptick in random  3 second calls and hang ups all of which costing them as much as $30 per call.

-No concern for tricks or tactics used to get visitors to the website. Imagine if you were looking for a ride to the airport, and a mob disguised as a cab company drags you there, 10 feet back dangling on a chain, in your office chair. Will this affect the mood, whether you enjoy the flight or not, let alone how much money you spend at the airport? Absolutely.  The faux ad filled blogs create by default a lower negative customer impression, that severely dampens the mood of a potential visitor to a site and creates a systematic cynical attitude towards social media in general. Putting potential customers in a bad mood but the firm doesn’t care because they fulfilled their objective. They drove clicks to the page. This creates fabulous numbers for the client but doesn’t deliver in terms of revenue in many cases.

How It Relates to Sentiment

How upsetting would it be to know that the sentiment measuring tools count these faux blogs and fudged results in their numbers? It’s similar to marketing types attempting to label every inactive registered community member a lurker, as opposed to, an inactive or dead account. Everyone wants to fudge the numbers to negotiate for more dollars, preserve their jobs, or rationalize their efforts.

The Problems are Fundamental and System Wide-Why isn’t anyone saying anything?

You have to realize who is using the tools. A director or manager of communications/social media or some other variant is validating his/or her efforts on these numbers. These numbers affect their careers and they have no interest in reporting bad or accurate numbers that are lower than the fudged numbers of their competitors. Their superiors look at the pretty bar graphs and spread sheets and see big numbers without understanding how these systems work. There is a severe lack of integrity throughout.

Conclusion-

Small businesses especially can’t afford to fall for the traps, cons and crap of the social media bubble. The Enterprise too is in dire need of some shot proof shit detectors who operate on integrity.

Good news everyone. There is a better way.

Start With:

  • Acknowledging the truth and reality of the value and meaning of the metrics and the real numbers that count.
  • Admit where your business knowledge is weak and go back and cultivate some. This can be done with a few books or magazines for under $100.00
  • Think about the business first. Define, and I mean intricately define your objectives as best as you possibly can. This allows you to measure and see how your social efforts are translating as well as indicate when it’s time to pull the plug and focus on pouring your TEE (Time, Effort, and Energy) elsewhere.

At Heroik Media, we’re big fans of TEE. We only want to pour it into the finest, fastest and most reliable vehicles and experiences. Life is too short to spend it tweeting and updating simply to appear busy and convince yourself that your working. In part 2 of this adventure, will explore some example business objectives that scale for businesses large and small, and describe how they translate into real returns.

 

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