Why marketers need to create social media guidelines

If you are a marketing executive, you need to be actively involved in shaping your company’s employee social media guidelines.  I know from experience.  I’m the Razorfish vice president of marketing and keeper of the Razorfish social media guidelines, which we updated recently and made publicly available on September 24.  (We call them Social Influence Marketing guidelines in keeping with how our business views social media and influencers as intertwined.)  Here is what you will find out if you jump into the social media pool and start swimming:

  • You are highly qualified to have a leadership role.  Social media is about transparent communication among several communities.  Marketing & communications professionals understand better than anyone the intersection of community, communication, and your company’s reputation.
  • Your employees are going to talk about your company using social media with or without your participation.  That said, employees are open to your participation so long as you take a collaborative approach.  Employees appreciate guidance on matters such as company disclosure and what to do about flaming blog posts.  So take a leadership role or get out of the way.
  • You will learn more about your brand than you think you know. Your employees are your brand.  What they say about your company on Twitter and Facebook mirrors the conversations they have about you elsewhere.  Creating social media guidelines will force you to better understand your employees, their views, and their ideas.  Even better, you can make your brand a more authentic reflection of your company culture by learning from your employees’ Tweets, blog posts, and conversations that occur in the social world.
  • You’ll become a better marketer.  Who says social media is a threat to the marketing executive?  The development of Razorfish guidelines has made me better at my job.  I’ve become a blogger and a more active participant in the social world, which has made me more connected to the marketplace and Razorfish.  No longer do I feel like a coach dispensing advice from the sidelines; I’m an active participant.  It’s good for marketing executives to get your hands dirty.
  • You’ll make mistakes.  And sometimes embarrassing ones.  But you’ll learn that a dose of humility is good for you.  One of my biggest mistakes has been getting too hung up about criticisms made about Razorfish in the blogosphere — sometimes by Razorfish employees.  Yes, your employees are going to say some things you don’t like.  And they’re going to do so in a very transparent way.  I’ve learned to take a step back and ask “What can I learn from this criticism?”
  • You’ll become more valuable to your company.  Razorfish counsels our clients on Social Influence Marketing, or utilizing social influencers and social media to meet their business and marketing objectives.  Not surprisingly, our clients expect us to practice what we preach.  I’m helping Razorfish do just that, and it all started by the formulation of our social guidelines a few years ago (what we published today is simply the latest version).  I’m also finding that client teams are asking me for advice on development of clients’ social media guidelines and related issues.  Anytime a marketer does something that puts you more in touch with your clients’ needs directly, you’re heading down the right path.
  • You’ll become more collaborative.  The guidelines were created in collaboration with Amy Vickers, head of our Enterprise Solutions practice; Ray Velez, leader of our technology community; and Shiv Singh, in charge of our Social Influence Marketing practice; and with input from our Human Resources and Legal/Privacy teams.  And now the guidelines are getting improved with feedback from Razorfish employees.  (They have a way of keeping you honest.)

How about you?  What have you learned?  And speaking of collaboration, how can we make the Razorfish social media guidelines better?

New Razorfish technology chips away at one-way advertising

Razorfashion Retail Experience from Razorfish – Emerging Experiences on Vimeo.

On September 22, my employer Razorfish announced the launch of the Razorfish Touch Framework, a software that makes it easier for designers to create multi-touch experiences such interactive kiosks and iPhone applications.  Because the software can be licensed to multiple companies, Razorfish seeks to to accelerate the adoption of brand experiences based on touch screens — and thus chip away at the world of one-way advertising.

This kind of technology will also contribute to the convergence of branding and user experience by making it easier to build interactive and immersive displays.

The announcement comes at a time when multi-touch technologies are on the rise.  More than half of U.S. online consumers surveyed recently by Forrester Research say they find touch screens appealing. In a report “Consumers Are Ready to Embrace Touchscreen Electronics,” Forrester asserts that touch screens appeal to many consumer groups ranging from the tech savvy to households with children.

Check out the Razorfashion application built with the Framework as well as several great ideas from the Razorfish Emerging Experiences blog. And for media reaction to the announcement, you might find this ClickZ article worth reviewing.

How Abraham Lincoln can make you a better marketing executive

Marketing executives must endure an impossible learning curve.  Social media.  Cloud computing.  Consumer generated content. So many dramatic changes to understand all at once.  Is it any wonder that CMO job tenures seem shaky at best?  Fortunately marketing executives have a role model for adapting constantly to dramatic change: Abraham Lincoln.

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The modern agency: a Q&A from ad:tech Chicago

This blog post comes to you live from ad:tech Chicago 2009.  On September 1, Dave Friedman, president of the Americas for Razorfish (my employer) joins a panel of agency executives to discuss the role of modern agencies with their clients.  Participants include David Hernandez of Tribal DDB; Drew Ianni chairperson of ad:tech; and Chris Miller of DraftFCB.  The conversation is moderated by Tim Hanlon, VivaKi Ventures.

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Social graph analysis improves consumer research

This blog post comes to you live from ad:tech Chicago 2009.  On September 1, my Razorfish colleague Andrea Harrison challenges marketers to understand consumers in context of their social behaviors — known as social graph analysis.  It’s an important topic that leads to better customer insights.

Andrea asserts that traditional forms of understanding consumers, such as market segmentation and personas, are useful but not adequate consumer research tools.  This is where the social graph comes into play — defined as a network of personal connections through which people communicate and share information online.

So how do you build a social graph?  Part of the answer is to study consumers in context of the platforms they use (e.g., Facebook) and the people — both known and anonymous — to whom your customer is connected.  From there, social graph analysis becomes a matter of seeing how peers influence your customer.  She shares how a social graph map can help you understand the flow of influence, or where social interactions are occurring for your customers and who is really influencing your customer.

Example: Razorfish needed to help a client understand how teen girls interact with digital.  The Razorfish team hung out with the client’s audience as they interacted with groups of friends.  Seeing how the teen girls interact with their friends (the flow of influence) helped Razorfish gain better insights into how the client’s customers (teen girls) interact with digital.

The social graph does not require a re-do of your consumer research approaches.  For example, if you rely heavily on customer interviews to gain insights, then find consumers who matches your target audience.  Ask them to bring their influencers with them to an interview.

Social graph analysis: not a radical transformation of consumer research techniques, but a better way.

This blog coverage barely scratches the surface of Andrea’s insights.  I encourage you to contact Andrea directly on Twitter @190east or via andrea.harrison@razorfish.com.

Are consumers really in control?

A musician named Dave Carroll becomes a YouTube sensation by singing about how United Airlines broke his guitar. The Whole Foods brand suffers a blow amid a consumer boycott fueled by social media.  Just the usual signs that consumers are in control, right?

I don’t think so.  And I don’t believe consumers want to be “in control,” either.

We’ve all heard (and told) the same story.  Social media have empowered consumers.  With Twitter, we can publicly shame the restaurant that gives us bad service.  Through blogs and platforms like Facebook, we can rely on our friends and peers to learn about new products without involving the voice of the brand itself.

But I believe there’s a difference between consumers becoming empowered and consumers taking control.  And although word-of-mouth marketing remains the most powerful form of endorsement, I think it’s a stretch to say consumers want to shut out brands completely.  Consider the following:

  • If consumers were really in control, Dave Carroll would not be a news sensation.  His “United Breaks Guitars” YouTube video would be the norm.  But his experience is the exception to the rule.
  • If consumers were really in control, we’d see a huge improvement in notoriously customer-service challenged industries.  But we have not.
  • If consumers wanted to shut out brands, we would not so willingly allow consumer products like iPhones and Blackberries to turn us into a society of inveterate text messengers and screen tappers.  We would not happily participate in their marketing, like the fans at Comic-Con who engaged in a massive scavenger hunts to find teaser trailers for Warner Brothers’s The Dark Knight in 2007, and for Disney’s Tron Legacy in 2009.

As a consumer, I love the fact that I can complain about my Comcast bill on Twitter and receive a rapid response from Comcast Cares.  But you know what?  Although consumers like empowerment, I believe we do not want the responsibility of being in control.  We want a relationship with brands, which means we accept the fact that both the brand and consumer exert influence.  We want companies to delight us with new products and services, and we will gladly pay them to do that.  We want to watch new ads on the Super Bowl.  We want to have fun with in-store and digital experiences.  Nearly 3.5 million of us have become fans of Dell, JetBlue, and Zappos on Twitter.  (Whole Foods, boycott or not, has 1.2 million Twitter followers and has done many things to impress consumers.)  Another 1.4 million consumers have become members of the Victoria’s Secret PINK Page (and are proud to post pictures of their favorite PINK clothing).

The difference between empowerment and control is more than a matter of semantics.  In a world of consumer empowerment, marketers still matter very much, and so do the “old” forms of brand building.  In fact, a recently released report by my employer Razorfish (Fluent: The Razorfish Social Influence Marketing Report) says that when making purchasing decisions, consumers are more likely to trust television ads than online friends.

But on the other hand, consumer empowerment is real, and woe to the marketer who fails to understand that reality.  As Fluent also points out, marketers could help themselves by more effectively employing the same social media and user-generated content tools that consumers are using — hard to pull off, but, according to Forrester Research, worth trying.  Forrester says that 73 percent of online Americans are consuming social media, which Forrester cites as a harbinger for marketers.  Writes Forrester analyst Josh Bernoff, “Marketers, if you’re not doing social technology applications now, you’re officially behind.”

Well put.  There’s a reason why my Razorfish colleague Shiv Singh coined the term “Social Influence Marketing” as opposed to “social media.”  Social Influence Marketing says that marketers can and should employ social influencers and social media to meet their marketing and business objectives.  In other words, marketers can be empowered by social media and influencers, too.  Marketers just need to act wisely by incorporating social into broader forms of marketing, not tossing out the playbook completely — and by creating enjoyable consumer experiences and products that are as compelling as their advertisements.

Consumers will cede “control” to a brand that delights them in an authentic way.

PS: Dave Carroll has become something of a Social Influence Marketer himself. He now has versions of his “United Breaks Guitars” songs and video available for purchase online.