Archive for May, 2008|Monthly archive page

Indeed, Viral Marketing is Bullsh*t. Adoptive marketing is the future of Socially Responsible Marketing.

I have had to take a few days to digest Sam Lawrence’s Go Big Always post on viral marketing.  Don’t get me wrong, I was in full agreement with what he was saying from the moment I read it.  However, it did take me a little bit to really understand what it means for social responsibility in marketing–especially when it comes to non-profits and social change organizations.

Viral marketing, as Sam points out, is manipulative. In short, it seeks to trick people into viewing an advertisement. In my opinion, this manipulation is inherently socially irresponsible. It stems from organizations viewing new media in the same way that they view television and print media–as nothing more than vehicles for the delivery of advertisements. This view of media is still heavily influenced by the broadcast model of media that is largely uni-directional. In the case of viral marketing, marketers see new media as nothing more than a TV with a forward button that allows consumers to pass along their ads for them.

Adoptive marketing, Lawrence points out, is focused on the product. In the case of non-profits and social change organizations, that product is, in fact, social change. Lets face it, if you are so unable to get people to feel strongly about your message as a non-profit that viral marketing is your best bet, you need to rethink your organization’s message and mission. It saddens me the number of non-profits and social change organizations that are throwing the “viral” buzzword around. Just use the word “viral” in a search of jobs on the website Idealist.org and see the results.

Rather than viral marketing, organizations need to be spending their resources engaging their constituents with their mission. An example would be creating opportunities for people to be involved with issues on a personal level, such as asking them to create videos about the subject or take a hands on role in the movement. This type of “adoptive” approach is the intersection of socially responsible marketing and social media marketing. If organizations will be willing to forgo the seemingly quick and easy allure of viral marketing and embrace the more organic adoptive marketing approach, they will ultimately be more successful in building constituencies that are engaged and enthusiastic about their causes without having to trick them.

Social Media and Non-Profits: How can organizations find their human voice?

I had the opportunity to meet with an outstanding organization yesterday to talk about social media.  This organization is a faith-based group that is focused on social justice and eliminating poverty.  They already have a rather large presence in the world of traditional print media and are looking to expand into the world of social media.  The group has a lot of great ideas to use social media to affect social change while simultaneously accomplishing their marketing goals.

While the ideas shared in the meeting for user-generated content and social media organizing were great, I did walk away from the meeting with a concern for how organizations such as theirs can learn to, well, forget they are organizations.  I agree whole heartedly with the authors of the Cluetrain Manifesto that, if you want your communications to succeed, they must be spoken in a human voice. And, according to the book, “They will only sound human when they empower real human beings to speak on their behalf.” This is definitely a hard thing for organizations to do when they have so much concern about brand management and message control. Unfortunately, the time is here when message control and brand management can no longer be done through top-down mechanisms—that is as long as the organization wishes to remain relevant. Organizations must let their people be people and be heard.

So, how does an organization empower its people to speak to the world? First, it must give more than permission to speak…it must encourage it. An organization with members that are fully engaged in the mission is a much more attractive organization than one that appears to be no more than an institution with employees. If you want active constituents, you had better start in your own office.

Second, the organization must forget about controlling what is said and concentrate on authentically living out its mission. Authenticity should take care of the messiness of open communication. If this seems unreasonable, the problem is with authenticity and transparency, not with communication or message.

Finally, the organization has to forget about how this communication will fit into its business plan or how it will be measured. It has to trust that authentic communication will benefit the organization in ways that can not be measured. Organizations that continue conducting their marketing and PR in the new networked world as if the old rules of marketing still apply are going to be in for a healthy dose of irrelevancy really soon.

I am hopeful that the organization that I met with will do great things with their social media ventures. I am sure they will experience a lot of successes along with the obligatory educational failures that come with such experimentation. My hope is that some of those successes will come in the form of open, human communication from the organization.

Social Media Marketing – Are you an “Animateur” for your brand?

No, that is not a typo for “amateur”.  

The word “Animateur” is certainly a new one on me.  I barely got through two years of high school Spanish and, quite frankly, don’t remember my first two years of college.  So, needless to say, my French is completely non existent outside of being able to order a filet mignon.  The word is one that my school advisor put me on to and I think it deserves a lot of attention from us social media types.  

Animateur: to animate, to bring to life, to enliven, to spark, to create, to produce

This is the definition according to an article on the orchestra musician’s website Polyphonic.org.  The article, entitled An Animateur’s Journey: A report from the field, describes the work that the Philadelphia Orchestra does to bridge the gap between the orchestra and its audience. Each experiment in bridging that gap described in the article is nothing more than social media marketing.

I have witnessed a great deal of discussion as of late on Twitter about “community managers” and what their roles should or shouldn’t be within organizations. Social Media Marketing rockstar Jeremiah Owyang even lays out what he feels to be The Four Tenets of the Community Manager. As I observe the twitter discussions and read Mr. Owyang’s blog post, I am tempted to say that social media marketing types need to abandon the term “community manager” in favor of the term “Animateur”.

I say this for two reasons. First, the word “Animateur” seems to better capture the essence of what everyone seems to want in a “community manager.” Secondly, “Animateur” carries with it more passion and zest than the term “community manager”. Ultimately, I believe it will be easier to inspire a CEO, Board of Directors, Executive Director, VP of Marketing, etc., to fully buy into the benefits of social media marketing with a position that doesn’t sound as sterile as “community manager”.

If you are looking for an example of an “Animateur”, look to Stacey Monk of Epic Change. From the standpoint of social networking and social media marketing, Stacey is doing far more “animating” and “bringing to life” than “managing”. As a result of her role as “Animateur”, her organization has hit the radar of a huge number of people in a short amount of time.

For more info on Stacey and Epic Change, click here to listen to episode 2 of the Marketing 4 Change podcast.

Marketing 4 Change Podcast – Episode 2: Stacey Monk of Epic Change and Social Media Marketing

Epic Change

Episode 2 features Stacey Monk of Epic Change.

Stacey Monk

Stacey and Epic Change have recently enjoyed a great deal of success in the social media sphere–particularly with the microblogging tool Twitter.

To learn more about Stacey and Epic Change, go to www.epicchange.org.

Other links:
Epic Change Blog
“Your Stories Matter” YouTube Group
Follow Stacey on Twitter
Follow Sanjay Patel on Twitter
Stacey’s Guest Post on Go Big Always Blog

To download this episode, right click the button below and “Save as”
Epic Change

Follow me on Twitter

McDonald’s and Corporate Social Responsibility…are you kidding me?

Wow. McDonald’s has a Corporate Social Responsibility page. http://csr.blogs.mcdonalds.com/ . Is this not a sad, sad joke. The health of Americans is getting worse and worse. People are getting fatter and fatter. Our children are becoming alarmingly obese and McDonalds wants to act like they are good, socially responsible corporate citizens. What is next? Maybe next week we will see Philip Morris weigh in on the health care debate.

The Gospel of Consumption

I’ve been doing a lot of posting about how sustainability should go beyond just ecological sustainability and into every part of our society — including marketing and public relations.  Here is an article that I think everyone should read (http://www.orionmagazine.org/index.php/articles/article/2962). I’ll leave you with the article’s parting words, let me know what you think of it.

“If we want to save the Earth, we must also save ourselves from ourselves. We can start by sharing the work and the wealth. We may just find that there is plenty of both to go around. ”

Can organizations truly be sustainable in a capitalist system?

Question: Can organizations truly be sustainable in a free-market capitalist system?

Thought: As I read through many of the conversations about sustainability happening in blogs and articles, I see a lot of discussion about how companies can be sustainable while also fulfilling their obligations to their shareholders to be as profitable as possible. This is a valid concern if you consider the current economic system as an unchangeable given. However, to truly delve into the topic of sustainability, I feel you must move past the discussion of the topic on an organization-by-organization basis. To truly discuss the topic, shouldn’t you examine the sustainability of the economic system as a whole? How can we create sustainable organizations within a system that worships at the altar of infinite growth? I think the deeper, more difficult question we as a society must answer is, not “how sustainable are our organizations,” but “how sustainable is our way of life?”

Non-Profit Marketing placing a bet on social media?

A couple of days ago, Wailin Wong of The Chicago Tribune wrote an article describing how non-profits are beginning to enter the world of social media. While the article and the marketers quoted in the article make a lot of good points, the biggest benefit of social media to non-profits was missed.

Today, we find ourselves in a world of increasingly decentralized media that makes mass communication a bit of a challenge. (There are more podcasts today than radio stations in the world) Marketing in the social media space is now more about “pull” than “push.” Individuals can consume whatever they want whenever they want. With this challenge of how to reach mass audiences in mind, it will be difficult for non-profits to maintain the traditional posture of using marketing to gain new donors.

While gaining new donors will always be important, the role of marketing and PR in a highly niched world will be more about strengthening the ties you have with your stakeholders and transforming them into organizational evangelists and zealots. While the article touched on the engagement and relationship building aspects of social media marketing, when Wailin Wong describes non-profits as “betting that the Internet’s viral nature,” it is a bit like the guy showing up to the party in a Members Only jacket. “Viral” is so 2005. Social media, today, is about building smaller, niched communities that are passionate and committed to the cause. In terms of “viral”, any strange guy with a goofy song can be “viral,” however, it is the real, lasting connections that will pay off for non-profits in the long run.

From the mouths of babes….Chevrolet’s new commercial.

The new Chevy ad for the 2008 Tahoe Hybrid just came on. One of the last lines in the commercial was a little kid questioning the adult “They call it a green care when it’s an SUV?”.

Wow, the kid gets greenwashing but General Motors doesn’t.

Is Responsible Marketing the same as Socially Responsible Marketing?

I just finished listening to a podcast from ResponsibleMarketing.com in which Bill Boyd (no relation) interviewed the President and CEO of Outsource Marketing, Patrick Byers. The podcast is entitled The Seven Keys to Responsible Marketing. Those seven keys, according to Byers, are listed below:
1. strategic responsibility
2. casting responsibility
3. execution responsibility
4. message responsibility
5. ROI responsibility
6. environmental responsibility
7 social responsibility
(for definitions of these keys you can listen to the interview here.)

I really appreciate what Byers said in the interview and the way he included social responsibility and message responsibility in the list above, but I feel that he left out an important point that his organization does well. That point is that an organization that seeks to operate in a responsible manner (socially or otherwise) can not necessarily play with everyone. One of the core values that Byers’ organization lists on their website is “We work only with clients who share our values.” I think Byers needs to add an Eighth key to responsible marketing — relational responsibility.