Fear of Facebook: becoming social, but only behind our keyboards

As many of you know, for the last several years I have been doing a regular podcast with Paul Gillin on B2B marketing trends. Gillin has been in tech journalism for more than 30 years, having run Computerworld and TechTarget and written numerous books. It is a fun gig, and we offer a lot of insight, and you should subscribe if you are interested in the overall topic.

In our latest episode, we return to talking to Dan Newman, who is a very insightful guy for just being born when both Paul and I started in IT. Newman said one thing that I want to expand upon here. We were talking about the rise of customer self-service portals and methods, including using chatbots as a tool to provide quick answers. He thinks this is an indication that “We have become more social, but only behind our keyboards.” That is an interesting phenomenon.

I would amend that position to say not only have we become more social, but more critical to a fault thanks to our consumption of online social networks. You could lay the blame on Reddit, as this recent book does. (We are the Nerds, as reviewed in the NY Times here.) A better title for this book, as the reviewer David Streitfeld states, should be “We are the Trolls” and suggests its tag line should be “Two inexperienced young guys created something they didn’t understand and couldn’t control.” He writes, “the lack of adult oversight; the suck-up press; the growth-at-any-cost mentality; the loyal employees, by turns abused and abusive” all contributed to its offensive snark. In the end, it didn’t matter. Forget about connecting the world, or doing good, or bringing a voice to the disenfranchised. Reddit is a $2B media property, and in the Valley, money is what eventually matters.

That is a common theme for many tech companies, and it seems we are seeing the same effect happening down highway 101 at the Facebook campus (shown here). You should watch the two-part Frontline series this week about Facebook. During the program, you will see how in the process of connecting the world’s populace, it has inflamed their worst passions and stoked their fears. It interviews several current and ex-employees. While the latter might have axes to grind, it is worth hearing their points of view. You’ll hear how Trump’s digital media manager spent $100M on Facebook ads before the 2016 election. If you haven’t thought about this before, it is worth viewing both episodes to see how much influence the company has had, and how poor Zuck’s leadership has been. The program also highlights the rise of “fake news” across Facebook, such as these companion posts on the Pope endorsing either Trump or endorsing Clinton.

Think fake news is easy to spot? Take this quick quiz developed by the Newseum education staff. My wife and I tried it, and while we did reasonably well, we still got a couple of items wrong. Granted, we had a timed deadline to complete the quiz, and some of them we just guessed answers. But we saw that it is harder than we both thought, even when you have been told to be on the lookout. Imagine how much harder this task could be in our normal lives consuming online media posts?

The Frontline program interviewed their chief of security Alex Stamos who says, “Russia [through its advertising and fake accounts] wants to find fault lines in US society and amplify them, and to make Americans not trust each other.” Russians orchestrated two concurrent and co-located protest rallies in Houston, seeding participants on both sides. There is no question that Facebook is being used as an amplifier to promote hatred of all kinds. Just look at your own news feeds.

Farhad Manjoo’s column in the NY Times this week makes a case that Zuck is “too big to fail,” playing off the phrase used for the 2008 mortgage banking crisis. He mentions reports that tie Facebook posts to the Myanmar genocide, discriminatory advertising and multiple federal legal inquiries. He concludes by saying either Zuck fix Facebook, or no one does, like it or not.

But here’s the thing: as we become more social behind our keyboards, we can’t be as discriminating as we can when we meet people face-to-face. In embracing the self-service world, we are all doing ourselves a tremendous disservice too. Lies become truth, and democracy is turned inside out. It is time Facebook took responsibility for its power and role in this process.

FIR B2B podcast #108: Dan Newman’s 2019 tech trends for CMOs

Paul Gillin and I speak this week with Daniel Newman, author, speaker, millennial CEO and founding partner at Futurum Research. We were interested in a column he wrote for Forbes entitled, How Will The 10 Top Digital Transformation Trends For 2019 Impact The CMO. 

Dan highlighted a couple of the tech trends that will be essential items for CMOs to get their arms around in the coming year, including the transformation of data from machine learning to AI. “Analytics should be the CMO’s best friend,” he told us. “AI will allow for data-driven campaigns that will be guaranteed to work every time.”

Newman said data should play a pivotal role in marketing in the future, and don’t worry too much about over-personalizing the message. Nobody ever complains when a brand provides too much value and can help drive purchases that customers want at any given moment. The trick is to find the right moment and to target customers accurately.

The European Union’s new General Data Protection Regulation will force changes in the way brands market in the coming year, he said. They will have to become more creative about not just getting customers to opt in but to staying engaged. This means that companies are going to have change the way they do lead development. They’ll need to know customers better in order to personalize content because they’ll have less data to work with.

We had a particularly interesting discussion about chatbots as a mechanism for driving personal interactions. Newman sees us moving away from face-to-face moments, and the phenomenon isn’t limited to teens or Gen Xers. The rise of customer self-service is an indication that “We have become more social, but only behind our keyboards,” he said.

Another of his provocative predictions consumers will be able to use blockchain to, in effect, sell information about themselves to marketers.  While Newman sees this technology as still immature, he believes its long-term potential is explosive.

Finally, as the average tenure for CMOs continues to decline, they will have to do a better job of managing expectations and develop tighter relationships with their CEOs. You can listen to our 24 min. podcast here:

FIR B2B podcast #107: What LinkedIn’s Latest Sales Research Says About the State of B2B Marketing

When we last spoke to Justin Shriber (below), Vice President of Marketing for LinkedIn Sales and Marketing Solutions in episode #87 last January, he offered some predictions about the upcoming year in B2B marketing. His forecasts turned out to be is pretty solid, including closer alignment of marketing and sales functions and the growing importance of storytelling in promoting your brand. So we took advantage of a pitch for LinkedIn’s new State of Sales report to connect again. This third annual report examined how top sales performers – B2B in particular – are using technology and modern strategies to build trust with buyers and close more deals. The addition of buyer views this year makes the survey even more interesting reading.

The report found a resurgence of buyer interest in doing business with trusted vendors: 40% of sales professionals rank trust as the number one factor in closing deals — surprisingly rated above ROI and price. 

There are also some interesting age breakdowns. Millennials are outperforming their peers in sales effectiveness pretty much across the board, the survey found. Young sales reps are tapping into marketing insights and using tech at higher rates than their elders to help them succeed. Of course, their quotas might be lower, as well!

Buyers who are decision-makers are least likely to engage with sales professionals who lack knowledge about their company (79 percent) and whose products or services are irrelevant to their company (76 percent). Understanding the buyer’s business is now table stakes for salespeople, Shriber told us. Of course, LinkedIn has some features that can help with that. 

In this interview, we dig into a number of highlights of the survey as well as discuss trends LinkedIn is seeing in the use of its platform by sales pros. You can listen to the 20 min. podcast here. 

FIR B2B podcast episode #106: Tips for auditing and fine-tuning your content

This week Paul Gillin and I look at several resources that can be used to help examine your content marketing strategy in our podcast. You can listen to the 17 min. episode here.

First up, this piece by an executive with Athena Health talks about how the company took the time to look at how their site visitors were reacting to their posted content and adjusted accordingly. It also discusses the importance of storytelling as a component of content marketing. There are great tips here on how to improve your content portfolio.

Last month, GlaxoSmithKline introduced a brand incubator that is used for internal audits of all aspects of its marketing and messaging. While your company may not have the resources to do this on a full-time basis, reading this post on MarketingWeek could help inform your own thinking about how you can accomplish rebranding and using content specifically for this task.

Paul shares his thoughts about how small teams can be useful for this effort, particularly since they aren’t direct stakeholders.  This could be a way to innovate and fail fast. He also refers to a presentation that he has put together about content audits. You can download this slide deck from one of Paul’s presentations here. 

He suggests that you think across what he calls the content cube, as shown here. Each cell of the cube classifies the type, delivery vehicle and stage in marketing funnel for a particular content asset. Finally, we offer another content auditing worksheet from Hilary Marsh here.

FIR B2B Podcast #105: The Upside of Polarization and the Great Podcast Correction

This week Paul Gillin and I delve into details about the power of polarization in our podcast. Brands can certainly benefit, and this article shows exactly how Nike and Dick’s saw an increase in certain metrics after they took a particular political stand. Their experience shows that brands can reap benefits both from the positive and negative sentiment around a particular conversation. We wish more companies would take a stand on things that energize their most passionate advocates.

Next up is our favorite medium: podcasts. This story about how American Airlines turned an internal short podcast into a marketing benefit is worth noting. The podcast covers the behind-the-scenes thinking on airline policies. It was originally meant for employees, but executives decided to post the episodes publicly, saying There really is no such thing as internal communications anymore.”

Speaking about podcasts, some media companies have begun to sour on using them. The problem is one of managing expectations, and that quality costs money. NPR’s “Serial” podcast is a good case-in-point: it was well done, but expensive. 

We close this week’s show by talking about how the inevitable disappointment in voice (aka Alexa-based) marketing has set in, as witnessed by Marketing Week. Yes, the interface isn’t as intuitive as it could be, and certainly nowhere as comprehensive as typing on a keyboard. Plus, we all like to see the stuff we intend to buy, even if it is just a picture online. That reminds us of our favorite “Star Trek” clip of Mr. Scott, trying to use voice commands, only to end up typing on the keyboard.

You can listen to our 16min. podcast here: 

FIR B2B #104: DEALING WITH DISASTERS, BOTH NATURAL AND MARKETING-MADE

This week we discuss a few different items, all revolving around one kind of disaster or another. First, we note the news about the Benioffs buying Time magazine. With a fire-sale price, perhaps they can keep the weekly news magazine afloat and fund journalism that the publishers couldn’t do on their own. But will either of us read it in the future? Doubtful.

Next up, Paul wrote this fascinating article about a Talend GDPR survey. It shows that marketers can avail themselves of numerous after-the-fact opportunities. Who is talking about GDPR since the May deadline? We’ve heard crickets. Clearly, there is still much to be said about compliance, and the punishments ahead, such as the recent breach of British Airways’ customer data. Lawyers are standing by, to be sure.

Given the situation in the Carolinas with Florence, it’s timely to discuss some caveats and suggestions for natural disaster marketing. The thoughts covered in this blog post about how to tread carefully during these times are worth reviewing.

Next, Paul has a beef with a “new” product announcement for a product that was announced on a company blog three weeks ago. This means to us that it wasn’t actually new. If it is in the public, that is the news moment. After all, we can look this stuff up. Don’t pass off your news when it isn’t; you won’t engender any trust.

We also mention this post, about how patients are desperate to resemble their doctored selfies. Plastic surgeons alarmed by ‘Snapchat dysmorphia. While it had its beginnings with Instagram and Facebook, the elective surgery is frightening and depressing. David suggested reading Alicia Eler’s Selfie Generation book. When we asked her about this trend, she said “I see this as part of the same trend of selfie dysmorphia found on Instagram. Snapchat is used most by people under 23, so this is just another facet of the same selfie psychology stuff.”
<P.
Listen to our 17 min. podcast here:

FIR B2B PODCAST #103: WHY MARKETERS SHOULDN’T FEAR DATA ANALYTICS

This week our guest is Adam Jones, who is the head of marketing insights at Springer Nature, a public of many well-respected periodicals that include Nature and Scientific American. Jones is probably one of the few digital marketers that doesn’t hate click-through rates and page view numbers. Rather, he things we have to reinterpret them in new contexts to better understand what readers do after they click or view a page. “We get tons of data from every click, and create stronger calls to action as a result,” he told us during our interview.

Jones talks about why marketers are scared of data and analytics, but says you have to build a solid foundation in these techniques if you are going to be successful in marketing these days. He also discusses the unique challenges Springer faces catering to a highly educated and technical audience. Loyalty and longevity of readership are two of the company’s greatest assets.

Also on the podcast, I recount my recent trip to the Bletchley Park museums where modern digital computing was born during WWII. I blogged about it here.

Listen to our podcast.

FIR B2B podcast #102: Fixing Facebook’s flaws, for real this time

This week we review what Facebook could be doing to make things better for all of us. Its problems have been well documented, from privacy violations to a massive sell-off in its stocks to untrustworthy comments from its CEO. It’s CMO position has remained open for most of the year, prompting them to list the job on LinkedIn of all places.

I posted my thoughts on some of Facebook’s issues two months ago. I talk with my podcast partner Paul Gillin about how the company can rescue its image from the recent tarnishing, such as:

You can listen to our 15 min. podcast here:

FIR B2B podcast #101: Machine learning comes to marketing

This week we talk about new ways that machine learning and artificial intelligence can benefit marketing organizations. While these three news items are all different aspects of this technology, they show collectively how these new technologies are changing the way marketing is done.

First up is a new smartphone app called Truthify that does advertising context analysis (as shown at right). The app interprets the user’s facial expressions to deliver what it thinks the user’s emotional state is, including fear, anger, or happiness, among other traits. The app comes with a web dashboard so you can analyze your campaigns and the resulting demographics. The app is now available for iOS users and soon for Android.

Second is a new influencer platform called AdHive. It is a combination of influencer marketing and AI-powered campaign management. You can sign up for the tool and influencers are paid to participate, while advertisers can choose the right kinds of people to exploit, er, we mean make use of, their tool.

Finally, Google last week announced four new products using machine learning that are aimed at helping marketers create more effective ads. These include responsive search ads, tools to optimize YouTube traction and local campaign management and smarter shopping. Google claims that advertisers who have tested these services have seen clicks increase by 15 percent.

Marketers who have been loathe to adopt new technologies do so at their own peril. These tools are good examples of what the future portends.

You can listen to our 18 min. podcast with my partner Paul Gillin here.

How to market your book in the social media age

(This article originally appeared in the newsletter of the St. Louis Publishers Assn. It is part of a speech that I gave in July 2018 about marketing books by self-publishers.)

The most important phase of writing your book has nothing to do with the actual act of writing. It is in finding the right people who will promote the book to the world and turn potential readers into your buyers.

Back in the old days, before the Internet became popular, book authors hired publicists to promote authors, get them booked on talk shows and for book tours. They still exist, but there are other paths towards promotions. And what is good is that you can largely do much of this work on your own, if you have some self-promotional skills. The biggest part of that is in understanding how social media influencers work. (Here is a link to start your research.)

These influencers are the people that have the right kinds of followers in their networks. And they can become very powerful allies in your book marketing plan, and the cost to use them is pretty much just your time, and tenacity.

So how do you find these folks? The first thing is looking at your own social media networks, and making a list of the people that would be relevant to the topic of your book. What, you don’t have many friends on your networks? Now is the time to get busy friending people, and seeking out folks that could become pathways to promotion. You don’t need thousands of names, but you do need to approach this task on a regular basis, and friend new people every day. For those of us who are introverts, this can be painful, and can run counter to our instincts to hide behind our computer screens. Try to fight this, and reach out to people across your neighbors, your work colleagues, your church or other social organizations, and so forth.

One thing you don’t want to do is to buy lists of names. While this is certainly possible, you don’t know the quality of the names you are getting, and chances are many of these names aren’t going to be helpful to your book promotion anyway. Save your money.

Next, figure out the keywords that describe your audience, topic, focus, and what they are interested in and why they would buy your book. This means using these keywords to do many Google searches. Many means hundreds. Sometimes, you want to combine two or three keywords to be more effective.

Next, pick your social media network where your audience will hang out. If your book has a visual component, then stick with Pinterest or Instagram. If you have news-related content, Twitter. If it is general interest fiction, Facebook. Business-related topics, LinkedIn. These aren’t hard and fast choices, and feel free to experiment with more than one social network if you have the time. This doesn’t mean you need to craft a separate collection of Tweets, Pinterest Pins, etc. In fact, you can share announcements across multiple social networks. A good tool to do this is Hootsuite (shown here).

While you are doing all of this, you should settle on your book title and domain name for your book’s website. Yes, you need a website. Part of that website should be an email newsletter, where you tell your potential readers what is going on with your book, so they can get involved in its writing and production. You should commit to writing one post every week in the months leading up to your book launch on your website. After all, you are a writer!

Next, start collecting email addresses from your social media connections and use them to populate an email list. There are plenty of low-cost web hosting providers out there, and plenty of choices with email server companies such as MailChimp, ConstantContact, SendGrid, and others. Many of these services have free plans if your list is small, so take advantage of them. You can send out a new email with a copy of each blog post to save time if you wish.

Finally, start thinking about collecting reviewers. There is an entire universe of Amazon influencers, but I won’t get into that here.Look at NetGalley, especially if you want to join the IBPA. This is a website that is used to promote new books to a list of active readers and reviewers. Good luck with your marketing!