Get a Clue Lou – Don’t Trust Your Social Media To An Intern

First, the back story. Lou Adler is an author, consultant and recruiter who provides hands-on advice for job-seekers, hiring managers and recruiters on how to find the best job and hire the best people. Lou is also one of the top influencers on LinkedIn with nearly 700,000 followers.

I have been following Lou’s posts for quite some time – I respect his sometimes controversial opinions and am even connected with him on LinkedIn.

However, I saw something from Lou last week that really stuck in my craw and is at the top of the list of my social media pet peeves. My top issue is with people and companies who think that anyone can do social media and who minimize the profession by not fully understanding the depth and breadth of expertise necessary to successfully create and implement social media and content management strategies.

Lou posted a job description for a Social Media Intern, aka All-Around Digital Marketing Maven on LinkedIn last week. The job description outlines the challenges of the position for a “savvy digital native”:

  • get significant exposure for Lou’s posts, book and column
  • manage the Facebook page and take it to the next level with increased engagement and better conversion
  • create and launch marketing plans and mini-projects using social media and traditional PR
  • exercise your creativity and develop your own PR and social media projects

I apologize in advance for the weak take-off of Paul Simon’s 50 Ways to Leave Your Lover

Here’s the rub Lou. It’s all right to hire college interns to gain real life experiences and expertise, but your job post description is cheapening the social media profession by assuming an intern is going to be an all-around digital marketing maven and a savvy digital native and be able to achieve the results you desire. Just because someone has had a Facebook page since they were 13 doesn’t make them digitally savvy from a business standpoint. Not to mention, someone with minimal marketing and life experiences is not going to get you significant exposure, take your Facebook page to the next level and develop their own PR and social media projects. Interns also won’t have the strategic outlook to see the big picture and how various pieces of your business are inter-related. I’m ok with you trying to help a college student and get some marketing help at bargain-basement prices, but don’t diminish our profession with the expectation that you can get a high level of expertise at that price. Real social media expertise comes from years of experience in social media, marketing, content management, branding, customer service, technology, operations, analytics and project management. While there may be some success stories of interns being successful in corporate social media marketing, I have not run across any in my experience.

Call it like it is. I have always admired your posts for their honesty and bluntness, and for calling both employers and jobseekers on the carpet for not understanding that the hiring world has changed. Likewise, I trust you’ll respect the bluntness of this message from a social media expert. You wouldn’t hire an intern to handle one of your top recruiting gigs, so don’t think you should hire a short-term-focused intern to be the face of your personal and corporate brand on social media.

Too many companies do not really understand what it takes for someone to be successful in social media. I wrote a blog post with my ‘perfect’ social media job description for a project several years ago. When I went back to re-read it today, most of the thoughts I had in 2008 are still applicable today. While some of the social tools may have changed, the need for having deep experience and expertise in the multiple disciplines that come into play for successful social media marketing is still an important success factor.

Most (if not all) social media practitioners would also agree with my viewpoint. For example, I found a recent article on Inc.com from titled “11 Reasons a 23-Year-Old Shouldn’t Run Your Social Media.” Hollis asks whether you really want to entrust your entire social media efforts to a recent college graduates who does not have the maturity, social etiquette, business understanding, communication skills and well-rounded expertise in marketing, customer service, public relations, crisis management and branding necessary to do the job properly. Obviously, I am in total agreement with Hollis.

Respect the profession. Lou, I just want you to have the proper respect for the social media and marketing profession and stop contributing to the myth that anyone with a social media account can do social media. I want you to successfully use social media and wish you the best in your latest search. Just remember this simple thought…social media is not kid’s play!

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Altimeter Group’s State of Social Business for 2013

The Altimeter Group recently pulled together data from four years of surveying digital strategists and have published the findings in a report The State of Social Business 2013.

The top findings include:

  • Only 17% of companies have self-described themselves as “strategic” in the execution of their social strategies.
  • 78% of companies have a dedicated social media team, at the division, corporate or both levels — only 22% of companies do not have a dedicated team.
  • Companies are committing more headcount to social media across all sizes of organizations.
  • 85% of companies have an organizational social media policy, yet only 18% of companies report that their employees’ knowledge of social media usage and the organizational policy is either good or very good.

The full report and Powerpoint slides are presented below. 

Community Management Tweets From November 2011

For some reason, I have seen a number of great blog posts on community management over the last 2 weeks and have added them to my Twitter stream.  Maybe people are finally starting to realize that community management is an integral part of social media and customer experience?

To make it easier for me to find these resources in the future, I am consolidating all of my recent community management tweets into a blog post.

Enjoy!

5 Essential Traits for Community Managers by @stuartcfoster in @mashablehttp://ow.ly/7y8ZW

10 Community Manager Tools You Might Not Know by @Renee_Warren ow.ly/7vsdf

Online Community Managers: When Community Should Be About You — from @Kommein ow.ly/7vsaR

4 Ways to Make Your Professional Online Community More Fun | by @Joshua_D_Paul in @B2Community ow.ly/7mP6O #gamification

Fire Your Marketing Manager and Hire A Community Manager – from @armano in- Harvard Business Review ow.ly/7ksFc #socialmedia

The Future of Online Community | by @vdimauro in Social Media Today ow.ly/7eoHP – look for specialized private online communities

Altimeter: The Two Career Paths of the Corporate Social Strategist. Be Proactive or Become ‘Social Media Help Desk’ « from @JOwyang – ow.ly/7t1bi

“My Chapter on #Gamification: From Behavior Model to Business Strategy” – a wealth of resources from @mich8elwu ow.ly/7xf4O

Games, gamers and business strategy… In CIO.com #gamification m.blogs.cio.com/cio-role/16614…

Do Paid Tweets Make You Nauseous?

Whenever I am driving in my car in the afternoon, I listen to the Mason & Ireland sports talk radio show on ESPN710 LA.  Yesterday, I heard an interesting discussion about sponsored tweets among athletes.  They were talking about athletes getting paid for sponsored tweets and pointed out two of the more highly compensated tweeters – former Laker Shaq O’Neil and football player Chad Ochocinco – and also mentioned an article about 5 New Orleans Saints plugging their Twitter feeds for the New Orleans Saints community in the Times-Picayune.

According to Mason and Ireland, Shaq makes about $5 million per year by tweeting to his 4.4 million followers, but he does it with a sense of humor and wit.  On the other hand, Ochocinco appears to blatantly plug his products to his 2.9 million followers.  You can follow the entire discussion with John and Steve from yesterday’s Mason & Ireland show at this link.

For me, it was interesting to hear a social media story spill over into sports talk radio, and the topic generated a bit of debate.  They ultimately posed the question – is there anything ethically wrong with paid tweeting?

In the article about the New Orleans Saints’ player tweeting for the Times-Picayune, the author stated:

The idea of paying players to promote the news site raised a red flag for media ethics educators who say it can create the appearance of an inappropriate relationship between reporters and the subjects they cover.

Upon further review, I also found an article published this week on CNBC.com by Darren Rovell titled, “Paid Tweets are a Gray Area for Athletes and Celebrities“.

[It is a little ironic that Darren wrote an article on paid tweets and his Twitter profile picture includes a Honda logo.  Is he a paid celebrity for Honda or did he just like that picture of himself in front a Honda vehicle enough to select it as a profile photo?]

In the CNBC article, Darren writes about Michael Vick tweeting for McDonalds and mentions a Twitter advertising company called MyLikes.com.  I had never heard of the company, so I decided to check it out.  It turns out that anyone can sign up with MyLikes and begin to monetize their Twitter stream.  After registering for MyLikes, a user is presented with a list of possible tweets (and per click payments) that they can then send out to ‘endorse’ a product or website.

My Paid Tweet Stats from MyLikes.com

To test the service, I actually sent out a couple of tweets from the platform – and earned myself 18 cents for my efforts (but I won’t get paid until I reach a $2 threshold).  I liked that I could actually edit the tweets to modify the tweet to fit my style, and then platform automatically adds a link and “-spon” at the end of the tweet.   The “-spon” is a flag that indicates a sponsored tweet and signals to others that it is a ‘commercial’.

My Experiment With Sponsored Tweets on MyLikes.com

Personally, posting a couple of sponsored tweets feels a little ‘dirty’ and unethical to me.  The little ‘-spon’ added to my tweet could easily be missed and I am sure that many celebrities do not even bother to mention their paid relationship.  Legally, the FTC requires bloggers and tweeters to disclose their connections but the rules governing disclosure are vague and do not appear to be prosecuted.  As a brand, I also think there are far more creative ways to reach customers than using sponsored tweets.

Since I do not actively follow many athletes or celebrities, I appear to be immune to their sponsored tweets and cannot remember even seeing any such tweets.  Or maybe it’s because of the way I use Twitter as a personal bookmark and search engine that I don’t really run across too many ‘spammy’ tweets.  In any case, spamming and advertising on Twitter are here to stay, just like on any other media platform, but I do not think they are effective and my experiment with them is ending.  

So, what do you think about paid and sponsored tweets?

——————————————————————————

I also found the following articles and points of view while writing this post and want to share them as well:

From NPR.org — FTC: Bloggers Must Disclose Paid Endorsements

From Techcrunch.com — Full Disclosure: Sponsored Conversations on Twitter Raise Concerns, Prompt Standards

From blogger John Bell — Are Paid Tweets Effective?

From BusinessWeek.com — The Art of Advertising on Twitter

Insights from IBM’s Global CMO Marketing Study

IBM released a new marketing study titled “From Stretched to Strengthened” based on interviews with more than 1,700 Chief Marketing Officers (CMOs) from around the world.

The study is available from the IBM CMO Study website which also includes links to other resources including two webinars that discuss the results of the study and an Executive Summary.  One of the webinars will be held on Friday, October 14th at 9am Eastern and will be hosted by both Harvard Business Review and IBM.  In addition, IBM has created a sub-group on LinkedIn to discuss the study in more depth.

One of the first graphics in the Study shows that CMOs are underprepared to manage the impact of key changes in the marketing arena.

Based on the areas where CMOs are underprepared below, it would appear that CMOs have not kept up with changes in the marketing environment.  Many of these changes occurred during the last 3 to 5 years when most CMOs had already moved away from day-to-day operations into management of the marketing function.  But many of these changes have been driven from the ‘bottom’ which means that these CMOs do not have hands-on experience with most of the these functions – especially the top 4 of data explosion, social media, growth of channel and device choices and shifting consumer demographics.

The 3 strategic insights from the study are that CMO’s need to help their organizations:

  • Deliver value to empowered customers
  • Foster lasting connections
  • Capture value and measure results

Delivering value to empowered customers means finding out who the customers are, what they want and how they want to interact with the organization.  Customers have so many interaction choices and not all of them can be treated in the aggregate as marketers have done in the past.

Foster lasting connections is all about enhancing customer loyalty and encouraging satisfied customers to ‘share’ the marketing effort by becoming active advocates for the brand, product or company.  The companies that figure this out first will have a huge advantage as disaffected customers have many options today and are very quick to publicly share both positive and negative opinions to their socially networked connections.

Capturing value and measuring results should be at the top of all CMOs lists.  In the past, marketing professionals have gotten a bit lazy when it comes to quantifying the return or ROI of their marketing investments.  In the new marketing order, they will have to apply financial discipline to all of their programs.

The Executive Summary also offered some targeted actions to address them:

Summary From IBM CMO Study - Executive Summary

The full CMO study is available below or you can check out the ibm.com/cmostudy website.

There are also a number of videos about the Study posted by IBM on YouTube, including this one:

Social Media – Doing It The In-N-Out Way

In-N-Out Logo from the Dallas Observer Dish Blog

I am currently reading about the In-N-Out story (In-N-Out Burger – A Behind-the-Counter Look at the Fast-Food Chain That Breaks All The Rules by Stacy Perman).  If you not from the West Coast (historically California, but there are now locations in Arizona , Nevada and Texas), you may never have enjoyed an In-N-Out experience.  In-N-Out is the quintessential Southern California hamburger chain that was founded in Baldwin Park, California by Harry and Esther Snyder in 1948.

In any case, the book got me to thinking about In-N-Out’s success, it’s fanatically loyal and cult-like following and how I could relate the success to social media.  As a starting point, I know that In-N-Out’s customers provide a significant amount of word-of-mouth marketing compared to some of the largest fast food chains – so I compared their Facebook fans to the number of store locations:

Top Fastfood Chains - Facebook Fans Per Location - at 9/30/2011

My quick analysis shows that the number of Facebook Fans per location for In-N-Out is almost 8 time the closest competitor and more than 25 times McDonalds which is the largest fast food chain.  This demonstrates that size or the number of locations are not always predictors of social media success.

How did In-N-Out earn and grow this loyally rabid fan base?  What have they done differently than their competitors?  Do they have any social media secrets?  How can other brands build a similar mystique and popularity.

Here are some of the ‘rules’ that have guided In-N-Out over the years:

Keep it real simple — In-N-Out has had the same menu for the last 63 years (other than switching from Pepsi to Coke in the 1970s) and they have never varied from a simple approach of providing the freshest and highest quality ingredients for their menu.

Do one thing and do it the best you can — In-N-Out has grown organically since 1948 and all of the locations are company-owned (no franchises).  They located their restaurants near popular exits off of the burgeoning Interstate Highway system and far enough away from each other to create scarcity.   They built their distribution system and located their stores so they could deliver fresh hamburger, buns and other ingredients to every store on a daily basis.  Hamburgers are never frozen and french fries are made from potatoes that are cut in each store.

Know your customers — In-N-Out initially catered to the car culture of Southern California and the founder owned a drag racing strip in Irwindale in the 1960s.  They were also able to leverage the growing legions of Southern California surfers who could not pass up a chance for a Double-Double burger on the way home from surfing.  They have provided their customers with a consistent and quality experience for more than two generations.

Pay attention to the details –In the beginning, Harry Snyder personally inspected every potato and had very high standards from his ground beef providers.  One of the reasons for the slow growth was that Harry wouldn’t open a new restaurant until he had a valued and experienced employee who he could trust with managing the location to his exacting standards.  All employees learn the business from the bottom (generally picking up trash in the parking lot) and gradually work their way into more responsibility.

Build a strong corporate culture — In-N-Out created the In-N-Out University where they were able to imbue and reinforce the corporate culture for all new managers.  Rule number one was that “the customer is always right”, and rule number two was “if in fact, the customer was not right, refer to rule number one”.  In-N-Out was able to maintain their culture through a slow and controlled growth strategy – and they would only open a new location when they knew that they had another manager, fully trained and steeped in the culture, ready to take over.

Treat people right — In-N-Out still runs more like a family than as a business.  Even in the beginning, employees were referred as Associates and not just ‘ the help’.  This treatment led to many employees starting at In-N-Out and remaining there for their entire career.  In-N-Out has always paid more than the competition, and the current starting pay is $10 per hour and all full-time employee are eligible for health benefits.  As a result, In-N-Out’s employee turnover is much lower than the industry average which contributes to a consistent experience in every store and to maintaining the corporate culture.

You cannot argue with In-N-Out’s success, but some of In-N-Out’s strategies are actually counter-intuitive to social media best practices.

 Keep it simple — The strength of keep it simple means In-N-Out fanatically sticks to their tried-and-true model and that they never experiment with new menu items or new concepts.  Social media is all about experimenting with new ideas, so a keep it simple formula is counter to what is generally associated with social media.

Slow growth — In-N-Out took the slow route to growth and remains a private company today compared to other fast food chains that became public companies and added locations and franchises as fast as they could be built in the 1960’s and 1970’s.  Traditional social media wisdom is to grow fast, capture as many eyeballs as you can and grow customers.  On the other hand, the slow growth for In-N-Out led to scarcity and built even more loyal customers who willingly went out of their way to get their burger fix.

Closed — While social media is all about sharing and openness, In-N-Out does not share much information publicly and they never have.  In fact, they have never spent much money on advertising and it does not appear that they are spending many resources on social media.  The have an inactive Twitter account and it appears that they only passively manage their Facebook account and rarely engage with their customers.   I would generally recommend that restaurants engage with customers on Yelp and Foursquare as well, but it does not look like they are doing that either.

I do have a couple of social media recommendations for In-N-Out:
  1. Share more — As an In-N-Out fan, I want more background information on your company.  I want to know about the people and the behind-the-scenes stories that make In-N-Out the great company that it is today.  The book talks about Hamburger TV and the employee newsletter that is shared monthly, and I would just like to see some of that content shared publicly.  I also want to read a corporate blog that gives me an in-depth perspective on what is going on at In-N-Out.
  2. Engage more — I would like to see more active social media engagement from In-N-Out.  Post on your Facebook Wall, start a customer fan community, and offer more ways for customers to talk about and interact with other In-N-Out fans when we cannot make it to a restaurant.  Oh, and stop ignoring your Twitter account.

In any case, you cannot argue with In-N-Out’s success and I doubt that they will take my suggestions as their “keep it simple” formula has done very well for them.  [sidenote: if anyone from In-N-Out Management sees this post, I ready and willing to start implementing my suggestions at any time.]

Writing this blog post and reading the book have definitely given me a hankering for a “Double Double, Animal Style”.  I’m so lucky to have 2 locations within 5 miles of my house and I’m on my way to grab a quick lunch right now!

In-N-Out Double Double (Animal Style) Courtesy of Laughing Squid Via Flickr

For some other In-N-Out information, check out these links:

And for those of you who have never been inside an In-N-Out or want a quick view, here is a short teaser video from Huell Howser who does a television show on PBS called California Gold: