Questions about Social Media/ Implications for Marketers

Lee Odden has asked a couple questions, in advance of the MiMA event tomorrow night. He’ll be posting them on his blog in an edited form. I don’t mean to scoop him, but here are my answers to his questions.

MIMA is having an upcoming
about social media in the enterprise, "Dual Reality: Who
Controls Social Media in the Enterprise". How did the event and your
involvement with it come about? What are some key topics?


Doug Pollei and I were talking in January about the social media,
how companies like General Mills were going to be changed by it, and how much
we had to learn. At the same time, he was looking into starting up a local
chapter of the Social Media Club. I though there was a clear synergy with MiMA,
suggested he approach MiMA about a joint program. He’s a driver, and he made it
happen. I’m happy to be part of it!


I’m looking for case studies in how other companies are handling
social media, how they’re working with agencies, which agencies they are using,
etc. I’m also really interested in learning about how to manage these efforts
across a complicated set of business groups (agencies, internal departments,
functions, etc.)


How would you define "social media" to someone not fluent in
interactive or online marketing?


I’m going to rip off Dan Zane’s definition of folk music: Social
media is media for social people. Or, a
slightly more complicated version: Social media is the online content left by people as a by-product of
being social online. It’s the media that results when folks write, review, share, trade,
connect, etc. online.


A lot of people define it by the tools: IM, twitter, Facebook, etc.
It’s easy to look at the technology that delivers the media – like TV, radio,
magazines. But, the key in this model is that the media is more associated with
the behavior than with the to



What are some of the common issues large organizations encounter when trying to
evaluate and adopt social media technologies? Are you seeing more internal or
external facing applications? (ex: building a private social network vs
engaging in existing/public social networks)


only stuff I care about right now is consumer facing. I don’t care too much
about Enterprise 2.0 (though I know that I need the same tools for internal
communications that I’m seeing take off in the consumer space).


phenomenon is just getting started, even though to those of us who are on
Twitter and compusively reload Techmeme it feels like it’s been around a while.
It’s still so early in the game! Big companies that have been historically
reliant on mass media are just now beginning to realize the extent to which
their worlds will change as a result of social media.


couple key issues:

  • Efficiency is elusive – Large companies have made a science out of finding
         efficiencies in media, and have been pretty successful squeezing most of
         the fat out of production budgets. But, social media, in a lot of ways, is the exact opposite of mass:
         Labor intensive, highly involved, non-standardized.
  • Agency Capabilities are Immature – Big
         companies are critically dependent on their agencies as a way to run lean
         internally. But 90% of ad agencies are still trying to figure out how to
         deal with display and SEM. Social media is going to be a total mind-fuck
         for them. And a lot of the "social media agencies" are making it
         up everyday, as they go along. No one has this figured out, and big
         companies aren’t really staffed right to figure it out themselves.
  • Evaluating success – What’s a
         good result? We all know home runs when we see them in other media, but
         what does a a successful social media campaign look like? How big does
         that success have to be to drive the business?
  • Velocity -By it’s nature,
         social media is slower than Mass. The Blendtec guys were at it for a
         while, before "Will it Blend" went big. Viral hits like
         "elf-yourself" don’t just happen overnight in most cases, even
         if it seems like it to us. Tv-centric companies are used to turning on the
         ad (or dropping the FSI, or starting the promotion) and seeing the results immediately. For
         companies that are used to the velocity of impact that comes from "mass"
         media, the slow, steady approach may be frustrating.
  • Branding vs. Advertising – Social media seems more appropriate for building brand equity than for advertising. There’s a nuanced distinction between branding and advertising that is easy to lose in the execution.


me, the scariest thing is the tension between wanting to move fast on this
stuff, and not wanting to make a major commitment too soon. I think the idea of
"first move advantage" is mostly bullshit in this space. Maybe it’s
because I’m getting older, or because my brands have more to lose, but I’m
really getting comfortable with the idea of being the smart follower.


media is creating whole new communication patterns, consumers are learning new
habits and they’re inventing new ways of taking in information. And the
technology to make it all go is literally being invented right now. As an
entrepreneuer, I’d want to be right in the middle, creating the change. As a
marketer, I’m comfortable with the idea of watching things evolve for a while.  The last thing i’d want to do is go do something ham-fisted and get our brands burned as a result of haste or recklessness.



Can you share a few high level tips for companies that are in discovery mode
when it comes to tasks such as deciding on social platforms and applications,
internal management and success measurement?


an unreliable source here. We’re still
sorting out this stuff, but I’ll let you know when I’m confident enough that
we’ve been successful. Here are principles we’re working from:

  • Fail fast and small
  • Pull the trigger slowly
  • Manage experimentation like a
         portfolio. Assume that out of 10 experiments, you’ll get one smash, 2-3
         qualified wins, one or two that seem like noble failures, and the rest
         will probably wash out.


piece of advice that I would give is, work really closely with the companies.
Facebook, Myspace, Google, Yahoo, Cafemom, Videoegg, have all been very willing
to work with us to create successes.



What are some of the resources (sites, blogs, books, events, networks,
applications, etc) that you rely on for information on social media best


reading list is much more narrow than both it should be and it used to be. I
don’t think I’ve got anything unique to share here…



I asked this question of Charlene
in a previous interview about Groundswell, so you can’t use her answer
(RSS). If you were a social technology, which one would you be?

Short attention span, limited capabilities, impulsive, compulsive, flexible


BONUS!  What question should I really be asking you? (and the answer of


are you making decisions about where to invest energy and time in social media?

are you placing your long term bets? (not telling)

Facebook the next AOL? (yes)

the web page dead? (Not yet, but it’s dying pretty quickly)

comes after the webpage? (the feed)

professional, quality content dead? (it’s not nearly as valuable as it used to


  1. Jim
    Interesting points especially regarding “experimentation.” It’s something I used to preach at ConAgra Foods. How did the panel go?


  2. Woah. Content! And very timely content. I am in the middle of pulling together a similar presentation for folks at our company. There is a pretty big generation gap here between senior-level managers and junior-level staffers and that has translated into a technology awareness and application understanding gap. I sit in brainstorms and hear team leaders throw out ideas of ways to engage consumers through social media and it is clear they have absolutely no idea how it really works. Selling product is one thing, but I’m in the business of selling ideas and behavior changes which is more difficult to quantify. If you are interested, I can send you links to some of the best thinking on social media out there. (One, Geoff Livingston – author of Now is Gone is a former colleague and good friend of mine.) frankly, the more I read the more overwhelmed I become. (i can’t even tell you what my feed reader looks like..)
    Was the presentation recorded or podcast? I didn’t see a link. And sorry I missed all of this. I guess I need to check in more often.


  3. Jim,
    I really liked your definition of social media – Dan Zane was certainly talking about a lot more then just folk music. . . jazz, SM. . .
    I have been thinking about, and recently wrote about how the question, “What is Social Media”, changes given the stakeholder. In my post, I cited your above choice of words to set the stage.
    . . . and here’s my post:


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