There’s Content and Then There’s the Right Content.

I was scrolling though my Facebook feed this morning…as many of us do…and noticed an update from a radio station that I use to program in Des Moines. It was what I consider a pointless status update, more of a commercial than an update really. I’m sure most would just scroll by or delete it. Being in the content building business, I headed to their page. Oh boy…

A quick bit of  background here: 95 KGGO is a Rock station that, over the past 35+ years has evolved into a Classic Rocker. They’ve always been a monster in the market and set the tone for rock in central Iowa for years. Personally, my 13 years there as Promotions and Program Director generate some of the best memories I have of my days “in radio.” Like many stations it has become less local and live staff has become scarce. I’m sure a favorite station of yours “isn’t what it use to be.” But this is not about whining about the “good ol’ days” of radio. The fact is, the way the business of broadcasting is done has changed. However, the need to build audience and create fans has not.

That brings me back to their page. It does little if anything to make anyone care about KGGO. It does little to tell me about what and who they are. It does little to make me love them. It does EVERYTHING to sell me something. And that is exactly why they are failing in taking advantage of Facebook as a way to create passionate, lasting fans.

I’ve noted the problem areas in the screenshot on the left. (Click on it to open a larger version)

  1. The ‘About Us’ doesn’t tell me about them. It offers a phone number that, when called, went unanswered. This station has heritage (note 35+ years of it above), is there really nothing you can tell me about?
  2. The “Listen Live” image/link takes me to a page that has no audio and no information listed. If you’re going to have a “listen” link there, I really ought to hear something.
  3. There is soooooo much content dedicated to “pimping” the station and contesting. For years, the effectiveness of “caller number nine” contests on radio has proven to be nil. Why would anyone think it would be great to promote it on Facebook?
  4. Holy crap! Some actual personality content. I love the South Park version of on-air guy, Clutch. There’s an actual attempt at interaction with fans. Sadly, it goes no further than one question. There’s no conclusion. The photo of the guy with the hat (on larger version) is hilarious. While I’m sure the first reaction by the station brass is that they would not like this guy to show up at a client. However, the thing to do is embrace him. Make this guy the Fan of the Week. Too much fun is possible here.

What kind of content creator would I be if I didn’t offer some additional ideas on what to post that someone would really care about, keep them coming back and (shocker) actually listen to the station. Okay, along with what I’ve already mentioned, here you go:

  1. Involve your fans. Why not check out some of the pages of your fans and share something they are sharing. Keep it light-hearted and don’t get personal. If their sharing a link to something the station is known for, share it. Don’t share personal tragedy or hardship. You want them to like you…
  2. More photos of events…with fans.
  3. Snippets of on air audio.
  4. Comments from the staff. In this case Bob and Tom, a syndicated show, isn’t in house and can’t comment on every affiliate’s page. But, they are commenting on their own page. Share it.
  5. Video, video, video! Create your own, share music videos, comment on Youtube.

So, who’s’ going to do all this? Start with the person that seems to have plenty of time to post ads and promos for contests now, but also involve everyone of the people at the station. They’ve probably got more ideas! By the way, have they all “Liked” your page?

Sadly, KGGO is not alone here. It’s a challenge each and every day with each and every project to keep fresh and compelling content coming. It’s not easy and it’s really not free but, it is worth it. so, Do it for the fans!

Catching Up With Chris

On his recent visit to the Twin Cities I grabbed lunch with Chris Brogan. Chris, President of New Marketing Labs and a Social Media Rock star, enjoyed a Juicy Lucy and brought me up to date with his latest adventures.

There are a growing list of Social Media Experts out there, but Chris is the real deal when it comes to listening, learning, and doing. He also goes further than most in sharing and teaching and he remains very accessible and approachable.

Chris, thanks for clogging my arteries and filling my brain.

If Video Seems Daunting…

…relax. In fact, remain calm. As promised in my post on who’s using video (what I called the wind-up), I wanted to share a second interview, the pitch, with Steven Rosenbaum from

In this discussion I asked Steven to review his presentation and outline ways to overcome the “three boogeymen” also known as the reasons many avoid using video in our personal or business brand online strategy.

  • Video is too expensive
  • Raw user generated content isn’t brand safe.
  • Filtering the web is too much work.


FTC Guidelines or Not…Check Your Ethics.

Whether you know it or not, much is being made of the updated FTC Guidelines governing endorsements and testimonial in the world of blogging and may other areas of social media. These FTC Guidelines as well as FCC rules and regulations stipulating the disclosure of “material consideration” involved have long been a part of everyday business in radio and TV. So it’s nothing new to me.

As you might expect, many that use the openness of the internet to freely express themselves fear any type of regulation. I would never fault anyone who seeks to be vigilant when it comes to any kind of control of one’s freedoms. However, I do scratch my head when some bloggers and social media types complain that something needs to be done about the many abuses of that openness, like pop-up advertising and spam, yet scream when they are asked to clearly disclose any compensation they may get for their opinions.

No matter where you fall on these guidelines, it’s really quite simple…be honest and be open. Then you won’t need worry about any of it.

With that in mind I thought I’d share this little excerpt from the BlogWell event I attended at General Mills not that long ago. Presented by the folks at GasPedal, the day long event showcased some interesting social media endeavors. It also gave Andy Sernovitz a chance to talk about ethics in the on line and interactive space.

My apologies for the audio quality. You’ll need to listen carefully, but I think it’s worth it.

Social Media: Keepin’ it Real

Every once in awhile it’s good to be reminded that our busy lives are influenced by…what’s the word I’m looking for…buzz, spin, hype, BS? It’s no different for those of us who work in media and marketing. Even I, who considers himself ‘a voice of reason’, get intrigued by the latest new and shiny theory, service, or technology that comes down the pike…and believe me there is a heap of ‘new’ that takes up every lane of that pike on a daily basis.

At a recent Social Media Breakfast there was great discussion highlighting many theories on managing and marketing within social media, both business to business and business to consumer. The room was filled with comments and thoughts about what this new medium is all about, how companies felt about it, the tools that we can use to participate in and monitor it, and more.

Don’t get me wrong, we need do explore “what could be”. We need to talk in big picture terms, we must look forward. We also need to get giddy about new toys that, from a perch at a coffee shop with free wifi, allow us to reach our audience. (We all have audiences whether they be customers, followers, viewers, etc.)

What this conversation sparked in me was a need to remind myself, and perhaps others that work in marketing and PR, that our job is not necessarily to set the trends, make things popular, make the service a priority…that’s what our audience does. Our job is to follow their lead, not the other way around. If we are truly marketing to, building relationships with, or communicating in general with our audience we must do it on their terms.

With that said, marketers, I thought I’d list some of what I think are  realities. Here goes…

Social Media is two different things.

Social=relations, interactions, and communication between people.
Media=the channel to carry a message…nothing more. (By the way, that’s true of all media. It’s a pipe.)

People don’t like advertising.

Hard to believe I know, but people are not attracted to media because it offers businesses the opportunity to sell something to them. People know that being exposed to an ad is the price of admission for free media. Yes, they expect advertising, they tolerate it, but they would rather live without it and will avoid it. Witness the rise of Tivo and DVR.

Social Media is not “Advertising” Media.

The rise of Facebook, Youtube, even text messaging was precipitated by people wanting to communicate with other people. Not because they needed one more place to be sold something. If we as marketers treat this medium as just another way to shill, we’re going to screw it up and drive the audience farther away. Don’t try to advertise here…be social!

You audience has precious little spare time.

How dare we think that all our audience has to do is sit around and
type, search, click, and download only to be “sold to”. Answer the
question, “What’s in it for me.”

Only Facebook and text messaging matter…right now.

It’s that “They set the trend and decide what’s popular.” thing. Yep, Twitter is growing, YouTube is huge, blogging is great, but right now, the crowd is on Facebook to socialize electronically and are more than satisfied with text messaging as a way to stay in touch. These two are the lake…hunt where the ducks are!

Portable is vital!

Notice I didn’t say mobile. That would imply, it needs to be a
phone. I don’t think it does, though if you’re looking to deliver a
message to somebody, it makes a whole lot of sense to deliver it to them via something
that already have. But, if they can wear it, carry it easily, put it in their pocket…take it with them…you’ll get
their interest.

They can talk back!

If you can’t spend time listening and responding, stay the hell away from social media. This medium is about engaging in a conversation and a relationship. Make sure you’re ready to commit to that. No one likes to be invited to a party at your house to be ignored.

Some companies/brands/people don’t want to participate.

Conversation can lead to a greater depth of knowledge about all the participants. Some companies love the thought of learning more about their customers but have absolutely no interest in letting them know more about them. In fact, some people see absolutely no reason to share their “status” or share a video clip. That’s just fine. Please do your best to help them learn about this medium. But remember, the ones that “get it” can always better at it.

There are no rules.

Perhaps the reason many mediums are struggling is because someone at some point decided that “This is how you do it!” They made the rules, decided the proper etiquette, wrote the book and became the expert. Playing it safe and playing by the rules became the strategy of choice. I love the guys that say, this is what you can and can’t do with Twitter or should or shouldn’t post on Facebook. It’s a brand new medium, let’s wait awhile before we try to make it predictable. Find what works but also spend time finding out “what else” works.

So there are some realities that I see. There are plenty more. Aren’t there? What can you offer that will help all of us “keep it real?”


The Rise of Interruption. Marketing?

It’s been quite a week for those that seek to get attention by interrupting hasn’t it?

Of course, last week it was the clear break with decorum and most likely Congressional rules when Representative Joe Wilson (no relation…phew!) saw fit to interrupt the President during a speech to Congress. His “You lie!” is still echoing in Washington and across all types of media.

More recently, a well marinated Kanye West decided that Taylor Swift’s acceptance speech at the VMA’s was a good time to profess his love for Beyonce’s latest video and proceeded to take the stage and the mic. This alone tested Twitter’s limits.

Both participants in these rude interruptions have addressed their behavior in varying ways. Wilson apologized to the President, but as of this writing, not to Congress. He has used it as a rallying cry for his stand on health care and seems to be quite comfortable being interviewed about it, though he admits that it was not the right way to act.

Kanye on the other hand, after being escorted from the MTV awards show, first posted a rambling and confusing blog post of an apology. He then took the opportunity to be even more apologetic and sincere during The Jay Leno Show premiere. (Jay stepped up with a great question about how Kanye’s late mother would have felt about it. Let’s talk dramatic pause.)

The reaction of the masses has varied for each incident. Joe Wilson, as well as his 2010 political opponent have seen huge increases in fund-raising. On the other hand Kanye has seen a huge backlash from fans and non-fans alike and I’m sure recognizes the potential harm to his career and sales.

But is this indicative of what it takes to cut through the clutter of so many messages and the 24/7, always on, always connected environment we find ourselves in? For better or worse, this exemplifies the phrase “Any publicity is good publicity.” So, if we are constantly being exposed to “messages” then perhaps we will see a rise in thought out tactical use of the “interruption” and a redefinition of interruption marketing. This form of marketing that really is an interruption unlike say, commercials that are now expected and pop-ups that are commonplace. If so, then beware the backlash.

What about the buzz? Yes, we are talking about these interruptions so they are creating buzz. But at the same time, in varying degrees, they are taking a toll. That toll is being exacted in many ways. Beyond the concept of “That’s not the way we do things in a civil society.”, which does have incredible validity, marketers run the risk of biting the hand that feeds them should interruption be the marketing of tactic of the day.

Now that social media is prevalent and the ability to share your feelings, especially negative ones, is so easy, the window of mea culpa is incredibly small. Time does not allow for the repair of a bad tactic. In the past the practice of airing too many commercials may have caused some problems for listeners but the ability to complain to friends about it was much more contained. Now, one ‘tweet’ will reach thousands…if not hundreds of thousands in mere seconds.

Interruption can get people talking about you…but it can also get them talking badly about you.

Changing the World: Behind Obama’s Ineractive Design

I had the chance to take in this presentation by Scott Taylor (SimpleScott) last week compliments of the Minnesota Interactive Marketing Association (MIMA). Scott’s storytelling and insight were fascinating and shed a great deal of light on the thinking that went into one of the world’s first…and most successful…use of interactive media in a political campaign.

If you’re interested I posted a more complete recap of the event at Minnov8. It was also reposted at MinnPost. It doesn’t matter what you plan on doing with Social and Interactive Marketing…there are valuable lessons to learn from Scott.

Audience vs. Community: Which Way Are Your Chairs Pointing?

One of Social Media’s most prolific writers, Chris Brogan, posted a very interesting article today on Audience vs. Community. The distinction of the two continues to confound many. From PR firms,to agencies, to businesses to your Mom and Dad, are still trying to figure out the difference. And though Chris speaks from the standpoint of social media, that difference has been with us for years! He sums it up quite eloquently with this sentence:

The only difference between an audience and a community is which direction the chairs are pointing.

No longer are the chairs all neatly arranged in a row all facing a stage, on which stands a speaker. Nope, this new form of media has allowed those “butts in seats” to stand up and rearrange those chairs and talk with each other…while the speaker continues to talk from the stage. And that’s the issue we have faced for years as we address our audience or customer.Are we talking at them or with them?

This is not a new concept by any means. Humans would rather be social. Which would you rather do, play solitaire or poker? Go to a party or sit at home and drink? (If it’s the later, you may need to make a call or two.) Dine alone or have a barbecue? You get the idea. It’s the advent of better social communication, especially through internet technology and our always connected culture, that has brought it to the forefront for businesses, brands and people.

As Brogan points out, the importance of community to a successful music career has always been paramount. The fan is the thing! His analogy, “Think Britney Spears vs the Grateful Dead.” Fans, talking to other fans and together converting new fans, kept an entire legion of music consumers on the road for years…some even after the band stopped touring. Harley-Davidson has done the same, so much so that they were able to keep their community together through a period when the product turned to crap. Their “community” helped them survive, demanded a better product, and because HD listened, grew even bigger.

So which way are your chairs facing? Are you still standing on he stage talking at the audience or are you walking around the community and participating in the conversation…which is mostly about you? you? Most importantly are you listening to what they say to each other as well as what they say to you.

Amber Naslund points out in her comment to Brogan’s piece, “…you cannot *create* a community. It creates itself.” It should also be noted that community can fold up it’s chairs (destroy itself), or worse, throw the chairs at you (turn against you).

Hear It From a Judge

Best Buy CMO, Barry Judge shares his thoughts on the importance of listening in this video. Pay special attention to his comments on how marketing through this medium is different from the more “simple” traditional media. “You don’t get to tell customers what they get to think anymore.”

Signal Strength and Culture Change

Over the past week I’ve had the chance to have a few conversation with Gary Koelling of Best Buy and founder of, on the subject of business and social media (he also likes the term social technology). In fact you can hear one of those conversations as part of our weekly Minnov8 Gang Podcast. I speak with Gary about alot of things, but I was particularly struck by his thoughts on two subjects.

First, was that of “signal strength”.
(Ok, now you’re talkin’ a radio guy’s language.) As Gary was
whiteboarding away on the topic of reaching customers and fans he noted
how easy social media makes it to leap over so many steps and
interactions to speak directly with the customer. His comment, “Your
signal strength is much higher.”

That of course had me visualizing the good ol’ communication model that
was drilled into me for years. Any time you can eliminate static
between the sender and the real receiver (in that “medium”) the better. both are winners
when you can increase your signal strength.

Of course getting a business to remove the static that impacts signal strength is a discussion of business culture and it’s impact on the acceptance of social media. I’ve mentioned more than a few times here that there needs to be a shift in the business models of many companies, including as it pertains to the long tail, broadcast, and big brands.

In conversations Gary has shared with me many of the accomplishments and a few frustrations he has experienced over the years as he as tried to overcome established business cultures. In a nutshell he emphasized the need to be patient. Business has a long history of not really allowing the customer to directly influence how they do things. It will take time and many attempts at getting business to both accept new ideas and avoid falling back on “the way we have always done things.”

Patience is the key to social media in so many ways, including the patience a company need to have when building relationships. That doesn’t happen quick enough to impact your financials by the end of this quarter, or next. That’s a big change for companies, especially those in crisis, as so many are right now.

Gary pointed to this video as what Best Buy is thinking in this regard.

Clearly, Best Buy is making a move toward changing it’s culture and increasing it’s signal strength. It’s very encouraging and should be inspiring to other companies and business categories. (I’m thinking media…especially radio, where it’s all about signal strength.)


Brands vs. Fans

 Much has been made about “brand marketing” in the social media space. “Your brand has to be online!”, “My brand has a Facebook page!”, “Is your brand on Twitter?”. More and more I’m convinced this is short sighted.

Remember, the “media” part of social media is the channel by which communication occurs. The “social” is the people part, those that participate in the conversation. Neither of those parts say anything about a product or service. Why would someone want to follow Tide, Best Buy, Pepsi, etc on Facebook, Youtube or Twitter? Now, CEO Bob at Tide, Stephanie at Pepsi, or Barry at Best Buy? That’s another story! Those are people I can have a conversation with.

A recent quote in the this article really says it all, “Members of social networks want to spend time with friends, not brands.” Excuse me whilst I utter the proverbial “Duh!”

This again reinforces the overwhelming necessity of understanding the medium in which you are participating or working. Social media marketing follows a whole different set of rules than mass marketing. One of those rules is “It’s all about the relationship.” Brands in and of themselves can’t form relationships. Those people that are fans of the brand can and those that represent the brand can.

So, let’s amend the statements above: “A representative of your brand has to be online!”, “My brand’s community manager has a Facebook page!”, “Who evangelizes your brand on Twitter?”.

Bottom line: Brands in social media…no. People representing brands in social media…yes. (Of course, you need the right people or rather, fans!) As Ted McConnell, manager of interactive marketing and innovation at P.& G notes: “I don’t want to be best friends with a brand,” he said. “It’s just stuff.”

One More Lesson: Commitment

Yesterday, my good friend Steve Borsch wrote, as he always does, a very insightful piece on Connecting the Dots. Lessons From Our First “Social Media” President highlighted many aspects of the Barack Obama campaign for President and it’s obvious social media strategy.

One lesson learned that went without much notice was that of the need to commit to social media fully. Make no mistake, the Obama campaign was a well oiled machine in it’s use of social media. However, I noted a few lapses in the execution of that well thought out plan.

The biggest lapse, that of inviting people to sign up to receive a text message when Obama chose his running mate, implying being “the first to know”. I still feel a sense of betrayal when that text was received…around three in the morning. We may have been some of the first to know, but 3am? Sounds like executing an obligation rather than telling a friend.

Steve also shared the email that ‘Barack’ sent just prior to his Grant Park acceptance speech. It was a wonderful note that should be shared by all involved…yet it hasn’t been posted on the Facebook page. In fact, as of this writing, the last note on Facebook says, “There are still a few hours to make a big difference in this election.” while the MySpace page is current. As Steve pointed out, “you can’t let a friendship wane and then call on that friend in your time of need and expect them to be there for you.”

Admittedly, these are some incredibly minor issues. Ones easily overlooked and overcome. What I’m trying to point out is that any kind of organized social media involvement requires a huge committment. To do it right, and I think the Obama campaign did it pretty damn right (they could have shortened their list of target applications), a committment of time, money and human resources must be made.

The social web never sleeps. People are always coming and going. The conversation continues and that means you have to participate…often.

Steve also notes, “Don’t stop the conversation.” The battle may be won but the war continues. Is this truly the beginings of an ongoing conversation or the end of a marketing campaign? The coming days, weeks, months, and years will determine if Barack Obama truly is the first “social media” President or just the first “social media” Presidential candidate.

One last thing. I would be remiss if I didn’t applaud Steve for noting how much the election of the best candidate to the highest post in our country was not about race. Like Steve, I paid little attention to the color of now President-elect Obama’s skin, thankfully, much as the rest of the country did the same. We continue to make incredible strides against racism in this country. It’s ultimate conquering will be signalled by our ability to talk about accomplishments by anyone without making a reference to their skin tone.