December 6th, 2013

Tweet this: Holiday social media tips

Successful holiday marketing is all about taking advantage of the disruption of the season when schedules and behaviors are out of the ordinary and time constrained.

The most engaging social content is both quick and meaningful; and by meaningful, I mean it connects with consumers around two things: utility and emotion. Social platforms can offer people useful tools to help them prepare for the holidays, from recipes to wish lists to inspiration boards.


September 12th, 2011
May 18th, 2011

Going Beyond the Facebook Page

When you first learn to ride a bike, all you can think about is not falling off. Not forgetting to pedal or leaning too far to one side or the other. Making sure you don’t run over your father’s foot…or your brother. But as you get your bearings and start to feel more comfortable, you begin to think about all the places your bike can take you and you start to ride full out.  

When I listen to people talk about social media, it sometimes feels like we are still trying not to fall off the bike. We are still focused on being on Facebook or Twitter, instead of what role each one should (or should not) play in our marketing mix. I think it is time for us to move beyond the mechanics of a single media channel and really start to build up some speed around integration.  
Given the staggering numbers, let’s use Facebook as our starting point.  

  1. What is the strategic role of Facebook in our marketing plan?
  2. What consumer segment are we targeting and is Facebook the best place to reach them? 
  3. How will Facebook interact with our website, search, Twitter, email, in-store materials, or our TV campaign?
  4. Can it or should it replace other more expensive coupon delivery systems or loyalty programs?
  5. How do I prioritize resources or dollars for Facebook vs. other proven growth drivers?
  6. Assuming flat budgets, what trade-offs do I need to make?
  7. How do I measure success vs. other channels?  

These are the questions that I think about for every brand I work on, and the answers are often different based on target audience and category dynamics.  Social media platforms can be amazing tools, but they are only one part of a larger race to win market share.

Image: tomdeblec’s photostream 

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April 20th, 2011

We Are What We Post: Social Media and Identity Creation

This is the first in a series of guest posts.  Paul Taylor has been an Account Planner for over 13 years, working on the ad agency, brand consulting & client sides. His experience spans alcohol to home improvement, from soft drinks to financial services. 

From nothing in 2002 to today over 600MM users of Facebook alone, Social Media’s reach and influence is global. But its influence is also highly personal. I believe Social Media plays a role in the very individuals we are, and the personas we create – it is a crucible for identity creation.  Social Media promotes identity creation in four ways.

A Virtual Blank Page I decide to join Facebook. I fill out my profile, find my offline friends, and then there it is….a virtual blank page staring at me. I have to post something. Something that interests not just me, but that others will want to read too. I ask myself “What do I like to do, read, listen to, and watch?”, “What do I do that’s worth sharing?”. “What am I passionate about?”.  Later on, I get quite self-reflective, “What will people think if I post this/comment on that?”, “What does it say about me if I ‘friend’ him/her or ‘like’ brand x?”. These questions lead me, consciously or not, to shape who I am. Having a virtual blank page to fill forces us to consider and create our identity.
Instant Feedback As marketers, we evolve marketing tactics based on real-time data. As individuals, we evolve our identities in the same way. I post something…it gets ignored, passed around, commented on. That influences what I post about next. And so on. Depending on the feedback, I talk more about some things and less about others. I will accentuate some traits/passions/opinions, play down others, and nuance others. The more I post about myself, the more feedback I get. The more feedback I get, the more it shapes what I post…and, ultimately, who I am.
The Confidence to Experiment  This has three sources – positive feedback on the things I post; discovering  I am not alone in my obscure passion (sci-fi author Greg Egan, what’s yours?); and finding out the interesting, hidden sides everyone else has.  This confidence encourages me to reveal more of myself, explore new things, ‘friend’ more people, join more communities. In short, try more stuff. This is what we did as teenagers with our weird hair, bizarre outfits and friends our parents disapproved of….but in the Social Media space, we can try more things, more quickly, more easily, and at the same time. Identity creation on hyperdrive. And, being optimistic, maybe (hopefully), it makes us more curious, interesting, well-rounded people as a result.
Self-Control  We aren’t all celebrities, but Social Media puts us all in the public eye. No longer does the piece of poor judgment stay amongst a select few. It is now quickly broadcast to the world…to our parents, coworkers, prospective employers and partners. Some learn through their own mistakes, some through the mistakes of others, but we have all become more aware of our public image. We are our own PR team…managing, shaping and controlling our identities and (hopefully) exercising greater self-control around our behaviors and utterances.
None of this is new. Consciously or not we’re all constantly shaping who we are and evolving ourselves based on feedback. But Social Media has made it more imperative, made us more conscious of it, given us access to more fuel for it, and put us in greater control of it.
I see three implications for brands:
“Liking” Is Not Just Value Exchange, You’re Part of My Identity  If I ‘like’ you, your updates appear on my wall, your logo on my profile page and, with Facebook’s Sponsored Stories, my comments about you will now appear in your ads. By ‘liking’ you I am tying myself to you in a way that is more intimate, more public and more permanent than simply wearing your logo on a T-shirt. You’ve become part of my Social Media identity (and me yours). So while I will continue to use my ‘like’ as currency to receive access, coupons, etc, increasingly, before I click that button, I’m going to think about what that means (“Is yours a badge I want to wear? A set of values, activities, a lifestyle I want to share in?”). It’s not always going to be as transactional as we marketers sometimes think.
Give People the Tools for Identity Creation  Understand what Social Media is doing for our identities and empower it, leverage it and promote it. Help people create, shape and communicate who they are. This can be provoking conversation, encouraging content creation or showcasing those whose identities and activities align with your brand’s. Before enacting a Social Media activity ask yourself “Why would someone want this as part of their identity?”, “What will it say about them if others saw their participation?”
Social Media Can Shape A Brand’s Identity, Too  We spend months and much angst creating a brand’s positioning. And once complete, we treat it like it is carved in stone – permanent and unchanging. And our Social Media presence is managed in strict adherence to our stone tablet. Yet, as individuals we’re shaping and evolving our Social Media identity all the time. Smart marketers will use Social Media to shape brands too. This isn’t about experimenting with abandon, but about taking the same feedback loop we apply to ourselves and applying it to our brands. Use the fluidity and real-time flexibility Social Media provides, have the confidence to explore and experiment. From a marketer’s perspective, Social Media is not just for offering information, entertainment and community about a brand, (although that’s important), it can be used to craft the very brand itself.

Email Paul at 



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April 13th, 2011

Time to Immerse Yourself in Social Media

It seems that almost all senior and mid-level marketers are talking about social media, but many are not 100% certain they fully understand when and how to use it. Often they delegate these key decisions to people they feel are more digitally proficient, sometimes the most junior members of their teams.  Sometimes they rely heavily on outside resources for guidance.  While these are viable short-term options, they are not good long-term solutions.  

As marketers, we need to fully understand this rapidly expanding channel.  I don’t believe the hype that social media will become the only way to interact with consumers (see “How Kids Consume Media”), but it can be a critical tool to help us move further down the marketing funnel. We need to be able to confidently evaluate what role social media plays within our plans and make the resulting trade-offs in our marketing mix.

So how do you understand social media at a less conceptual level? Beyond presentations and training, you need to dive in.  Participate in Facebook.  Start using LinkedIn. Sign up for Twitter.  Each platform has it’s own etiquette, behaviors, and degree of intrusiveness.  Each offers distinct benefits to marketers.

I understand that finding the time to do this can be difficult.  What I found helpful was to start using social media to replace things I was already doing or in ways that made me more efficient.  This let me get my feet wet without eating up hours I didn’t have.  What started as a “have to do” became a daily activity I enjoy.  Social media has given me more immediate access to information, helped to build stronger relationships, and exposed me to opinions that challenge and stimulate me. Now, I am hooked. 

Here are a few easy ways to better integrate social media into your life.   

Facebook  Given that over 600 million people are on it,  I am going to make the assumption that most of us are already on Facebook.  You may not visit very often, but you are there. Each group of friends (our social graph) has a unique group of topics that they discuss, but it is generally personal.  Figure out what works for your group and spend 5 minutes a day catching up with the people you liked enough to call Friends. Actively using Facebook, made it obvious to me early on that there was a limit to how many brands I would “Like” and put in my stream.  I learned what kept me interested and what was too intrusive and can apply that to other brand marketing programs. 

LinkedIn  If you haven’t been on LinkedIn recently, you need to go back.  It goes beyond looking for a new job or talent for your organization.  The number of new features, people using it (100MM), and the amount of social interaction has significantly increased.  Go beyond just collecting connections. LinkedIn is also a great way to tap into your network or a subset for help on a specific business topic.  I have been asked for recommendations on agencies and examples of successful marketing programs.  If you are a business, a LinkedIn page is a must.  I think you will start to see more and more B2B companies migrating from Facebook to LinkedIn.

Twitter  The immediacy of Twitter and its focus on specific topics makes it an excellent way to stay current.  Start by using it to aggregate the business information you currently get from multiple sources. Take advantage of the platform to add a few thought leaders and experts on key topics.  Just following has made me more informed and helped stimulate my thinking on all facets of marketing and leadership.  Given the medium, there is a huge amount of information on all things social.  But the real power comes from participation, and this does take time.  I think you will find that at some point, it just happens naturally and your external network of resources expands.  I am a huge fan of this platform.  For marketers, it can become a targeted media platform that is both scalable and sustainable, and has the added incentive of creating engagement.

While Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn are the three giants, there are a couple other social media platforms you might want to check out:

Quora  This is where I would go to find an answer to a specific question about social media, a new technology, or a variety of other topics.  I find the quality of answers to be much higher than LinkedIn groups.

Foursquare  While I believe that geo-location services will be huge, as a user, you become aware of a currently more limited value proposition.  It needs more retail and brand offers, faster download times, and automatic check-in to become a real force in the marketplace.

I urge you to give one or more of these social media platforms a try. Some could become very helpful tools, some you will abandon (and there is learning there, too). If you are like me, you may find that a few even become addictive.  All of my initial experiments have taught me something about the platform, it’s capabilities, and what kinds of programs work there.  And that has been invaluable.  


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February 27th, 2011

How to Build Your Personal Brand Online: Getting Started

In recent conversations with business leaders and executives, I have found that they are struggling with the best way to network or raise their personal profile online. For many, it is almost a foreign concept. (I know it was for me a couple years ago.)  I recently gave a talk on this at an executive networking meeting.  The group seemed to find it helpful, so I wanted to pass it on. You can find it here on Slideshare. Please let me know what you think. Thanks.

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January 31st, 2011

Don’t Underestimate Amazon

Last week Amazon announced their first $10B quarter, but Wall Street analysts were concerned about lower operating margins and their stock fell.

Less well-covered, was a test of another new service that leverages Amazon’s huge distribution network: free grocery delivery.  While I don’t have a prediction on this new business, I do know that Amazon has a track record of game changing products and services that make it worth watching. 

Amazon’s Kindle has changed the way many of us buy and read books.  An avid book lover I am almost ashamed to admit that over the last year, I have read every book but one on my Kindle.  I am not alone, Amazon reported last week that Kindle books had now surpassed paperbacks as their most popular format.  Part of the appeal is an almost unlimited portable library. Part is immediate access to new books and magazines.

This holiday season Amazon added three additional services to improve the online and in-store shopping experience.

  1. Amazons' s partnership with Facebook answers the question ‘What do I get my nephew? father? brother? and almost guarantees that he will like it.  In fact, he has liked it or mentioned it on Facebook and made that information available to Amazon.  It is an effortless gift registry.
  2. How many times have you suggested a book to a friend or colleague?  It usually ends there.  How helpful would it be to be able to make the purchase with one click and send it to them in an email?  The email becomes the gift, letting them click to download it to their Kindle.  Instant gratification on both sides.
  3. "Can I get it for less?" and "Do I really have to wait in line?" can both be answered with Amazon’s Price Check smartphone app.  Scan the product bar code, snap a photo, or say the product’s name to see if it is better or comparably priced at Amazon. Buy it with a single click.

Each of these products and services leverage technology to provide customer utility.  Each removes a barrier to purchase and makes shopping easier.  Each provides another reason to choose Amazon.
And while margins are down, Amazon’s investment in innovation continues to position them as one of the most formidable competitors on the planet.  

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January 5th, 2011

Marketers: Let’s not forget about scale

Like everyone else, I get excited by the possibilities of new channels and new technology.  I am a huge believer in the power of social media, social shopping, mobile memes, gamification, and virtual currency.  I  tweet, share, post, and blog…sometimes way too often.  I am, in fact, a social media champion who firmly believes in it’s power to build brands and create more meaningful relationships.  

However, I am also a very pragmatic marketer.  And when I look at the landscape, I see the continuing power of TV and other forms of mass media to reach my potential customers, and I feel like they are being ignored.

Let’s look at a few facts related to scale:

  • Consumers continue to spend the most time with TV and video (not including online), about 40% each year according to eMarketer.  This translates to 4 hours and 24 minutes a day. The internet ranks second at 24% (2 hours and 34 minutes), with mobile approaching the same amount of time as magazines and newspapers combined at 8%. The landscape is clearly changing and younger and more educated audiences are adopting and making new social channels their own, however, mass media continues to deliver a huge audience
  • Just over a week ago, Ad Age reported that marketers are expected to increase US advertising spend by 2.8% in 2011. This is a slight reduction from the 2010 growth rate of 3.2%. This is likely the result of a continuing sputtering economy vs. a significant shift to social media and other marketing vehicles.
  • While social media has begun to impact retail, it influenced just 5% of shoppers to visit retail sites this holiday season. Promotional emails at 19% and search at 8% ranked higher according to Click Z.

So as we continue our focus on the channels that are clearly growing, we can’t forget the importance of the large channels that continue to effectively deliver volume. Where is the new learning on that?  There is clearly room for innovation there, even more so on the interaction between multiple channels.  

I, for one, continue to be excited about making the other 60-80% of my budget work harder so I can afford to invest in potential growth areas.    



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Thoughts and interesting ideas on marketing and building brands in today's increasingly complex world. Bookmark and Share