I can’t tell you how much I cringe when someone’s opening line in a web briefing session goes something like: “I want a web page”. Groan. Really? “Who’s the audience?” The reply lists all known audiences. “What do you want them to do?” And all too often the response is: “I want them to come back. Again and again.” Really…? Well you can guess right? If this were a game of chess I’m playing a novice and I’m going for 5 move checkmate. Not to be devastatingly cruel but to conclude the so-far-pointless conversation in the hope that we’ll move on to something a little more ambitious or at least vaguely useful.
Ever since the mid 90’s it’s been my view that a web presence should seek to deliver two things for it’s intended audiences: a story that changes and convinces minds and a way of interacting as a consequence of that changed mind. The interaction could range from “here’s my email address” to “I want to create an account” or even “I want to buy now”. And while I have no argument with the “Content is King” approach, it’s too easy to focus on Content to the exclusion of enabling the users’ desire to “get things done”. It’s always been this way because while creating good content takes considerable effort, it’s nothing like as complicated as creating useful applications. In one of Seth Godin’s recent blog posts he invited you and I to consider the question from our respective web visitors: “Why am I here?" I’d like to expand the importance of this question a little further.
A scenario might help. Your website contains the most comprehensive and up-to-date information offered by your organisation. You still print a catalogue too, at great expense. On the catalogue you carefully position your web address. Your organisation is still print centric and you can tell by observing current practices. For example: telesales take customer details and arrange to post a catalogue rather than directing the caller to your website. Worse still, those details are discarded once the postage label is printed. The resulting user journey is one of frustration. Your would-be customer could have had access to comprehensive information in an instant, instead he waits a week for a physical catalogue to arrive. On arrival he notes the web address. He visits the site. Great information! But the only transaction on offer is…you guessed it…order a copy of our catalogue. The information is captured to enable label printing but is then promptly forgotten. No CRM, no nurturing, no communications plan, no ongoing engagement.
I can assure you this really happens. Why? Because the “getting things done” element involves answering the users’ question “why am I here” and that means a whole world of hurt: research, process redesign and application development with all its attendant complexities and costs. Marketers can deliver great content. But delivering on the “getting things done” bit will take your organisation into grubby territory; marketers have to work with huffy geeky types that talk a different language and seem to get easily upset every time the word change is used.
To learn and get things done could be described as a simple equation. Think of Learning and Doing as equal arguments: X = Y, where X is learning and Y is completing a useful task. In this case X is delivered by Content. What delivers Y? If Y is all about completing useful tasks — doing the stuff you want to do — then Y is the transaction that enables you to get stuff done.
Content tells a great story, creates a desire, changes minds, describes a promise. “Learning” delivers that changed and made-up mind; the emotional switch from passive-observer to active-fan. But active fandom is an ephemeral state. If X cannot be followed by Y at a pace or level of convenience expected by your user he will judge your website to have failed and will very deliberately and quickly move on.
If Content is King then perhaps the ability to transact is Queen? A perfect marriage that successful web businesses have understood for years but more traditional organisations continue to shy away from. For most X ≠ Y, if that’s true of your organisation you may have some catching-up to do or it may already be too late.
If we mock what we do not understand, does that mean the cynic that laughs at everything really knows nothing?
All too often when I mention Twitter to colleagues I get a response something along the lines of: “I have nothing interesting to say” or “why would someone want to know what I’m eating for breakfast”.
Sigh. This kind of cliché encapsulates the thinking of many colleagues. And it presents their version of reality, which in reality says, I ain’t getting involved. When pushed, the reluctance escalates to include fears that vaguely relate to privacy which I can’t ever fully understand. A bit like those people that wouldn’t do online banking for years because hey, I have to enter my account number and sort code and that can’t be safe! (Scratches head), ahem, do you prefer to write cheques? “Yes! I trust the old methods!” And do you tipex out the account number…we’ll any way…you know how it goes….
The point is dear colleagues, you need to tweet to build a profile. There will come a time when your social media profile says more about you than your CV. That means you need to start building your profile now. And that means you need to know what your world-of-work should know about you:
If you’re not sure, try this, imagine a new colleague has just joined your team. And the new boy has a Twitter following of 3,500. You check his profile — he’s a subject matter expert — in your field! Feeling a touch uncomfortable you can’t resist taking a look at his LinkedIn profile; he’s got endorsements like you wouldn’t believe. For now you can rest easy — nobody cares about that stuff.
True. For now.
But a tough new world approaches and the longer you wait, the harder it’ll be to become “known for what you do”. So here’s a little guide to get you started.
I’ve been on this planet for around 50 years. And I’m just starting to put somethings together to the extent that I now realise: a life time of learning won’t even scratch the surface!
I have recently moved some of my blog content from http://johngoode.posterous.com to here. I didn’t move it in date order but the date of the original post is in brackets. All photography is mine except the Aprilia RSV4.
End of line.
It makes sense that if my values and opinions don’t offend yours then we won’t get polarised somehow. If my V&O is the same or similar to yours with 1 or 2 amusing differences, we’re likely to be on the same wavelength. We identify with people similar to us. As an friend once said: “Like likes like”.
In a world where online social destinations are the place to see and be seen, V&O is an intrinsic component of social success; a.k.a being popular, liked, trusted and followed.
The web gave everyone the ability to be a publisher. The social web gives everyone the ability to build a personal brand, sometimes referred to as BrandMe. As unique as your finger print, your personal social media brand can be established by simply being you. Or in other words, never trying to be someone or something else. Your personal brand needs to be the real deal.
So important is your personal brand that some now negotiate better pay deals using scoring services such as klout.com.
Finding a new job might mean using a combination of your CV and the value of your personal brand. Ex-colleague @carlmartin (then owner of http://mobsessed.co.uk) did this to great effect and now works at AKQA. That’s personal brand equity at work!
Look at the Twitter profiles of successful twitterati and you’ll note a combination of notes on personal and professional preferences and activities. A snippet of their V&O. I don’t know about you, but I’m drawn to people that present an attractive mixture of the two.
For your V&O to be coherent, you need to be consistent in all online places. And you should associate accounts to achieve this. Create links between your blog, linkedIn, flickr, twitter, foursquare, youtube, facebook and maybe even ebay accounts. For your brand to be strong there needs to be one you, one version of the truth, one set of Values and Opinions that friends recognise with little persuasion. Your V&O is your social signature.
This can be real short: all the above applies to brands. Brands must coherently express their V&O. And this is achieved through continuous social interaction, not by means of a corporate website.
When the going gets tough… (February 15, 2011)
As pay decreases, belt-tightening occurs and perhaps most unexpectedly good things happen. Tougher competition is faced head-on by people determined to keep their jobs. And this determination drives-up strategic intelligence.
I’ve often wondered why junior members of a team can often run rings around more experienced, better paid colleagues.
This video goes a long way to explaining why; when the going gets tough…you know the rest.
Organisations of all types and sizes are currently engaged in social media experiments. Very limited, very cautious experiments. A little measurement here, a bit of coy chat there, you know how it is, we’re currently in that in-between stage — curious but fearful of leaving known comforts for the brave new world. Where are you and your organisation in this spectrum:
1. Conservative — traditional marketing and pr + some social media monitoring
2. Progressive — senior managers blog, some tweets broadcast. Marketing orchestrate and tightly control all that’s said
3. Enlightened — blogs and tweets flow, communication rules have been replaced with principles that protect personal, organisational and client interests. *Everyone* knows the values and opinions of the organisation. Conversations across porous boundaries are natural, human, honest, accountable
Level 2 organisations are giving social media a trial run but their understanding is still entombed in old-marketing paradigms. They have fears. Nightmares actually.
Speaking openly about my own characteristics, I’m an odd mixture: a techy with EQ. I like facts not waffle, I love straight-forward honesty. Here’s the worrying bit…even if being honest is going to cost me somehow, I will say it any way. Can’t see the point in not!. All this means I can be seen as a maverick. Yet it’s my belief that people want transparency and honesty, they want to know you’re capable of saying *this is the wrong product for you, I shalln’t take any more of your time* if that really is the case. My daughter has inherited a fair number of my wacky genes; she has the ability to shock me to the core and yet she is loved for her honesty and good heart.
Organisations cannot afford gaffs; leaks of a confidential matter, betrayal of a commercial secret or an expression of a sentiment, opinion or idea that’s orthogonal to the group. So being a level 2 is seen as the practical solution. Audiences, however, know they’re not getting the real deal. They’re not seeing the people. This is the main difference between levels 2 and 3. It is the existence and universal understanding of a set of guiding principles. Rules and principles differ greatly, the latter offering a great deal of flexibility over the former. Take for example the stick man below. He’s throwing and catching a package. Never once does he drop and break the item. So he’s never broken the rule which states: “do not drop”. But he has violated the principle: FRAGILE.
To be a genuinely social organisation, the old rules of marketing have to be binned. People across the organisation need “to be on the same page” if they’re to tweet, blog or write comments in the open forum of social media. To get to level 3 involves:
1. Trusting a wider group of people to engage directly with their peers and audiences (internal and external)
2. Equipping the organisation with a set of guiding principles
3. Working through the pain of level 2
4. Scrapping old-world paradigms and replacing the velvet tongue of marketing with the authentic voice of individuals
An organisation that’s genuinely open — engages with competitors to discuss ideas, engages with audiences openly and frankly — is not the same as the one that thinks the illusion of one-to-one marketing is a great ambition. The promise of 1-to-1 marketing appeals to the old-world marketer.
A social organisation is one that’s confident in the power of ad-hoc, transparent communication. A social organisation empowers its people to engage in open conversation. A social organisation participates in authentic dialog not pseudo 1-to-1 marketing. A social organisation is *open for business* in a very real sense.