How to Stand out at a Noisy Trade Show (MWC Field Guide)

I am often asked by clients how to build trade show buzz and booth traffic.

It can be especially challenging when you’re a small startup with limited funds, as are most of our clients.  They’re competing against well-known companies that have massive tricked out booths, and also trying to steal attention from other strivers.

The difficulties of rising above show noise were never more apparent than at MWC, the annual mobile industry confab, which I attended last month in Barcelona.  It’s an extravaganza, with eight cavernous halls, thousands of exhibitors, and over 100K attendees.

To get answers to the above question, I treated the show as a field experiment, paying close attention to what stood out. Which exhibits were eye-catching? What tactics drew crowds? Which ads and signage pulled me in?

Competing with the Big Boys

If you’re Samsung or Nokia, you can build a vast presence to dominate the show floor. Others did too, like Huawei, Ericsson, and ZTE. Their booths were like shows within a show; department stores displaying consumery goods and atractions, or the mini-smart cities that some tried to replicate.

There were robots playing piano and drums at the ZTE booth and live bands elsewhere

Immersive VR was another crowd pleaser: several exhibits let people don headsets and drive race cars or step into a video game to virtually battle each other – all to the delight of passersby too. These looked fun – but seemed to limit flow and traffic, as only a couple of people could participate at a time.

Startups had the challenge of stealing attention from these and hundreds of other, less glitzy displays.

Small Players Get Creative

So, what did work for the smaller exhibitor? A few tactics stood out.

Stand and Deliver

Polished speakers pitching at timed intervals drew audiences.  Granted, this was not even an option for the smallest booths, due to the seating needed. 

Why does this tactic work? People are naturally drawn to an interesting presentation – using a mic and speakers literally helps rise above the noise – and there is the allure of snagging a seat before show time.

Sleight of Hand

One booth attracted people with a shell game.  The presenter cleverly wove the pitch into the routine.  This tactic drew a smaller, more intimate audience than above as you had to lean in to observe and listen. There was no need for extra seating – people swarmed the booth and watched from the aisles, a good thing: crowds attract crowds.

Work the Crowd

Some exhibitors drew attention via colorful characters who roamed the show floor and mixed with attendees handing out swag or game clues. The ones below had hoods with business in front (namely, their faces) and party in the back (Guy Hawkes AKA Anonymous hacker masks).

I have no idea how successful the gambit was; but it caught my attention.

Eye Candy

Other booths used lasers or beautiful video displays to draw attention.  E.g. Enensys Networks featured a simple yet powerful array of cell phones that piped in striking video. Their live 5G broadcast demo showed how operators will soon be delivering HD video quality on a large scale.

The Ultimate Showmanship

There is no substitute for an offering that hits all the right buttons.  Combine this with a clear message and tactics like the above, and you get the ultimate: not just traffic but the right kind of traffic, namely potential customers with a sincere interest in the display and solution.

Orchestration vendor Cloudify pulled off this feat.  They announced their Spire edge orchestration solution at the show.  Cloudify Spire connects and controls distributed networks, devices, and applications from the core to the edge – it is a great answer to the pressing need to bring sprawling IoT and other edge devices into the fold and help enterprises and telcos deploy SD-WAN and 5G.

Anna Burukhin of Buzz Hunter helped design a booth that conveyed that message, in a simple and powerful way.

A 3D holographic-like display was extremely eye catching. Together – booth, messaging, and a compelling announcement/timely offering– consistently brought crowds to their booth.

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Startup PR Myths Debunked

It has been almost a year since I blogged about common startup PR myths. That post drew from NY Tech Meetup mail list discussions and cited arguments for and against PR.

Since then, I’ve run across a few more myths. So I thought I’d update that post.

You Don’t Need PR if you have a Great Product 

This myth is based on the old cliche’ that if you can only build a better mousetrap, the world will beat a path to your door.  In other words, marketing doesn’t count. Anyone who has studied business or labored in the trenches of the startup world knows that this isn’t true.  But many ventures are led by techies who may not be so savvy about marketing.

Yeah, you need a great product – but that alone is not enough to get noticed in today’s noisy world.  You also need consistent and effective PR and marketing support to earn the attention of key audiences.

It’s all about Relationships

Just hire the right firm with the right relationships, that’s your ticket to PR success. A corollary is that said firm can help you get famous near instantly.  It is based on the fallacy of PR as media whisperers who can pull a few strings, get clued into stories in progress and voilà! Your startup is on the map.

This is an irritating one because it sounds like it should be true. There’s no question that you need a great network in PR; yes, relationships can help.  Any PR firm that has been in business for more than a year has them.

But great relationships alone are not enough. Especially as you seek to get into the highest echelons of media – the largest publications and most well-known and respected reporters will not write because you know them, or necessarily share what they’re working on.

They will hear you out, and maybe even write if your news is relevant to their coverage (and checks off boxes like credibility, defensibility, i.e. includes hard data or third-party validation, and ranks higher than other stories they could be working on).

It’s all about Content

According to this myth, you don’t need a PR firm, you just need writers for bylines and blogs. After all, content is king, right? And it is not hard to find cheap writing talent.

I’d argue that content is a commodity and attention is king. It’s all too easy for your precious articles to go ignored, and hard to generate the quality content that people actually want to read. Besides, content alone will not do much for building all-important brand recognition, as I point out in my post End of Media Relations – or a new Beginning?

That’s because bylines and blogs are by design not overtly promotional, and don’t win the validation that comes from earned media about your company and product.

PR Doesn’t Work Anymore

Some say that PR is no longer effective for tech startups.  E.g. in a forum, a CMO said:

With the number of security outlets decreasing and the number of vendors trying to get coverage exploding, I question whether PR still has a place in the marketing mix of smaller cyber-security companies… I feel they’re better off with a research tool and a good writer in house and marketing the press in the name of the CEO.

This myth takes a narrow view of PR.  True, the field is constantly changing.  While some doors may close, others are opening.  There are many ways to get through to your audiences beyond press coverage in trade media.  E.g. analyst reports, events, social media content – these things are all part of any good agency’s arsenal.

The very challenge cited – competition and marketplace noise – is all the more reason to hire professionals well versed in your field who can work their magic to help your story rise to the top.

Please also check out this post which counters the following topics. Thanks for reading and I welcome any input on PR for startups.

  • Hiring a PR firm is a colossal waste of money for most startups
  • Just use Cision for press releases if you want PR
  • PR is not rocket science. You can spend a week or two learning it and get 70-80% of the results of a PR agency for 10-20% of the cost.
  • Very rarely will a PR agency develop your brand
  • There is not a need for a $10K a month agency, which will not do much more for you than a freelancer or small firm.

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Welcome to the Self-correcting Media Maelstrom


If you’re a news and politics junkie like me, it’s been a head-spinning couple of weeks.

First, a Buzzfeed article claimed that Donald Trump asked Michael Cohen to lie to Congress. Other media swarmed around the story, feeding 24 hours of breathless coverage before Team Mueller issued a rare public statement, claiming the facts did not support the Buzzfeed account.

Then, Covington. A viral video seemed to show high school kids in MAGA hats at an event, crowding and menacing a Native American. The media were all over it, with initial reporting deriding angry Trump youth.

But not so fast. Widen the viewing angle, look at more footage, hear another version (served up by a PR firm, but does that really matter?); and it would seem that the first take was off base. The bullies were, in fact, the bullied – as the kids had first been menaced by a group of Black Israelites. They didn’t crowd the Native American – he approached them.

These were two stories, and two situations where news media had to back down and recalibrate. What have the episodes taught us? What happened and how could things be different? Should they? Here are a few takeaways.

Don’t Fall in Love with your Storyline

Emotion and narrative are pillars of storytelling. Yet they can hijack a story. Especially in these superheated, polarized times, it is all too easy to jump on a misguided version of truth before all the facts are in.

Covington was fueled by a dramatic video, which seemed to tell a clear and concise story. The Cohen episode satisfied the needs of a Trump-averse press looking for a Perry Mason moment (and I don’t quite get the convention of reporting unsubstantiated news from other outlets. If the story is not enhanced by your sourcing and fact-checking why run it? It is just rumor mongering).

The media should be wary of the dangers of getting sucked into narratives and emotional button-pushing and collectively take a chill pill.

The Mercurial Nature of Truth

The episodes show the challenges of fighting fake news – no A.I. algorithm or fact-checking team could suss out what happened. People close to the story could – but even their versions can be clouded by bias, reminiscent of  Rashomon.

The Dangers of Twitter journalism

An interesting debate that followed was about the role of social media and especially Twitter in fanning the flames of knee-jerk journalism.

NY Times columnist Farhad Manjoo wrote Never Tweet:

It’s time we journalists all considered disengaging from the daily rhythms of Twitter, the world’s most damaging social network. You don’t have to quit totally — that’s impossible in today’s news business. Instead, post less, lurk more.

…every day the media’s favorite social network tugs journalists deeper into the rip currents of tribal melodrama, short-circuiting our better instincts in favor of mob- and bot-driven groupthink.

He then urged his readers to participate in a Twitter chat to discuss!

Media critic Jeff Jarvis took issue with the article and wrote:

I am sorely disappointed in The New York Times’ Farhad Manjoo, CNN’s Brian Stelter, and other journalists who these days are announcing to the world, using the powerful platforms they have, that they think journalists should “disengage” from the platform for everyone else, Twitter.

No. It is the sacred duty of journalists to listen to the public they serve. It is then their duty to bring journalistic value — reporting, facts, explanation, context, education, connections, understanding, empathy, action, options— to the public conversation. Journalism is that conversation. Democracy is that conversation.

I appreciate Jarvis’s point, but other professions intentionally stay off social media – psychotherapists, school guidance counselors, even prison workers, to create distance and stay professional with the publics they serve.

It is great to be in the thick of conversations, and close to news sources on Twitter. But what about getting sucked into the maelstrom, showing your colors, losing objectivity? Can a journalist have social cake and eat it too?

At the end of the day, one might say “no harm, no foul.”

The right information got out. Mueller noted the hysteria around the Cohen story and corrected the record. Various players surrounding the Covington episode added important context.

Sure, there was some angsting – but it was cathartic and maybe even entertaining (OK, but reputations were at stake and it was distracting; see 5 stories Americans Missed while Fighting over a Viral Video that has no Effect on their Lives).

Welcome to the self-correcting media maelstrom!

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Why AI won’t Replace PR

I was watching 60 Minutes this weekend, which ran a segment about AI that highlighted China’s growing clout in the tech (Silicon Valley, hope you were watching; you should be scared, very scared).

They interviewed Kai-Fu Lee, the so-called Oracle of AI who boasts a Ph.D., Apple, Microsoft, and Google stints, and runs a Chinese VC firm that’s minted a number of AI unicorns.

He painted an awe-inspiring picture of the state and direction of AI.  The demos were pretty incredible (you can check them out in the video link above). It all seemed a little freakish, and begged the questions: where is this all going? And: what do the strides mean for things like privacy and jobs?

To the latter point, Kai-Fu predicted that the tech could displace up to 40% of jobs globally in 15-25 years.

It sounded like a big, scary number with vast implications for the global labor market and living standards. This also made me wonder about what might happen to the PR field as a result.

After all, there already are algorithms writing and editing news stories. AI and bots power a growing number of marketing tasks. Can we expect an army of PR writing and pitching flack-bots any time soon?

While I was pondering this, my good friend Toni Muzi Falconi seemingly read my mind and shared this story: Listen Very Carefully: the Bots are Coming.

In the article, Shelley Sullivan cited numbers that show employment is actually growing in PR and a research paper that explored which of the field’s 52 skills can be augmented or replaced by AI. Shelley wrote:

And therein lies the gift for us PR professionals. Our focus now needs to be on becoming better at the things machines cannot do, at what we as humans are uniquely good at… actually listening to and understanding what people are saying and then using this information to connect with audiences to tell emotion-driven stories… communicate… based on our understanding of that audience and their needs and our emotional ability to read them.

(As I read this, I could not help thinking of an updated version of Stuart Smalley’s daily affirmation: “We’ll beat those damn machines because we’re smart enough… we’re good enough… and gosh darn it, people like people!”)

She pointed out areas where AI is helping PR, like enabling better social listening, optimizing headlines and supporting reputation management through early warnings of crises.

Right now, and for the foreseeable future, the tech can help with specific tasks. But generalized AI that can think like a human and be applied to many problems is not on the horizon or may never happen, Kai-Fu said in the 60 Minutes interview.  He has also said that jobs that are complex and require empathy and creativity are safe – which made me smile, as there are important for most types of PR.

This may come as a revelation, as I’ve found that most people don’t understand PR, or what the job entails.  Success means mastering a diverse set of skills, creativity and out-of-the-box thinking.

AI won’t replace it because PR is the ultimate high touch profession. Sure, you might have algorithm-generated crappy news stories, and someday bots to deliver crappy PR pitches, maybe even to other algorithms. And the result will be? (fill in the blank).

The best job insurance against AI is to be our best, solve the increasing communications challenges of today with a smart and human approach, caveat automaton.

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How to Social in 2019: Experts Share their Views

Last month I interviewed top PR and social media experts about the challenges facing online marketing. The following recap includes some of the juiciest quotes from Neal Schaffer, Frank Strong, Drew Neisser, and Deb Weinstein.

I also share my views (not necessarily the agency’s) and pose additional questions. Finally, I include links to other stories I’ve seen on the topic.

We discuss everything from the growing importance of an omni-channel marketing strategy, to the future of social media.

Please continue the conversation and chime with thoughts, comments, and questions.

Are the social media waters still safe for marketing?

Frank Strong: It’s a question of whether or not your customers and prospects are on social media. If they are, then there’s a pretty good chance you still need to be there too.

Drew Neisser: What’s not safe is ignoring social conversations, especially those related to your brand and category. Interestingly, brands that take a stand, even a controversial one, are generally way ahead of those that sit on the sidelines

Neal Schaffer: I think it is getting more and more intrusive for brands to try to take part in the conversation.

I’d say caution is needed until some of the challenges are addressed, and you should make your choices based on your channel and niche.

Also, the devil is in the details. Is it OK to use some of the same levers as the Russian misinformation campaigns, e.g to push emotional hot buttons, and in other ways game algorithmic results? Or leverage the personal data that people are so up in arms about?

Have you been recommending a change in strategy regarding social media?

Neal: Definitely. An influencer component should become part of the mix.

Frank: Organic efforts alone probably won’t cut it for most. You need to be both engaging and worth engaging. Too many brands still operate in output-only mode and then wonder why no one has noticed.

Drew: First… you must have a paid strategy to support your organic efforts. Second, you need to have very different strategies for each channel. Third… we’re recommending brands focus more on quality over quantity – since only the best stuff will rise to the top.

I am not actively pushing Facebook targeting campaigns right now (most of our clients are in the B2B tech space, so Facebook is less important anyway). On the other hand, we are becoming more active with messaging platforms.

What comes after social media?

Deb Weinstein: We have reached a tipping point… where the sum of a campaign’s parts are far greater than its individual components and it has never been more important for brands to completely integrate every aspect of their brand-building (and protection) activities to achieve optimal impact. This means not relying on social media or any one channel.

Frank: This question implies that we are writing the epitaph on social media platforms and I don’t think that’s true. Marketing has evolved and will continue to evolve… there are several new tactics worth watching: Voice as a user interface… Amazon ads… [and] businesses have to find ways to bring better content to market faster without sacrificing quality.

Drew: Social will evolve both as an organic and paid channel and of course, new social networks will arise. In particular, expect to see smaller affinity networks that meet both virtually and physically.

Can the ship be righted?

Frank: There’s always been disinformation. You could (and they did) spread rumors in ancient Rome the same way you could on a web bulletin board in 1999.

Drew: Who said the ship is listing or sinking? Despite all of the controversy around Facebook this year, usage levels are still extraordinarily high and marketers are still finding it to be a very effective advertising channel.

I don’t know, it took us a long time to get here, and it will take a lot to fix the mess (see my post which outlines one radical way).

I am not sure I agree with those who just look at it from an ROI perspective, or being where customers and conversations are.

The medium is the message for Chrissakes. “Place” is one of the 4 P’s of marketing – and if the place has become a cesspool do you want your brand to be doing much there? (I am not saying it is quite that bad: yes the media does hype the problems – but it is a question worth pondering).

What does it look like, from a brand safety perspective, to run campaigns adjacent to the scammers? Or feature your news in places dominated by sketchy info?

Is Facebook still a good place to invest in social media marketing?

Deb: Facebook, long the Goliath in the social world may be cruising for a bruising… So if the early adopters, plus the frequent users are leaving the building what’s next?! Enter Instagram with its snazzy pix, short captions, easy engagement, and non-stop roll out of exciting new features; and What’s App, that so easily facilitates micro-community building and sharing

Neal: You can’t ignore Facebook, it is still the gorilla until something else comes along. If I‘m a B2C brand, I am still investing somewhat in Facebook. But it is 100% pay-to-play; and if I can get the same if not greater engagement organically on Instagram, why even bother with Facebook?

Drew: Yes. Yes. Yes. It is still one of the most powerful advertising platforms ever invented and continues to prove its effectiveness for just about everyone from top 100 advertisers to local mom & pop businesses

Have these changes affected your social media habits?

Neal: Absolutely! I tend to invest more in Instagram knowing that that’s where brands are, and where businesses look for influencers

Frank: The disinformation on social media certainly changes the way I share and consume information on social media. As the old adage goes, trust, but verify. That’s not just for reading but also for attribution in sharing.

Generally, I am spending less time visiting and posting to Facebook.

Further Reading

What Will It Take for Advertisers to Back Away From Facebook? (AdWeek)

‘We want these platforms to be healthy’: Why top marketers won’t quit Facebook after 2018 scandals (Digiday)

Where Facebook Went Wrong In 2018, And Why Advertisers Are Still On Board (For Now) (Ad Exchanger)

10 Social Media Strategies for Corporate Communication in 2019 (Maximize Social Business)

Social media 2018 put the spotlight on data, video, Stories (Marketing Land)

Facebook and Twitter Upheaval: How Social Media Marketing Changed in 2018 (Social Media Examiner)

Posted in Influencer marketing, Interviews, Marketing, PR Tech, Public Relations, Social Media, Tech, Technology, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Deborah Weinstein on the Challenges Confronting PR and Digital Marketing

Today I share Deborah Weinstein’s answers to questions about the challenges confronting social media marketing and digital communications.  It is the latest in my series of interviews with industry experts (see this post, which sets the stage).

My good friend Judy Gombita introduced us, and I am glad that she did.  As you will see below, Deborah offers great insight. She leads Toronto-based Strategic Objectives with co-founder and sister, Judy Lewis.  Deborah is a recognized thought leader and speaker, and a former journalist with numerous awards including the Queen’s Diamond and Golden Jubilee Medals for Outstanding Service to Canada and its Communications Industry, and the United Nations Grand Award for Outstanding Achievement in Public Relations (and an impressive Twitter following to boot; see Deborah Weinstein’s full bio).

Thanks for participating, Deborah Weinstein!

Are the social media waters still safe for marketing?

I can honestly say I have never experienced a more exciting, opportunity-laden time for PR pros to flex our strategic, ROI generating creative muscles, and prove our worth in the business world since I hopped the fence from journalism to found Strategic Objectives (our Toronto-based PR agency dedicated to helping brands tell better, more effective, sales-driving stories) back in the 80s.

Technology has transformed everything we do, from our ability to swiftly discover and tightly target key opinion leaders (be they journalists, politicians, shareholders, stakeholders, or all of the above) with relevant, credible information—to our proven power to build robust virtual communities by creating enticing, engaging bridges to the brands we represent.

The thing about marketing is that to fill your net you have to fish where the fish are. And social, with its free and open access; bountiful, ever-shifting demographic landscapes; bright, new shiny platforms; trolls and black holes, represents an ocean of opportunity marketers simply cannot afford to ignore.

Of course, there are challenges, but in the ever-evolving business of social PR, fortune goes to the brave, and the smart.

Have you been recommending a change in strategy regarding social media?

Far too many brands delegate, and relegate social strategy development and implementation to their ad agencies, internal marketing departments, even their PR intern, with a mandate to replicate, share, and spread commercial messages. They forget, or worse still ignore the main reason people converge on social media, which is to build and maintain connections through P2P (person to person) communication with friends, family, mentors, colleagues, newsmakers and other HUMAN beings.

My best advice for Marketing PRs and CMOs looking to bond with, and move social consumers to action is to adopt the content marketing approach I like to call our Strategic Objectives 4 H Club: Be Human. Be Honest. Be Helpful. Be Humble. All human qualities known to make friends and influence people.

Brands must also make sure their community manager or agency has the experience, curiosity, and imagination needed to conceive, implement and measure their social efforts.

Influencer Marketing—recruiting, measuring, managing and supervising the production and spreading of top quality content from trustworthy, inspiring key influencers, spokespeople and brand ambassadors has become an important part of our Strategic Objectives business model. We expect it to grow exponentially in scope and impact in the years to come.

What comes after social media?

We have reached a tipping point in marketing communications where the sum of a campaign’s parts are far greater than its individual components and it has never been more important for brands to completely integrate every aspect of their brand-building (and protection) activities to achieve optimal impact.

This means not relying on social media or any one channel. E.g. Strategic Objectives pivoted with the times to offer everything needed to fulfill the PESO model — Paid, Earned, Shared, Owned — conceived to integrate MarComs. Services now include everything from consumer listening to mainstream and social media relations; crisis/reputation management; digital, video and graphics production; influencer, sponsorship, and cause-related marketing; and nation-wide experiential activations. Why so many disciplines? Because to steal a page from US politics, “You’re either at the table, or you’re on it!”

Is Facebook still a good place to invest in social media marketing?

If there’s one thing that’s constant in the social world … it’s change. And Facebook, long the Goliath in the social world may be cruising for a bruising.

Recent stats from PEW Research show 49% of Facebook users aged 18-29 (many of our clients’ most coveted demographic) have deleted the FB app from their phone in the last year. Hardly a day goes by on Twitter without my seeing some social guru declaring they’re done with Facebook. So if the early adopters, plus the frequent users are leaving the building what’s next?!

Enter Instagram with its snazzy pix, short captions, easy engagement, and non-stop roll out of exciting new features; and What’s App, that so easily facilitates micro-community building and sharing. Both owned by Facebook, they’ll keep the monolith steady, despite its privacy scandals, for years to come. And let’s face it, Facebook the platform still has the numbers and access to consumer insights brands adore. My prediction is that social platforms will continue to morph, expand, contract and disappear following in the iconic footsteps of My Space and Google+. Face it, embrace it, change is good!

Have these changes affected your social media habits for personal brand building?

Personal brand building has never been my goal with social media participation. I used to be much more active, having started out on Twitter more than 10 years ago @debweinstein. Those were inspiring times featuring a head-spinning global cast of marketing characters who were always happy to comment, engage and share, 24/7. Through the years I’ve made many real-world connections with the thought leaders I met virtually years ago, and watched them grow fame and fortune, migrate to other platforms, develop full-time pursuits, and even entirely disappear.
I’m no longer hyperactive on Twitter, but still push out several tweets a day to keep our SO team, and my community up-to-date on social advents and need to know news.

I love Insta and use it @deborahweinstein to experiment and test my social skills and instincts with real friends and netizens around the world. But it takes hours of time a day to be a good, engaging social citizen — liking, reciprocating, commenting, posting — which is time I simply don’t have. This makes me feel guilty, and even less likely to participate.
What’s App is my Godsend for family communication, and my FB usage has almost completely dwindled to group participation (shout out to PRSA Counsellors Academy!).

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Neal Schaffer on Social Media Challenges & Opportunities for 2019

I was thrilled when Neal Schaffer agreed to participate in my series about challenges facing social media marketing.  Neal is a social media speaker and consultant ranked by Forbes and others as a top influencer. I had the privilege of writing for his Maximize Social Business blog for three years, and have also spoken at several of his Social Tool Summit conferences.

The timing was great, as Neal told me he had just returned from a trip around the world in which some of these very same topics came up in discussions with major brands.  Plus, Neal has just finished his book The Business of Influence, which is also relevant, as you’ll see.

See below for the Q & A; and thanks, Neal Schaffer for sharing your views!

Are the social media waters still safe for marketing?

Social media was made for people and social media is really returning to a people media.  Not to say that there’s no role for brands on social media. But I think it is getting more and more intrusive for brands to try to take part in the conversation.  That’s why you have all the case studies of brands talking to each other.  At the end of the day, as the average social media user, “are you using social media to communicate with brands?” And the answer is “no,” right? I think brands need to be cognizant of that. So, it’s still safe if it’s done right; I think the way to do it is to leverage other people, to incite word of mouth through influencer marketing.  It’s not just leveraging celebrities that want to get paid, but brands building communities of influencers. I visited a major brand today that is the first brand I’ve heard that actually plans on doing it; it is an excellent idea and the wave of the future.

Have you been recommending a change in strategy regarding social media?

Definitely.  An influencer component should become part of the mix. You have organic, you have paid, and now you have influencers. And I’m not talking about one-night stand campaigns but ongoing relationships.  Whether B2B or B2C, it’s about finding those that you can tap into the community that can help your brand be heard; to cut through the noise and be known, liked and trusted.

What comes after social media?

That’s a really good question. Social media is more and more becoming people media, and I think you have millennials that have stopped watching TV and instead spend most of their time on YouTube or IGTV or perhaps Facebook Watch. I don’t think we’re there yet but considering how much time teenagers spend watching YouTube videos, they are already watching that more than TV, so I don’t think we’re that far behind.  Actually, this could be a generational thing; but that would be where I see things going.

Is Facebook still a good place to invest in social media marketing?

You can’t ignore Facebook, it is still the gorilla until something else comes along. If I‘m a B2C brand, I am still investing somewhat in Facebook.  But it is 100% pay-to-play; and if I can get the same if not greater engagement organically on Instagram, why even bother with Facebook? Obviously, you have ad targeting capabilities but you can bring those over to Instagram. So Facebook is not looking as attractive to invest in social media marketing as it used to be, and with the way that Instagram engagement is, it is looking even less attractive. It is someplace you need to have a platform, but I think you really need to look at your ROI there from organic, paid, influencer, across these different social networks and you’ll find, as I have, that there are many consumer brands that post much more frequently on Instagram than Facebook. And I’m sure they’re doing more advertising on Instagram as well.

Have these changes affected your social media habits for personal brand building?

Absolutely! I tend to invest more in Instagram knowing that that’s where brands are, and where businesses look for influencers.  I’m writing a book on influencer marketing so part of it is R&D.  But yeah, I definitely look to build my brand more visually in addition to sort of this business persona I have on Twitter or on LinkedIn; a visual representation of my professional self and even personal self, primarily on Instagram.  I will share from Instagram to Facebook. I do little native Facebook these days.

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Frank Strong on Next Steps in Social Media Marketing

I have been writing about issues challenging social media and digital communications, and speaking with thought leaders on the topic.  In this installment, I interview Frank Strong, Founder & President of Sword & Script Media, LLC. He’s a tech PR guy and long-time PR blogger, so he can’t be all bad 🙂 Seriously, Frank has written some great stuff, and is very savvy about matters related to PR, digital and content.  We’ve kicked ideas and blog posts back and forth over Twitter, and I thought he would be a good person to ask.  Thanks for participating, Frank!

Frank Strong, Founder & President, Sword & Script Media

Are the social media waters still safe for marketing?

I don’t think it’s a question of safe, rather it’s a question of whether or not your customers and prospects are on social media.  If they are, then there’s a pretty good chance you still need to be there too. And if that’s true, then you need to ensure your use of that medium matches customer expectations which typically means being honest, transparent and consistent.  

Have you been recommending a change in strategy regarding social media?

I never quite got on board with the “social media strategy” part (see this post from 2012 titled: Social Media Strategists will be Gone in 2 Years). This is because social media is a channel and just one of many in the marketing mix.  So, what businesses need the most is marketing strategy and the fundamentals – audience identification, positioning, messaging, distribution and feedback or measurement – haven’t changed even as tactics have evolved.

That said, business does need to bring something more to social media channels because the platforms have changed: organic efforts alone probably won’t cut it for most.  You need to be both engaging and worth engaging.  Too many brands still operate in output-only mode and then wonder why no one has noticed.  You need to have a way of activating stakeholders on social media, like employees, because their efforts are likely to go further and advance a brand’s efforts.  Finally, you probably need to bring some budget for social media advertising and time to experiment with paid media techniques.

What comes after social media?

This question implies that we are writing the epitaph on social media platforms and I don’t think that’s true.  Marketing has evolved and will continue to evolved so social media will be one part of  the mix. In terms of digital marketing there are several new tactics worth watching:
 

  • Voice as a user interface that replaces or augments touch screens and keyboards – Google returns 10 organic listings to any given search query – voice assistants will return one;
  • Amazon’s move into advertising is breathtaking, both as an opportunity and an emerging marketing specialization in Amazon ads, much like what we saw with Google ads 15 years ago; and
  • The speed of business continues to accelerate – to compete business have to find ways to bring better content to market faster without sacrificing quality; to do this they must break down bureaucracy, internal politics and hire people with the experience they can trust to act accordingly.

Can the ship be righted?

There’s always been disinformation.  You could (and they did) spread rumors in ancient Rome the same way you could on a web bulletin board in 1999.  Some of it sticks for a while but people learn to discern the difference, the crowd beat it back, the providers find a way to tamp it down and that sets off the next evolution.  It’s a giant game of cat and mouse and it’s always going to be that way so long as there’s an incentive to do so, which is a matter of human behavior, not a matter technology, and regardless of what comes down the line that’s “new.”

Is Facebook still a good place to invest in social media marketing?

If your customers and prospects are on Facebook, than it probably is.  If Facebook lost half of it’s users tomorrow, which will not happen because it had deep roots in the years of friend-making and photos users have invested on the platform, then it will still have somewhere around a billion users.  Still, it’s always worth hedging bets and keeping an eye out for other opportunities. 

Have these changes affected your social media habits for personal brand building?

The term “personal branding” drives me absolutely bonkers, especially in a team environment like that a business strives to cultivate, because it suggests personal priorities over brand priorities and the ego always wins in marketing. However, the disinformation on social media certainly changes the way I share and consume information on social media.  As the old adage goes, trust, but verify.  That’s not just for reading but also for attribution in sharing.

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Does Social Media Marketing need a Reboot? Drew Neisser Chimes in

Drew Neisser, Founder & CEO of Renegade

I have been blogging about challenges confronting digital PR and social media marketing.  You can read those posts to learn more.  In a nutshell, issues have surfaced over the past couple of years (related to fake news, online manipulation, growing privacy concerns as examples) that I believe drive the need to take stock and possibly reevaluate digital strategies.

This is my first in series of interviews on the topic.  I thought it would be great to get Drew Neisser’s views.  He’s an impressive guy. Drew Neisser is the founder and CEO of Renegade, the NYC-based strategic boutique for B2B renegades. Drew also hosts Renegade Thinkers Unite, the #2 podcast for CMOs and writes the CMO Spotlight column for AdAge; is the author of The CMOs Periodic Table: A Renegade’s Guide to Marketing and serves on the boards of the Urban Green Council and Duke Alumni Association.

We’ve enjoyed partnering with Drew and his  team on groundbreaking campaigns over the yearsd. Here is the Q & A, and thanks for participating Drew!

  • Are the social media waters still safe for marketing?

Absolutely. What’s not safe is ignoring social conversations, especially those related to your brand and category.  Interestingly, brands that take a stand, even a controversial one, are generally way ahead of those that sit on the sidelines. Nike’s 30th anniversary campaign, which featured Colin Kaepernick among many athletes, was an unquestionable success, dramatically increasing their fan base and engagement rates and even ended up good for the brand on the stock market despite the 1-day panic sellers.

  • Have you been recommending a change in strategy regarding social media?

Yes and no. No, in that it is still essential for brands to participate in social media in the spirit of the channels – in other words, brands need to be interested and interesting, in that order. Fail on either parameter and you’ll probably fall flat.  The main strategic shifts are three-fold, first and foremost, you must have a paid strategy to support your organic efforts. Second, you need to have very different strategies for each channel, recognizing that Twitter is for real-time engagement, including social customer service. Instagram is all about dazzling images and stories and Facebook is increasingly about video storytelling. And LinkedIn is a powerhouse for B2B lead generation and recruiting. Third, given the plethora of content being pushed out every nanosecond, we’re recommending brands focus more on quality over quantity – since only the best stuff will rise to the top.

  • What comes after social media?

First, social media will be around for many years to come, just like TV, outdoor, radio and even print.  Social will evolve both as an organic and paid channel and of course, new social networks will arise. In particular, expect to see more smaller affinity networks that meet both virtually and physically.  The counter-trend to increased digital communications is the growing desire to meet in person.  Business event attendance is at record highs and many B2B brands consider events their best source of leads.

  • Can the ship be righted?

Who said the ship is listing or sinking? Despite all of the controversy around Facebook this year, usage levels are still extraordinarily high and marketers are still finding it to be a very effective advertising channel.  LinkedIn is also attracting increased advertising dollars and usage rates continue to grow.  Obviously, Snapchat is in trouble, having been eclipsed by Instagram – which essentially took the best of Snapchat and left the rest out. And Twitter is struggling to find its way but hopefully will turn itself around given its unique strengths.

  • Is Facebook still a good place to invest in social media marketing?

Yes. Yes. Yes.  It is still one of the most powerful advertising platforms ever invented and continues to prove its effectiveness for just about everyone from top 100 advertisers to local mom & pop businesses.

  • Have these changes affected your social media habits for personal brand building?

A bit. It’s more important than ever to engage with other people’s content, to demonstrate your interest in them. Inevitably, your interest in others will pay extraordinary dividends as they reciprocate with their attention. Also, the bar is higher for content quality. I’m creating a bit less content these days but trying to make what I do put out there as good as I can make it. Finally, it is important to recognize that organic reach can only get you so far, so it’s important to build your own mailing list, share quality content to your list AND get regular exposure on reputable media properties.

Posted in Interviews, PR, PR Tech, Public Relations, Social Media, Uncategorized, Web 2.0 | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Next Steps in Social Media Marketing

If social media were a brand, it’s one that I think most would agree has been tarnished.

The reputation hits come from many directions. Sure, Facebook’s troubles have been front and center. It’s nothing short of mind boggling, the mischief and misdeeds that run rampant there.

And it’s not just about Facebook or even social media. Others have come under fire too, for their content and privacy issues, in related areas of online like general Web, Google, and mobile.

These things are not likely to fade away or radically change anytime soon. But fixes are needed, from the industry side and it seems certain that lawmakers and regulators will have a growing hand too.

This may lead some to wonder what to do in the interim. Are the waters safe for social media marketing? Should brands hedge their bets? What about for personal interaction and brand building? There’s a #DeleteFacebook movement and rising tide to wean ourselves off our device addictions.

Amidst these trends I thought I’d investigate what people who work in the field have to say. So I sent the note below around, and will be running the answers in a series of posts.

(I was not sure what to expect. Would they gloss over the challenges or suggest major changes? interestingly, this Digiday articles says Facebook advertisers are staying the course).

It would be great to hear from others too, via comments, or DM me on Twitter if you’d like to do a full interview.  If there’s enough interest in the topic, I may run a Twitter chat.  So check out the inquiry below and stay tuned for answers in the coming days.

Thanks for reading.

Defending your Social Influence

I’m blogging on the following topic and wanted to get the thoughts of you and others who rock it in social media and related areas like digital PR, and content and influencer marketing.

Trust in social media and journalism are at an all-time low. Facebook’s problems have cast a pall over the social platform space. Social sharing saw a decline for the first time this year. Digital media and ads continue to grow as journalism and organic social suffer, ad fraud continues to be a problem, and mistrust between all in the ecosystem prevails.

In this climate, it can be hard to distinguish smart digital marketing from hacking a broken system, and legitimate news vs. disinformation, hype and outright fake, lying news.
Some say it is an awkward adolescence for social media; others say we have built a shaky house of cards that can’t continue without significant changes (well, I kind of wrote that).

What do you say?

  • Are the social media waters still safe for marketing?
  • Have you been recommending a change in strategy regarding social media?
  • What comes after social media?
  • Can the ship be righted?
  • Is Facebook still a good place to invest in social media marketing?
  • Have these changes affected your social media habits for personal brand building?
Posted in Influencer marketing, Interviews, Marketing, Public Relations, Social Media, Tech PR, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments