Because it can touch everything from Communications to Marketing to Customer Service to Product Development, Social Media has created a muddied playing field that some see as ripe for creating agency opportunities …
Now the question for social media firms is whether they’ll translate the short-term demand for Facebook pages, Twitter campaigns and audits of social chatter about a brand into a long-term strategic business … Otherwise what they’re offering clients will quickly become the domain of established agencies in Public Relations, Advertising and Digital.
The jury is still out on this one
First of all let me state clearly that there is no silver bullet with regards to whether a Digital Agency or a PR outfit should be leading the charge when it comes to Social Media.
Furthermore, one size certainly doesn’t fit all when it comes to whether your company or organization should be utilizing Social Media or not, and if so with whom.
Going back to that quirky quote from AdWeek, it’s like saying, “we can help you build a Facebook fan page or a Twitter profile, but if you need a microsite or some banners to promote it, you’re best off calling a Digital Marketing agency.”
Newsflash: Social Media is Digital Marketing.
Sorry to break this news to the Social Media Gurus and social media agencies of the world. You can dance around this statement all you want … let’s face it: all Social Media strategy and first-contact happens in the online channels.
The results of that strategy and activity may filter through how an organization communicates, markets, handles after-care or customer service, but Social Media starts and lives in the Digital Marketing channel….
And, if it does live in the Digital Channel, but as a social media agency you can’t help your client also build both the platforms and presence online, what does that say about your skill level?
Let’s not make it bigger than it is.
Like a strong direct marketing strategy, advertising campaign or affiliate program, Social Media is one spoke in the marketing wheel (it just looks more shiny than the other spokes because platforms like Twitter, Facebook and YouTube are new and exciting).
In fact, Social Media is much more like a spoke in the Digital Marketing wheel. This doesn’t mean it should be diminished, but to think that a strong Digital Marketing shop doesn’t have the abilities or capabilities to lead Social Media is downright silly and unfounded.
A great Digital Marketing agency that truly meets the clients’ needs is one that can develop the digital strategy and then execute on it (the design, content, technology, marketing and communications).
It’s going to be interesting to see what unique offerings these social media agencies bring to the brand table that the Digital Marketing agencies were missing.”
Read the whole post and the comments over at Six Pixels of Separation by Mitch Joel at Twist Image: Social Media Gurus – That Old Chestnut (Who Owns Social Media?)
Challenges for Businesses with regards to Social Media
It´s a scientifically proven fact that there’s only so much meaningful interaction, friends, interconnectivity, sharing, status updates and ReTweets one can take at any given moment in time.
And this isn’t even taking time management or life hacking into account; strictly speaking there’s (Dunbar’s number) a bio/psychologically maximum amount of social interaction and stimulus our brains can handle – be sure to keep an eye on the latest Oxford findings regarding this.
What this also means today is that people in general -becoming ever more acquainted with Social Media and most of its apparent benefits & setbacks- are increasingly critical about whom they connect, or “friend”, with online (quality/potential Vs. quantity). And, as a result, how much time they spend with them on any given social network.
The analogy goes that you could compare it to standing in a café socialising with friends and familiars; you wouldn’t appreciate someone breaking in the conversation or party (with a commercial message) without introducing properly first.
These developments have spin-off effects for your brand in this space as well.
Think about this for a minute.
Now, let’s take a look at the slight nugget called Legal, as Clorox has done:
That could help explain why the marketer has taken the unusual step of advertising for a full-time in-house legal counsel to focus on social media — a rather surprising sign of how entrenched social-media marketing is becoming even for relatively established household products.
Currently, having such expertise in-house and full-time at a marketer is rare, said Jack Greiner, an attorney with Cincinnati’s Graydon Head & Ritchey, one of the few attorneys on LinkedIn to list social-media as a specialty. “It’s the first I’ve heard of it,” he said.
“Social-media channels are a growing focus for consumer communication and stakeholder engagement for our brands and company,” a Clorox spokesman said in an e-mail.
“As a newer communication channel, the application of existing laws to this medium is evolving. For those reasons and the rapid pace of communication in the Web 2.0 world, we’re seeking an attorney to focus on social media as well as talent rights.”
The primary duties, he said, are to clear and procure intellectual property rights regarding production and distribution of advertising, including Screen Actors Guild and American Federation of Television and Recording Artists issues, consumer privacy and video licensing.
Comment addendum by Antone Johnson:
Regarding social media policies, I think it’s helpful to divide the universe of communications into two distinct buckets.
The first category is the everyday online chatter by thousands of individual employees, which may or may not touch on the company’s business or products.
This kind of communication can and should be regulated by a well-thought-out social media policy, enforced by HR and/or IT in the same way they enforce other employment-related and IT usage policies. (A little training during employee orientation goes a long way.)
The second category is messaging from authorized corporate communicators:
Senior executives, PR, MarCom, Customer Care, Community Managers on online forums, etc. A social media policy alone isn’t enough; these folks need individualized, timely, thoughtful legal guidance.
Their statements can and will be taken as the corporation’s official view of things. Social media make it easier than ever to make misstatements that can be used against the marketer as “Exhibit A” in litigation.
This is particularly true for large corporations, which are perceived as having deep pockets and become targets for class action plaintiffs’ lawyers and government regulators.
As the quotes above underline, social media expertise should occupy two seats: one inside the advertiser itself (I’ll get back to this in more detail later on) and one inside dedicated Digital Agencies, since, inherent to their DNA, they’re better suited at this than pure traditional Agencies are right now.
Dedicated social agencies can’t create effective Social Strategies
Though I’m all for entrepreneurship and an avid fan of innovation, I’m quite sceptical about yet another specialist niche branch forming, (viral seeding agencies anyone?) be it inside or independent of traditional or Digital Agencies: yes, I’m looking at you, social media agency.
Especially since in this specific case the subject matter ties so close –too close- with the core business of any organization: i.e., taking for your customers / prospects / leads.
Why exactly is your company contracting a newly formed “social agency” to do the crucial interaction with these people in such a delicate environment (sometimes volatile even)? A few more questions:
- Can this freshly formed organization handle the scale 6, 12, or 18 months from now (community management, moderating in real-time 24/7, mob behaviour even)?
- What about legal liability (see the quote above from Jack Greiner) when it comes to international operating brands on Facebook?
- What about accountability (towards customers/end-users, partners and B2B clients), lead follow-ups, customer retention and so on?
- What about integration with the online display, SEA campaigns and the mini site?
- And what about the connection with the core brand values “as seen on TV”?
- Do they understand the finer intricacies of your business goals on the one hand vs. customer service & needs on the other hand?
Make no mistake about this, many industry thought leaders are (the dotcom bubble freshly in the back of their mind no doubt) rightfully questioning this trend of social agencies and self-proclaimed guru’s:
Do they even know your competitors, the field your operating in, the challenges you face, regulations, et cetera? You know; the stuff any Marketing Agency worth their salt actually takes into account before helping you set a long term strategy? If so, then why set up a separate one-trick-pony-entity instead of integrating it in the (digital) media mix? It just doesn’t add up.
Social Media is Anthropology, meets PR, meets Customer Service, meets Sales, meets DM, meets Sociology, meets Business Intelligence, meets Legal, meets… what-have-you, all for the greater good of meeting Business Objectives at the end of the day.
So. Exactly what are the business credentials of the people employed in this social agency, apart from having set up a Facebook fan page for their local small-town barbershop?
[Note: I’m not talking about credentials in a “certified social media company” kind of way, nowadays most of us are aware that in IT -for the most part- certificates (Google AdWords and the like notwithstanding) don’t prevent disasters, nor do they guarantee a pleasurable partnership or outcome. How many big IT projects had multiple Black Belts overseeing certified .NET implementing professionals and failed big time?]
Getting and staying involved in Social Media isn’t the same as setting up a one-way Interruption Marketed Advertising campaign for six weeks and it isn’t action based Sales Promotion with a short term focus either.
Nor is it about hiring a Web Care Team after the damage has been done in order to clean up the online response on a subpar product coupled with bad customer service.
UPC (Cable giant) has felt this here in The Netherlands as recently they’ve been indexed as the company with the worst customer service in a research conducted by the Customer Insights Center from the University of Groningen, intelligence agency MIcompany and Dutch research firm MetrixLab.
This despite being an innovator online by being the first Dutch company to deploy a Web Care Team with varying success. Sweet Irony to some, Social Media in full effect to others (as sharing bad customer experiences has become ubiquitous).
Social Media is a mindset ideally to be adopted throughout the whole organization, just like company values. Larger organizations will have to act on this in the coming decade.
Joseph Jaffe: In my opinion, this isn’t about tactics or platforms….it’s about a mindset shift. Commitments versus Campaigns. Retention versus Acquisition. Conversation versus Communication. And in the former cases, we’re dealing with decidedly post-marketing platforms that are – for the most part – decidedly brand unfriendly.
It’s an ongoing process, not to be automated.
Au contraire; it’s actually about interacting with human beings(!) in a passionate and authentic way, all whilst keeping the mutual interests of the organization, as well as the customer in mind. Though balance to strike.
Earned Media vs. Paid Media (Dealing with The Shift)
Who knows? Maybe over time they’ll embrace your efforts and your brand.
Then again, maybe they won’t because a few days back your Call Centre Manager was focussed more on her maximum allowed Average Conversation Duration Per Service Employee instead of solving the problem of a frustrated customer. So, said customer has started a flame blog, which TechCrunch has picked up, turning it into a trending topic on twitter overnight, which in turn has been indexed by Google in less than an hour, effectively making your SERP turn off potential customers and would-be B2B partners, despite that carefully planned and crafted Super Bowl Ad…
As you can see, Social Media is much as it has always been in real life actually, with the critical difference that these interactions between your brand and “them” are online, out in the open, for all to see, to monitor, to be spread in real-time and archived. Forever (or until Singularity at the very least).
This, combined with the fact that your organization has to structurally change internally for any meaningful long-term results, make this quite a complicated and challenging era, as you cannot afford not to be at least somewhat social, yet it can backfire significantly when implemented in the wrong way. Or with short-term focused expectations from shareholders, the board or senior management for that mather. Oh, and I’ve left the whole Social Media ROI debate out of the equation.
Still convinced that fancy social agency is well equipped and worth the check/PO?
Possible solutions: Internalizing the knowledge
The point I’m trying to make is that these new upstarts are either interested in making a quick buck over the back of you and your customers, or they’re focusing on the “What?” (“Which social tools should we deploy? YouTube or twitter?” -in other words: operational tactics), instead of focusing on the “Why?” and on what Social Media could mean for you and your customers.
Take heed of the former, and as for the latter, well, benevolent though their intentions may be, know that the way to hell is paved with good intentions…
Notable exception / leading example in this discussion are the Social Media Monitoring companies like Radian6 as they have a very tasty asset, or two actually: hard data and experience.
They’ve been busily beavering away for the past years, before Social Media became de rigour and have actual added value in the partner chain around your project/organization. They have the data, the knowledge and experience to translate social media output into actionable insights.
To my eye the solution is as follows:
Your organization must internalize Social Media as soon as possible -not tomorrow or next week necessarily, but do start as soon as you can (word has it your competitors are already a few laps ahead -sensing the urgency yet?).
Then, drilling further down, you should have one or more internal champions, digital marketers along with their traditional kin, who can sit down at the round table with IT partners, Social Media Monitoring Companies, Digital Agencies & Traditional Agencies alike, and get down to business.
You don’t outsource Sales, you hopefully are not outsourcing your Customer Service* and you definitely should refrain from outsourcing direct contact with your target audience and customers. If you’re not convinced yet, then feel free to take a look at an interesting development over at one of the biggest brands on the planet: Coca Cola are internalizing Social Media as they go .
Ford Motor Company is, arguably, one of the leading big brands in the world when it comes to having garnered considerable achievements in/with Social Media; admittedly having Social Media rock star Scott Monty (@ScottMonty) aboard as an internal accelerator or catalyst as well as a CEO backing him helps a lot. Ford’s Scott Monty has the following take on this topic:
“If you have a dedicated social media agency they need to be well integrated with the rest of your team because none of this stuff stands alone,” said Scott Monty, digital and multimedia communications manager at Ford.
Rather than have a single social media shop, Ford works with several for different needs. It leans on the social skills of OgilvyPR, while also working with Social Media Group and Undercurrent. “This is the year that will separate the pretenders from the practitioners.”
[* In twenty years time we’ll have a jolly great laugh looking back on the days when you actually didn’t help the customer yourself because... err, business books and MBA’s thought us it was the right way, we never questioned its merits out loud towards senior baby boom management and the internet, social media et al didn’t exist to expose this mindset, but I digress...]
Off course, your mileage may vary, depending on whether your organization is strategically focussed on either Cost Leadership, Innovation or Customer Intimacy.
And it could be both Mitch, Scott and many others in our field, are proven wrong over time as, like I said above, the jury is still out on this one.
Speaking of Mitch Joel, he posted the following piece regarding ROI and Social Media:
Richard Binhammer (from Dell‘s Social Media team) gave a presentation and when one of the audience members asked about how Dell measures the ROI of their Social Media strategy, Binhammer responded that ROI was nothing more than an accounting term and probably has little to no place when it comes to measuring the success of any Social Media marketing initiative.
How would that make your clients, team members and supervisors feel?
Binhammer … concluded by saying that he doesn’t think about ROI, rather he looks at the overall business objectives and if Social Media can help him meet those objectives, then that is what is ultimately the most important thing.
Let’s repeat: forget the ROI and look at the business objectives.
In looking at business through this prism, Dell has changed the way they do business and – in doing so – they have made lots of money by being engaged and using everything Social Media that is under the sun.
In a more primal way, they’re focused on using Social Media to meet practical business objectives and not looking at the overall ROI…
My argument is not against metrics and measurement as it relates to social media and business. My point is that we sometimes get lost in the forest for the trees….and one step further, some of the traditional metrics and insights need revision when we think about social media and business….but fundamentally we do measure measure and measure more.
Conclusion: Due Diligence/Beware the Snake Oil
All in all, the debate regarding ROI in social media and the added value of social media agencies still has yet to give birth to a definite, industry wide accepted outcome, and maybe won’t for some time.
To my eye, all facts point to one conclusion which I’ve summed up in the title of this very column.
Dunno, like viral agencies we’ve yet to see a yearbook worth of big brand cases produced by dedicated social media agencies that showcase their worth, yet they tend to position themselves with the swagger as though they have seeded viral or social media campaigns with an 80 to 99% success rate…
Should anyone care? Aren’t we “all in it for the money”?
Well, yours truly is not and I’d like to believe most of us are “in it” out of a passion, which happens to provide us with the means of getting food on the table, paying the rent/mortgage, etc.. Make no mistake, I’m an entrepreneur at heart and a positive minded one at that, but with great power comes… (well, you know the drill)
Remember the dotcom bubble bursting less than 10 years ago? We’ve seen what self-proclaimed consultants in green field markets/industries are capable of if left unchecked: wrecking havoc amongst clients eventually seriously damaging everyone in this space.
Sounds farfetched? The Credit Crunch demonstrated to us what happens when an influential industry is left unchecked and nobody calls out the cowboys.
Granted, social media is new, standards are yet to be fully understood, found and implemented. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t take pride in our work, our profession, our science, our art. It is a professional responsibility to call out the snake oil sales men.
Perhaps more than anything Social Media is also about the “echo chamber”; about memes being spread. By adding my voice to the ever increasing echo of industry specialists, agencies and bloggers, I hope to amplify the growing consensus that social does not an agency make. That you should be mindful of letting your company in with any self-proclaimed guru or social agency. Due diligence.
This column turned out somewhat longer than expected, so thanks for bearing with me. I will be keeping a close eye on this topic as it continues to evolve.
In the mean time I’m really curious if there’s an angle I might have missed, so feel free to drop a comment below.
The Three Laws of Customer Centricity (Beta)
1. A company may not wilfully and knowingly harm the interests of a customer/partner/stakeholder or, through inaction, allow a customer/partner/stakeholder’s interests to come to harm.
2. A company must, to the best of its efforts and resources, service the customers and put them at the centre of every business decision, except where providing such services would conflict with the First Law or Third Law.
3. A company must protect its own long-term interests and existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.
The above was an idea I derived from the famous Three Laws of Robotics, a set of three rules written by SF author Isaac Asimov (1920-1992), which almost all positronic robots appearing in his fiction must obey.
I was thinking of coming up with a “Three Laws of Customer Centricity” adaption, but I think the model still needs some tweaking here and there. Any ideas?
“If it was up to Spotify co-founder Daniel Ek, the music industry would be embracing the future instead of constantly fighting against it.
The new business model is “a mix between ad-supported music, downloads, subscriptions, merchandising and ticketing where the user comes first and where the key to monetization comes from portability and packaging access rights. If willing to adapt, the music industry could then have the potential to become a $40-50 billion industry…”
…Ek calls out the music industry for expecting to see business models proven “within months of inception. That’s just not how it works.” Reminding us how Apple’s iTunes was not initially the powerhouse it is today: In its first year, iTunes missed its revenue targets by 30% and most label executives doubted its staying power at the time.
The overall point: success in this industry takes time.”
On a similar note Denis Doeland has recently posted a sharp column –in Dutch- on his blog regarding the need for a true sense of urgency and vision regarding licensing fees and innovative business models within the (dance) music industry:
“Due to the transition from the physical to the digital age, the economic value of the master has increased by almost a factor 4 and the economic value of the copyright has increased with a factor of approximately 1,5. This is quite peculiar.
Back in the Nineties Dance-labels apparently were content with a lower licensing rate due to the bigger amounts / volumes being sold. Dance-labels apparently used to make do with 5 to 6 Eurocents for each compilation sold.
Furthermore it’s quite peculiar to note that the fees being paid for the master nowadays are up to 2 and even 5 times higher than the those being paid for the copyright itself.
In the ‘physical age’ the Dance-industry was actually a ‘compilation-driven business’. In hindsight it would now seem that, for compilations, one paid for a collection compensation of sorts.
Popular tracks received higher royalty-percentages than the less popular tracks and depending on the commercial success of said compilation the compensation fees would start pouring in. After all, one compilation would fare better than the other.
The numbers mentioned above are food for thought. Does the business model, as used by the Dance-industry, still hold up today? Hasn’t the use of ‘pay-per-unit’ in the Dance-industry become dated?”
Translated interpretation from original post in Dutch: Doeland’s Blog- ‘The Dance-industry used to make do with 5 to 6 Eurocents …’
Currently Doeland is Director of IP Services and Internet at Dutch dance event giant ID&T/Q-dance (of, amongst others, Sensation White fame) and also co-founder of Dance-Tunes.com. He has written two columns touching these subjects earlier this year, both which you can read here (translated from Dutch with Google Translate).
According to Denis, gone are the days of yore when the Electronic Dance Music (EDM) niche was the main innovator within music and in its stead we now deal with record labels unwilling of seeing or proactively taking on the challenge ahead, namely that 95% of all music consumed is done so illegally.
“Recently it became clear that the Dance-industry isn’t really thinking ‘Outside of the box’.
For the umpteenth time in the (close to five years of) existence of Dance-Tunes we’ve received a note from a certain label with the request to arrange it so that customers visiting our site from a certain given country can’t buy the music from the download store of their choosing.
A so-called ‘territorial restriction’.
A customer not originating from the country in which the download store is based may not download his favourite music or the download store may not offer this music to the customer in his own country, but may do so if he’s outside those borders.”
Translated interpretation from original post in Dutch: Doeland’s Blog- Column: Dance-corporations first ‘Out of the Box’, now ‘Back in the Box’?
The confusing situation sketched above is quite ironic as the likes of SoundCloud, iTunes, Last.FM, Beatport.com, Spotify and Dance-Tunes have finally given labels and artists the low-entry platforms and reach to connect with an audience willing to pay, on a global scale. Frictionless and with permission.
Furthermore, I’ve got to second Doeland regarding the irrational rectulance of some labels to cooperate in spreading their content across as many channels as reasonably possible and using the various opportunities to monetize it, while at the same time its these very same labels being the most vocal regarding mainstream media ignoring them and how they’re falling victim to piracy.
Now, personally though I’m an avid fan of EDM (Electronic Dance Music) and other music styles, you’d be hard pressed to find any installed torrent software or illegal content on my hard drive. Indeed, yours truly is dubbed a “Digital Native” or a member of “Generation Y” (being born in ‘81), yet I actually PAY for ALL my entertainment, be it games, music or movies.
Actually, I’m even prepared to travel up to an hour through rainy weather, stand in line for over half an hour, just to get my hands on a shrink-wrapped jewel case, containing nothing more than an optical disk and a stapled bunch of dead trees.
All of this with the knowledge in the back of my head that any colleague or friend of mine would’ve been glad to offer me the music digitally and for free weeks before it’s official country release.
It’s okay, thank you, I’ll wait. It’s worth it. And this is not just a case of N=1, as luckily there are still tens of millions of people like me, including Gen Y, buying entertainment.
If anything, the craze around the late Michael Jackson last summer proved that there’s still life left -no pun intended- in the concept of paying for your entertainment (all under the strict condition that it is made easily available for purchase, and for a fair price of course): people mournfully took their wallets and dug in, in part because his CD’s were all over the place, even down to the local grocery store.
Yet, with regards to EDM –and despite its digital nature- the situation is quite the opposite: I’ve frequently found myself waiting months, or even up to a year before a track could be purchased.
Sometimes the record wouldn’t get released at all, or was made available exclusively for certain territories or download stores, where my wallet or IP address location couldn’t reach it. So much for the internet being international or stateless…
Then, when said release wouldn’t sell (sufficiently), the self-fulfilling prophecy to the eye of the label manager was complete:
“See, I told you people weren’t waiting for this “product”, put in on the front page of obscure download shop X in country Y but only one tune sold, digital music stores don’t work, people only listen to 3 minute radio edits, we need a higher cut, we want an advance, where’s my lawyer, nag, nag, nag…”
Most label managers and representatives still seem to be bereft of any sense of basics such as Time-to-Market, Availability, Distribution, Multi-Channel Marketing, Pricing or Customer Centricity.
As a side note, the latter is a trait common to the whole entertainment sector, yet one they’ve managed to get away with. Until now.
Having worked at Dance-Tunes.com a few years back, I recall sitting on the other side of the table, no longer “just” a fan, but as an “insider”, slowly beginning to see –not understand- how on earth it was possible that so many great tunes and artists were not represented and made available legally online in a timely manner: their label management knew of the possibilities, but explicitly refrained from taking advantage of them.
This wasn’t an oversight on their part, it was a deliberate decision.
A decision made not based on data, insights or Business Intelligence, but based on assumptions and emotion, thus de facto spurring illegal file sharing or use of (mobile phone)recorded live sets and performances amongst the community.
After all, how else could these fans relive and enjoy those moments? How else could they gain access to that obscure remix by their favourite DJ/Producer? How else could they share the alleged Magnus Opus of an underground idol and use this to root for support for their upcoming talent of choice?
Let me get this straight: These fans are the core audience, committed ambassadors AND they’re happily willing to let labels part with their money, yet all those labels seem to be able to do is refuse this legal transaction based on invalid argumentation?
Reading the blog posts from both Ek and Doeland it would seem not much has changed over the past two years. All in all a strange paradox and an unnecessary one at that (and it wasn’t about unbalanced licensing fees either, as to my experience at Dance-Tunes at least, everything was negotionable).
Mind you, this is not a column to bash the music industry, it’s a rant by a concerned fan calling and lashing out to not only label moguls but conservative (small) label owners as well.
This column is written by an ambassador, a loyal customer, a paying fan, who wants nothing more but to see musicians succeed; who feels that talent has the right to be heard and should be supported: The very thing that record labels originally set out to do in the first place, right?
Though your “good old days” of getting-rich-quick may be over, at least now you’ll truly get to fulfill your raison d’être.
Music Industry; Indies and the Big Four alike: you need initiatives such as Spotify, Last.FM and (niche, local) download stores more than you realize. And we, the fans, consumers and artists, need you to understand and act on this.
Change your culture, innovate your business model.
Seeing as music and entertainment are known to be one of the main pillars of any culture, and certainly our modern culture today, it would be a fruitful endeavour if you as an industry took a leaf out of the book from leading labels, innovative start-ups, daring pioneers and bold thought leaders.
Make more haste -and take pride(!)- in acting collectively, with a positive, constructive mindset, instead of endlessly debating fickle things such as fees amongst your kin and punishing your fans and propagators (like BUMA did here in The Netherlands).
You’ve spent the last 10 years doing the latter and we all know where and what that has brought you…
[Disclaimer: Though I’ve had the honour of working, in part as a trainee/intern, with Denis Doeland and Peter Hillebrands at Dance-Tunes, I’m currently not tied to them or any company directly aligned to ID&T/Q-dance/Dance-Tunes. I’ve written and posted this column as a music aficionado to tie in with the annually held Amsterdam Dance Event (ADE), which is taking place this week in my home-town of Amsterdam, The Netherlands. Here’s hoping that the various international attendants, regardless if they read this column or not, take these issues to heart, discuss them and take concrete action in 2010 and beyond.]
“…there is a group of executives inside the company that believe “Pay With Facebook” could end up a bigger revenue source than Facebook’s advertising revenues. We’ve estimated Facebook’s advertising revenues will reach $475 million in 2009.
To get an idea what kind of challenges Facebook will have to overcome to get there, consider that during the second quarter, eBay subsidiary PayPal’s revenues were $669 million, up 11% y/y.
It got there with:
- 75 million active registered accounts
- A total payment volume of $16 billion in the quarter
- With accounts containing approximately $3 billion in stored value that is spent every 2 weeks
- Supporting 19 currencies
- With a .30% fraud rate
Facebook can’t approach any of those numbers yet, but it does possess one distinct advantage — nearly 300 million monthly active users.
What’s more, the rousing success that is Facebook Connect — the service that allows users to log in to participating third-party sites using their Facebook IDs with one click — hints that Facebook users might appreciate a similar “one-click” simplicity when paying for merchandise on the Internet.”
Privacy concerns aside, one can imagine that Facebook’s One-Click payment solution, along with the social sharing of articles and posts through Facebook Connect, could be the panacea for newspaper publishers looking for ways of monetizing content beyond the stale and flailing “generate-pageviews-sell-banners” business model.
Well, besides the general mentality that digital content should be “free”, one of the major issues in monetizing content on the web by surrounding it with a “Pay-First wall”, is the fact that visitors don’t know in advance what (quality) they’ll exactly be paying for; consumers fear buying a shrink-wrapped magazine purely based on its cover, only to be disappointed afterwards.
Whereas on iTunes or with Steam you usually know that what your getting is guaranteed to have a substantial replay-factor or, in the case of iTunes, since the price is relatively low, you can afford the risk of a dud every now and then.
This, arguably, is not the case with ubiquitous news, or in-depth articles.
Utilizing Facebook’s micro-payment solution combined with Facebook Connect however, publishers will have the opportunity of using a “hassle-less” One-Click online payment solution, powered by trusted(?) recommendations of friends: “Hey Todd, here’s an article I just read about Obama’s healthcare reform, touching it from a viewpoint I believe you’d find interesting, check it out. Cheers, Brian.” Ching!
Farfetched? For a showcase of the true power of social sharing: Think the Bit.Ly-shortened links being universally shared on twitter, spreading idea’s, content (and malware) virally. Only this time it’s done by folks with verified Facebook ID’s so you know they’re actually real and can be trusted.
Off course, should the scenario sketched above come to fruition, Facebook will have to get a piece of the revenue pie too, but the publishing moguls ‘d be wise to carefully re-consider jumping into their fabled “No-Can-Do” reflexes, since it’s becoming increasingly clear that the other option for them and their companies’ stakeholders is not having a pie to share at all…
(PS please note that I deliberately left all privacy concerns regarding Facebook out of this exercise, since I believe that we should topple the online publishing troubles in a concentric way; shilling away to the core, tackling the multifaceted problem layer by layer, instead of pre-maturely obstruficating any possible solution by thinking in limitations only.
This, however, does not imply that I don’t see the possible dangers of Facebook not only owning your social graph and personal data, but also knowing when you bought what (and whom approved said purchase!) and where you’re likely to go to form a political opinion or otherwise.
Though I feel and see that having this kind of aggregated combined profile data of possibly more than 300 million people in the hands of one party could pose a real threat when falling into the wrong hands, I urge you to go and take a look over at Alexander van Elsas’s blog, as he has already indentified and dissected this problem with great abandon.)
“no matter what books or gurus may say, customer-focus is a top-down game. from childhood we have learned to follow the example of those that lead us, and that means that customer-centricity should be mindset of all c-level executives. not in words, but in actions…”
“…of course, no self-respecting CEO will reorganise a business around the customer without a solid business case… …the CMO’s second step on the customer-centricity ladder is therefore to demonstrate the financial benefits of “happy customers” to the organisation…”
“to really focus on the customer, companies will need to… …tear up the detailed customer interaction and scripts. show staff and vendors how to listen and care. not only in the front lines, but at every level of the organisation. every department eventually affects the customer experience…”
He goes on to mention five steps to make your organization truly customer- (and prospect!)-centric:
- Step 1: start at the top
- Step 2. show them the money
- Step 3: start with the people
- Step 4: help them do the right thing
- Step 5: make it clear you mean business
Now, the real problem addressed here by Alan, of course, is “isle-thinking” or Department Silo Mentality SyndromeTM -a state of mind inherent to the way we humans are hardwired by evolution/mother nature, as any anthropologist worth his salt could tell you.
When bands of humans grow past the dunbar number, things (read: the consumer) tend to slip out of eye-sight or get dehumanized quickly; this is bad thing for your brand advocacy hopes, so this challenge requires a thorough rethinking of your Service Strategy (Service Design) and maybe even a restructuring of your organization chart…
The above is probably going to require some serious change management (skills) -see point 5 mainly-, effort and lots of lots of passion, training, coaching & patience. Lots. Of. Patience…No comments