A Question Concerning the Ethics of Social Media Presence

Facebook Business Solutions
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Question: If, as CEO of a company, you personally and passionately oppose Facebook’s Privacy policies and methods, would you withhold having any presence on the site, regardless of what it may cost you?

I’m an advocate for intelligent adoption of emerging technologies and media for individuals, non-profits and businesses. I believe they can be useful, pliant and remarkable tools as part of larger internal and external strategies. But I also believe that the uses of these media need to be integrated in accordance with the specific needs and resources of an enterprise within the larger contexts of what it means to do business.

But one matter is often overlooked, which is what I raised in the question above. What if you believe that a particular medium is run by a company who – in your eyes – has questionable or no ethical standards? Would you shrug off the matter and ultimately decide that you need to reach your customers on Facebook or Twitter or on any other medium which you don’t own and have no say in?

After all, when you set up a Facebook Page, you’re effectively entering a business relationship with Facebook – even if you don’t run ads or otherwise cut a check. Just as any smart and ethical executive would question entering a partnership with an un-trustworthy vendor, shouldn’t executives similarly consider the trustworthiness of the companies who run media sites?

I won’t answer the question here. But I would suggest, that executive leaders (and agencies) fully understand not only the properties of the media companies they use but also the ethical values and practices those companies employ.

We are living in a time when leaders must possess a minimal understanding and proficiency of emerging media. That entails not only a technical understanding of them but also an ethical wisdom and awareness.

Given Facebook’s changing policies with respect to Privacy, Healthcare executives must especially be pondering this question. As my friend Faisal Qureshi aptly stated:

@PhilBaumann if you're a Healthcare CEO you need to be thinking long and hard about using #fb in your marketing mix. #hcsm

@PhilBaumann if you're a Healthcare CEO you need to be thinking long and hard about using #fb in your marketing mix. #hcsm

Companies, and the agencies that advise them, must never forget the fundamental dividing difference between traditional media (print, radio, TV) and emerging media (Twitter, Facebook, Blogs, Forums): the former are hardware while the later are software. Hardware is relatively static and straightforward. Software, on the other hand, is pliant, elusive and unpredictable. Facebook isn’t a as much a medium as it is software. Thus the ethical thinking on media like Facebook, must take this key difference in mind.

Of all of the technologies which  our species has brought forth into the world, perhaps it’s the Question Mark which is our crowning achievement. And with that, I repeat my question to you:

If, as CEO of a company, you personally and passionately oppose Facebook’s Privacy policies and methods, would you withhold having any presence on the site, regardless of what it may cost you?

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All Marketers Are Dopes

dopey and the dwarfs
Image by bijoubaby via Flickr

Do you agree? Do you disagree? You clicked the link, didn’t you? Either because you agreed or – perhaps more so – because you disagreed or were offended.

Did I linkbait you into coming here? Perhaps. And that’s the point: marketers too often fetishize messaging at the expense of deeper, rounder and longer-term marketing strategies.

A catchy or rousing phrase may invoke the attention of your targets, but if that’s all it does, you’ve failed your boss’s investors.

THE SOURCE AND END OF DOPERY

In fact, it seems that the when some marketers declare themselves to be marketers, what they really mean is that they are messengers. But marketing isn’t just about messaging: marketing is about connecting something of subjective value with a subject who values that something (whether they know it yet or not). (Yes, marketing is kinda circular when enframed that way, isn’t it? 🙂

And that connecting is difficult work – it’s something that goes way beyond messaging. And yet many marketers have gotten lost in the practice of messaging – they’ve lost perspective of both the historical roots and the future evolution of their profession.

Marketing evolved over the last 100 years from producing to meet demand, to standing out with quality, to selling and persuasion and sophisticated research, and most recently into what is today called Traditional Marketing.

So what do I mean by All marketers are dopes? Who says that? Why?

Well, that sentence is a sentiment that consumers are increasingly feeling in their gut when they come across Dreck – and today Dreck is tired messaging and attention-screaming and incomplete marketing with no human quality.

EVOLUTION VIA WEB SELECTION

And what the Web is doing is providing marketers with a chance to re-evaluate the Why’s and How’s of what they learned from the start of their careers.

Unfortunately, most have gotten stuck in one phase of Marketing’s evolution, and unable to take the lead towards its next.

They’ve gotten lost in the assembly-line mentality of segregating and dividing labor and tasks: Research, Creatives, Advertising, etc. It was a necessary way of doing things in an economy where scaling required standardization of operations – things needed to be predictable and repeatable at the lowest possible costs.

But the Web is mothering novel media, with emerging properties that didn’t exist in the traditional staples of mass communication: print, radio and television.

Marketing isn’t dead, any more than desire or hunger or business. Marketing is just in the transitional phase to something more complete – a chance to build communities where the right messages can be delivered at the right time in the right context with the right processes.

Evolution is typically a merciless process – species who once reigned and ruled can be ruined without notice, while the tiny prey emerge stronger and more fit to deal with the new ecology.

ARE YOU A DOPE?

Too bad marketers are dopes. Or are they? If you’ve gotten this far, you’re probably not one of the dopes and I sincerely wish you nothing but success as you create a more human – and effective – Marketing.

A dope is someone who, once has learned a certain way of doing things, doesn’t know when to unlearn that particular way when it no longer works.

Are you a dopey marketer? Or are you someone who wants to change the world by connecting values that matter with people who need and want and (perhaps) crave what you have to offer?

Please be at the exception that proves the rule.

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Better to Play It Safe

When a new force in the world makes life more difficult and frightening and upturning – like the Web – the stakes get higher. So many things can go wrong if you don’t do it right. You can get stampeded and lose the game. Playing on the sidelines is more appealing.

THE SIDELINES ARE MORE APPEALING

The Web is making the world more and more dangerous. If you run a pharmaceutical enterprise and decide to blog or tweet or otherwise open yourself up, people will report adverse events. If that happens, you’ll have to work harder. That means more standard operating procedures, more trained personnel- maybe even more fines and letters from the FDA. Playing on the sidelines is more appealing.

If you run a hospital and decide to establish a vast living presence on the Web, people will say bad things about your doctors, your nurses, your waiting times in the ER, your food. You’ll have to deal with HIPAA. There’s also a chance that you’ll say something you’ll regret. Playing on the sidelines is more appealing.

If you run a newspaper and decide to use Twitter to gather information, distribute the results of your journalistic excellence and express opinions, people will stop buying your paper. Why should people buy your newspaper when they can get content for free? Getting to the point of dazzling the people with your professional curation skills is just too hard to do anymore. Turning the very technology that turned your industry upside down into your favor is risky and hard. Playing on the sidelines is more appealing.

A NEW PAIR OF LENSES

Of course, you could look at the world through different lenses. You could look upon the Web as a sea of infinite nonsense, a place where people are thirsty for rare perspective and wisdom and value. The sidelines may be more appealing, but you won’t find any goal posts there. That’s not where the game is.

What does safety mean to you? Are you doing what you do because it feels safe? Are you sure that you’re truly playing it safe?

Wearing a life preserver in a jungle won’t help you.

If you do the hard work to make it easy for patients and doctors to report adverse events or file complaints about the treatment they received (or didn’t), you have a better chance that your product won’t get slapped with a black label or pulled from the market or that your hospital will get sued by people who feel abandoned or without recourse to you.

FEAR IS NOT SAFE

If hard work or changing your view intimidates you and you don’t mind living on the sidelines, it’s better to play it safe.

Sometimes, however, the world changes so fast, so cruelly, so unforgivingly that the safest bet is to live dangerously. Sometimes, it’s not better to play it safe.

Your choice. Win or lose. Eat or starve. It’s that simple.

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Conversation Is Not A Strategy – Video

I don’t agree with the first thesis of the Cluetrain Manifesto which asserts: Markets are conversations. There’s a measure of truth to it, but it’s an assertion that can lead marketers down a narrow path that obstructs a larger view of the possibilities of media. If markets were indeed conversations, then we all could get rich just by conversing. No, leading an audience is what gets things done – conversation is simply a bonus feature of a two-way Web.

I need to make my point in the flesh. So here I am, presenting an elucidation of my thesis: Audiences are strategic imperatives [link to video if you can’t see the embed is here]:

Investing your talents into inspiring and conversing and leading your audience is one of the most challenging but important things you can do with the Web. If you don’t have an audience, you don’t have a business.

If you spend yourself being everywhere, you’ll end up nowhere.

Know where audience needs to be – and that isn’t on dozens of un-monetizable social networks.

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Content is King – Context is Kingdom – Process is Power

A king without a kingdom is a pawn. A kingdom without power is checkmated.

After listening and meeting companies and the agencies that want to do business with them, one theme has emerged: so many of them don’t know what to do and ultimately feel somewhat powerless against a sea of endless new media emerging.They get a few slivers of sound-bites at the myriad of conferences abounding these days, like the ePharma Summit in Philadelphia earlier this week. Overall, however, there doesn’t seem to be unifying, integrating and penetrating views propagating. Echoes mostly. That’s OK – we all need training wheels.

A MOMENT OF CLARITY

When I hear talk about Content is King, I wonder how much of that is based on experience or whether it’s based on mimicry. Soundbites are nice. But they don’t put bread on the table. No, what’s important is to understand things in their entirety – what are their properties? what are their possibilities? what are their limits? what are the connections? what does the lifting?

Come here Marketers (well, most of you aren’t marketers: instead you’re Messengers – busy with messaging, an important part of Marketing no less): Marketing is about Presence: Creation, Process, Distribution, Connection. And when it comes to the Web, those are exactly the five things it’s all about: Presence, Creation, Process, Distribution and Connection. Of these, Process often gets overlooked. So on the Web, what’s the process? What matters?

The Process is weaving in and out and together Content, Conversation and Audience.

I’m not a Marketer. No, actually I am. When I was a bedside ICU nurse, I did more marketing in 12 hours than most professional marketers do in a month. I’m not kidding (and I’m not dissing anyone, either). I had to bring forth my content of knowledge, assess the marketplace of suffering, develop my action-calling pitches to doctors and nurses and patients and administrators; distribute molecules and care and news on time and without error; provide relevant advertising (otherwise known as education). And my ads had to be remarkable – simple, elegant and unforgettable.

Healthcare Marketers could learn a few things by spending a day in a clinical setting. No, really. I mean that. Can’t help you out if that’s over your head. Sorry.

THE ONE PERCENT RULE RECTIFIED

The One Percent Rule is one of the most misunderstood guides about content. Here is is:

One percent of people online create Content.

Ten percent create Conversation.

Ninety percent create Audience.

There’s a ton of noise about how social media is “all about the Conversation”. That’s a misunderstanding – and this misunderstanding is confusing a lot of marketers.

Marketers have now splintered off into two basic groups: Traditional Marketers who don’t know the Age of Broadcast is over; and New Marketers who think it’s all about Conversation. The truth of the matter is this: new media is simply enhancing and completing the circle of communication. That’s all. And yet it’s a big deal.

Ninety percent is an awfully big chunk of attention to ignore.

In all the talk about Conversation, the Audience has been all but forgotten. Audience is not about blasting unilateral messages at people. All of us want to be in an audience. Patients – who are ourselves – want to be in an audience of helpful, caring, illuminating, wise, experienced providers and patients. I wish more Pharmaceutical and Healthcare companies understood this: it’s a staple of understanding. If any of these companies need to attend conferences on “what patients want”, that’s a big problem. Real big.

The fact is, however, that these companies do know what patients want. But I suspect that they simply don’t know that they don’t know. You know what I’m saying?

Pharma and Healthcare Marketers: Don’t ask: What do patients want? Ask: What do I want? But only ask this question while you imagine yourself taking your last few breaths. Are you dying in the company of love? Or are you alone? Do you know what you want now? (Consider this my Healthcare Marketing Tip of the day.)

So Marketers need to worship the one percent rule (even if the numbers don’t work out exactly). And they need to understand the Holy Trinity of Presence: Content, Context and Process. Don’t forget Process. You’ll get nothing done if you do.

(As an aside: don’t confuse content with information. Information is data with the power to help make a decision in light of a given risk. Content is the active manifestation of knowledge and wisdom with the power to change a mind.)

THE BAD NEWS. AND THE GOOD

I could go on and on about this, but consider this and decide what you need to start practicing now:

The bad news about the Web is that you have to be a master creator, a master conversationalist and a master of ceremonies.

The good news about the Web is that you get to be a master creator, a master conversationalist and a master of ceremonies.

Bonus: Print this out – make a bumper sticker of it – put it in a plaque and slap it up on your cube or on your office wall – and Retweet it:

Content is King. Context is Kingdom. Process is Power.

The Kingdom of Heaven is within you. If you bring it forth, you might save a life!

Go forth and empower your audience.

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What Pharma Advertising Should Be Made Out Of

The Pharmaceutical industry has effectively made a mockery of itself with television advertising (harsh assessment, I know, but bear with me). In the late 1980s – 30 years after television advertising was figured out – Pharma finally jumped into the game after regulatory constraints were lifted. Some of it worked – but mostly, the efforts just amplified the industry’s public relations comorbidities.

I actually believe that the industry could learn a few things in this video I came across. It’s a road safety advertisement and it brilliantly weaves together a simple idea with visual and emotional vigor.

See? It’s very hard to hold attention anymore. You have to know some things about the human brain.

It can be said that we have three brain segments: reptilian, mammalian, neocortical. Sex sells – that’s the reptilian brain. Love sells – that’s the mammalian brain. Ideas sell – that’s the neocortex. The video here: do you see what it’s doing? It’s making a stunning appeal to all three brains. Fear of dying; love of family; the reason of a seat belt.

It’s not easy to achieve this kind of remarkability. I think the Pharmaceutical industry could learn a lot from this video. So could the Healthcare industry. Why? Because when it comes to our health, we need all three brains activated in brilliant and loving ways. Doing this is very hard – and it has to be selfless, ethical and useful.

This is the sweet spot. Very few advertisers and marketers will hit it. Which means, it’s wide open for someone to take a shot.

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The Vaporization of Marketing

Nuclear weapon test Romeo (yield 11 Mt) on Bik...
Image via Wikipedia

Was your company blogging ten years ago? If not then why? Google made it easy for you and now you’ve lost ten years of priceless link juice. Given the fragmentation of media in the last ten years, it’s clear now just how relatively little work you actually had to do back then. But that’s in the past. Still, I have bad news for you: what you have to do now is far harder than it was ten years ago. Let me explain.

CONTENT FRAGMENTATION AND SOCIAL DISTORTION

As the Web expands and proliferates novel media, messaging becomes increasingly diffuse and fragmented. The Web creates new opportunities and destroys old standards. It disrupts communication patterns, rattles social structures and ruptures attention spans. Ten years ago, you could leverage your audience-building skills for acquiring and retaining customers. You could even have learned and mastered a skill which traditional marketing didn’t really demand: conversational aptitude.

But now the honor of your presence demands you to be at many different places at once. You not only need to know how to create captivating content but you also need to know how to converse and lead with such conviction and remarkability that it could almost require you to be loved.

The choices open to you grow. Where to begin? Where to be? Twitter? Facebook? Blogs? Youtube? Foursquare? Gowalla? Flickr? The dozens of other places yet to come along? And if you show up and listen and play, will you be good at it? If you’re not good at it, you’re not going to achieve anything.

Here’s the biggest challenge for companies struggling to “figure out” social media: the convergence of Strategy and Practice becomes increasingly elusive as the Web mercilessly evolves.

What do I mean? Strategy and vision are essential parts of ultimately getting business done. But strategy without planning and mechanics and process worked out, nothing gets done: the going concern becomes aimless and bankrupt. Much of the daily work that has to be accomplished online has to be done manually and personally. Furthermore, the work has to stand out so it can be kindly remarked from one person to another.

Much of this work may not fit into any strategic category; as a consequence, the strategic directives can easily diffuse and lose their trajectories. Once that happens, it’s easy to lose balance and focus and clarity.

THE VANISHING POINT. BTW, JUST WHAT IS THE POINT?

The one question every executive asks every time a marketing or PR agency or internal manager tries to push social media is this: What on earth is the point?

Many of us who live in the echo chamber have answers. Or statements we think are answers. The truth is, however, that this is a vital question. The whole enterprise depends on it.

There’s no doubt: the Web is the place to be; and companies need the skills and confidence to incorporate all media into their day-to-day routine. But the vaporization of the Web creates a situation where:

  • so many choices have to be made;
  • conversations need to be quality and sincere;
  • attention spans are short;
  • messages are now real-time;
  • traditional Search is being disrupted;
  • new technologies are emerging which don’t necessarily communicate well with other
  • the prospect of walled gardens is rearing its head

Contrary to Social Media evangelist claims, the Web is becoming a mess. Messaging is being liquified, subject to evaporation – and worse: your message can be easily replaced with someone else’s within seconds.

Marketers used to have a landscape they could map out. They could harvest farms of attention. They could plant their feet on the ground and develop real estate which they could mostly control.

But the new landscape isn’t on land. It’s vaporizing. The vaporization of marketing will get worse. Not every business will figure out the point of being online, let alone be able to cultivate a captivated audience and converse real-time. Most will just be talking to themselves and an imaginary audience.

That’s what happened to Pharma giant GSK because they had too many meetings and consults and fears on how to do something as simple as running a blog. Mind you: this is a company with over $40 Billion in assets and which employs some of the smartest people in the world. From an investor’s perspective that’s managerial irresponsibility, indicative of severe creative anemia.

What’s the point? isn’t something you ask and answer once and then move on. No: it’s a daily question. It’s no different than asking What’s the point of our business?

The problem is this: there isn’t a point. Or one single point I should say. There are many points. All kinds of purposes and opportunities and needs. A thousand points of light flashing and fading and distracting.

This is only good news for marketers who have creativity, muscle, chutzpah, intelligence, pliancy and permission. For the rest, it’s a disaster waiting to happen – no matter if you play or not. The Vaporizing Web is Scylla and Charybdis for businesses.

HOW TO HANDLE THE VAPORIZATION OF MARKETING

What to do? You can read a million how-to posts, hire big agencies who know how to price and bill, attend overpriced conferences or have tons of meetings littered with streams of buzzword-stuffed PowerPoint presentations. But I’ll give you one simple answer:

Don’t take it so seriously! If you do, you’ll vanish into a mushroom cloud. 🙂

A sense of humor and a style of lightness are enduring qualities of successful long-run presence, especially online. Once operations become chores and jobs they cease to be useful. The Web is the end of the assembly-line.

If your business doesn’t know how to have fun and to be spontaneous and swift, it probably won’t survive this century. Capitalism is destructively creative. It’s also creatively destructive. The Age of the Farmer is coming to its close. It’s Hunting time now. Prepare yourself for war.

You’ve been warned and advised. Questions? Call me: 484-372-0451 or Skype: Phil.J.Baumann or Twitter: @PhilBaumann.

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