Why I’m Giving My Content Away to Social Media Informer for Free

You don’t need me to tell you how valuable content is. After all, how many times have you heard the saying, “content is king?” So if content is so valuable, why on earth would someone give their content away for free? I’ll tell you who… me. And Chris Brogan. And Simon Mainwaring. And Dave Fleet (along with another 40+ bloggers), that’s who. We’re all doing it on the Social Media Informer (billed as the “best social media content for business”). The reason? For me it was twofold:

  1. Distribution – On average, I get somewhere around 4,000 unique visitors/month (plus another 4,000 or so that read my blog via RSS). While that’s not a bad number, why not add several thousand new eyeballs?
  2. Influence by association – Being included in the company of lots of other smart, well-respected people doesn’t hurt my (or my company’s) reputation. Quite frankly, I learned this lesson a few years back when I started podcasting and so far, it’s worked!
What I like is that this model ends up being a win-win all the way around. The Social Media Informer gets great content. This enables them to find sponsors to help pay the bills. The bloggers get distribution and additional legitimacy. The readers get curation in the form of hand-picked content creators and business practitioners that they may not have found on their own.
Is there a lesson here for small and big business? You betcha. It’s the concept of reaching out to their partners, customers and employees to create informative videos, podcasts, blog posts and tutorials. Yes, in some cases paying these folks wouldn’t hurt. But if your company can offer legitimacy and distribution to key stakeholders in exchange for great content, what’s not to like?

Samsung Encourages You to Join the Conversation

Apologies to my colleague, Joseph Jaffe, for borrowing the title of his second book, Join the Conversation [LINK], but in this instance, I just couldn’t resist. The “conversation” I’m referring to is one that consumer electronics giant, Samsung, is their asking their customers to “join” at the bottom of their home page.

At first blush, you might laugh and remind me that many brands these days are asking their customers to “join THEIR conversation” on Facebook, Twitter and the like. However, not so fast. In Samsung’s case, they are taking a clever and unorthodox approach to engaging with their customers. Let’s call it “reverse influencer outreach” where instead of asking bloggers like myself to reach Samsung’s customers (and prospective customers) via my Twitter, Facebook, blogs and podcasts, they instead are asking their customers to reach out to folks like me, Brian Solis, Mario Sundar and others. And instead of talking about Samsung’s products, we’re talking about the lifestyles that wrap around those products. Or in my case, more conversational topics like, “If you could write a best-selling book, what would it be about?”

Wait a second? Why would a Fortune500 company like Samsung who enjoys millions of visits a day to its website waste valuable real estate on frivolous conversation? Rather than speculate about why, I asked Samsung’s Social Media Manager, Esteban Contreras (the person that invited me to participate in this program) a couple of questions about the program. Here are his verbatim responses:

[Aaron] What was the impetus for your innovative approach?

[Esteban] Samsung’s strategy going into this exciting project was focused on creating an online environment that further engages with our consumers. We wanted to develop a customer-centric and socially relevant site that enhanced the overall brand experience.

Our new site provides opportunities for people to engage with us and with each other. From social elements on the homepage and “like” buttons on product pages, to consumer comments, reviews and Q and As.

[Aaron] Some people might say this is a waste of valuable space on Samsung US’s home page (I think it’s brilliant). What would you say to those detractors?

[Esteban] We are living in a world where consumers expect and deserve more. Being customer-centric means offering an authentic and human experience. That’s why you see photos of real people on our site and an easier experience to find some of our employees and official accounts on Twitter. It’s also why we’ve provided an area for our visitors to engage not only with us, but also with others that have similar interests.

The web has become a social web and all we’ve done is bring a small part of it unto our site. We believe that giving some of our valuable digital space to our customers is important because they are the number one reason why we love doing what we do. Our customers mean everything to us.

While the “join the conversation” program is too new to measure impact, I can tell you anecdotally that I’ve received a couple of dozen responses (and anticipate receiving hundreds more). More importantly, I can’t help but think that Samsung’s customers will appreciate the fact that a big brand is taking a few minutes out of the day to get to know it’s customers better (all of the inquiries come through as hash-tagged tweets with #samsung in the “@” replies I receive so Samsung can measure the traffic). Even smarter, Samsung is outsourcing the responses to subject matter experts versus tackling them all themselves — okay, I may not be a SME in book writing but I have supported the marketing/social campaigns around three colleagues’ books to date (We Are Smarter than Me, Flip the Funnel and now microMarketing).

What do you think of Samsungs’ approach? Is it worth the real estate they are using on their home page? Should Samsung themselves be getting more involved in the conversation? Or are they just being a good host, handing conversations off to the “experts” and then keeping an eye on what transpires?

Facebook Fan: $136.38? $3.60 or $0.00?

I’ve had this post in my head for a while. And given the fact that many of my Twitter friends were complaining about Facebook being down yesterday, I figured that this was as good a time as any to write this post about the value of a fan on Facebook.

Judy Shapiro of AdAge did a nice job this summer of summarizing the findings from two independent studies conducted by Syncapse and Vitrue (more on those in a minute). And my friend, Augie Ray who is a senior analyst over at Forrester has written a blog post about this. His assertion is that a fan is worth zero. It’s a conversation with Augie about this topic that was the original impetus for this post. And believe it or not I completely agree with him.

Before my fellow marketers decide to take me out back and shoot me, I should probably offer a little additional information. First, I don’t really believe that a Facebook fan is worth $0. And neither does Augie. In fact, it’s what the fan can do for the brand that actually makes them valuable. Without getting into all sorts of facts, figures and methodologies, let me paint a picture for you.

I’m a huge Starbucks addict. My wife and I both drink one of their iced venti Americano’s at least five times a week. Maybe more. Up until recently, both of us were mayors of two different Starbucks on FourSquare (I no longer own mine) so every time we go to the store, we let our social networks know we’re there. In fact, if you asked a number of my friends what my drink of choice was, they’d be able to answer without even thinking about it. BUT… I’m already a fan of theirs whether I’ve “liked” them on Starbucks or not. And yes, there is an outside chance I would buy more stuff from them if they gave me additional offers. But probably not.

Iced venti Americano

So I am a valuable customer. And I buy a lot of coffee from them every year. But I don’t by more coffee from them because I “like” them on Facebook. This is the fundamental “chicken and egg” problem I have with Syncapse’s methodology that pegs a fan at an average worth of $136.38/fan. I’m not valuable because I spend more money with Starbucks (my Facebook fandom is a by-product of my passion for the brand). However, I think I am worth something to them because of my network i.e. 1,700 people that I’m connected to on Facebook and 14,000 on Twitter and my blog. Especially when you consider that a lot of the people I’m connected to are like me… they too have big networks.

The tricky part is, it’s hard to put a price tag on what I or my fellow enthusiasts are worth because it all depends on how good a job the “brand” does to activate us and ultimately get us to amplify their message (or share our own versions of their message). Some sites like Atlantis Resorts (a Powered client) has done a nice job of activating their customers and the results are not only a steady growth of fans but a CEO that is now such a believer in social media that he is blogging about it on USA Today. Others like Expedia (a natural for social media) has a mere 12,853 fans (only 11K+ more than yours truly) and very little engagement on their wall. Right now, Expedia isn’t working particularly hard to engage or activate it’s enthusiasts. Instead, it’s more focused on a broadcast strategy… one that has obviously impacted their fan acquisition.

In the spirit of being prescriptive, here are a few suggestions on what companies SHOULD do to engage and ultimately activate their enthusiasts:

  • Post educational content vs. informercials. This means teach people how to scrapbook or how to take better pictures instead of telling them how great your products are.
  • Run fun contests. Black Star Beer did a fabulous job of this by giving away a dream vacation that focused on experiences versus cash value. Even I signed up for this and I NEVER sign up for sweepstakes.
  • Ask people for suggestions. My wife’s company, GenConnect, did this and they got some amazing responses on their wall.
  • Have some fun! When Dunkin’ Donuts is NOT allowing soft core pornos to post on it’s wall, they are actually doing an amazing job getting their customers involved in submitting ideas for their dream donut and submitting photos that might get them recognized as the fan of the week on DD’s Facebook fan page.
How about you? What are you worth? And are the brands that you love tapping into your full potential?

Why Geo Location Matters and Why You Should Attend Geo M

Cross-posted from schneidermike.com (with permission)

October 4-8, MITX presents Future M week in Boston. On October 4th, brands, marketers, technologists, entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, students and business people and will gather in Cambridge at the Microsoft NERD to talk about the future of geo location and the future of geo marketing. Yes. This is a promotional post for an event that my company, Allen & Gerritsen is planning, but since you have read this far, I think you will find the content helpful in making a decision as to whether or not you should attend. For the record, I think you should, particularly if you are a B2C brand or working in the B2C space.

Making Money with Location

Everyone needs to be able to make money to be able to be a going-concern. In this panel,Jason Keath of Social Fresh leads a discussion that will look at revenue streams and service models that make sense. We’ll talk to two platforms that started with revenue models. David Chang will represent Where.com and Wayne Sutton will talk about Triout’s model. We also have Josh Karpf of mega-brand PepsiCo who can tell us about how applications like Pepsi Loot are important to their marketing and revenue stream. Jason Keath is not known for shyness, so I expect he will pose the tough questions and drive panelists toward talking about useful models and cases that drive business results.
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Data and Loyalty

Why does it matter? Location is an important component in doing what every brand would like to do – provide a relevant message to its audience at a time when the receiver is ready to hear and act on the message. Everyone would like a reduction of noise and an increase in overall signal. The future of marketing is not casting a wide net, rather brands conitinue to hone their communications and become trusted companions that better the lives of those who need them. In order for this to happen the way we all would like it to happen, brands need access to data and they need to be willing to give something in return to receive.
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In the panel entitled “Data and Loyalty”, Melissa Parrish of Forrester leads a discussion with 2 of the industry’s top thought leaders on LBS, Aaron Strout of Powered Inc and Simon Salt of Incslingers. They have not only been vocal about the space, but built solutions that incorporate their thinking. With the focus of this panel being data, we are elated to have the founder ofSimpleGeoMatt Galligan coming out to talk about how their database / backbone aligns the ecosystem by eliminating the disparity across platforms thereby making near limitless applications poss
ibilities – possible.
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The Future of Geo

The day culminates in a visit from 3 of the top LBS platforms on the market. In the last panel we will talk to three heads of LBS technology shops and give them the opportunity not only to talk about their current plans for word domination, but about how they see the industry evolving. Jeff Holden of Whrrl, Seth Priebatsch of SCVNGR and Dennis Crowley of Foursquare, three very different location based platforms, will be asked to talk about why location is important today and what it means in the grand scheme and how it becomes increasingly useful for everyone. The end game needs to be a win for brands, consumers and for platforms and currently the fog-of-new is still very prevalent. Each company has a story to tell about engagement with the consumer, rewards, loyalty and relevant content.
This conversation will be 90 minutes so there will be plenty of time to get deep on the topic and to get the crowd involved. I’ll be moderating and as I prepare, would love to get your thoughts on some of the things you would like to hear about from these 3 gurus. Just leave a comment.

How Much?

$130 per person. Beam Interactive thinker and disruptor, Graham Nelson tweeted about the charge and I think this is the proper forum to address the question. We want to be able to provide snacks and libation to our audience and record the event while covering some of our costs. As you well know, it takes a lot of time and effort to plan an event of this size (and it’s nothing compared to the entire Future M event, kudos to MITX!). The point of this session is to provide an atmosphere to push the conversation to the next level. As one of the missions ofFuture M, the parent conference, is to promote innovation in Boston, we are currently talking to MIT about donating any profits to an innovation scholarship.
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Where’s Gowalla?

Because some of you have asked: Where’s Gowalla? Brightkite and Gowalla both expressed regret for being unable to attend. Facebook is still a non-responder.

See You There!

Come out for a day of discussion filled with a balance of best practices, ideas, innovation and though leadership.