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Misc. Thoughts On AMSRS, ESOMAR & Social Media Quality

Here are a collection of thoughts and updates for your reading pleasure on a pre-Holiday Friday.

Occasionally I get to a place where there are a several things that I’d like to blog about, but no topic seems capable of supporting a full post. Normally I just file those ideas away for later use, but life being what it is (busy), rarely do I ever get the chance to go back. This week is a great example of one of those times, but I’ve decided rather than shelve everything I’ll just put a few things into a “catch all” post and see how it goes.

Knowing how vocal our readers can be, I have no doubt that you’ll let me know what you think of the idea. 🙂

Murphy’s Law Goes To The Land Down Under

I was honored to be asked to key note at the upcoming AMSRS Annual Conference next week. I’m still flabbergasted when I’m asked to do anything like that, and since I’ve wanted to visit Australia for… well, FOREVER, I was especially excited.  I’ve found ways to casually work it into conversations with everyone: ‘When I’m in Australia next month I plan to (fill in the blank)..” much to the annoyance of family, friends, colleagues, cashiers, and complete strangers.

Here is the downside. Being a Murphy, I am particularly susceptible to Murphy’s Law. It’s manifesting right now by my wife, who is 7 months pregnant, showing signs of going into pre-term labor. We went to the OB-GYN earlier today, and while things appear to be OK right now, she is having some contractions and both the Dr. and my wife have suggested that I might want to consider not being on the other side of the planet just in case things change, which could happen very quickly. They also would like her to take it easy as a precaution, which with 4 kids already is a bit of a challenge if I am not here to help.

Unfortunately I think all of this together indicates that the prudent decision is to not fly to Australia. I am very, very disappointed, but I can’t in good conscious validate going when there is a risk that my wife may go into labor while I am at least 24 hours away from her.  Now, before anyone thinks “aww, what a great guy!” this is purely enlightened self interest; my wife would kill me if I wasn’t here so she could look at me in the delivery room and growl “you did this to me!” during labor.  It’s a tradition.

So, to all my friends & colleagues attending the conference I hope you have a wonderful time. The lineup of speakers is simply stellar and I’ll be following along via social media feeling sorry for myself while you guys soak up all the awesomeness of the conference. Hopefully next year I’ll be able to be there and experience it first hand.

My Stump Speech at ESOMAR

ESOMAR Congress is in my hometown of Atlanta this year so the organizers felt obligated to ask me to be a part of the program; think of it as a toll of sorts. As usual the program is just top notch, with leaders from across the research value chain presenting on great topics. It’s particularly cool that we’ll have such a large influx of global researchers here, further promoting the dissolution of our traditional regional barriers and hopefully jump starting new opportunities for global collaboration.

The silver lining of my not being able to go to Australia is that (as long as little Murphy #5 stays put in the womb for a bit longer) I may actually be coherent during Congress now, where before I suspect I’d have been severely jet lagged. Considering that I am on a panel late in the day on Monday I am sure my fellow panelists and all attendees will appreciate me not falling asleep on the stage. I won’t hold them to the same expectation though since I’ll be doing a variation on my “stump speech” as Reg Baker calls it: namely that the game has changed for our industry and we better adapt quickly to stay competitive.

The session is called: White hat vs black hat: Ensuring the future growth of market research. Here is a description from the event program:

Increasing privacy regulations push market research to a narrower definition to wear the white hat of social science and statistics whereas clients’ broadening information needs and new providers entering our sector create pressure to expand the practice of market research. How do we ensure the future growth of market research?

Moderated by:
Judith Passingham, TNS, UK

Dave McCaughan, McCann WorldGroup, Japan
Leonard Murphy, GreenBook, USA
Sjoerd Koornstra, Heineken International, Netherlands
Mike Cooke, GfK, UK
Reg Baker, Market Strategies International, USA

Each of us will give a 5 minute presentation on our core positions and then we’ll settle down for  what I hope will be a lively discussion on what the future may hold for the industry. My esteemed co-panelists are heavy hitters and I can’t wait to hear their thoughts on this important topic.

For what it’s worth, this will be the last conference for me this year. I’ll be on “paternity leave” through January, then hitting the road again for a variety of events starting in February. I’ll be using that downtime to work on several initiatives that I think you’ll appreciate. Stay tuned!

It’s Called Social Media For A Reason

There seems to be an ongoing misconception that social media shouldn’t be considered a marketing channel. I simply disagree and think it’s naive to believe it’s anything BUT a marketing channel. The vast majority of social platforms were funded by investors: they are for profit organizations and have an obligation to their shareholders to deliver those profits. The primary means of doing that is via advertizing or other marketing activities. They were designed as marketing engines, albeit one driven by the media consumer’s interests vs. the advertisers interests. That’s just the nature of the beast.

Now, that said like any media outlet (radio, TV, print) social platforms thrive on 3 things:

  1. Audience size (think user base for SM)
  2. Content quality (think posts, tweets, updates, memes)
  3. Advertisers (promotional content, paid ads, etc..)

Like any media channel marketers are trying to figure out how to maximize the ROI of their efforts, and if they don’t see that ROI they will adjust their model. The thing about social media that many have not figured out yet is that the emphasis must be on the social aspect vs. the traditional media model. In simple terms that means social media is all about pull, whereas traditional media is about push. Pull means that engagement comes first, and engagement is driven by the quality of content. That doesn’t mean that the channel is any less promotional than others (in fact, I think it’s more promotional), it just means that the promotion itself has to offer inherent value in order to be effective. Push is still needed; you have to get the content out, but the push in the case of social media is only effective if it is designed with the pull in mind.

My buddy Malcolm De Leo has been writing a lot about this model on his blog; check it out here. I also put together a much lengthier post on the real drivers of social media pull that you can find here, as well as a presentation on the topic here.

The bottom line here is that as social media evolves we have to understand that there is a business model for the social platforms and that model will mature based on changing needs of the users. including marketers. There is immense freedom and experimentation occurring across the channel, and in many ways it is revolutionary, but at the end of the day social media platforms are businesses and we shouldn’t lose sight of that basic reality.

In Defense Of A Free Market Social Ecosystem

As a bit of a follow-up to the previous topic, I fervently believe that the market is the best arbiter of success in most things, including social media. In the case of social media what is being “sold” is usually content. Quality content that delivers good value to those that consume it thrives. Content that doesn’t meet that test fails. That is what proves whether a social media strategy is ultimately effective.

I hear folks bemoaning the lack of quality content in social media (specifically that promoted through Twitter) and my response is simple: ignore it and it will go away. Vote with your clicks; just don’t engage with users that don’t offer what you are looking for. Why would anyone continue to invest the resources necessary to use social media as a marketing medium if they are not getting ROI from it? Never mind the fact that their failure may be because what they are putting out there simply stinks; eventually they will throw up their hands and say “Social media isn’t effective!” and do something else.  That is how things work in a free market ecosystem.

Of course this also brings up the issue of what is quality content. To paraphrase Justice Potter Stewart: “I might not be able to define it, but I know it when I see it!”. However, what I see and what you see may be very different things. I think it’s an inherently personal and contextually based judgement.

There are no standards of quality in social media, no definitions of what is good content vs. bad content, and surely no rules on how we should determine such things. Instead we have page views, followers, influence scores, impressions, expressions, click throughs, and comments. Those are the metrics of  social media. If those numbers grow consistently then your content must be passing the quality test. If it shrinks, then you’re probably not (or you just haven’t found the right audience).

This is a bit of a conundrum for me personally since I function as the Editor-in-Chief of this blog. It’s not my blog; we have many contributors. My job is to pick the content I think passes the quality test and then I share it across various social media channels. All I really have to go on is whether I think something is interesting, or important, or serves some purpose that I think deserves some attention. I also need to keep a steady stream of new content coming in, so it can be a tough balancing act. There are posts that I allow through that I think are simply awesome that don’t get much traction and others that I think are simply good that seem to hit a nerve and become massive traffic generators. I have yet to figure out the magic formula so I default to constantly experimenting and doing my best to keep things as fresh and interesting as I can. Is it working? Based on the only things I have to go on that I listed above, yes. Does that mean everyone is always going to think that the highest quality content is on GreenBook Blog? Well, I hope so, but probably not.

The best I can shoot for is that folks will trust that I always try to deliver what I think is good quality even if it sometimes misses their own mark on what they consider good quality.  If I ever lose that trust, then the market will speak and I will either adapt to meet the needs of my audience or will simply fade off the scene. And you know what? That is fine, because that is just how it’s supposed to be in a free market ecosystem.

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