Tag Archives: entrepreneurs

What’s ‘Likes’ Got to Do, Got to Do with It?

You just moved into a new neighborhood, and really want to get to know your neighbors. Suddenly, you get a brilliant idea! Sprinting downstairs, to the entrance of your building, you tack a sign on the community bulletin board, “Party in 3D, Saturday at 8pm”.

Come Saturday, people start pouring in at 8pm– by 10pm, 200 people are jam-packed into your sardine box of an abode, overflowing out the balcony. They’re talking, drinking, dancing– really, really enjoying themselves. It couldn’t be going any better. As you wind through the crowd, making sure everyone’s cup runneth over, random guests cheer you on,

“Great party!”

“Really happening!”

“Wicked music!”

Come Sunday, your apartment looks like Katrina ran into King Kong throwing a hissy fit. But, hey, you don’t care, cause you just threw the party of the century. Mission accomplished…

YOUR NEIGHBORS KNOW YOU… and LIKE YOU.

Monday morning, as you sing to yourself in the most un-Mercury voice possible, “We Are the Champions”, you set off to work. As the elevator doors slide open, you meet a few of the party goers, who begin raving about your shindig.

“That was epic, Mike!”

“It was totally insane, John!”

“DUUUUUDE, it was fierce!”

By now, you should be stoked– and you would be, if…

Your name was Mike or John, or it wasn’t so obvious that ‘DUUUUUDE’ was an eponym for ‘I don’t know your name’.

See, the problem is, though it was a kick ass party, and everyone who was anyone was there…

No one knows you. They ‘liked’ your party, but who doesn’t like a party?

If you really wanted them to know you, remember you and actually interact with you again, you’d probably have fared better throwing a small dinner party for a few people in 3C and 3E. The week after, you’d invite Mrs. O’Mally and the Browns, whom you met at the mail boxes s a few days ago, over for tea.

Replace yourself with a brand, and the party guest with social media followers. Social media is more social than it is media– you can have 1,000,000 people love your page, but that doesn’t mean those 1,000,000 people really know you or care about you.

News flash: People are humans, and humans form relationships through one-on-one interactions. Those interactions are predominantly based on you getting to know them too– ie, seeking their presence in your life necessitates you giving a damn about theirs.

Brands today deal with social media as if it was a billboard space. They think its enough to boost a post, and get more ‘likes’. But in the end, those ‘likes’ are a faceless number of clicks. And as much as ‘numbers’ are the mantra of marketeers, quantity is the LAST thing social media is about.

Because social media’s greatest advantage, is it allows brands to get up close and personal. It takes brands from talking TO a consumer, to conversing WITH a person– having 100 people you know and speak with is infinitely more valuable than having a whole sea of followers who, you aren’t even sure, are really people with whom you want to engage.

The biggest culprit of this massive catastrophe, ironically, is the inventor of social media; to be social, a brand MUST be on Facebook, but…

The way Facebook taught brands to be social, has them acting more like immature frat brothers, than grown-up adult holding a mature conversation. Which, shouldn’t be a shocking surprise, given its founder just graduated a few years ago, and, like his other 20-something Silicon Valley compadres, deals with social and the business of it, as such.

But, for you marketeers out there who still love your numbers, let’s talk fact: on average, less than 1% of your followers are ‘talking about’ you. Worse, if you scroll through people who ‘like’ posts you’ve boosted, you’ll find more than a couple of Juanitas from Guatamala and Marias from Mexico– which would be so bloody brilliant if you weren’t a hunting store selling fishing lines in Cardiff.

The problem is compounded by brands rambling on with posts that offer no significant value to social media followers– in the pre-digital era of media, we called that ‘filling dead air’. Brands think by keeping up these posts, they are being socially ‘active’ and ‘engaging’ their followers.

But engagement is a two-way activity… and it’s the brand’s job to listen more than speak. The incentive to keep your followers in that engagement is recognizing and sharing the content and insights they provide you.

Because a successfully social brand doesn’t have an audience of millions; it has a front row seat in the audience of 100 people— and it is listens to each one of those 100 everytime they speak. Further, a brand that really capitalizes on social media uses its own pages to post content from each of those one hundred.

The payoff being quite self-evident: if a brand recognizes each of those 100, and they each have at least 500 friends in their social networks, that means genuine brand exposure to and engagement with 50,000 others…think about it, when a brand shares a follower’s content on its own page, that follower will share his or her recognized content with their own networks.

To cut a long and very twisted story short… having the most ‘likes’ might make brands feel secure about their social status in the digital world. But that insecurity should have probably waned their in sophomore year at the University of Grow Up. Punning the words of that ever-so-famous cereal rabbit, “Eh, ‘likes’ are for kids.”

It’s Social, It’s Media, But What’s It Selling and Who’s Buying It?

Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Snapchat, and the list goes on and on.

They’re social. They’re media. But what the LOL are they really selling? At valuations that exceed the GDP of most developing countries, what is so valuable about them?

Let’s step back to the stone ages– the 1990s. Remember phone bills? They were wrapped up in an envelop, delivered by someone called the ‘postman’. Millenials, if you watch Seinfeld, you can see footage of one of these highly endangered creatures.

Phone companies had a business because people needed to communicate. Now imagine, if in the middle of your call, an ad message interrupted your conversation– literally just put both parties on hold so they could listen to an ad. Yeah, that would have been the death of them.

Advertisers would have jumped at the idea of course, given that they’d brand my grandma’s oxygen mask or anything else that had at least a centimeter of space to brand. Phone companies didn’t do that because, back then, a business model was built on the business you’re in, not the air you can sell.

Okay, so let’s come back to the future, 2015. Phone conversations are replaced by social media chats, phone cords by WiFi and dialing pads by keyboards. Same business– connecting people… save that the social media companies are under the impression they can sell the air.

Chalk it up to the fact that most of their founders were or are in their 20s, and have been called the Tech ‘Gurus’– their experience in business, let alone life, is about as savvy as ours was at 20, so ‘Guru’ might be an overstretch (and of course a brilliant term only an advertising or PR exec could coin).

Throw in the fact that the old-school financial or investment experts are in a mid-life fret about not really understanding the technology, the age of digital and all the new apps in between– instead of offering their expertise to guide these creative tech geniuses through building a solid business, they’re slipping into their Silicon Valley Crocs and voyeuristically enjoying the ‘Billionaires Under 30″ ride.

Then again, these seasoned venture capitalists are no different than their Neanderthal Wall Street ancestors, who parlayed everyone into the 2008 shits and giggles meltdown.

Let’s step back a bit, shall we? Businesses sell something– something that is tangible, such as a product or service. Ergo, they have a ‘core business’.

Second, the business model is built on that tangible product or service.

Lastly, advertising (marketing) is used to sell THAT product or service.

So, when we use the simplified– oh-so-ever oversimplified, but key checklist– let us look at the social media business:

  • Product/Service: Communication. Call it sharing, posting, status update, poking– in business terms, its communications, people.
  • Business Model: Advertising. Call it ‘Pages You Might Like’, ‘Brand Influencers’, or ‘Brand Advocates’. If it looks like an ad, sounds like an ad and talks like an ad, it’s advertising.
  • Marketing Strategy: PR 20-something ‘Gurus’ in jeans and sneakers, sporting a ‘Geek is Chic’, ‘Techy is Sexy’, image. Big Bang Theory meets (or rather bumps into) GQ.

Will everyone who graduated from Wharton please stand up? What’s wrong with the above picture?

Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?….Bueller?

Well, then, let’s begin.

Social media is no different than telecom, broadcasting or publishing– they are all media venues that make advertising more possible and place-able. Having said that, the latter 3 create have core businesses, with business models built on their core products/services, and they use marketing to sell them.

Telecom sells phone lines.

Broadcasters sell programing.

Publishing sells information.

Advertising supports these businesses, but these businesses have something to sell– things that they produce or service– things that answer people’s needs and wants.

Social media sells people. Really, that’s about it. It sells people to advertisers.

They know that’s all they have to sell– because it is the easiest way to sell.  They know it so well, that they’ve compromised our personal info and content in hopes that they can close the gap between their ACTUAL profitability and their pie-in-the-sky valuations that they need to keep up in order to get more investors.

The joke is, the big punchline we haven’t seen coming yet– the last time history had businesses selling people was the slave trade; it’s irony at its best, my friends… social media as the altruistic hero carrying us all into the age ‘democratization’.

What we haven’t learned for some reason, though history is sick and tired of teaching us, is that people will only buy air for so long before they realize the air can’t be bought. It happened with the dot.coms, it happened with real estate, its happening with Quantitative Easing.

Valuations in the double-digit billions should make us think it won’t happen with social media businesses– simply put, they don’t have a business.

The question is, who’s going to wake up before all the 20-something Gurus and the financial suits-gone-surfers grow up?

If history is always right, unfortunately, we all will… 10 seconds after the social media bubble bursts, and we find ourselves covered in Guru goo.