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The New York Times reported today that the top social media platforms are either flat or declining in users.  For the first time in its young life Snap is down daily active users — 3 million this quarter compared to same qtr. last year.

This news causes bosses to call marketing brainstorm sessions about adding users.  Often these meeting feel tactical and not strategic. Were I in one of these brainstorming meetings, I’d suggest the platform encourage current users to add additional accounts.  

I’ve long supported the notion that each social platform has a different reason for being, with discrete lines between them. Facebook is for friends and friendship. LinkedIn for work. Instagram for the pictorial, artistic self. And Twitter for the individual, real-time persona. Your personality writ large. If social platforms get users to dig a little deeper into themselves, and expressions of themselves, they might find individuals will open additional accounts, e.g. Steve Poppe archeologist, Steve Poppe punk rock musings. The bosses might say, “Those aren’t new user.” And the bosses would be right.  But these multiple accounts would be adding incremental interest to the platform and fuel greater overall interest and, more importantly, time on site. And isn’t that a strategy requirement?



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Tools and Rules.

Yesterday I was watching a video entitled “How to Use Periscope Like A Pro” and about 3 minutes in the speaker mentioned the #1 rule for success: “Know your brand.”  Good advice. “Think about your brand, your message, your topic, your expertise,” was the speaker’s advice.

Know your brand (strategy) is how all brands must operate, be they on Periscope, 60 Minutes or Instagram.  The “B” word is easy to talk about in theory but not so much in practice. 90 out of 100 times the brand has no plan.  

Thanks to marketing’s social media and digital avalanche, we have tons of new tools and tool vendors. Read Twitter some time and see home many rule and tool providers are out there. Their Tweets all have numbers in the first sentence. “7 ways to..” and “15 surefire tactics to…”

Know your brand is good advice, being able to articulate it clearly, succinctly and in a meaningful way, is hard.  Brand architecture is the provenance of business people. Creating meaningful delivery is that of creative people.  A brand strategy (one claim and three proof planks) bridges the gap.

Only with a tight brand strategy in hand can the tools and rules take on true value.  




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Long Live Twitter

Yesterday I posted on the subject “Twitter Blather Be Gone.” I suggested not using Twitter solely as a business tool to promote oneself…ad nauseam. Yet I post Twitter promoting my blog. Am I breaking my own rule? Nah. If all I did on Twitter was promote myself with 20 tweets a day, that would be different.

I look at all social media channels differently. Facebook is for friends. LinkedIn for work. Instagram for the art director/photographer in you. A blog for your keen interest. And Twitter – as the representation of your total personality. A little bit of everything. I say stuff to on Twitter I’d never share on Facebook.

Twitter can be the best representation of the whole person. As an outbound vehicle, Twitter is the most freeing. The most important. It reflects the daily earthly cosmos, if that’s not a contradiction. Blather be gone. Long live Twitter.



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Digital magazines? Search? Buying traffic? Mobile advertising? Alibaba? These are the things discussed yesterday on Yahoo!’s earnings call. A call that announced revenue up 14% but break even earnings.

A couple of years ago Marissa Mayer developed a strategy I thought was on the right track: Make Yahoo! a daily habit. Well it seems the habit is more like a nun’s head cover than a web business. Mobile apps are a good path but I’m not feeling any results. People with mobile phones have hourly not daily habits — and frankly those habits are wearing thin. How many Facebook and Instagram posts can a body look at during the day. Yahoo needs to find enthralling apps. Mobile apps than haven’t been done before. Content served in ways never seen before.

Yahoo is chasing TV (Fantasy Football Live) and magazines (Yahoo Food or something) which is just repackaging old stuff with some new sheen. Ms. Mayer needs to innovate. Not cross over. Not repackage. She must start with behaviors that are habit forming. She was on the right track but hasn’t landed on a breathtaking innovation. Keep after it Ms. Mayer. You are probably closer than you know. Peace.



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A lot of money is going to change hands very soon in the ad industry because of McDonalds rearview mirror planning. Lately, they’ been doing some sideview mirror planning and one could say, with the introduction of salads a few years ago, they were looking beyond the dashboard to the future, but mostly they have looked backwards. Laurels canyon.

Just as Coca-Cola knew a time would come when high-fructose corn syrupy drinks would be seen as unhealthy and share would decline, McDonalds knew a better-for-you-food offering was in the offing. So they introduced salads, made the deep fat fryer less toxic, extended revenue with coffee (an off-piste fix), and reduced the salt on the fries. The freight train was still coming though. All the Millennials you see running around the lake or the park? They are drinking cold pressed juices and Instragram-ing the pics. They’re wi-fing pics of their Mediterranean Veggie sandwiches at Panera. The new generation of fast food buyers is trying to eat better as are their parents.

So while McDonalds was not trying to create a healthier, tastier new burger (veggie?, soy?, buffalo?) or the next branded healthy fast food, other QSRs have taken .2% of same store sales.

The new CMO has done some smart things, no doubt: flattened the organization, faster service, brought in some new ad muscle, but it’s product innovation that is lacking. They will fix it. It is just too bad it took a smack in the nose to wake up. You gots to look beyond the dashboard. Peace.



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Apple sales growth has slowed while Facebook has risen. He has risen!. And according to Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook has only just scratched the surface. Facebook has finally found out how to make money and I’m sad to report it is nail one in the coffin. Maybe. When the money starts to pour in, and that money is from advertising please take note, it becomes intoxicating. Even a hoody wearing start-up savant can lose his way. According to today’s NYT earning report, most all of the innovation coming out of Facebook today is tied to advertising. New mobile ad formats, new in-stream video ads, image ads in Instagram and some new targeting platform gobbledygook. The good news is Mr. Zuckerberg is not going ad crazy on Instagram, What’s App and Oculus at this time – deciding to understand and allow those ideas to grow first.

But this advertising revenue intoxicant is turning Facebook’s head and focusing too much intellectual capital on the wrong type of innovation. This leaves product and application innovation to the start-ups, who Facebook will buy for scads of money — thereby turning up the heat on the advertising engine. Nail 2.

Apple is not an advertising company. It’s a product company. It will have ebbs and flows which are natural. Good leadership will ease that pain. So long as they stay out of the ad business. Peace.

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When talking about social media programs to clients I tell them “be interested in what your customers are  interested in.”  Of course, these interests have to align with their brand strategy (1 claim, 3 planks). Yesterday I was looking at some Instagram photos of Love Grace cold pressed juices and admired how they pointed to a blogger sharing a number of yoga poses.  I haven’t written a brand strat for Love Grace, but feel what they are doing. And I’m sensing the neighborhood they’re living in. 

When a company owns a space, owns an idea in the customer’s mind, and they choose to not always sell product, customers relax around them.  This constant need to sell reminds me of going to a party and talking to a car salesman who is always “on.”

I’ve been trying to get close to PC Richard and Sons, a huge retailer in NY, who knows a thing about selling.  They have a marketing dept. and a dedicated social media group. They’ve even hired a social media agency, I suspect. But they don’t have a visible brand strategy they follow when it comes to social. Their’s is a tactics-palooza plan. Unlike Love Grace, PC Richards & Sons talks about promo, price and service. That’s not a plan. That’s the category.

If you understand what your customers care about and use social media to prove you also care about those things – and if those things put deposits in your brand bank, you are using social the correct way. Peace.

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IPO fever is back. SnapChat, Instagram, Chegg, and the soon to go off Twitter have once again contributed to the investment energy that is IPO fever. We are reading about the fever from all angles: the composition of investors, the inventors, the bankers, underwriters and VCs, until we all in a lather. It will “bubble out” but that’s not even the worst of it. The worst is when young  entrepreneurs start to think they can build a billion with a smart idea, some energy drinks and an all-yearer (like an all-nighter but longer). Some will, most won’t.

I’ve watched CTOs with the fever working for the big payday, scrimping on quality testing, usability testing and market research all with Sand Hill Road and Union Square dreams dancing in their heads. Some smart VCs see these guys coming an say no, so the “fevered” go looking for angels and second tier investors.

The fever can be market debilitating. It’s exciting and needs to happen in a growing innovation driven economy, it just can’t be so exuberant that the inventors lose sight of business fundamentals.  Let’s just breathe. Invent and breathe.  Peace!  

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Yesterday was Community Manager Appreciation Day.   Here’s a story about Community Manager one dot oh.  In her early 20s, right out of college, she took a job working at a bowling ball manufacturer as an admin all the while looking for a job befitting her marketing degree and minor in English Lit.  She was hired as an intern at a regional 1,000 employee services company with a respect brand name and made social media community manager. All good companies had one.  She was asked to write the job description for HR because, lucky her, she was a pioneer and the company’s first community manager.

On day one Ms. Community Manager was introduced to the marketing staff (she, red-faced) and told to report to the director of marketing (who didn’t have a Facebook account and was awfully busy).  Given a pod, a computer and introduced to the IT person – off she went.  She went to BrandHackers and a few other meetups in NYC and Brooklyn, met a guyfriend, and picked up some tools and jargon along the way. After 5 months she had talked the company into subscribing to HubSpot (who taught her a thing or two), but she felt as if she were on an island. “Where’s the community manager job description?” HR asked.  “One more week please.”

After 6 months, the company had a new look for its Facebook page, two Twitter handles (one for product, one for customer service), a Pinterest account and Instagram photos. They had a dashboard telling them that March was a good month for web hits. The company also bought a video camera for Ms. Manager and finally got its job description. 

On the anniversary of her 8th month, Ms. Manager got a job at a digital ad agency in Brooklyn by telling them she had built a dept. and generated high “time in site” and “registration rates.” This she did, all this without a whiff of a brand strategy. And off she goes.  Like a virus. Peace.

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Here’s the thing, everybody and her mother thinks Instagram’s decision to change its privacy policy, claiming all photos posted to the platform are now the property of Instagram and available for sale, is a bad idea.  The early naysayers are protesting by shutting down their accounts.  Are those people Instagram lovers or, as I once wrote on a brief “tech grumpies?”

In my world, where I try to look at things in the obverse to gain perspective, this might actually be a strong move for Instagram. Akin to new Coke.  The people that really love Instagram will weigh in, not shut down.  If the platform is worth saving, and I suspect it is, the masses will help with the solution. New Coke was one of the best things to happen to old Coke and this move by Facebook (recent purchaser of Instagram) will likely end up being the same – though I’m not sure Fothcbook is this devious. More likely they are stepping on their you knows. Hee hee.

Monetization is not the enemy. Lack of outside perspective is.  In 6-9 months, Instagram will have a new monetization plan in place, whereby some of the photos on the platform will be available for sale, others not, and all will be well. This is the word of the future. Peace!


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