My panel is with:
Chad Parizman – Director, Convergent Media @ Scripps Networks Interactive
Ethan Fedida – Senior Social Media Editor, Strategic Partnership Manager @ The Huffington Post
Bryan Nye – Social Media Analyst @ Henry Schein
Michael Belfer, CPA, CGMA – Partner @ Anchin, Block & Anchin LLP
The subject is how to create viral movements with digital media.
Going Viral is Bad?
The benefits of going viral are obvious to most. How you might get there is an art form as much as it’s a science. And it’s exactly the topic of an upcoming panel, so here’s the link one more time. If you’re in NYC area, I really hope you join us.
However, in this article I’d like to address three reasons why going viral is bad.
1. Virality Costs Money
A while back I spoke at a Brand Innovators conference where Fernando Machado [one of the masterminds behind the hugely successful Dove campaign] said that Unilever didn’t spend any money on making the Dove campaign go viral.
This is the video in question, I’m sure you’ve seen it.
Virality for free certainly sounds very impressive. No money was spend, the campaign was a huge success. It all sounds like a giant win in Unilever’s column.
In his very next breath, Fernando mentioned that there was a team of about 24 people [if my memory serves] who made up the core team, with various experts who got hired to execute different phases of the project.
For example, a creative team was assembled in order to conceive of the idea, the videographer was hired to shoot the video, a sketch artist was hired to sketch, people were invited to participate, coordinators were hired to coordinate, the editor was hired in order to put the asset together for user consumption, and so on.
If we assume that about 40-50 people were involved in making the Dove campaign a reality for a better part of the year, we come to the conclusion that the Dove campaign was indeed very costly. My guess is about 2 million dollars in salaries alone.
This is the kind of cost that most startups and content creators simply can’t afford.
However, Fernando and his team did accomplish something incredible; virality on Dove’s terms.
As the Dove campaign spread, the message that Dove wanted to deliver didn’t get appropriated and twisted by someone else. Which is more than I can say for our next example.
2. Virality Usually Backfires
When a corporation does spend millions of dollars to put a “free” viral campaign together, it usually backfires.
The most recent example is Starbucks’ #RaceTogether campaign.
I hope you’ll bookmark it and give it a listen when you have more time.
In case you’re not familiar with the campaign, here’s the short of it.
Starbucks forced its employees to initiate a discussion with customers about racism. I’ll spare you the details, but the campaign concluded with most people feeling dumbfounded by it.
John Oliver captures the sentiment quite nicely.
In other words, Starbucks couldn’t accomplish what Dove did. Starbucks’ campaign got derailed by the controversy, while Dove’s message remained unchanged as it spread.
And while I disagree with Fernando on the point that Dove’s virality came for free, I admire him and his team on their ability to keep the campaign “on message”.
And just for good measure, I’ll insert another example here.
Last year, NYPD launched a campaign asking Twitter users to submit pictures of themselves posing with NYPD cops and use the hashtag #mynypd, promising some would be posted to the NYPD Facebook page.
Within hours, a deluge of images depicting police brutality, violence and controversial tactics started trending on Twitter. Source
Virality usually backfires, in a big way.
3. Virality = Traffic and Traffic = Bad
Most people think that traffic is good. I’m here to tell you that traffic is bad.
If you opened a coffee shop and had 1000s of people walk through it every day but no one purchased anything, you’d have traffic, but you would also be broke.
It’s no different online. For example.
My goal with this site is not to bring traffic to it. My goal is to bring highly targeted visitors who will take some action. For example, sharing this post would be nice and convenient for you. Simply click here.
Another goal of mine is to have you join Triberr. It’s a place where you can get more shares for your content and it’s not for everyone. It’s for bloggers, podcasters, and YouTubers. If you don’t fit one of those categories, I really don’t care if you see my content or not.
And your goal should be the same. Get highly targeted visitors, rather than riff-raff, and riff-raff is exactly what virality brings in.
It’s worth asking why everybody thinks that traffic is so desirable?
It’s because traffic IS desirable if what you’re selling is ad space. For everybody else, traffic is a cost center.
Look around. Do you see any ads? What about your online property, are you showing ads on your site?
If the answer is “no, I show no ads”, then traffic [and virality] shouldn’t be your goal. If the answer is “yes, I have ads”, then ask yourself how much money are you making with those ads and how much are you hurting yourself by having those ads on your site, and reconsider.
Sorry if that got little preachy :-)
Doing it Right
For all those reasons and more, going viral is bad. However, if you still want to know how it’s done the right way, join me at CoInvent.
Bloggers are more powerful then they realize.
That’s often not true individually speaking, but collectively, content creators [I’m including podcasters and YouTubers under the “blogger” banner] are the most powerful online citizenry.
After all, bloggers are purposeful trust and audience builders, while everybody else is more or less just playing around.
One of the most overlooked problems when it comes to our online presence is brand dilution.
Traditionally, brand dilution is defined as the “spreading” of the brand across too many ill-conceived channels. A poster child for this is KISS. They’ve placed their logos on everything from launch boxes to funeral coffins.
Brand dilution also happens when the audience is inundated with too many brands simultaneously. If you’ve ever been to any industry conference, you might recall a giant banner with about a 100 logos on it. Brands actually pay for this through sponsorships, and yet the yield is net negative.
How I came to know it?
A couple of years ago, Triberr had a feature that got us into a bit of hot water.
I’m leaving the names out because I don’t want to open myself up for some nonsense lawsuit or something.
So, this feature we had sounded similar in name to a company that was in the same space as we are and doing similar things. The CEO reached out to me and basically threatened lawsuit.
His claim was that people would confuse our feature with their company. He used the phrase “brand dilution”.
I’ve never heard of the phrase before but it sounded like some kind of marketing nonsense, and as it turns out, it is…for the most part.
I promptly told him to get bent. But the more I thought about the phrase “brand dilution”, the more it started to apply to so many things.
To be safe, I did a quick search to see if anyone owned the trademark on the name we were using for the feature in question. As it turns out, some dude in Texas [if memory serves] already registered the trademark, and neither Triberr, nor the CEO who contacted me, had the right to use.
In case you’re wondering, we’ve since changed the name of the feature and it was for the better. It evolved into a more familiar concept of “following” one another. You can learn more about it here.
How it applies to blogging?
Every time you place someone else’s logo on your blog, it dilutes your brand. Here’s an example.
I’m currently using Livefyre commenting system. It’s fine. It’s nothing to write home about, but it’s fine. I’ve used Disqus in the past and tested some other commenting systems. They’re all equally mediocre.
And they all have one thing in common. The brand’s logo is prominently displayed around the comments section.
I gain nothing by showing Livefyre’s logo, and yet, they gain a tremendous amount by being there. And not because Dino is some big blogger.
I alone contribute very little to Livefyre’s brand when I show the logo. But when the entire online culture is accepting of brand dilution, this means that Livefyre’s logo is shown on 100s of thousands, perhaps millions of blogs.
A drop of water will not quench your thirst. But millions of drops of water is enough to drown. And we’ve all collectively allowed ourselves to be drowned in logos because we accept brand dilution as normal.
I’m diluting my brand every time I use a sharebar that has a company’s logo on it. AddThis is a good example.
I’m diluting my brand every time I place a badge on the sidebar saying that I’m “voted best in this” and “proud member of that”.
I’m diluting my brand every time I place an ad on my blog.
I’m diluting my brand every time I show a Twitter or Facebook share buttons.
I’m diluting my brand every time there is any hint of any other logo, company, or brand associated with me or my domain.
When is it ok?
A good rule of thumb of deciding when is it ok to dilute your brand and showcase someone else’s, is when you’re A) Getting paid or B) when you absolutely have to because not doing it would be detrimental.
For example. I’m happy to mention a conference if I’m speaking at it.
And while we’re on the subject of conferences, if you’re on the east coast you should come out to BConnected conference. It was a great time last year, and this year I’ll be there for 3 days hanging out with some of the coolest bloggers in the world.
Also, I’m happy to show Twitter and Facebook buttons on my blog because not doing so would be stupid.
As content creators, and therefore purposeful trust and audience builders, we need to be cognizant of the implied endorsement we give every time we showcase someone else’s logo on our site or in public.
Turning the tides
It starts with you.
You have the power to become more critical of what you endorse, implicitly or otherwise. And you have the power to spread the word, and I’d be most grateful if you did share this article.
Speaking of shares, have you ever wondered how my posts get 100s, sometimes 1000+ shares? The answer is Triberr. If you’d like to get more shares, go sign up for Triberr today.
What is The JOBS Act?
It’s a law that enables any company to sell equity stake to any kind of investor.
Traditionally, only accredited investors could own equity stake in companies that are either publicly traded or of the startup variety.
The JOBS Act enables your grandma to invest in my startup or your lemonade stand.
That’s basically the short end of it.
So, what’s the problem?
Nothing, at first.
At first, we’ll see a ton of crowdfunding platforms pop-up enabling companies of any sort to raise money from anyone who’s willing to invest.
But then, there will come a crash. We’ve seen this movie before, right?
– We’ve seen it in the 17th century Holland during the Tulip bubble.
– We’ve seen it when day trading became a thing in the late 1990s.
– We’ve seen it in real estate when banks lowered the lines of credit and enabled any ol’ Joe to buy a house, fix it up, and flip it.
And we’ll see it again soon.
You open a complex ecosystem to a novice investor, they inflate the bubble, and then POOF! The bubble bursts open.
There is nothing in The JOBS Act that would lead me to think that the same thing won’t happen again.
Who’s going to benefit?
The JOBS Act is sold as a benefit to the masses. After all, what could be more exciting to a dentist than to become a shareholder in an exciting new tech startup everyone is talking about?
Words like “democratization”, and “equality” are used to build a positive sentiment around this idea. And on the surface, it sounds like something your grandma would enjoy.
But if history is any indication -and it always is- the real beneficially will be the economic conveyor belt which moves the money up the food chain.
Call it a prediction.
There are people out there who are telling CxOs to get on Twitter, start a blog, and engage with customers on Instagram.
I was one of those people, I was wrong, and this is my confession.
Social Media Marketers have done one helluva job promoting a notion that CxOs should spend time on Social Media. And some CxOs are amazing at extracting maximum value from it.
Richard Branson is the poster child for the type of CxO who is masterful at leveraging marketing channels to advance his position, which gives us our archetype. Social CxO is someone flamboyant, charismatic, and attention-seeking. Many CxOs fall into this category; Steve Jobs, Mark Cuban, and Elon Musk come to mind.
Not only am I a fervent believer in the Social CxO, but I also practice what I preach. In the last 3 years as the CEO of Triberr I’ve done (and this is a rough count):
– 600+ blog posts
– 64,000+ tweets
– 100+ interviews (mostly on podcasts)
– 50+ speaking gigs
– 3 TV appearances
– And god only knows what else.
To say that I’ve embraced the “Social C-Suite” mantra would be an understatement. But I’ve come to realize that I was wrong.
Why Did The Idea Take Off?
The idea of a social CxO took off because there are some successful examples we can point to. CEOs who bend marketing channels to their will. Aforementioned Richard Branson being only one example.
But there’s another reason.
When I was consulting my clients on how to leverage Social Media, I much preferred scratching my balls pontificating strategy with the leadership in a comfy boardroom rather than slave-away in the cubicled salt mines down with hoi polloi.
I have a feeling I’m not alone on this one. Who knew that cozying up to leadership is a good way to stay hired? #wink
The Anti-Social CEO
There are many problems with CxOs being active on Social Media. Here are few that come to mind:
Triberr doesn’t have a CFO yet, but when we do I can tell you right now that I don’t want my CFO tweeting. Would you?
Given the amount of data compiled on each of us and the analytics platforms that are out there, it would be fairly easy for someone to lump together all the CxOs from one company and perform a sentiment analysis on their tweets, blog posts, and status updates. A competitor could gleam a lot of insight using this kind of signals intelligence.
And what happens when a CxO makes a mistake? A small mistake by a CxO can lead to disastrous consequences.
For example, when Twitter’s own CFO prematurely leaked that Twitter is about to acquire a company, the Internet exploded with speculation. Before long, CNBC had managed to narrow it down to just 2 companies.
What happens if the CxO ends up really liking it? It’s a real possibility since Social Media activity has replaced porn as the number 1 online activity. Source.
Social Media sites are built on the principles which video game designers have been honing for over 30 years, since the Pong days. The general adulation one gets when doing something right online is World of Warcraft level of addictive.
We’ve all seen parents in our Facebook and Twitter timelines chastising their kids for wasting time playing video games, while at the same time, the parent is wasting time updating their own timeline.
What ends up happening is that at best, the CxO becomes addicted to Social Media and loses focus on his job. Or at worst, the CxO quits to become a Social Media consultant.
Make no mistake. Social CxOs engage in Social Media in order to sell themselves and their company. Some are better at it than others, and this depends on many variables. One such variable is the audience.
It kinda makes sense for me to be on Social Media since my company has a product built for bloggers. More broadly, Triberr is for content creators such as journalists, writers, podcasters, and YouTubers. In other words, my audience is blogging, tweeting, and Facebooking their assess off, so it makes sense for me to be where they are.
But Triberr is growing and with it my role is evolving. My focus these days is on raising money, building partnerships, and talking to decision-makers at big brands.
A blogger may gladly sign up for a Triberr if he reads this article. Triberr is free, it’s quick, and easy. And the promise of getting more shares for your content is an alluring morsel.
But no investor will give me a million dollars based on a tweet. No business partnership will be formed without a real-life sit down. And no brand will spend thousands of dollars with us just because we’re on Facebook.
For any of that to happen, a meeting away from keyboard (AFK) is required.
Granted, the conversation might start online, but the majority of people who are currently my audience are either not online, not very active online, or not very interested in being pitched online. So guess what? I go where they are.
Put it all together now
For CxOs to be on Social Media, it means that they are opening the company up for a possible leak, scandal, and corporate espionage.
The time and focus it takes to be active on Social Media can be a distraction at best, and at most likely, a mild addiction.
And just because company’s ideal customer is on Twitter, doesn’t mean that that’s the CxO’s customer. CxOs are selling the company, not the company’s product. That’s an important distinction.
So, I’ve checked myself into the Betty Ford clinic where I’ve been diagnosed with a full blown Social CEO syndrome.
Going forward -one day at a time- I will try to tweet less, blog less, and generally be less social, online.
Instead, I will focus on spending more time where my customers are, and I will meet them on their own terms. And since their preference is AFK then that’s where I’ll be.
How about you?