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December 17, 2009

Online, Actions Still Speak Louder Than Words

The idea that brands need to be talking to their customers online is over-hyped. It's a watered down image stitched into the banners of social media revolutionaries across the globe. Upon further examination, any marketer will find that the most effective way to engage your customers through social media isn't to become one of them -- to share, talk, and think aloud -- but rather to give them things to share, talk, and think about.

In Adweek's recently announced "Best of the 2000s", the editor's choice for best digital campaign of the decade was Nike+, which wasn't a campaign at all -- at least not in the traditional sense.

The top three reader's choice picks for campaign of the decade also veered away from the typical campaign model -- Subservient Chicken taking first place, trailed closely by BMW films and Will.i.am's "Yes We Can", which wasn't even commissioned by the Obama party.

But, it's not the evolving definition of campaign that's so telling about these choices. What's really telling is that, in light of how heavily these campaigns effected the social media presence of the brands, they weren't even considered social media campaigns.

Sure, Nike+ has its own Twitter account, but it played only a tiny role in the spread of Nike+ through Twitter, which was primarily powered by fans who created apps like Twiike, and an even smaller part in the campaign's success as a whole.

Michael Lebowitz called the campaign a giant "merging of product, platform, and comms." What really made Nike+ a stand out campaign was that it was one of the first products to "bake in" digital and social. The product had viral distribution in its DNA.

The reader's choices for digital campaign of the decade were even more telling as a variety of branded content in the form of songs, videos, and a microsite topped the polls. Based off the reactions and discussion they generated throughout the social sphere, these campaigns weren't just the success stories of digital marketing at large, they were the social media triumphs of the decade as well.

The fact of the matter is that social media campaigns, ones based around brand stations like fan pages and Twitter accounts, are largely failures. Besides the Whopper Sacrifice, can you think of any social media campaign that just made you stop and say, "Damn. That was good."

Neither can we.

That doesn't mean that social media is a fad. It doesn't mean that brands don't belong. It doesn't mean having a social media presence is useless -- it's very valuable and increasingly necessary. What it means is that if you're out for the real opportunity that social media affords, you've got to stop talking and start doing.

Build social media into your products, your marketing, and your brand. Create content that is interactive, compelling, and social to the core. Then you can talk about it, but the chances are that few will hear you -- they'll be listening to your customers, who far outnumber you, speak about your brand for you. Isn't that what this is all about?

We've all heard social media experts tell us to listen before we speak. That's a nice bit of wisdom to hold on to, but be careful not to let it boil down your view of social media to listening and speaking. Leave plenty of room for doing.

December 15, 2009

The Day of the Generalist

If you really want to get better at what you do, become a generalist. Sure, having a specialty is great, but being a generalist who can generate, communicate, and execute a range of ideas is even better.

When it comes to creative work, being a renaissance man has its benefits. Having a rich knowledge of culture, art, science, and history all play an important role in the ability to produce creative ideas. Artists use this general knowledge as a foundation that influences their work.

What many people don't understand is that being creative isn't just for artists -- it's for everyone. No matter your role within your company, chances are that opportunities exist for you to break out of the box and propose creative solutions to the problems and opportunities facing your business.

And that's when it gets tough.

Coming up with new ideas is easy. People dream up ways to make their work-places, homes, and communities better every day, but they rarely implement them, because implementing new ideas is hard.

So, what does that mean for you? It means the day of the generalist is upon you. That doesn't mean there isn't room for improving the skill sets you already have. It means that if you're like many people, you've reached a point of diminishing returns, and you'll get better faster by learning something new.

As interactive marketing advances, it's become harder and harder to be a generalist. Skills are required that demand time and energy to learn. Developers, designers, and strategists all use a variety of skill sets that often limit their growth in other areas. But increasingly we find that, even as it becomes harder to generalize, there's increasing value to being able to implement your own ideas rather than asking someone else who knows how to implement it for you.

Regardless of whether you work online, I suspect the same is true for you. So, go learn something new. You'll be glad you did, and your boss will be too.

December 14, 2009

Monday Reading: Start Your Week Off Right

Visual:

Search engine optimization:

Social Media

Mobile

Check back next Monday for some good reads and visuals, or follow us on Delicious for a heavier load.

December 14, 2009

5 Factors That Determine How Quickly A New Idea Spreads

Scott Berkun is the author of "The Myths of Innovation". One of the most interesting myths that he debunks is also one of the most widespread. The myth is: people love new ideas.

The reality is the exact opposite. People don't like new ideas. An innovative product rarely succeeds because it's a better solution. If it was, we'd all use the metric system, have twheels on our car, and use robertson screws.

So why do innovations succeed? Berkun outlines the following 5 key factors:

  • Relative Advantage: You can predict how successful an innovation will be by looking at the perceived value of the innovation compared to the current solution. Is it easier to use, better to look at, more reliable, more effective, etc?
  • Compatibility: How hard is it to start using? If the cost of switching to the solution is high, then people won't transition. The transition has to be less expensive than the perceived value of the advantage you gain.
  • Complexity: How big is the learning curve? If it requires people to re-learn old habits then you have serious impediments to adoption.
  • Trial-ability: Can people take it for test drive, or give it a trial run? The easiest way to overcome someone's objections is to let them try it.
  • Observability:How visible are the results of innovation? The more visible the benefit, the faster the idea spreads.

In short, innovations that are easy to adopt and highly visible spread faster than those that aren't.

Superficial innovations (like fashion trends) spread quickly because they are highly visible and the cost to transition to them is low—especially when compared to the perceived benefit of increased social status. However, something like transitioning to the metric system, which requires an entire country to change their measuring cups and throw out their old cookbooks, rarely happens on it's own.