Gen Wise Perspective

Gen Y's perspective (pun intended) on our journey through work, life, and everything in between.

Archive for the tag “strategy”

Can you ever stop learning?

Image copyright JESS3 (they make sweet infographics)

No. The minute you start thinking that you have nothing left to learn is the minute you become a quitter. It’s not possible to know it all. If you think so, you’re never going to improve yourself. Your journey on the road to become an invaluable employee, friend, partner, family member, etc. has just ended. Boo.

But the truth of the matter is that sometimes it’s really hard to learn because we don’t want to check our egos at the door.

I recently read this post by Mark Suster called “Why You Should Embrace Opposing Views at Your Startup” on my new favorite entrepreneur-turned-VC blog, Both Sides of the Table.

The post starts off by making some solid points:

  • What could you learn from looking at your competitors or other tech startups in a different way?
  • Are you cynical about their chances in the market just because they seem to be hot in the press and that bugs you?
  • Or you think their startup is a passing fad and yours is the real deal?

The part of his post that really struck a chord with me: “Even if you’re right – there’s something you may be missing.”

So true. As Mark’s post pointed out, it’s easy for us to get jealous in a situation like this. But that jealousy will only cloud your reasoning and cause you to miss an opportunity to learn something.

For instance: I work with tech startups. On top of that, I’m supposed to be the one making them seem like the shiny new object to everyone else. So it’s VERY hard to watch a competitor kill it in the press. There is one in particular that drives. Me. Crazy. Talk about hype. I’m still not convinced that anyone actually uses this product.

And I know there have been some “shady” and potentially unethical guerilla tactics behind their marketing strategy. Maybe the decision-makers and higher-ups at this company aren’t aware. I’m not saying this was condoned, but nonetheless it turns me into that little kid whining about how it’s “not fair.”

Well, you know what? If I adopt that mindset then I’m just as immature as the little kid. And at the end of the day, everyone heard about this company. So as much as it pained me to admit this, they had to be doing something right. What was it?

I sat down and really analyzed their strategy. As Mark Suster put it, you have to “be dissecting.”

Here’s what I saw:

  • They defined the benefit instead of listing the attribute: I didn’t have to connect the dots to imagine what was so revolutionary or game-changing because they did it for me. It’s not that the product can do X, Y, Z….it’s that X, Y, Z can help improve my life and shift society as a whole. Does that make sense?
  • They targeted early adopters of tech products (always a “must” with tech PR)
  • They clearly broke down the key points of differentiation
  • They had consistent messaging and strong positioning: they chose a space to live and then owned it
  • They assembled brand advocates in different cities (ones that they carefully calculated out)
  • They shared different parts of the company’s story with different news outlets, so everyone was able to have an exclusive and refreshing point of view on the story

These might seem like obvious points that should be a part of any company’s strategy, but there are SO many times when the marketing/PR team doesn’t sit down and think this through. Tech startups, in particular, can run into this problem because they often do something very innovative and get too caught up in the “tech” aspect of it without ever answering the simple “so what problem does this solve?”

I think I learned a PR lesson AND a life lesson from this situation.

I forced myself to learn from a company that I loved to hate.

And the next time around I was able to do it right for one of my new clients. I took what I learned and used it…and the results were extremely successful.

So please take this advice and do with it what you will: There’s always something or someone to learn from if you’re willing to swallow your pride. 

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When will we realize social media marketing is about being social?

Many of us in the PR industry already read this advertising clown’s article about how we’re ruining social media. This might have even been credible if he backed it with some stats and examples, or if he didn’t throw in a shameless self-promotion in at the end.

Way to plug yourself….that’s really going to make me believe you understand how social media marketing works.

The whole time he discussed the problem with pushing content at people, and then at the end he shoves a bunch of examples of his agency’s work at us? Yes, clearly this guy is the mastermind of all things social media marketing.

(Note: my sarcasm does not reflect my views on his agency’s work. I respect it and think it’s very creative. This is just my opinion about this particular article)

Although the article overall was full of generalizations and assumptions, there are some points we agree on:

1)      “No one wants to listen to an endless, aimless stream of dialog about a brand or a company, which is what you get from a strategy that focuses on news, offers and the occasional contest”

2)      “Effective social media marketing is about putting something directly into the hands of your audience”

3)      “People are engaged by great content”

4)      “People gravitate to brands they like and respect. You aren’t going to win friends by boring them to death with conversation about yourself.”

The problem I have is that he’s assuming two things that aren’t always true: That PR agencies always develop and implement a brand’s social media strategy, and that a PR agency’s strategy in terms of social media for a brand is always focused on distributing content.

False and false.

PR agencies do NOT always handle social media for brands. Sometimes they have a separate social media agency, other times ad agencies are in charge of a brand’s social media presence, or it’s handled in-house.

And, just because we’re in PR does NOT mean that we’re applying old-school, traditional PR distribution practices to social media.

Really, this article didn’t need to call out the PR industry. It could’ve just discussed poor social media marketing strategies in general. Some people are great at it, others are terrible. What this article says isn’t always wrong, but it’s definitely pointing the finger in one direction when in reality it applies to many people (that aren’t always PR pros).

It does raise the bigger issue: When are we going to realize that social media marketing is about the SOCIAL aspect?

There are all these “best practices” or things you should(n’t) do (like the four points I mentioned above), but when you stop and think about it…they’re all about being human.

People naturally connect with other people, so the questions for marketers become: How can I humanize my brand? How do I give it a personality that consumers can connect to?

After all, we gravitate towards different people based on our own personalities. The same goes for our behavior towards a brand.

Social media provides the perfect opportunity for brands to not only have a means for connecting with their audience and building a community of like-minded individuals (AKA being social), but also to understand who those people are and what they care about.

It starts off on a broader level: what type of person do I want to target? Who purchases my product and/or service?

Ok, so once that’s nailed down….

Where do they spend their time online?

Then: What are they saying? What do they talk about/respond to the most? What sparks a negative reaction in them? Positive? What do they share the most?

Those are the types of questions that make the most sense to ask first. Yes, there are more, but the point is that it’s about getting a well-rounded view of who these people are. That way you can figure out how to be human and best relate to them.

I mean, isn’t that how we act in a social setting if we want to actually build a relationship?

You wouldn’t just spout a bunch of crap about yourself without asking anything about other people. You would talk to them, listen to what they have to say, ask questions, share interesting information, laugh together, bounce ideas off one another, and so on.

Well, doesn’t that apply to social media marketing as well?

And, to the first part of the post, do you really need to be in advertising, PR, or marketing to understand that?

Nope.

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