Digital IQ

Are you a savvy browser, but an inhibited marketer?

Stop me when this starts to sound familiar.

You would describe yourself as being fairly confident online. As a consumer you know you’re probably going to find the best deal online and you’ve bookmarked all the price comparison sites for when you need to change your utilities or car insurance.

You have an account for every social network and you have developed good relationships with people all over the world. You share titbits, you’ve built online communities and you enjoy adding your voice to the discussion.

However, this engagement stops the minute you get into work.

Your marketing initiatives are still focused on traditional print media, talking to newspapers and networking face to face.

You have your own blog at home, but no blog in work. Yes, you setup a company Twitter account but no really knew what to say and so the activity, and follower numbers, just dried up. Your firm’s website stays the same week in, week out and yet your own Facebook is updated daily.

Consumers are changing how they engage with the media, and what networks they’re using to stay connected. Marketers are no different. Outside of work we’re spending more and more time using digital methods for media consumption and moving away from traditional formats. Yet once we’re behind our desks, this approach seems to change. We’re still spending our marketing budgets on newspapers, radio and TV, instead of hanging out where the consumer is; online.

There are figures to back it up. In a study of Media Consumption versus Media Spend the largest disconnect was on the internet and mobile. Consumers spent a quarter of their time online, and yet advertisers spent just over 10% of their budget on this space. Consumers spent 14% of their time on mobiles, yet this format represented just 1% of ad spend.

Does that mean we’re wasting our marketing money?

In some ways, yes.  The sales of traditional daily and weekly newspapers, both nationally and locally are dropping. Around 15 million people buy a newspaper every day in the UK. By the end of 2010, for the first time more people said they were consuming their news online, rather than in print. Overtaking newspapers and TV, consuming news online is now second only to TV for 18-24 year olds.

Compare that with where ad spend is going. Online ad spend might have grown by 13% in the same period, with just over $25 billion being spent, yet the majority goes in search advertising, rather than online publication advertising. With more consumers turning to mobile apps and tablet devices the way we’re consuming information is changing, but marketers are failing to keep up. More importantly, the way we’re engaging is out of step. As consumers we’re more focused on asking questions and providing answers. There’s a back and forth which defines the medium and the interaction. Yet as marketers our tendency is to funnel information out statically, rather than interactively. We don’t engage. We become a backdrop to the online experience, instead of a participant. The risk is that the conversation moves on, and marketers get left behind.

If our customers are spending their time in online communities, joining the conversation and driving the discussion then marketers and brands need to keep up. Marketers need to remember that their strength and understanding as consumers first and foremost is what has helped them keep their clients and businesses relevant.

What made the golden age of advertising in Mad Men so inspiring was their ability to engage and understand the audience. Marketers should be the stepping stone between the brand and the consumer. Not only are marketers letting down their clients if they funnel ad spend into avenues consumers have long abandoned, they let down customers as well who want to stay in touch.

Posted in General marketing tips, Online Communities | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Big fish, smaller pond

If you make your online world smaller, does your influence increase?

How are you staying in touch with your customers?

Do you have fingers in many online pies?

You can sign up for every social network there is, feel like you’re ticking every box in a digital marketing plan from Google Ads to SEO. Yet sometimes it can feel like you’re simply making yourself a small fish in a very big online pond.

This can impact on how we relate to and engage with our customers. Increasingly, good customer service and engagement means focusing much of our attention where the customer is; online. By trying to ensure we have a presence everywhere, we can spread ourselves too thin. The audience we can potentially reach might be larger, but our impact suffers.

So why not rein it in? New research into the effectiveness of private online member communities proves how useful they are for reaching your customers and keeping them happy.

In a report called 2012 State of Online Communities in Associations, the reviewers looked at companies with a private online community and those without over a two year period. Those with came out on top in almost every category, securing a higher membership, creating happier members, much higher levels of engagement at nearly 70% and over 50% in non-dues revenue. Their members were happier, there were more of them and they made more money.

Why might this be?

A dedicated private online community allows for a more focused approach. Members can get closer to a brand – and to each other, they can get their questions and queries answered much more quickly and in more depth.

As a result, the relationship you build with them gets stronger, and becomes more effective. It is easier for you to tell them who you are and what you do and give them a tailored service.

Time intensive and in need of good planning and strategy, yes, but developing a private online community for your members and customers could be a more successful approach if you want long-lasting engagement.

No business wants to spread themselves so thin that they can be seen by everyone but are incapable of developing sustained relationships. A targeted and tailored approach might mean you’re a bigger fish in a smaller pond and it might also mean your members are happier, more engaged and more willing to spend.

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Keeping up with the Jones’

Last time, in Effort not outcome, I wrote about how Carol Dweck’s research into mindsets has shown the importance of rewarding effort – how hard someone is willing to try at getting better – rather than outcome, or some idea of innate talent or skills that “come naturally”. 

That’s not to say that results aren’t important.

I’d be foolish to expect businesses the world over to suddenly tell their community managers that ROI or performance metrics are irrelevant, that all that matters is that they “gave it their best”.

That might sound like a pretty nice way of working, but it’s probably not going to happen any time soon.

No.  Instead, it’s about organisations providing a safe and secure environment in which employees – and this applies to most employees, not just community managers who look after online forums and social media strategies – feel empowered to try out new things and learn from them.

You see, organisations and corporations can fall into fixed or growth mindsets too.  And if we’ve seen that individuals can be damaged by adopting a fixed mindset, then the scope for disaster when corporations follow suit is frighteningly large.

Take Enron. Malcolm Gladwell – famous for his research in talent and success, written up in his book Outliers – was just one of the people who wrote about how the Enron disaster was caused, in part, by an obsession with talent that looks and feels a lot like a fixed mindset.  Dweck expands this,

“Enron recruited big talent, mostly people with fancy degrees, which is not in itself so bad. It paid them big money, which is not that terrible.  But by putting complete faith in talent, Enron did a fatal thing: It created a culture that worshiped talent, thereby forcing its employees to look and act extraordinarily talented.  Basically, it forced them into a fixed mindset.”

When things started to go wrong, people were scared to admit it. They were scared to admit any flaw that might show weakness….and so the lies and cover ups started.  When employees work for people that value talent and image, it encourages them to protect their image at any cost – even at the cost of the business itself.

People often write about how hard it is to recruit community managers or social media specialists.  Digital media is so new that there are still relatively few “experts” out there to employ.

But far from holding back performance, this might, actually be a good thing.

You see, a good community manager doesn’t need to already be an expert.  Digital marketing and online communities are evolving so fast that knowing something inside out today isn’t really of all that much value over the long term.

What counts, is finding a community manager who can adapt and change.  Who’s not afraid of the fact that what they learnt today might be redundant tomorrow.  Who’s ready to try things and fail.  Who’s ready to put themselves on the line for the good of the business. Find someone like that and you’ve found the key to success.

So that’s really what constitutes the social media mindset.  The realities of working in a fast moving sector is that the people have to move fast to keep up and that’s a lot easier once you’ve cultivated a growth mindset.

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Effort not outcome

If something’s worth doing, it’s worth doing badly

Last time, I wrote about Carol Dweck and the fantastic work she’s done on mindsets – most importantly on why having a “growth mindset” is so much better than being held back by a “fixed mindset.

Social media is practically the perfect example of why growth mindsets matter.  So, let’s get down to business, why will adopting the right mindset help you become a better community manager?

First, here are some questions for you.

Are you clever?

Do you mind failing?  Does it scare you?  Do you try to avoid it?

Take a minute to think about those questions.

Now, I’m not here to judge your ability or whether or not you’re clever.  Social media is good, but it’s not good enough (yet) to let me “virtually” assess IQ remotely via a blog post!

I would like to share one of Carol Dweck’s most important messages about failure though.

“If something is worth doing, it’s worth doing badly.”

Now, that might seem to go against the grain a bit.  After all, I probably wasn’t the only one who grew up hearing their parents say, “if a job’s worth doing… it’s worth doing well”.

That phrase could actually do with getting a facelift.  Really, it’s about doing your best.  If a job’s worth doing, it’s worth giving it your all, your maximum effort.  Taken in that context, I wholeheartedly agree.

What’s interesting is that it often gets distorted so that people don’t set out to do something, or embark on something new, unless they think that they’re pretty likely to succeed.

And in that context, I disagree.  A lot.

Think about anything you’re good at.  The chances are it hasn’t always been that way.  People have to learn, people have to make mistakes.

We all know this, but we all forget it every day too.  What ends up happening is we have an idea for a Twitter campaign or a new community feature and we start worrying about what might happen if it DOESN’T work.  How we might look stupid if it fails.

Good community managers don’t waste time on these fixed mindsets.  They don’t get paralysed by fear about what MIGHT happen.  They just go out there and do it instead.

If you launch an online community and no-one comes, do you know what? You’ve learnt something.

You’ve actually learnt a lot.  And every time you do something you’re getting better and better as a person, as someone with a “growth mindset” who believes in the power to change people, circumstances and… business results.

So actually, if something’s worth doing, it’s worth having a go and doing a really bad job… just so long as you learn along the way and can do a better job next time.

I was really pleased to connect with Garick Chan a few weeks ago.  He’s a community manager out there doing his thing for a business called Nimble (check them out) and he took the time to call me out on a post I’d written about the essential skills of a community manager.

Garick said that what was missing was the whole analysis piece, the role of the community manager to know what’s working and what isn’t and tweak things.  He was right and it’s also those skills which are the nuts and bolts of a growth mindset.

So, what did you answer when I asked if you were clever?

Have you told a child recently that they’re really clever?

If so, you might want to consider scaling back on your praise – or at least making it a bit more directed.

In Dweck’s experiments, kids that are praised for “effort” rather than “outcome” – i.e. how hard they’ve tried rather than whether they’ve succeeded, go on to be keen to try harder and harder tests and puzzles.  Being praised for their effort gives them the confidence to try bigger challenges, because they know that it’s the trying that counts, that failing at one task doesn’t make them a failure.

On the other hand, kids praised for cleverness actually performed worse the next time they did an identical test.  What’s more, they wanted to do easier and easier tasks each time because the more time went on, the more scared they were getting about failure.  They were building a comfort zone and sticking firmly within in.

If you’re a community manager, you’ll know all about comfort zones and busting through them already.  If you employ a community manager, try and praise them for effort.  Help cultivate their growth mindset and who knows where it will take you…

Next time… more on mindsets in corporate cultures but in the meantime if you want to know more about the effect of praise, try this video.

Posted in Community Manager, Online Communities, Social media | Tagged | 2 Comments

Is there such a thing as a social media mindset?

I often get told about someone who’s got a ‘head for numbers’ or who’s the ‘arty type’.  In fact, more and more, people seem to get meshed with the job they do and the skills they need to do it well.

So, what about social media?  Which people excel at that?

We already wrote a post about the many different skills of a community manager – skills which include project management, networking and reaching out to people, not to mention the ability to monitor and evaluate a host of different activities via multiple channels – all at the same time.

Clearly, it’s quite a juggling act.  So, what does it all boil down to?  Is there such a thing as a social media mindset and, if so, what does it look like?

Ok, now I’ll admit to a little bit of cheating.  I already had a mindset in mind when I started this post – but it isn’t my idea but rather than of Carol Dweck, author of Mindset. The New Psychology of Success.

I read Dweck’s book a few years ago and it’s stayed with me ever since.  Basically, the book suggests that there are two key mindsets.

Someone with a fixed mindset believes their abilities – and intelligence – are largely set in stone.  They focus really hard on proving themselves:

“Every situation calls for a confirmation of their intelligence, personality, or character.  Every situation is evaluated: Will I succeed or fail?  Will I look smart or dumb?  Will I be accepted or rejected?  Will I feel like a winner or loser?”

At face value, that might sound fine – who doesn’t strive to be good at what they do?

But look more closely.  The fixed mindset also entails believing you have a “pre-set” amount of intelligence.  You had an IQ of ‘x’ back in high school so that’s the person you’ll always be… the person you’ll always have to live up to.

A growth mindset, meanwhile, is based on:

“the belief that your basic qualities are things you can cultivate through your efforts.Although people may differ in every which way – in their initial talents and aptitudes, interests, or temperaments – everyone can change and grow through application and experience.”

 If ever there was a job that called for a growth mindset, it’s the job of a community manager.

After all, when most of us were at high school, social media was nothing more than a pipedream of some computer geeks.None of us grew up knowing what to do to succeed as a community manager, and no-one can predict what it will take to succeed as a community manager tomorrow, or the next day, or next year.

Online communities are evolving faster than the speed of light. What works today might not work tomorrow.It takes constant fresh thought, experimentation and – most importantly of all – a willingness to fail, and that’s where the growth mindset comes into its own.

This is such a crucial issue for community managers that we have a couple more posts planned about Dweck’s excellent research.Come back soon to read more about how mindsets get created, how they influence our daily lives, and how we can change them into growth mindsets that position us – and our online communities – for success.

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Posted in Online Communities, Social media | Tagged , | 1 Comment