Category Archives: #strategy

Giving your Social Content “LEGS”

Renowned ‘social media guru’ Gary Vaynerchuk has released a book called Jab, Jab, Jab, Hook. The basic principle is that your attempts at selling in social media will not be successful if you have not spent time ‘softening your target up’ with jabs first. A boxer who keeps going for the knock-out punch all the time will not be very successful, as it is too easy to avoid his wild swings. Similarly, if all you do is jab, then you won’t ever get the knockout punch (the hook).

I agree with his principles, I just think the analogy is too aggressive, and doesn’t really expand on what the jabs and hooks should be.

So I worked on my own version, which I called:

“Giving your social content LEGS (Listen, Engage, Give, Sell)


It’s essential that you start with listening, to understand the people with whom you want to build relationships. There are great tools available now to help with this, but really Twitter and Google search and some good old fashioned effort can get you there too.


Once you have been listening for some time and you feel ready, start by engaging with your prospects. Find common points of interest, ask questions, things that will encourage conversation and relationships and all that good stuff.


Give something. Add some real value. By now you should have worked out what your potential customers are trying to achieve. So help them achieve it, using your own social platforms or other means at our disposal. They will love your for it, and want to repay you.

(then, and only then)


It’s clear that Social Media is becoming a great place to drive sales. But remember to keep Listening, Engaging and Giving, so that you don’t become Spam.

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“There is no such thing as a low-interest category…

… only low interest thinking”

Richard Huntington, Director of Strategy at Saatchi & Saatchi.

So true.

Agencies always want to work for the Dream Client, for example Nike or Apple.

But perhaps the most interesting thinkers should aim to work with the apparently dull brands, in the boring categories.

For example, through great design and their founders’ passion for innovation, Method have made cleaning products interesting.


My favourite recent example is Volvo Trucks. Unless you are a 5 year old boy, trucks are not the most interesting thing in the world. But Forsman Bodenfors, decided that trucks can be interesting. They created a series of epic test videos, which famously culminated in Jean-Claude Van Damme’s Epic Split video that you must be one of the 60 million people to have seen by now. But this wasn’t just a lucky one-off. Volvo and their agency have shown the ability to generate interest with a series of great videos, for example this chase sequence is well worth a watch.

Many people have watched these videos that will never buy a Volvo truck, of course. But if you are a truck buyer, I will bet that you have watched every one of these Volvo videos and shared the videos with all of your truck-buying buddies.

So, no more excuses that it’s merely a “low-interest brands”. My New Year’s Resolution is to make the dull more interesting.

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Branded Content is older than your Grandad.

It’s funny to me that people think that “Branded Content” is a new idea.

It’s so old. (Vanha, as we say in Finland).

Screen Shot 2012-12-10 at 3.30.11 PM

MIchelin first published its Michelin Guides in 1900. Michelin Stars are still the thing that all the world’s restaurants strive for.

I found a new example today. A radio show, completely commissioned by a drinks brand, in the 1940s.


The 10-2-4 Ranch was aired in the south during the second world war. Great tunes, and a great connection to the brand which was (according to their research) consumed mostly at 10am, 2pm and 4pm. They used the 10-2-4 thought in their print advertising too – a true 360 campaign based on a real insight and including branded content.. almost 70 years ago!

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Freelancers: Do at least 2 of these 3 things to keep getting hired.

According to Neil Gaiman, you need 2 of the following 3 things if you are to be hired regularly as a freewlancer:

1. Be a pleasure to work with

2. Produce good work

3. Always deliver on time

“People keep working, in a freelance world, and more and more of today’s world is freelance, because their work is good, and because they are easy to get along with, and because they deliver the work on time. And you don’t even need all three. Two out of three is fine. People will tolerate how unpleasant you are if your work is good and you deliver it on time. They’ll forgive the lateness of the work if it’s good, and if they like you. And you don’t have to be as good as the others if you’re on time and it’s always a pleasure to hear from you.”

Which in a diagram looks something like this:


Of course, doing all three makes you a star performer. But make sure you nail at least two and you’ll keep working at least.

ps I highly advise you watch the speech Mr Gaiman gives – it’s excellent.

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The POSSE media model

It’s been a few years since I posted the original Own, Bought and Earned media model and the slightly updated version a little while later.

Although it is still a good way to think through your media options, it does feel as though the model is a bit too simple nowadays.

So I have come up with a new one, called the POSSE media model. I’ll explain it below the diagram:

The POSSE media model is built on two basic levels of activity: to produce and distribute content. The better you do these two things (and the more it is based on listening and understanding your audience) the more media exposure you will earn.

Produce content. Can be classed as Owned and/or Social

  • Owned

This is the media you have (more-or-less) complete control over, e.g. a corporate web-site, or a retail store.

  • Social

This refers to branded social media presence such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Vimeo. Social platforms that give you a chance to build a presence as a brand. Note that you do not have much control over these in terms of functionality, and the terms of the service can change at any point. (Steve Sponder calls this Borrowed media, which makes sense but I think overstates the transience of these networks. Also I think Social works as a term for now at least, as it is widely understood by people).

  • Overlap of Social + Owned

This is at least two things:

1. Brand-generated platforms or communities specifically designed for customers to co-create and collaborate with brands. (e.g. Dell’s IdeaStorm and Starbuck’s MyStarbucksIdea.) (what Brian Solis calls “Shared” media)

2. Own content such as videos that are the fuel for a brand’s social channels. You do have complete control over the format of your own video (within reason) but the video ultimately boosts other media owners’ site visits. They may also place ads before or after your content without asking your permissions, for example.

Distribute content: can be classified as Paid and/or Seeded

  • Paid

Media placements that you have paid for. Think SEM, banners, sponsorships. It can also be “traditional” media placements such as TV, Print, Outdoor. Paid media is still important, especially if you want a lot of people to see a fairly consistent message about you.

  • Seeded

This is referring to seeding of content among “influencers”. PR agencies, or WOM agencies like 1000heads, can help to build these relationships, identifying who to speak to and how to persuade them to feature your content. Sometimes these will be the people with the biggest reach, but often those people are deluged with requests. So instead, the seeding often happens with brand advocates, people who are genuinely fans of your product or service, or at least people who have shown a previous interest in products like yours in the past. This helps with the credibility and authenticity of their post(s).

  • Overlap of Paid + Seeded

This is where I would put things such as sponsored stories on Facebook, or Twitter’s promoted products, both of which cost money and are based on advertising to people’s social graph. It is interesting that social-media agencies are the ones who are picking up on this, whereas traditional media agencies are struggling with it. “Paid seeding” is also possible using partners such as GoViral who have a network of video sites, or by paying YouTube to feature your video to its users to give it an initial push and get it noticed.

If you do all of the above well, you get some “Earned Media”

This is people posting and talking about your product and its advertising. If you do things well with your own media, choose and manage your social presences wisely, seed to the right people at the right time, and perhaps pay to get noticed by more people, then you should hopefully earn media too. It will give your content extra push (distribution), and you will have earned it so these will be considered the most authentic voices of all. But you cannot guaranteed the message at all, so a lot of what is distributed may be unrelated to your intended communications. Really, positive earned media is a measure of how interesting your content is and how well you distributed it.

Why “POSSE”?

Well, acronyms are always cool, aren’t they?

But in this case, it serves a second purpose. New media techniques such as these are about people, and they need skilled people to make them happen. You can’t have one person spending a load on one advert and expect it to succeed like it used to. Instead, you need to hire many people, with new and diverse skills: editorial content, community management, search engine optimization, blogger relationship management, UX experts, etc etc. In other words, you can’t fix this problem by throwing money at it; to succeed in this new media landscape, you need the right kind of POSSE.


– This thinking was hugely influenced by the original Nokia digital posse (you know who you are), plus lots of people who commented online and in person about my original post.
Brian Solis, who’s Brandsphere is very smart and taught me a lot, but maybe a little complicated for me.
Steve Sponder, who made the excellent PONBE model which clearly influenced this model.

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Quality time, not quantity of time.

Time spent on site” is a classic digital marketing Key Performance Indicator, but it is usually a poor measure of marketing effectiveness.

A while back, I was responsible for the European digital marketing for Nokia’s Nseries. We initially had an Nseries web-site for every major European language. A decision was made to reduce the languages to just English, Spanish and Chinese, to make things more efficient. As proof of the success of this strategy, it was pointed out that Italians were now spending more time on the new site then when they had their own language version; I pointed out that they might be spending more time on the site because they can’t understand it as well, and they are therefore taking longer to find what they are looking for….

So, for web-sites, ‘success rates’ and ‘customer satisfaction’ seem far better measures of success than ‘time spent’ and ‘dwell time’.

Similarly for other branded experiences, what is important is that value is provided, not that brands take up more and more of people’s valuable time. In fact, there are many situations where the value is actually in reducing the time spent with a brand, leaving people with more time for other (more important) things.

Save people time and effort, and you will be appreciated much more than those needy attention-junkies you are competing with.

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Create value and the profits will come.

According to the classic economic theory, the social responsibility of business is to create profits. But if making profit is your only reason to be in business and guides all your decisions then – ironically – you are not likely to create a very profitable business.

Profits are one Key Performance Indicator, which, in association with other parts of a decent balanced scorecard of measurements, show you that the approach you are taking is working. Profits are the natural by-product of a successful strategy.

But if you focus on the profit itself, then you are going to think short-term. You are going to make decisions that harm your customer relationships because they are inherently selfish. You will never build anything resembling loyalty; the goodwill that makes your business more valuable than its basic assets (ask an accountant for proof) will never grow.

Instead business is about value creation. The ultimate questions are: how can we create more value for the customer, and how much is that worth to them?

Social Media can be a useful tool in building value and relationships. But it can also just become a cost of doing business, an additional marketing channel, which doesn’t really provide any additional value to your customers.

Similarly retail environments can be just a place to close the deal, a final funnel to fulfil all that built-up demand. Or they can be places that focus on building value and relationships, where people flock to not only buy at the lowest price, but to feel informed and involved and *valued*.

So keep an eye on your profits, but make decisions based on how you can increase the tangible and intangible value you provide your customers. Your brand will thrive, your share price and profits will grow, and your customers will thank you.

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Social Media and Competitive Advantage

I have said before that you don’t need a social media strategy, you need a strategy. Social Media is one possible way to create the value that is needed to have a competitive business.

Chris Kirubi, Chairman of Coca Cola Nairobi, agrees with me: “You don’t need a social media strategy – You need a brand strategy that leverages social media. Don’t get off the brand strategy just because there’s a new communications channel, that’s how you lose the plot as a brand. Technology is the tail, not the dog.”

Fundamentally, business still primarily exist to make profit, and they still need a strategy that defines how they intend to do that. Their strategy should essentially rest on how they create value in a difficult-to-copy way.

30 years ago, Michael Porter wrote about the three ways to achieve Competitive Advantage: cost leadership, differentiation, and focus. 11 years later, he simplified this further, saying: “Competitive advantage can be divided into two basic types: lower costs than rivals, or the ability to differentiate and command a premium price that exceeds the extra costs of doing so. Any superior performing firm has achieved one type of advantage, the other or both”

When considering a Social Media program, maybe we should analyse it in terms of these three strategic pillars:

Cost Leadership

Social Media is one way to achieve cost savings and operational excellence. Twitter can be a cheaper way to service customers. Even better would be building an army of advocates who like nothing more than to answer your questions in social spaces for you, which is a more scalable solution.

The cost of marketing can also be reduced using social media, as you can earn media. A Facebook message that reaches a million people can be a more cost-effective way to get a message out than buying media. (Although note that earning media has less guarantees than buying media, so a healthy combination is optimal.)


I think it is possible to use Social Media to augment your product offering, and actually provide a better experience for your customers. Chris Brogan calls it Guest Experience Design. Whether this be solving people’s problems via Twitter and thereby reducing churn, or providing useful well-timed info to customers so that they make the most out of the product, the key is using social media to actually increase value to your customer. This should lead to higher sales, or possibly to the ability to charge a price premium.


This is where Social Media is at its best. Here you build a community , a metaphorical bonfire, to which you can get close and serve better than anyone else; some people have defined this as Customer Intimacy.

The important thing here is that you have the right people at your bonfire i.e. the people who are likely to buy more of your product. Fiskars did this brilliantly with their scapbooking community The Fiskateers.

But, in my opinion, this is why Pepsi Refresh Everything has not increased sales: although it gathered millions of “likes”, the community it was building had no interest in soft drinks; in fact this charity-concious group may have been less likely than most to buy sugary drinks. So build a community, but make sure it is one that will want your product.

Of course, you can also focus on a community who’s only common objective is to buy your product. The special offers provided by the likes of @Delloutlet are effective: in simple terms, if you deliver good, bespoke offers via a channel such as Twitter, you will get followers, clicks, and (most importantly) sales. Just as you would if they were on an email list. Note that there is nothing particularly “social” about this use of social media!

Question to ask yourself

If your social media program is not helping you achieve one of these three competitive advantages, then perhaps it’s time to question whether you really need it.

After all, Apple is doing just fine without a Twitter channel.

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Social media doesn’t change the basics of marketing

There’s a lot of talk on the web about Pepsi Refresh, saying that social media is failing, or at least that it’s not the marketing panacea that some had suggested.

Certainly Pepsi spent a lot of money and this has not led to more short-term sales. But if Pepsi Refresh was a “failure”, it is interesting to me that Coca cola is increasing its focus and spend on social media and measuring expressions not just impressions.

My thoughts are that maybe Pepsi got it wrong because what they did had nothing to do with why people buy their product. Coca-cola remember that buying cola is about frivolity, pop culture, escapism – it’s a low-involvement purchase, a bit of fun in your day; Pepsi tried to turn the discussion to altogether more serious issues, albeit while retaining a colourful façade on their web-site.

So, especially when it comes to social campaigns, social doesn’t change the basics of marketing. It makes it even more important to be interesting or entertaining to get your message spread through earned media, but the message that consumers spread still needs to be effective in driving your business forward, by increasing people’s propensity to actually purchase your products.

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Social Customer Lifetime Value

In marketing text books, Customer Lifetime Value (CLV) is definined as “the present value of the future cash flows attributed to the customer relationship”, and is calculated something like this:

CLV = (Sale value) x (Estimated Number of times customer will reorder) [adjusted for Net Present Value]

However, this doesn’t tell the whole story. Social Media is so commonplace that all of your customers are now publishers, and are influencing each others purchases like never before. As Brian Solis points out, Social Capital is also very valuable.

So the Social Customer Lifetime Value (SCLV) would be worked out something like this:


CRV is Customer Referral Value. It is essentially a combination of the Social Capital, i.e. the influence, a person has, and how likely they are to advocate your products and services. It is impossible to work out precisely, but a hugely important part of deciding how valuable a customer is to your business in the new social economy.

CRV = (Social Capital) x (a form of the Net Promoter Score)

This would represent the amount of purchases that a customer has created due to her influence on others. (NB I would score Net Promoter Score from -5 to +5, so that detractors actually detract value. That would more closely represent the true value, in terms of +ve or -ve future cash flows)

Some thoughts on this:

1. You can spend more to acquire a customer with a high SCLV

2 .You can spend more on servicing the account of someone with a high SCLV

3. Someone’s Social Capital may increase over time: maybe look for people who’s capital is on the rise and make sure they are more likely to promote your product (they are also the people less bombarded by PR people)

4. You can actually do things to increase a customer’s Social Capital and therefore their SCLV: for example, by highlighting her on your company blog or website, by giving her the scoop on latest news, and generally making her more valuable to her community etc.

5. Customers with high CRV may need to be treated differently to customers with high CLV.

6. A customer may not be spending much on your products or services, but their influence on others may mean that their true SCLV is high. Perhaps the high spenders are not always the most vocal about it?

7. Negative SCLV is of course also a possibility. Simply “dropping” a customer with a negative SCLV is not an option, but working out the ways to stop them detracting value, and turn them into advocates, is important. Especially those customers with high Social Capital.

Rather than debating the ROI of social marketing, I think we should be talking about how much we can spend to service our customers and potential customers. As part of a Social CRM program, SCLV represents the true value of a customer or prospect, and it should be used to aid decisions about resource allocation.

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