I’m just getting started….

The last 4 months have been a whirlwind and I’ve come to reflect on where I’ve been and where I am today.

I have been tapping into social media since my Yahoo! days and I’ve come to really love the medium. It goes against the grain of me as a traditional marketer, whose thinking has really been about creating excitement for products that people may not really care about initially, enticing a not-yet-established motivation to want the thing I was selling and provoke action.

I worked in credit card marketing for 6 years (sigh!) not fully believing that people really wanted credit cards, let alone debt. But as a marketer, I sold the notion of  access to ‘dreams’ if people had the vehicle necessary to get that access. As an advertising executive, I created amazing campaigns for products and services pushing messaging to audiences, at times, who clearly weren’t interested. The ones who were, were not deemed ‘ideal’ so I backed off from these seemingly low hanging fruits.

As I look back at these events, I realized the huge thing that was lacking: consumer validation… not sales, not response rates. In banking, a 2% response rate on a $4MM campaign was considered successful. That’s because that 2% audience could be upsold, cross-sold, and generate enough revenue over their lifetime to justify the initial acquisition cost.  But were the customers ever satisfied? Were they ever really happy? I never really knew because my access to the customer was nonexistent. I usually received a report from operations telling me how many people signed up for a credit card. Yay! But really?

As social media started emerging as a strong vehicle about 5 years ago, I paid close attention to its lure. Here, these networks existed without the interruption of annoying advertising. Ironic, cause I was typically the source of that annoying advertising. Slowly but surely, I also was lured to a space where people could speak as people, uninterrupted. I spoke to esteemed bloggers and social media strategists like Alejandro Reyes and Joselin Mane, who taught me the importance of active listening, transforming the marketing mindset, and leveraging relationships with the customer to truly succeed.  Even in MySpace days I talked with people who were just struggling to succeed. I knew a few band members who would develop new tracks every week so they could showcase it to their networks! And they received accolades and validation–albeit from a tiny universe who admired and appreciated their efforts.

That’s when I become a purist–not overnight but soon after. I became the anti-marketer, espousing authenticity, transparency, relationship-building.  I would talk to anyone who would listen, as if it was an epiphany moment! And it was! When I started blogging 4 years ago it was merely an outlet for me to verbalize where this all would lead: social, emerging technology and why it would change the way companies operate. Along the way, it also provided others, who stumbled upon my posts, an opportunity to learn. That was pretty cool… and that’s what kept me going.

I worked at start-ups, which help me delve deeper into social and the more I learned the more I became enamoured with the business possibilities for social.  I then moved to agency and ironically it was more difficult to sell the notion of social media (despite its increasing pervasiveness) to businesses beyond Facebook and Twitter. Businesses still wanted to control the message and chose to ignore the less-than-palatable public opinion. Embracing social means being able to take the good with the bad and it’s gonna take time before this happens especially in Canada.

So today I am at an amazing company that is in sync with where this world is going… where I believe it can leverage the social web’s strength. Jugnoo.com is doing some amazing things. I’m happy to be part of it. I’m working with some really amazing people. It’s a stacked team headed by a real visionary.

Stay tuned……we are just getting started!

Next Generation Media Quarterly October 2011

Great stats from @dancall1 Check it out! Social and Mobile are dominating!

The Internet Economy will only Survive with Proper Privacy Disclosure

I recently wrote a post in What’s Your Tech entitled: Google vs. Facebook: It’s all about Privacy.

My background is in database marketing and I am a firm believer in full disclosure to the consumer. This has been the practice for any one-to-one communication regardless of channel. It’s the reason why loyalty programs, direct mail even telemarketing have been strong purveyors of communication and insight.  Transitioning this principle to the internet should not change the principles. In fact, given the amount of information that people are creating and sharing on these social platforms should leave all of us to question how some of this information will be used.

Two additional news items came to light in the last few days:

Given the amount of media scrutiny on this issue, Twitter is actually taking a proactive step in identifying apps that may have access to user information, specifically DM, and taking steps to properly inform users within the OAuth session. At the same time they are mitigating any future access from apps by eliminating the DM data. Smart move and good for Twitter for staying under the radar on this one!

The bill (SB 242) would prohibit Facebook and other social networking sites from publicizing users’ addresses or phone numbers without their explicit consent.” Not surprisingly , Facebook, Google, Twitter, Skype, and Yahoo, among others have banded together and denounced the bill calling it unconstitutional and hurting tech companies and negatively impacting the internet economy .

I don’t buy it. In fact I think the more these platforms keep from the consumer, the harder it will be to garner performance from advertising.  I also disagree with the argument that the common user does NOT understand how they’re data is being used, nor do they care.  The amount of media attention to this topic has certainly been enough to convince the people around me that they have to really manage what they share and don’t share. Why not give the users the benefit of the doubt? Are companies afraid that “consumer knowledge” will render their platforms less attractive to marketers?

Coming from the banking industry and from a country that is relentless in protecting user information, while there are limitations there’s an even larger negative impact on the business: reputation and eventually…. churn. From a customer viewpoint, “If you protect my information and you are up front with me about how you use it, I will trust you more”. I’ll take it one step further….”I will tell you about the things I like, don’t like, when I want to hear from you and in what channels”.  “If you go behind my back and you use my information that I haven’t given you permission to use, then our trust is broken and I will have one foot out that door”.

I worked for Yahoo! and I know the billions of ad dollars to be made is in tracking user behaviour: what they search for, where they spend their time, how recently … all this in order to offer targeted ad messages that provide real relevance for the user. To do this, cookies were absolutely essential. But Yahoo! was also adamant that external networks didn’t infringe their own cookies on the Y! user base so from that perspective they were “protecting” their users. Yahoo! openly disclosed this in their Terms of Service.

But Yahoo! and many of the Internet giants need to be more transparent in their disclosure and more user friendly.  Do-not-call List or Permission Marketing has NOT killed Telemarketing, Direct Mail or Email marketing. In fact the opposite is true: The final opt-in base may be smaller but the performance will be better. This will also hold true for the web.

What’s your opinion on this?

The Future of Advertising and how the Splinternet Impacts it

As online evolves, I’ve been comforted by the fact that the niche-play of social media will inhibit dominance by large players like the MSNs, Yahoo! and AOL of yesteryear.

But I’ve spoken too soon and in this day and age, and unless you’re hearing about Facebook, Twitter, Google, Apple…. or even Wikileaks–at least once per day, the rest of the stories seem to pale in comparison.

The Splinternet is a topic that I’ve continued to delve into, especially as a marketer whose crossed the divide from online to social. As we get more social, it’s apparent that the internet divide grows increasingly larger.

Here’s my take on what that means to marketers and to the future of advertising. You can read the full story on whatsyourtech.ca

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