“New” Social Media Branding: Connecting in Real Time

While Aria has continued to back clients’ social media efforts, our own has remained mostly silent. The reason for this is not because there is nothing to say, it is because all the behind the scenes strategizing has left us with social media ennui.

I recently mentioned this malaise to some friends and was surprised to find that not only was I not alone, but that what I had chosen to do in an effort to combat it wasn’t all that unique either. You’d think that tech savvy people proven to be “good at” social media would simply push through the blahs by doing even more social media on our own behalf. Instead, each of us has pared back our exposure in favor of interacting with potential clients in real time. I want to reiterate this: we look for ways to interact with potential clients in real time.

Each of us have done this in different ways: by joining weekly networking groups, by holding open houses, by sponsoring youth little leagues, and one brave soul by signing up to give a presentation at a regional seminar. What was surprising was that each of us has come to the same conclusion: interacting with people face-to-face gives you immediate returns, a sense of truer connection, and means that the person will be more likely to remember you and refer someone they know to you in the future.

Now, I know what you’re thinking: Yes, but social media can also allow you to facilitate introductions and meetings with other people. You can also use it to publicly acknowledge a person/company and hopefully engender some good feelings in the public arena. When done well, social media is an awesome tool.

True, it is an awesome tool, but not the best tool when trying to expand your reach. The best tool is using your savvy to provide a crystal clear in-person experience of your company’s promise on a moment’s notice. And it doesn’t have to happen on the web or in a meeting—you can successfully reach people at any time!

A few weeks ago I was on the beltway driving back from a client meeting when my car started making strange sounds. A quick peek out the window told me I had a flat tire, which I wasn’t thrilled about changing. Even so, I got the car up on the jack…and then couldn’t loosen the lug nuts. Unable to find an available tow company or friend to assist me, I was stranded just as rush hour started. Instead of getting angry I counted my blessings: it was a lovely warm summer day and I had a little more than an hour until I absolutely had to be somewhere again. Things could be much, much worse.

Just as I was embracing the positive, a man on a motorcycle pulled up and motioned to the tire. I said that if he’d simply help me loosen the nuts I wouldn’t trouble him to do the rest. He shook his head, gruffly motioned me aside and then set to work.

I thanked him profusely and said I hoped I wasn’t making him late. His body language immediately shifted, and he looked up at me to say, “You’re not making me late for anything because I’m the one who decided to stop. So many people are too busy to stop and help another human being. Even if I had some place to be, I’d get there late and just deal with the fall out. Besides, I own a landscaping business and work very hard. Helping you here is a break for me.”

There I was, on the side of a busy highway, having the best brand experience I have ever had: I asked for the thing I thought I needed, but Kevin went above and beyond by changing the tire for me. He wasn’t trying to sell me on anything, he just wanted to help me out because he is a decent human being. He talked about how he’s seen other companies run their businesses, and how upsetting it is to see people taken advantage of so often. He was courteous, conscientious, and what’s more, his sincerity was genuine.

And yes, I am going to have him come take a look at my sad yard.

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That old black magic

We are at an impasse, one I hope we can all roll up our sleeves and tackle together.

It started out because business repeatedly said to creatives, “Here is all the information you need; now go work your magic”. The creatives inwardly rolled their eyes, because where it may have implied a sense of awe, what it actually meant was that business expected creatives to go back to the work space and poof! problem solved in mere moments (just like magic!). Creatives knew that in fact—after they put on their sorcerer’s hats—they needed to compile mountains of research on products/services, competitors, and audiences to find the best way to solve the given problem. But, like The Wizard, they never let business pay attention to that man behind the curtain.

Some creatives perceived that the path to increased value in the eyes of business involved outlining the process by which innovative solutions were developed, drawing specific comparisons to a scientific research and discovery process. This gained some traction, and all beheld it and said, “Lo, verily, this is good. Now we all understand one another.” Only, the gods of business smote them for thinking that creative solutions could be stamped out like wallets, in a repetitive, predictable fashion. Creativity, she is a fierce goddess who will not be chained!

Now everyone is running around talking about the end of branding as if what we’ve all been talking about for the last ten+ years is a house of cards waiting for one stiff breeze to take it down. How is the slight movement from promoting a brand to actually telling its story that different from where we were before advertising’s golden era? How is it different from how small businesses have been marketing locally since civilizations began? Even in cities people have relationships with their area businesses—barbers, stylists, restaurateurs, bakers, dry cleaners—and by interacting on the smallest personal level, they create a bond. This small bond is what made people in my suburban town support a local businessman who lost everything when his business of 50 years burned down. I doubt they’d have done that for Target had it burned down!

Creatives, you are not blameless in this either! Now more than ever your clients need your creative problem solving skills to help address the continuing sea changes. If your craft is rusty, collaborate, research, brainstorm, and just plain old DO IT. Get that magic crackalackin’!

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Turns out desperation smells a lot like horse sweat

The first time I saw Kegasus, I was conflicted: I’m all for humorous, punchy yet completely random marketing ideas—I’m just prejudiced against ideas that have no realistic hope of authentic follow through and scream of desperation.

Before there’s even a whiff of Puritanism here, let me just state for the record that it’s not the promotion of drunken debauchery that makes me feel uneasy, nor is it because it goes against the true traditions of Preakness pre-Infield party (which it does), it’s just that it points out the sorry state of horse racing.

I’m not crazy about football, but I will watch the Super Bowl for the commercials. Is this commercial of that caliber? Let’s see: Irreverant? Yes. Rude? Yes. Misogynistic? Yes. Would it bother me as much if I were watching football? No, because I expect this kind of rude jockeying (pardon the pun) for attention behavior then.

All I can think of now is the neighborhood around Pimlico, full of gorgeously huge, yet decrepit houses, how the track is empty 364 days a year, how the racing way of life is holding on by a thread, and how most of the people who will come to ‘see’ Kegasus won’t notice any of these things—and if they did they wouldn’t care.

On the no-realistic-hope-of-authentic-follow-through front, the actor appeared yesterday at Pimlico in a costume. Yes, I realize that you can’t CGI real life. It just looks…desperate.

Then again, maybe this is the best campaign for the Preakness after all.


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