Archive for the ‘Lauren’ tag
Despite ominous warnings about “Facebook Depression,” an allegedly new mental illness of depression and anxiety caused by overuse of social media, a new level-headed scientific study reveals that social networks have not made 27% of teenagers chronically depressed. Researchers Lauren Jelenchick and Dr. Megan Moreno concluded that there was no association between feeling blue and Facebook use — even heavy facebook use — contradicting last year’s Academy of Pediatrics report warning parents to monitor their children’s social networking activity. “Our study is the first to present scientific evidence on the suggested link between social-media use and risk of depression,” said Jelenchick. The new findings are an important lesson to carefully review unscientific claims before freaking out.
The study randomly sent SMS survey questions to 190 University of Wisconsin students, asking them about their mental state, if they were online, and what they were doing. Even though students reported being on Facebook over half the time they spent online, depression screening results were not associated with social network use, no matter how much time they spent online. If fact, it would have been shocking had the study found any correlation, since roughly 1/3rd of teenagers check Facebook continuously throughout the day, yet there has been no epidemic of mental health issues since Facebook burst on the scene a few years ago.
Even though the implications of so-called “Facebook Depression” seemed to contradict a quick reality check, it didn’t stop the American Academy of Pediatrics from scaring news outlets into reporting its existance. “As with offline depression, preadolescents and adoles- cents who suffer from Facebook depression are at risk for social isolation and sometimes turn to risky Internet sites and blogs for “help” that may promote substance abuse, unsafe sexual practices, or aggressive or self-destructive behaviors,” read the official report. Yet a quick look at the citations reveals only one actual scientific paper, which discovered an association between online chatting about relationships and anxiety.
After Larry Magid questioned the author, she admitted that Facebook depression likely only affects a small group of children already headed towards clinical depression. “Maybe we’re misnaming it,” she said.
Lauren Indvik via Mashable
Thirteen percent of online Americans use Twitter, up a full 5% from November 2010, according to a Pew Research Center study released Wednesday.
Much of that growth came from younger adults, Pew found. Nearly one in five U.S. Internet users ages 25 to 34 use Twitter, up from 9% in November. Fourteen percent of users between 35 and 44 also now use the service, up from 8% a half-year previous.
But Twitter isn’t exclusively the domain of young adults; 8% of participants between 50 to 64 and 6% over the age of 65 consider themselves Twitter users, respectively.
Perhaps most intriguing is the demographic gap: 25% of African-Americans and 19% of Hispanics use the service, compared with 9% of Non-Hispanic Whites. Perhaps linked to the use of entertainment and cultural leaders?
Today, the Banters social experiment has officially come to a close, as the startup’s co-founder Lauren Leto said via blog post today that the team will be no longer actively working on the site beginning June 1st. However, in spite of its tumultuous road and final splash into the deadpool, the news came with a silver lining. Both Leto and her co-founder, Patrick Moberg, will be taking up residence at Betaworks, the New York accelerator that has incubated or funded startups like bitly, Chartbeat, SocialFlow, News.me, Kickstarter, TweetDeck, and many more.
As for some background, it was a little under two years ago that Texts From Last Night co-founder Lauren Leto and partner-in-crime Patrick Moberg launched Bnter, a simple way for people to share text, IM, and chat messages with their friends on the web — for all to see.
The startup was backed by a cast of well-known angel investors, including Founder Collective (Chris Dixon), SV Angel (David Lee), High Line Venture Partners (Shana Fisher), and more. It later was the subject of some founder-VC drama along with Spark Capital and Tumblr, but came out alive and continued to iterate.
While it initially focused on SMS, it later broadened its scope to let users share any sort of conversation, including GChat, in-person chat, email and more, and launched both iPhone and Android apps, a bookmarklet, in-depth Twitter integration, and supported Facebook Chat, Foursquare comments, GroupMe, etc.
In spite of its full roster of available integrations and cross-platform functionality, Banters suffered from a clunky user experience, as its original model required users to launch the app or visit its home page, open a new post, attribute another user to bring them into the conversation, filling out various message boxes, adding tags — and then, at long last, posting. It had become too much like a CMS and had lost the lightweight feel of an SMS tool.
Recognizing this process was arduous for users, Banters launched a new version of its iPhone app in January, which leveraged Siri’s technology to input conversations and quotes. The idea was to make adding a conversation to the app as easy as snapping a mobile photo. Along with its new iPhone app, the startup added more functionality, including a “like” button, activity stream and an ‘Explore’ tab to help surface the best conversations.
And because it’s original name “Bnter” was tough for some to pronounce, Leto and Moberg changed the startup’s name to “Banters.”
Unfortunately, try as they might, Banters ran its course. Leto said in a blog post today that, although its user base has been passionate, the platform simply hadn’t gained the traction, or user base, the co-founders had hoped it would find.
As a result, beginning June 1st, the team will no longer be actively working on Banters. “We’re not outright closing the site down any time in the foreseeable future,” Leto says in her post, “but, for the sake of prudence, we’re encouraging our users to export their data here.”
Although Banters is hitting the deadpool, its co-founders are moving on to new projects. Leto says that she had long been a fan of “Findings,” Betaworks’ tool that offers “a straightforward, intuitive way to share and discuss quotes from books and the web.” Seeing that Findings and Banters share similar goals, Leto and Moberg will be joining Betaworks this summer.
Leto will become the General Manager at Findings, while Moberg will become Betaworks’ “Hacker-in-Residence.”
Of the new move, Leto says:
It’s never easy to stop working on an idea after having invested so much into it, but I’m thankful that we’ll have the opportunity to keep working on a product that closely aligns with the mission we set out with at Banters: to harness the timeless power of quotes and words, and share them in ways that have only recently been made possible by technology.
It’s unclear to what extent the kerfuffle with Spark Capital handicapped the team’s ability to raise another round of capital, but as Sarah points out in the post, by the time of the botched funding, Leto had “reportedly cut her salary to zero to help the make the company’s ends meet.”
Regardless, the experience didn’t end positively for either side, and it seems that Banters never found that new round of capital it needed to keep its fires lit. It’s tough, too, considering the fact that Banters seemed like it was onto a potentially big idea. Nevertheless, it’s great to see that the two co-founders have landed in a great spot and will, in some capacity, get to continue working on the idea.
For more, see Leto’s blog post on the shuttering of Banters here.
This is Episode 10 of the Social Pros Podcast : Real People Doing Real Work in Social Media. This episode features Lauren Teague, who handles social media for the PGA Tour. Read on for insights from Lauren, and Eric’s Social Media Stat of the Week (this week: is CEO engagement on social media channels important?).
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Huge thanks to data-driven social media management software company Argyle Social for their presenting sponsorship, as well as Infusionsoft and Jim Kukral at DigitalBookLaunch. We use Argyle Social for our social engagement; we use Infusionsoft for our email; and Jim is our guest host for the podcast and a smart guy).
Social Pros Transcript For Your Reading Enjoyment, Thanks to Speechpad for the Transcription
Eric: This is number ten, Jay. Indeed it is.
Jay: Man, we’ve hit double digits. I think we ought to just ride out in a blaze of glory right now. This ought to be it. We ought to just cue the theme song.
Eric: No, I think we should go to 11 so at least we can say that Social Pros Podcast goes to 11.
Jay: Goes to 11, very nice. The voice you hear is Eric Boggs from Argyle Social, my trusty sidekick. I am Jay Baer from Convince & Convert. Sponsors for Social Pros, Eric’s fantastic company, Argyle Social, that we use for all of our social media stuff. Our friends at Infusionsoft, who are in the middle of their big annual conference this week, InfusionCon, so they’re freaking out. And our buddy Jim Kukral at DigitalBookLaunch.com.
We are actually recording Social Pros today, and it is the day of the big NCAA basketball final. This is it. Kentucky versus Kansas. Eric Boggs, being a huge college basketball fan, I suspect that you hope somehow both teams lose.
Eric: I would love it if both teams would lose, and then both teams go on probation because of all sorts of recruiting violations.
Jay: Both coaches get malaria . . .
Eric: I think it’s a safe bet that UK will go down in flames, because of recruiting violations or some other problems relating to John Calipari, but KU, I kind of like those guys.
Jay: They seem to be doing it right. They’re a classy bunch over there, those Jayhawks.
Eric: Too many Tarheel ties with the Jayhawks to not like them.
Jay: Yeah, that’s probably your second and third most hated teams after Duke, I presume.
Jay: It could be a good night for you. Speaking of sports, I’m fired up about the show today, because we have our friend Lauren Teague joining us in a little bit. She runs all things social media for the PGA Tour. Maybe you’ve heard of it. A bunch of guys hitting a ball. This is a big, big week. It is Masters week. My favorite. I have spent a little time in Augusta, love it down there. My wife scheduled an Easter party that we’re having for friends and family during the final round of the Masters on Sunday. I was not happy about that.
Eric: Not to reuse one of your jokes, but given that it’s Masters week, I bet Lauren and her team are freaking out.
Jay: Yeah. Well, the nice thing is that the Masters folks have enough of their bodies to probably pitch in. They have more people mowing the grass than most state governments have in their entirety.
Eric: Well said.
Jay’s Thought of the Week
Jay: It is amazing. Tell us, Mr. Boggs, what is the social media stat of the week? Actually, you know what? I’m going to rant first. Here’s the thing. There is an article today that I saw, and we actually included it in my email newsletter, somewhat to my chagrin. There’s an article that said, “Has Hunger Games fundamentally changed the way digital marketing works?” or something like that.
Eric: Oh god.
Jay: Then the subtext of the article was that they were able to open a $155 million weekend, but they spent so little in advertising and they were social media geniuses because they were able to do that. I said, hey, look. I’m all for social media. I make a good living being a social media consultant. But maybe it had something to do with the fact that they sold 100 million copies of the book before the movie was made.
Eric: Exactly. Two steps to becoming a social media hero. Step one, write “The Hunger Games.” Step two, tweet about it.
Jay: Exactly. So well said. This is like the post-modern version of what was a year or two ago the whole Old Spice thing. Old Spice was held up by people like Ad Age, as the greatest example of a social media success. I said, “Yeah, they had some interesting YouTube videos and a Twitter program, but maybe the $10 million in paid television commercials that preceded that may have had something to do with the success of that program.” I get so tired of listening to people who have no business experience say something like, “Oh, you shouldn’t do any traditional marketing. You should just do all social media, because that’s where the future is.”
Eric: Yeah. Well, I think you can translate that analogy to any number of hot content categories. There are equal number of ridiculous articles written about startup financings and companies that go public by people that know absolutely nothing about startup financings or companies that go public. You said this was in Ad Age?
Jay: No, no. This particular article was not in Ad Age. Ad Age had touted the Old Spice program a while back.
Eric: That’s right.
Jay: This one was in – I’ve got it right here somewhere, I thought I did – PaidContent.org, “The Economics of Digital Content.” The official headline is, “Did Hunger Games Create a New Digital Marketing Template for Hollywood?” I would say, no, they created a new selling books template for authors.
Jay: That is a different article entirely.
Eric: Does the article cite anything unique about what “Hunger Games” did? I actually read the book in the Philadelphia airport a few months ago, at the behest of one of my employees who said it was the greatest thing of all time. It is a good book. I read it in like an hour and a half.
Jay: Yeah, it’s a page-turner.
Eric: What does the article cite as unique that “Hunger Games” did, if anything?
Jay: Here’s the actual paragraph, which we’ll cite in the podcast.
“Liongate’s campaign differed from most movie campaigns because it created actual social media buzz.”
Basically, anytime you use the word “buzz” in a blog post or article, you’ve already lost my respect.
“The key: instead of paying for likes, the studio put its resources into creating rich-media elements that far outstrip the ambition of simple games and other movie collateral, such as an interactive tour of the source novel’s capital, which was accessible through Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.”
Eric: Hang on, Jay. This is the audible sigh. [sighs]
Jay: I want to see how that gets transcribed by SpeechPad. That’s going to be fantastic. Are they saying that most movies succeed in social media, because they go out on a very expensive Facebook “Like” acquisition program? That’s what most people do?
Eric: I guess so.
Jay: I really hope that’s not the case. Well, on a somewhat brighter note, tell us about this week’s social media stat of the week, which is actually pretty interesting and applies to you personally, Eric Boggs.
Eric’s Social Media Stat of the Week: 86% of People Rated CEO Social Media Engagement as Important
Eric: Yeah, it does actually. This week’s stat of the week comes from BRANDfog, which is a social strategy agency based in New York. The company surveyed, I think it was around 400 people – I think I saw that in the notes – 400 people of all stripes, which was really my biggest issue with the survey, and we’ll come back to that. Surveyed these people about CEOs, leadership, and social media. There were two key nuggets from the report. 86% of the people surveyed rated CEO social media engagement as important, either somewhat important, very important, or mission critical. 81% of the people believe that CEOs who engage in social media are better equipped to lead companies in this fantastic Web 2.0 world that we live in.
To me, it speaks to the need for trust and transparency from the perspective of buyers and consumers. It speaks to social media as the mechanism to provide that in a lightweight and transparent way.
Jay: Yeah, it’s interesting because before we had social media, whether it’s blogs or Twitter, probably would be the two that most CEOs would be most comfortable participating in. LinkedIn I think has got a little bit of a different dynamic. Before those came on the scene, how would a CEO actually communicate to customers and prospective customers in a way that was ostensibly authentic and dispersed and widely available? I’m not sure what the historical analog is.
Eric: Yeah, the annual letter or the video that’s on the commercial or whatever? I have no idea. I think you’re right that this type of opinion is very much reflective of the world that we live in, now that there’s an expectation for CEOs to be out in front and very personable and open and transparent about their business and about their personal lives too to some extent.
Jay: I also feel like there’s a deeper play here, in that the rich get richer, right? If you have a CEO that is routinely using social media in a way that is not purely promotional and all the other things that you can do poorly in social. But let’s stipulate that the CEO is using social media well, like Eric Boggs. Doesn’t that then make it okay for the rest of the organization to use social media well? Doesn’t that person just by definition of their leadership role make social a priority in the organization? I guess what I’m saying is it’s not so much the CEO doing a good job. It’s the fact that the CEO values social, which trickles down to the lowest rungs of the organization.
Eric: Yeah, that’s actually a really good point. What motivates the CEO to do it? Does the CEO do it because he or she enjoys it and honestly values the opportunity to interact and share what’s going on? Or do they do it because they hired Jay Baer of Convince & Convert, and he comes along and says, “Hey, your CEO’s got to start tweeting.” I’m sure I could fabricate some good tweets and pretend to be interested, but I’m genuinely interested in engaging socially. That is an interesting idea.
Jay: Well, and I think that’s a really important point. I think the guys at BRANDfog actually specialize in helping CEOs and C-suite personnel do better in social media, and I think that’s an interesting business to be in. I think it can be taught to some degree, but as I’ve said a number of times, if you don’t love social media, you probably suck at social media. It’s really hard to say, “Okay, we brought the consultant in who says you must tweet and send three tweets a day, one about personal and two about business,” whatever your formula is. Can you do that adequately? I think you can. Can you do that great? I don’t think you can. If your heart’s not in it, you can’t do it great. I just don’t believe that.
Eric: I would be remiss if I did not bring up my lone hang-up with this survey is that the sample spans in size from startups to Fortune 500 companies. I’m reading from the report: “All levels of their organizations, representing a wide selection of industries, professions, and regions.” I’m left to actually question who is the CEO in this person’s mind? Me tweeting as the CEO of Argyle is very different than Larry Page tweeting as the CEO of Google. If you were to ask one of my employees about me tweeting versus asking a Google employee about Larry tweeting, and by the way I probably shouldn’t use myself and Larry Page in the same sentence.
Jay: I’m pretty sure you guys have never tried to buy Twitter, so there’s that.
Eric: To me that’s my biggest hang-up when I look at the data is that depending on the company, the company size, stage, industry, the role of the social media CEO can be quite diverse.
Jay: Yeah, if you have your one person cupcake manufacturing empire, whether or not you are tweeting is perhaps not quite as much of a corporate culture driver as it might be for a larger organization.
Eric: Yeah, exactly.
Jay: Good stuff. That’s a good stat. I like that one.
Eric: Thank you.
Special Guest: Lauren Teague of the PGA Tour
Lauren: Hi, guys. I’m here.
Jay: She is here. Are you outdoors in some sort of sunny Floridian location, drinking a mint julep or whatever you guys do at the PGA Tour?
Lauren: I can see the sun from where I’m at. I’m actually feeling the rays pounding in. It’s about a 90 degree day here in Jacksonville, Florida, where the PGA Tour headquarters are. But unfortunately, I’m neither outside or sipping a mint julep. Although I think those things are more reserved for the Kentuckians who may or may not be consuming very many of those tonight after the basketball game.
Jay: True enough. I think that’s absolutely the case, for the mint julep is based at the Derby I think, if i recall correctly. I had a mint julep once. Terrible. Just a terrible cocktail. Brutal. If you take anything away from episode ten of Social Pros, it’s don’t drink mint juleps. That’s the take-away. Lauren, it is Masters week. It’s exciting. It’s the most wonderful time of the year.
Lauren: Yes, I definitely think so. For a lot of the sports fans, golf is just starting to come onto the calendar in their awareness of basketball’s almost over and hockey’s almost over, so it must be time for golf. Actually, our season started the first week of January, so we’re I think a quarter or a third of the way through our season. It’s been a great season so far, if you’ve gotten the chance to watch. Every Sunday seems like it’s must- see TV for a sports fan, because we’ve had so many come-from- behind wins and just really good competition. I think if you haven’t been paying attention, definitely tune in to the Masters this week so you can get a taste of all of the competition in the new versus the old. Tiger Woods is back, and Phil’s got a win this season, and you’ve got the young up-and-comers. It’s really great. The best part about my job is that most of those guys are actually participating in social media, so I get to see it from a whole different lens.
Jay: Yeah, it’s amazing. A couple things that are fascinating about golf. One, you’ve got to beat a lot of people to win, right? It is enormously difficult. But you mentioned the young guys and the old guys. I always feel like that’s such a fascinating dynamic, because you’ve got a multitude of guys who are in their late 30s, early 40s. It’s not like basketball where you’ve got Steve Nash and you’ve got Grant Hill and a couple other guys in their late 30s and that’s it, and everybody else is like 7. In golf, you’ve got a lot of people in every five year bucket of ages playing the same game at the same time. I don’t know that there’s an equivalent for that in sports anywhere.
Lauren: No, you’re absolutely right. Our last two major champions, two of them, Keegan Bradley won at age 24, 25. Last year, Rory McIlroy won the U.S. Open at age 22. Then you’ve got guys like Phil who just turned 40 last year, so he’s 41, and Tiger’s getting up there in his mid to late 30s. It definitely is a different dynamic. Actually, just talked to the Champions Tour folks, the Champions Tour has nine players in the Masters this week, and the Champions Tour, those guys are over 50. When I tell you there are guys like Fred Couples and Tom Watson, those are guys who are still contending when they want to be. It’s definitely a large dynamic in that who’s competing, you all have to face the same conditions on the same course on the same day. It’s the ultimate meritocracy in that it’s all about who gets the ball in the hole quickest. It’s pretty fun.
Eric: Lauren, did you grow up in a golf family, or did you play golf as kid or in high school or in college?
Lauren: My grandfather introduced me to the game when I was really young. I just remember going to their house on the weekends and getting to watch golf. He would introduce me to the players. I’m from the Northwest. Freddy Couples is from Seattle, so he was our default player. He’s one of the first ones I knew about because that’s who we cheered for. I’ve been playing since I was about ten. I got to about a nine handicap.
Lauren: The worst thing about my golf game, is that I peaked when I was 17. That’s when I turned to maybe working in sports or working in golf. It was in about 2008, the first part of 2008. The PGA Tour put out this job posting for a social media person. And I knew enough about the game and how to play it and how to talk about it and what was going on currently, and combined with trying to figure out social media from a PR perspective had the right package of skills to come into the PGA Tour and help them grow their social media channels.
Jay: It must have just been an incredible ride between now and then. You mentioned earlier about how many players are active in social now. It seems to me like that’s just been a rush in the last 18 to 24 months where you have a couple of early adopters, and now all of a sudden it’s almost weird to not be using Twitter in particular for players. That just has to be an amazing ride for you.
Lauren: It really was. Just like you said, maybe two or three years ago, nobody was really using Twitter. We had maybe a couple people that we were tracking. Even in the PGA Tour account, we didn’t actively take over our own presence until 2009, the first part of that year. Then Stewart Cink followed not long after that in 2009. What really turned the corner for the golfers was Stewart started tweeting about going to Augusta National. Actually, sorry, that was 2010. He started tweeting about going to Augusta National and the drive up Magnolia Lane. The fans really, really got into it.
Well, then you fast forward three or four more months, and Stewart Cink wins the Open Championship over in the UK. Now you have pictures of Stewart Cink hoisting the Claret Jug, but then where it goes. You’re seeing the Claret Jug on the airplane, you’re seeing it on the kitchen counter, you’re seeing it on the breakfast table. That was really kind of the kick start to how our guys started using Twitter, and it just took off from there.
I can’t take a lot of credit for having over 150 Tour players on Twitter, because they’ve actually been teaching themselves how to use it. I’m available to help or make recommendations or get them verified and things like that. But it’s really been a groundswell on the PGA Tour among the players themselves in actually getting to use Twitter. Now you’re seeing it a little bit more with the videos that are coming out. You’ve got Bubba Watson making videos, and that turned into Ben Crane making videos, which brought us the Golf Boys. Thank heaven for the Golf Boys. It’s interesting how they’ve all picked it up, because they’ve realized they connect with their fans one-to-one. It’s really creating this cool dynamic that all of our Tour players really enjoy.
Jay: What I find fascinating about it is that there is not a pure economic incentive, right? If a NASCAR driver does social media well, he or she is going to attract more fans or create loyalty amongst existing fans. But they all sell their own merch. They all sell their own shirts. They all sell their own hats. They keep all that money. On the golf side of it, there isn’t a direct economic win for the players. It’s this notion of connecting with fans is amazing and makes the game more personal and human and all those things. But the Tour wins more so than they win individually, and I think that’s a really interesting situation that you don’t find very often.
Lauren: Actually, I would contradict you there. We know that guys have been getting deals, and now their advertisers are asking for social media reach as one of the metrics. Just because Stewart Cink might not sell his own line of putters or his own golf bags or things, his sponsors are looking to activate and tie into that brand. Now, I’ve talked to guys like Stewart personally and that’s not what he’s in it for, but there is some monetary benefits for these guys.
What’s more interesting, something that we’ve been telling the agents for quite some time, is that having a Twitter account or a Facebook page is like having a web page ten years ago. You’ve got to do it. You’ve got to connect the fans, because you’re going to be asked about how to monetize this, you’re going to have an opportunity to do that in the future. These guys actually are starting to get those questions, and I think you’re seeing it. Even if it’s not being tied in directly to the player, you’re seeing brands like TaylorMade Adidas Golf, who is actually starting to put hashtags on the side of their players’ caps on tour and tying that in with their products and their product launch. So you’re actually seeing more socially savvy businesses tied in with golf using and seeking out these players who have large social media presences. Like you said, it brings the Tour up, but it also brings their existing sponsors up into a more personal and different way to engage their audience.
Jay: From a Tour perspective, are there particular success metrics that you look at, that you measure, beyond fan acquisition and things like that, that you really point to to say, “This is working. Social is driving results for the Tour”?
Lauren: Yeah. Like you said, fan acquisition, that’s a number that I think everybody on a big brand level is going to get judged on. We also look at the engaged fan metrics, so who’s talking about us. Not just the PGA Tour, because we have a hard enough time sometimes getting people to differentiate PGA Tour from PGA of America. We’re two different companies. We also look at the lift and the conversation happening around our tournaments and the names of the events, the courses that they’re playing on, and of course then the players. We’re tracking those things as overall mentions through Twitter and Facebook as well. For any given week, I might look at the PGA Tour mentions, our media partners, our TV partner mentions, mentions of the tournament names, sometimes the course, especially if we’re somewhere like Pebble Beach or Augusta National. We’re going to look at things like who was in the lead, who made news that week, who won. We’re looking at their name and also their Twitter handles as well to gauge and see where the overall golf or Tour footprint is, because we know that we can’t just rely on what @PGATour or PGA Tour on Facebook is doing.
Jay: Speaking of Facebook, the move to Timeline and having milestones on the right-hand side and that dynamic has got to be a huge boon for you, given the tremendous amount of history that PGA Tour has, and the fact that by definition, you’ve got something else happening every single week.
Lauren: Yeah, absolutely. I was so excited about the Facebook Timeline when we got it for the brand pages. I think a lot of people didn’t think through strategy. That was really important to us, is we knew that we had a month to make the switch, and we wanted to make sure that when we came out into the marketplace we did it really well and did something our fans expected. One of the first things we did was ask our fans what they wanted to see from us on Timeline. Then we mulled around and saw what other brands were doing and other properties were doing. We came up with a really cool strategy where we would take those milestones, like you said, we have so many champions and so many big moments. Actually, if you click back to when the PGA Tour started, on our page we actually go back to 1894 I believe, because that was the first U.S. Open, the first semblance of professional golf being played in the United States. So what we wanted to do with that was capture some of players’ reactions and their memories. We have stuff going back, more so from the last 20 or 30 years, we have a really great collection of milestones, and we asked the current players to chime in on what they remembered about those events. If you go to the Facebook.com/PGATour, all this week we’re going to be pinning Masters milestones and Masters memories that our players have stories about where they were, or what Tiger’s win in 1997 meant to them or why Jack’s win in 1986 really always stands out.
Jay: Because he was super-old, that’s why and he was Jack. He was like 46 years old, that’s why it stands out.
Lauren: Absolutely, but it’s really cool to talk to Scott McCarron and Ernie Els and get their memories of watching that happen. That’s what we tried to feature there on the page, and we’re going to keep adding to it. We have a lot of content still in video form, in photo form. Continuing to ask the guys about their current, as they’re making history and as they’re looking back on it.
Pretty excited about the way the Timeline has turned out. I’m really, really excited about the way our tournaments have embraced it. Our tournaments, some of them have 60, 70, 80 years of history behind them, and you’re starting to see that being displayed in a way that their websites just couldn’t do. It’s a pretty cool new look and strategy for golf in general.
Eric: Yeah, I’m scrolling through the page now, Lauren. It looks very, very cool.
Lauren: Thank you. Thank you. I can’t take all the credit, but it sure was fun putting that together.
Eric: I was going to say it looks like a ton of work went into putting this together.
Lauren: That’s the benefit. We have an on-site historian who’s really great, so he helped us compile a lot of that. We just hired a social media coordinator, so he was the one plugging in all the last minute stuff. Then I had gotten together a couple times and talked to the guys here on the Florida swing. I talked to them and got some really great memories. We had Bill Hoss talking about his shot last year at the Tour Championship and what he was thinking when he was walking up to it. All the way back to Tiger’s first win on Tour, or watching Jack win the Masters. Really, really neat.
Jay: Would you say that Facebook is the primary place that you’re trying to make an impact in social? I know you’ve got the full complement of social residences. You’ve got Facebook and Twitter and YouTube and other places, but is Facebook the place where you’re trying to really say look, ideally, this is where we want to interact with you. Is that your home base?
Lauren: Because of the resources that we’ve put behind it and the effort that we have behind it, our Facebook page is our social hub. But we also understand that there’s a lot of people who want to connect and just watch our videos and watch those favorite moments and talk about what they saw on TV. That YouTube channel that we have has I think over 23 million lifetime video views. We recognize that for those fans it’s just as or more important than our Facebook presence. Our Twitter page is awesome. We get so much interaction there. I don’t want to discount any of our social media channels. I think they’re all very unique in their own way, and I definitely believe in speaking to the individual audience. But I think if you had to pick one I would say because of the effort we’ve put behind the Facebook page, the number of fans that we have connected there, and then also you look at some of the other PGA Tour efforts like our PGA Tour Match-ups fantasy application there. That’s something that we’ve only ever done on Facebook. We haven’t put the resources into something that’s so engaging and really specifically for the fans. It’s not even necessarily something you’d see on PGATour.com. It’s a product specifically designed for fans to come in and talk about their favorite players and put some effort behind them and make picks and share that with their friends and challenge each other. PGA Tour Match-ups, that app is a pretty solid component to our social media strategy.
Jay: The social TV aspect is amazing, right? A year ago it wasn’t even a thing hardly, and now it’s dominating the headlines. You see TV shows that aren’t particularly interesting or dynamic rolling hash-tags and everything else. It’s really changed the way people consume and interact with television, this notion of having two screens, one in your lap and one across the room. How often do you get involved with your broadcast partners to sort of coordinate efforts between what’s going on out on the television air and what’s happening in social media and people live tweeting and that kind of program?
Lauren: Well, we have a few different media partners, TV partners in general. I work with our internal broadcasting team a little bit. To make sure that we are coordinated so if a tournament has a specific hashtag or a specific Twitter name, that we’re tweeting about it and the Golf Channel’s tweeting about it. Things like that. We have been taking the step in putting hashtags into the broadcast. That’s definitely a conversation that goes above my level. It’s something we’re interested in doing. I think if you look at what PGA Tour and PGATour.com is producing right now, we are using hash-tags on our live app broadcast, we have more Twitter integration. Whether you want your iPad app and you’re watching live in that and you’ve got a social stream on the right hand rail, or you’re watching it on your desktop and you’re able to switch over and tweet. I definitely think our fans are participating in the two screen experience in that they’re watching and they’re also trying to be connected, because I see it every day. I see the re-tweets that we get on Sundays as it’s coming down to the wire, as competition is wrapping up. So it’s definitely there. As far as who we have to convince and making sure that we go about it the right way. We haven’t done a hashtag on a PGA Tour event yet, but that’s not to say that we wouldn’t do that in the future.
Jay: Hashtag Argyle Social.
Eric: That would be perfectly relevant because of the Loud Mouth Golf fans.
Jay: That’s right.
Lauren: I did.
Jay: See, so you owe your pants to this week’s guest on Social Pros.
Eric: Yeah, Lauren, based on your tweet I emailed them and they sent me three or four pairs of pants.
Eric: Yeah, thank you.
Lauren: I will have to tell you, Loud Mouth Golf is actually on Pinterest. They’re one of the first golf brands that is on Pinterest.
Eric: Makes sense.
Lauren: They put up the cutest pair of woman’s shorts. I repinned it, and my friend who’s going to the Ryder Cup with me, she commented on my pin of Loud Mouth Golf shorts. She just said, ‘Ryder Cup?’ I thought oh, now I have to reach out to the Loud Mouth people and make sure I get those for September. Maybe you can help with that, Eric. Maybe you can be my connection there.
Eric: I don’t know. I seem to think that your connection with the PGA is probably a little bit more valuable than my connection to marketing software nerdery.
Jay: I will be at the Ryder Cup as well, but I will not be wearing the Loud Mouth woman’s skirt pants or whatever you’re talking about. Although maybe I will. You never know.
Lauren: Maybe you can borrow a pair from Eric.
Jay: By that time Eric and I might be the same size. That would be a win for me. We’ll see.
Eric: Go Jay, go.
Social Pros Shout Out
Jay: We’ll see. Lauren, do you have any Social Pros shout outs? This is the part of the show where you talk about what you love, what inspires you in the world of social media and content marketing. What do you think? Other than a well-struck two iron, what inspires you?
Lauren: Actually it’s the hybrid these days. I was thinking about this and honestly, I’m so into the golf world, that sometimes I forget to pull myself and think about who else I’m following and who’s teaching me all of this great stuff. I have a quick little list. Most people you’ve probably had referred once or twice, but obviously Jason Keath of Social Fresh. That’s actually how I met both of you, so I thought it was only fair to put Social Fresh on the list. Also a few of the people that I love to listen to or connect with when I get a chance. Peter Shankman, who founded ‘Help a Reporter Out‘ and a bunch of other companies along the way, was actually one of the first people I started tweeting with back five years ago when I was trying to figure out PR and social media in general. I was actually an original member of the Facebook HARO group.
Jay: That is old school. Nicely done.
Lauren: I was really old school. I was a fledgling PR pro at that point.
Then I watched Amy Jo Martin, who now owns Digital Royalty, I watched her from when she was at the Suns because at the time we were one of the first couple women doing social media and digital in sports and being on Twitter to represent our brands. Obviously she’s been a little more successful than I have, until this point. Amy Jo Martin and the Digital Royalty team, they’re great. They do a great blog. If I have a question about something that’s up and coming or emerging technologies, that’s definitely where I go to check that out.
Jay: Yep, they just had their three year anniversary last week, which is awesome. Congratulations to them. I used to work with Amy back in the day when I was in Phoenix.
Lauren: Golf claps for them. Then I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Chris and Kristie, from Social Media Club Global. I think the Social Media Club, what they’re doing on an international level in scope, it really just started as a heart project and it’s something they really cared about. They transformed it into something that is reaching so many people and educating and really bringing the social media profession along. They really helped me when I went to bring Social Media Club here to Jacksonville, Florida. Just a shout out to all the SMC’ers and Socialmediaclub.org because there’s great people on that site too.
Jay: No question. We should have Chris and Kristie on the show. That’s a great idea. We should have them come on someday as a Sonny and Cher “I Got You Babe” episode. We’re going to make that happen.
Eric: Only if they sing.
Jay: We can do that for sure.
Lauren: Can I give one more?
Jay: Of course.
Lauren: All right, one more. Like I said earlier, we have over 150 professional golfers on Twitter. The easiest way to find those, we have Twitter lists for all of our tours, even their caddies and their wives in our tournament. You can find all of those at bit.ly/golflists. That’s the easiest way to do it. Or twitter.com/PGATour and click on our list button. Then you can follow and see any of the golfers or anybody associated with the PGA Tour there on Twitter. It’s pretty fun. I think Ben Crane earlier today posted a YouTube video driving down Magnolia Lane. You actually got the whole experience.
Lauren: So cool.
Jay: That is fantastic. I’m going to check out that list of lists. That’s a good idea. Lauren, you were terrific. Thank you very much for being on Social Pros. It was a delight to have you. Good luck this week at the Masters. I will see you at the Ryder Cup, if not before. Mr. Boggs, always a pleasure. It was delightful.
Next week on the show, who is our special guest next week?
Eric: I think Vanessa from Hilton.
Jay: Oh it is, that’s right. Our good friend Vanessa Sain-Dieguez from Hilton Hotels. She’s going to talk about some amazing stuff that Hilton’s got going on, most particularly their program where Hilton actually solves your Twitter questions, even if you’re not staying at their hotel. It’s amazing. Tune in for that. Thanks as always to Eric’s company, Argyle Social, to our good friends at Infusionsoft, and to our buddy Jim Kukral from Digital Book Launch. Until next week, I’m Jay Baer. Thanks so much.
CIS Non-Residential Fellow Lauren Gelman quoted in this NPR story about how social media put a Florida case into the national spotlight. Read more » about Social Media Put Fla. Case In National Spotlight
A few months ago I went to collect a friend from hospital. Arriving early, I entered the waiting room and noticed in-house magazines stacked by the door. I picked one up, grabbed a coffee and took a seat.
The magazine read like a very long press release, blabbering on about patient-centric care and employee awards. I was quickly bored, so I read from my phone instead. The magazine failed in its purpose.
Effective content marketing holds people’s attention. It gives you a distinctive brand, loyal fans and increased sales. You don’t need a big budget to succeed, which is why good content marketing is the single best way to beat bigger competitors online.
Content marketing used to be about customer magazines and mailed newsletters. Now it covers blogs, email newsletters, eBooks, white papers, articles, videos and more. In this article, you will learn about content marketing techniques that you can apply to your business.
Before creating content, you need to prepare. Think about your tone and style, where to find the best writers and how to organize your workflow.
Tone and Style
Too many companies start writing content before their brand has a defined voice. This leads to inconsistency. It’s like using one logo in your brochure, another on your website and another on your blog.
When speaking with people, you see their expressions and you adjust your tone accordingly. In a meeting, when you see that someone is confused, you clarify meaning, simplify sentences and speak reassuringly. The Web offers no feedback until your content is published, and then it’s too late.
To get the right tone, think of the person who best represents your brand. The person could be fictional or real, and they may or may not work for you. Now think of adjectives that describe them. Once you know what you want, provide clear details and practical examples.
Let’s say you run a travel agency that markets to young independent travelers. You want your representative to sound experienced, helpful and friendly. Try using a table like the one below to delineate what your adjectives do and don’t mean:
Write with authority, as though the knowledge was gained first hand.
Explain things clearly and positively. Make sure all relevant information is obvious and accessible.
Use informal language, and write as though you are talking to one person, rather than a broad customer base.
|Does not mean…||Condescending
You know a lot but don’t talk down to your customers. They probably know a lot too.
Promote your company, but not at the expense of good service. Always have your reader’s wants in mind.
Make sure there are no grammar or spelling mistakes. Proofread carefully.
You’ll also need a style guide, so that your authors write consistently. Should you use title case in headings? Are contractions appropriate? Check out The Yahoo! Style Guide for ideas.
Picking Content Creators
Don’t pick the wrong people to create your content. It’s hard for a non-technical person to pick the best Web developer, and it’s the same with content marketing. You need to know about content creation in order to judge other people’s abilities. Some people suggest making everyone in your company a content creator, but this is a bad idea. Not everyone can be a good accountant, secretary or rocket scientist, and the same applies here. To succeed, you should pick the best.
Ask everyone who wants to be a content creator to write a sample blog post. Then you can find the best few people. Some might not be able to write but have interesting ideas. In this case, you’ll need someone to edit their copy. Perhaps you want to raise the profile of a particular staff member. If they can’t write, have someone ghostwrite for them.
Some companies have a simple workflow: one person does everything. The person researches, writes and publishes without any input from others. This model can work, but you’ll see more success with a workflow that enables other people to take part. Have different people write, edit and proofread. It’s a good way to catch mistakes and to bring more ideas into the process. Think about the best process for each type of content. One person might be enough for a tweet, whereas four to six people might be ideal for an eBook.
Imagine you’ve got a well-staffed company that is putting together a B2B white paper. You could organize your workflow like this:
An example of how to organize your workflow in a well-staffed company.
Your content should be persuasive. Pay close attention to how you speak and what you say.
Use Simple Language
Take the question below on Yahoo! Answers. To “sound intelligent,” this person would like to know “big words that replace everyday small words.”
Many people make this mistake. They use language that is unnecessarily complicated, usually to show off or to sound corporate and professional.
“Short words are best and the old words when short are best of all,” said Winston Churchill. So, don’t talk about “taking a holistic view of a company’s marketing strategy to deliver strategic insights, precise analysis and out-of-the-box thinking.”
Prefer “make” to “manufacture,” and “use” to “utilize.” While “quantitative easing” offers precision to economists, your personal finance audience would prefer “print money.”
Lauren Keating has studied the effect of scientific language on the persuasiveness of copy. She found that most people respond best to advertisements that contain no scientific language. People found them more readable and persuasive, and they felt more willing to buy the product. Lauren’s conclusion was clear: copy needs to be plain and simple.
Interesting people have opinions, and interesting brands are the same. Look at the amazing work of new search engine DuckDuckGo. It has positioned itself as the antithesis of Google, launching websites that criticize how the search giant tracks you and puts you in a bubble. The strategy is paying off: DuckDuckGo is seeing explosive growth.
DuckDuckGo is an alternative search engine that breaks you out of your Filter Bubble.
While this strategy is perfect for defeating a big incumbent, you don’t have to be openly hostile to your competitors. You can say what you think without mentioning their names.
Bear in mind that people are ideologically motivated. Brendan Nyhan and Jason Reifler’s study, “When Corrections Fail”, describes the “backfire effect” of trying to correct people’s deeply held beliefs. The authors found that contradicting people’s misconceptions actually strengthened those opinions. If people see you as an ideological ally (like a political party), they are more likely to agree with you on other issues — even ideologically inconsistent or non-ideological ones. You can use your opinions to attract people to your company: converting the agnostic or validating the views of allies.
As a small-scale brewer, for example, you might have a strong opinion on ale, believing in craft over mass production. You might think the market is dominated by big businesses that sacrifice quality for quantity. In this situation, you could use content marketing to talk about the best way to make beer. By stressing how seriously you take the development of your product, you communicate your opinion to those who share it without directly criticizing your competitors.
Think politically: consider the popularity of your views and whether they will attract media coverage. Ideally, your opinions should be bold and popular.
Sell the Benefits
In the same way that you sell your products and services, tell your audience the benefits of your content. This technique is essential if your audience doesn’t know what it wants.
PaperlessPipeline is a transaction management and document storage app for real estate brokers. Its founder, Dane Maxwell, had a creative idea to sell his product. The biggest problem for real estate brokers is recruiting. So, Dane invited them to a webinar titled “Recruiting Secrets of the 200-Plus Agent Office in Tennessee.” Brokers didn’t even know they needed to manage transactions, so he didn’t mention it in the invitation.
In the webinar, he introduced PaperlessPipeline and explained how it enables brokers to recruit more agents. The webinar attracted 120 guests, and “16 ended up buying at the end,” said Dane in an interview with Mixergy.
Imagine you run a company that develops technology for mobile phones, and you want to promote a new femtocell that boosts mobile reception in public spaces and rural areas. This technology could be valuable to people who want to improve mobile reception, but those people might not have heard of it.
So, instead of promoting the technology directly, offer content that focuses on the benefits. By using benefit-focused copy, you immediately tell the reader what’s in it for them.
Think about what your audience wants. People want to hear answers and to learn something new, so give them what they want.
Content marketing needs to offer practical advice that people can use. Readers have been trained to expect answers on the Web, and yet so much content fails to deliver.
Consider FeeFighters, a comparison website for credit card processing. One of its blog posts, Do You Know What Makes Up Your Credit Score?, talks about the factors that affect your credit score. Instead of offering abstract advice and concepts, the post provides practical tips for improving your credit score:
Area #2: Your Credit Utilization Ratio
The second largest determining factor in what makes up your score is the amount of credit that you have available to you in relationship to how much of that credit you’ve used. This accounts for 30 percent of your credit score. The optimal rate is 30 percent, which means that if you have $10,000 in credit available to you, you should only be using about $3,000 of it. One trap that some people fall into is believing that if they max out their credit cards every month and then pay them off at the end of the month, they’ll build their credit. But since that gives them a 100 percent credit utilization ratio, and that ratio accounts for 30 percent of their overall credit score, they’re really doing more harm than good.
Say or Do Something New
Most content is boring and unoriginal, which is good for you. It makes it easier to beat your competitors.
You can make your content interesting by doing something new, without necessarily saying something new. For instance, you could write a comprehensive article on a topic that has only piecemeal information scattered across the Web. Or you could use a different format for a topic that gets the same treatment; rather than writing the fiftieth blog post on a topic, shoot the first video.
You can also make your content interesting by saying something new. An infographic by Rate Rush compares the popularity of Digg to Reddit, creatively combining a bar graph and clock to present the data. Although Rate Rush is a personal finance website, with little connection to social news, its staff researched a topic they were interested in and drew attention by putting it to imaginative use.
Our agency also researches things that we find interesting, and this has been a great source of content. In 2010, we polled around 1000 iPad owners to find out how consumers use the device. It led to a slew of media attention.
You can do the same. Come up with an original idea to research, and then undertake a study. Also look into studies that your business has done in the past, because interesting stuff might be lying around. One of our clients looked through her company’s research archive and found amazing material. She didn’t spend any money on research but got a lot of great content, links and media coverage.
Give your content more personality. Captivate your audience with stories and characters that will draw them in and keep them coming back.
Tell a Story
Telling a story is a great way to connect with readers. According to a number of studies summed up by Rob Gill of Swinburne University of Technology, telling stories can be useful in corporate communication. Storytelling is fundamental to human interaction, and it can make your content more compelling and your brand more engaging.
Citing Annette Simmons’ The Story Factor, Rob says this: “It is believed people receiving the narration often come to the same conclusion as the narrator, but through using their own decision-making processes.” Told through a story, a message becomes more personal and relevant. The reader is also more likely to remember what was said.
Michelle was the first to note that something was “odd.” In a phone call with Neil, she heard him comment that they “needed to do more digging into the market.” In her opinion, this was very peculiar.… Tuesday morning we got the call; no deal.
An email shared by Rand Fishkin in his post about SEOmoz’s attempt to raise funding.
Brands need stories, and stories need people, suspense, conflicts and crises. By reading SEOmoz’s content, and seeing both the positive and negative, you become immersed in its story.
Ikea is another example of a brand that tells stories that generate opinions about its company. For instance, it plays up its Swedish roots and paints a romantic image of a wholesome and natural society. Its website is full of stories that contribute to this effect.
A survey conducted by the B2B Technology Marketing Community showed that around 82% of LinkedIn users found that telling a story through case studies was the most effective form of content marketing.
Sometimes you’ll want to use anecdotes to make a point, and sometimes you’ll write a post or tweet to build a narrative. When you’re cultivating a story, keep the information simple, and don’t be afraid to repeat points here and there; some readers might have missed what you said before.
Always mix interesting stories with useful information; fail to do this and your audience will feel you’re wasting their time.
Use Real People
Think of your favorite writers. You’ve probably seen their photos and heard them speak. Likewise, people need to see and hear your employees, so use pictures, audio and video. This will bring your audience closer to your brand.
Jakob Nielsen has studied people’s reactions to images online. He used eye-tracking software to discover that people ignore images that seem decorative, random or generic. They even ignore generic images of people. But when they come across a photo of a “real” person, they engage with it for a longer time.
People prefer to get involved with a company with which they feel a personal connection. But introduce your employees gradually; as with any story, introduce too many characters too early and you’ll confuse your audience.
Develop a compelling tone of voice. Don’t assume that anyone can write amazing copy, because they can’t. If you want the best content, then you need the best writers and thinkers.
Produce something informative that people will want to read. Give your brand a personality and your business will benefit across the board, from recruitment to sales. Warren Buffett looks for businesses protected by “unbreachable moats,” and no moat is more unbreachable than a brand with a story, ideas and opinions.
© Craig Anderson for Smashing Magazine, 2012.
Carlos Bueno wrote a book called Lauren Ipsum. It’s a book about understanding computers for kids. He priced it at about $14 and offered it as a print-on-demand title and ebook. All was going well, books were selling, when suddenly he noticed a few copies were being offered for $55 or more. But there were no copies to be sold at that price and presumably someone selling a used copy would reduce the price, not increase it.
What was happening was that a bot had found the book and priced it at some ridiculous level – $45 at last count. Bueno was bemused, at best, and realized that bots had found the book and were essentially running a price war amongst themselves in order to offer the same print-on-demand book Bueno was offering at a massively inflated price. They were, in short, going to buy the $14 book and resell it for forty dollars more.
As the bots fought, they reduced the price to below retail in order to grab sales. They hoped to make up the difference in shipping costs. Suddenly Amazon noticed the resulting power play and the company’s own bots reduced the price to below their price. Now Amazon is selling below Bueno’s price and still giving him $14 per book.
It’s no wonder publishing is so screwed up right now. With robots fighting over their profits and Amazon undercutting authors and then paying back the difference, it must seem like Battlestar Galactica to some Art History grad working through the slush pile. “Will this book sell well to the robots in Germany?” they think instead of “Man, this is some good writing.”
This is Episode 3 of the Social Pros Podcast : Real People Doing Real Work in Social Media. This episode features Lauren Fernandez, the head of social media for Landry’s Restaurants. Read on for insights from Lauren, our “Work It Out” advice segment, and Eric’s Social Media Stat of the Week (this week: has the role of the salesperson changed because of social media?).
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Huge thanks to Argyle Social for their presenting sponsorship, as well as Infusionsoft and Jim Kukral at DigitalBookLaunch. We use Argyle Social for our social engagement; we use Infusionsoft for our email; and Jim is our guest host for the podcast and a smart guy)
Social Pros Transcript For Your Reading Enjoyment
Transcription services from our friends at Speechpad.com
Announcer: Ladies and gentlemen of the Internet, welcome to the Social Pros podcast, where we shine the spotlight on real people doing real work in social media. With your host, Jay Baer of Convince & Convert, and special contributor Eric Boggs of Argyle Social.
Ready? Let’s get to work.
Jay: Hey, it’s Jay Baer. We are back on Social Pros. This is Episode 4, I believe. I’m joined by my trusty sidekick and social media marketing impresario, Eric Boggs. Eric, how are you my friend?
Eric: I’m great, Jay. Episode 4: “A New Hope.” This will be a good one.
Jay: This is the one where Jar-Jar Binks learns Twitter.
Jay: That’s what this episode is all about. This is going to be fantastic. We have a fantastic guest today. Speaking of social media marketing impresarios, Lauren Fernandez, from Landry’s Restaurants is going to join us on the show today. They own just about every restaurant that’s not a Taco Bell in this great land of ours, and are doing an amazing job in social. We’ll talk to Lauren about how that works. Her life is crazy.
I was hoping that, for the taping, we would have, I don’t know, lobster or something. Mac and cheese I would take, clam chowder, but we’ve got nothing.
Eric: I just ate a handful of Gobstoppers. That should tie me over.
Jay: Handful of Gobstoppers? Hopefully they were the minis.
Eric: They were the small ones, yeah. They were not the golf ball size ones.
Jay: That’s not the best for podcast audio quality when you have a mouthful of Gobstoppers. That’s my professional podcast opinion after three episodes.
Jay’s Thought of the Week
Let’s get right into it. Lots of stuff going on the last week or so. For this week’s Jay’s Thought, I am very fascinated by what appears to be finally, at long last, after a lot of gnashing of teeth and conversation, what appears to be the actual launch of Twitter’s self-serve ads. Partnership with American Express, apparently 10,000 small businesses who are American Express cardholders are going to be invited to participate in this expanded beta in the next few weeks, to really turn over the keys to the Twitter ad system.
You guys have some experience running Twitter ads at Argyle Social, do you not?
Eric: We do. We’ve been on the promoted products beta since, geez, probably since the fall or maybe late summer of last year. We’ve run programs off and on. Some months we’ve invested very heavily in the channel. Other months we’ve done little at all. This is the big leap forward for Twitter, in terms of validating their ability to make money.
Jay: I think it’s really interesting to partner with American Express as well, because it gives them instant credibility. They already have the credit card data put together. It kind of gives them a slingshot effect in terms of competing, eventually, with Google AdWords.
Eric: Well, it definitely lowers the hurdle in terms of activation. But I’ll tell you based on our experience with promoter products, it’s incredibly different from spinning up some ads on Google.
Google Ads, you kind of set it and forget it. Promoted tweets aren’t like that. The content changes more frequently. There’s much more of a real timeliness to it. You’ve got to keep your foot on the gas the whole time in terms of changing copy, updating content, promoting this tweet versus promoting that tweet.
It’s going to be interesting to see how small businesses – presumably these are the shoe stores and cupcake shops that are on the American Express bandwagon – it’s going to be interesting to see how they adopt this.
Jay: I wonder, once we have thousands, and potentially at scale hundreds of thousands or more, small businesses throughout the world participating in promoted products and doing promoted tweets and promoted accounts, how are people going to feel about that in terms of clutter in their stream?
One of the things that Twitter does now is they only show the highest bid. In many cases, you just see one ad, one promoted tweet per keyword per search. But that obviously won’t be able to work forever, the same way AdWords has 2, 5, 10, 50 different ads running at a time.
Are we going to see a lot of noise in the stream that’s going to be a detriment or a turnoff to Twitter users?
Eric: I think you’re asking an interesting question around inventory. Think about how many Google searches there are, how many pages deep there are. It’s overwhelmingly in front of a computer, on a laptop or PC. Whereas, think about Twitter consumption. It’s on the go, it’s on mobile devices, and people typically aren’t scrolling through pages and pages of search results.
So there’s going to be an inventory issue, I think, with Twitter, alongside of a clutter issue. Where do these competing ads go? If Twitter’s going to show one ad at a time, they’re not going to find the revenue scale that they’re hoping to find, when you consider the number of ads that are on the page for Facebook and Google and the like.
Jay: Yeah, which makes you think that what we believe to be the Twitter UI today may not in fact be the Twitter UI. They will surely find a way to run in a parallel column, maybe Tweet Deck for example, a column of matching ads that runs alongside non-advertising tweets, possibly.
Eric: Potentially. I have no idea. It’s going to be interesting to see how they continue to change their business model.
I think it’s a great opportunity in the same way that search ads are actually incredibly helpful. I think that there is really an opportunity for promoted tweets and promoted real time content to be genuinely helpful and useful for the end consumer.
Jay: It’s so funny you say that about search ads and pay-per-click ads and AdWords and those kind of things. There is a distinct bias amongst social and digital marketers to that effect. When I talk to regular people who don’t make their living doing what we do, I invariably hear from people, “Oh, I’ve never clicked on a Google ad. I never click on ads.” I almost always click on ads.
Eric: I do too.
Jay: My assumption is look, if you’re going to pay money, if you’re going to pay $1, $2, $3 plus for a click, you’re probably either A, super relevant to what I want, or B, a terrible pay-per-click marketer, in which case Google is going to drop you off the page eventually anyway.
Eric: For me, it’s if you’re smart enough to run a reasonable paid search campaign, you’re probably smart enough to put together the product that I want.
Jay: That’s a research project that we should do – the bias of the professional digital marketer around the propensity to click on digital ads. Same is probably true in Facebook ads, as well, I would guess. We’ll see. Maybe Twitter ads as well.
Eric: Facebook ads just creep me out. Twitter ads, we’ll see. I haven’t seen enough of them to form a bias yet.
Jay: As long as I can do some teeth whitening and some weight loss, I’ll be dialed in on the Facebook ads.
What do we have for this week’s Social Media Stat of the Week, Eric?
Eric’s Social Media Stat of the Week: Customers Independently Complete 60% of the Purchasing Decision Process Before They Contact a Sales Rep
Eric: This week’s stat of the week is an oldie but a goodie. An oldie in the sense that it’s from I think August 2011, but it’s from a B2B marketing . . .
Jay: That’s Dead Sea Scrolls in our business. 2011?
Eric: I know. Just think back to that time. Oh, man, those were some good days.
Jay: Oh, those six months ago, the halcyon days of old.
Eric: The salad days, if you will.
It’s from a 2011 marketing survey by the Corporate Executive Board. Unlike previous stats of the week, where I’m going to barrage you with a list of interesting nuggets, I’m going to share what was really the primary takeaway from this research.
They surveyed about 2,500 B2B consumers or buyers. They found that customers independently complete about 60% of the purchasing decision process before they contacted a sales rep. I think that’s been a known quantity for some time.
I happened to see this stat pass by my Twitter stream yesterday or today. I think it was Jim Tobin that tweeted it. It kind of took me aback a little bit, because it made me think about the context of how we do sales at Argyle, and the fact that people are generally much further down the decision path than we probably think when we’re on the phone with them.
Two, it makes me think, how are we doing social media? Are we thinking about social media marketing in the context of influencing buying decisions? Or are we just doing social media marketing to be thought leaders and interesting people and cool guys to hang around with?
Jay: Well, I think clearly the answer is, in many cases, the latter, unfortunately. What we talk about all the time with our clients, and you and I have had this conversation, is that content and social are the same thing, right? It’s two sides of the same coin.
Content is the fire, and social is the gas on that fire. People want to talk to a sales rep now to close the deal. Whereas even five to ten years ago, it was I need to talk to a sales rep to even open the conversation.
What has shifted that pendulum is people now believe, and rightfully so in most cases, that they can access information faster, in a more relevant way, and with a less icky, “call me all the time and bother me” way, themselves, than they can “please call me and leave voicemails” and things like that.
There are a lot of micro-issues at play here in terms of the prevalence of deep information on websites, people’s moving away from voicemail and telephone communication as their primary means of business to business connectivity and some other things there.
But it doesn’t surprise me at all. If there’s one thing that social media does well, it’s make us increasingly passive- aggressive.
Eric: Exactly. Yeah.
Jay: When you see this kind of stat, that people call a sales rep after they’re 60% of the way educated, and then you still have companies, especially in a B2B context, that are massively reluctant to say, “Well, let’s tell people what we actually sell.” The classic one, and Marcus Sheridan talks about this a lot in his presentations, is the reluctance to put pricing on your website.
Eric: Yes, oh yes.
Jay: We don’t want to put pricing, because it’ll disqualify us. You know what we should do instead? Let’s use sales resources to disqualify people.
This idea that we can’t be too specific about what we sell, because if we just get them on the phone, we’ll close them. It’s just crazy.
Eric: Yeah, it’s definitely an old school mentality. There is a balance. Argyle, we’re building an inside sales organization. There is a balance between . . . you definitely want to get people on the phone so you can sell to them, but you want it to be the right people at the right time, with the right priming in terms of the information that they’ve gotten.
This statistic struck me. I think implicitly I knew that this was the case and that this was happening. But to see it spelled out from a reputable organization that has done reputable research was just mind-boggling.
To your point, there is the 60% void, and social is filling that void, with or without the input from businesses and brands.
If ever there was a justification to invest in content marketing on the B2B side, a number like this is definitely it.
Jay: Absolutely. This appears to be the self-serve episode. We have the self-serve tweets, we have the self-serve of information in the decision-making path, and we have actually not the self-serve restaurant business. I have completely ruined my own paradigm. I don’t think, Lauren, you have any self-serve restaurants, do you?
Lauren: I don’t think so, guys.
Special Guest: Lauren Fernandez, Landry’s Restaurants
Jay: How is that for the amazing segue? Lauren Fernandez joins us on the Social Pros podcast. She is director of all things social and awesome at Landry’s Restaurants. Because Landry’s itself as a brand is only a few of your restaurants, why don’t you tell the Social Pros folks some of the amazing eatery brands that you represent?
Lauren: Sure, sure. Landry’s Inc. is a hospitality and gaming type company. We have more than 50 brands with more than 400 locations. This can be anything from Morton’s, the steakhouse, McCormick & Schmick’s. We have the Golden Nugget in Las Vegas and Atlantic City. We have high-end steakhouses. We have Bubba Gump Shrimp Company, which means I get to quote Forrest Gump all the time. We also have things like Rainforest Cafe.
Jay: That’s a resume builder is what that is.
Lauren: Yes. We have different hotels, and gaming is also, as I said, very big with our company. We do handle a lot, and for us it’s very much, each brand is its individual brand. It’s not an overall corporate Landry’s image.
We take each brand and we do it specifically for that specific concept, that specific location. Each brand has its own budget, has its own thought process, has a different brand managers. We’re set up very centralized here.
Jay: It’s interesting, because you do have quite a swathe of different concepts that obviously attract a different diner or gambler, etc. How does that differentiation in brand manifest in social media? Do you have social conversation guidelines, social tonality guidelines, that people who are doing a Facebook status update for example refer to, so that it “sounds like Bubba Gump” as opposed to “sounds like Morton’s”?
Lauren: Yes. What we do is we have brand personality documents. The person that handles all of our updates is our Social Media Coordinator. She meets with each brand manager, and she discusses with them, okay, this is the kind of voice we’re looking for, this is the type of events we have, these are the type of customers, demographics we have.
From there, she creates a content calendar on a monthly basis, talks to them on a weekly basis, and fills that in. She runs everything by me, runs everything by the brand managers, makes sure that it’s good to go.
Each brand has its own calendar, its own presence, its own thought process. For some brands, we’re non-Twitter. For some brands, we’re only on Facebook. Some brands have a blog, Google+, things like that. It really depends on the brand and the presence that they have.
Jay: How many people do you have operating this?
Jay: 40, 50? You have one person doing 50 restaurant brands in social media?
Lauren: Yes. We have a two person social media team here.
Jay: All the professional social media managers on the Social Pros podcast listening brigade have just decided to find you and beat you, because it’s going to be hard for them to go to their CEO and CMO and ask for more resources when you have one person doing 50 different brands.
Lauren: We are pretty much superheroes.
Eric: Wow. What’s the combined audience size of all those brands, if you had to ballpark it?
Lauren: Oh, gosh. The thing is that, for some brands on Facebook, we have a page for each location. For example, Chart House is one of our brands that has a different page for its local location. We’re lucky in that some of the brands are just monitoring. Some of the brands are updating, some of the brands we respond to from a crisis communication standpoint. We have a social media post assessment grid that we put together and we follow those steps. We have some great chefs online that tweet and talk and do all that.
It gets a little hairy. I’m not going to lie, but it’s something that we are able to be here from 9:00 to 6:00 during the week. We monitor mobile-ly, we monitor by laptop at the end of the day, and our Social Media Coordinator comes in every day. First thing she does is she responds to all of our Yelp reviews and complaints. We are very good at doing multiple tasks at once.
Jay: It’s interesting that the first thing you do is respond to Yelp. While that, of course, makes sense given the importance of Yelp to your particular category, I think the larger lesson there is that look, you’ve got to pick the right tools for the right audience.
You said it yourself, Lauren, in your explanation. For some brands, you’re on Twitter. For some brands, you’re on Facebook. For some brands, you’re just doing monitoring.
We are falling into a trap as an industry where people say, “Well, we’ve got to do Facebook, and we’ve got to do Twitter.”
Jay: As if that is the recipe. Maybe we’ll do Google+, or maybe we’ll do Pinterest, because that’s kind of fun now, right?
There is no recipe. The recipe is what works for your particular company, your particular brand. Not to mention the fact, as Eric knows, we’ve talked about this a lot of times. We always talked about Facebook and Twitter in the same sentence, but from an actual user-based standpoint, Facebook’s 52% of adult Americans and Twitter’s 8%. So to put them in the same sentence every time is a little bit unfair to Facebook.
Lauren: Exactly. I will be honest, our major presence is on Facebook. We do have a few avenues that we’re looking at to where we don’t just jump on a platform. We’re very lucky.
For example with Vic and Anthony’s, that is one of our high end steakhouses, we have a chef that tweets and he’s incredible. He tweets from his personal, behind the scenes, being an executive concept chef. For him, for example, we’re looking into Instagrams. How can he use that to show his customers, his loyal people who come in every Friday and order the same steak, the same cab sauv, look at the lobster tank and tap on it because they think it’s funny? He loves to do those kinds of things. He goes on radio shows for me. He goes on blogs. He does all kinds of stuff.
We’re lucky in that we have a lot of people that really live the brand every single day. Like I tell them, I said, “I’m not your mom. You know what will get you fired.” I let them have their personality and get to show that behind the scenes that’s not that corporate stamp that some people can put on multiple brands.
It’s really easy to get into a mindset of this brand’s going to be this, this brand’s going to do this, and then sometimes you sound the same. If you go and look at the way that we respond from Morton’s, McCormick and Schmick’s, things like that, Bubba Gump, they’re all different. Bubba Gump very much talks about momma and things like that.
Eric: I’m on the Bubba Gump Facebook page now, and the picture with Forrest and Lieutenant Dan that says, “Shrimping ain’t easy,” made me giggle.
Lauren: Yeah, we definitely have someone that runs . . . we have our copywriter as well, helps run our Facebook page.
If you look at our Valentine’s Day post, it’s probably one of my favorite things that he’s posted. He has the cube next to me, so he’s probably listening to me right now brag on him.
It’s just things like that that really show the personality and show, we really get the demographics. We really understand that each brand is different.
I’m very lucky that here at Landry’s, our CEO very much looks at it as marketing builds everything up. Not a lot of people get that. Not a lot of people have a CEO that really sees the value of marketing, advertising, and social media. We’re very lucky here to have that.
Jay: You talked about having the chef involved on Twitter and possibly Instagram, etc., and people in the organization knowing what would get them fired. Are you saying then that you don’t actually have social media guidelines for employees? Or do you do best practices training for people who are not in marketing? If I’m a bartender at the Chart House in whatever and I’m going to get in social media, how does that work?
Lauren: Right. We are very selective about who we let on. We do have a social media policy. They also go through training. We also are about to start something new that we call the Friday Five. It’s something that we did at Fleishman-Hillard and Hallmark.
What it is, is that every Friday, we have five links to different relevant social media articles. We’re going to do it a little bit different at Landry’s, where I have kind of split it up into buckets. So it’s social media 101. It’s our very advanced people that really get social media. It’s our GMs that only respond on Yelp. It’s people that want to know what the heck marketing and social media is. Each Friday, they’ll get an email with their pertinent group that has five links that explains why this article is relevant and interesting.
If you involve the GMs at the start, they’re going to be able to come back and tell you, “Hey, this is going on in my restaurant. Here’s a cool way that we can do this. Can we do what you suggested in this article here?” Because then you have that open line of communication. So you’re not having to go to chefs all the time and say like, “Oh, my gosh. What’s going on at your restaurant? You have to tell me.” They’re coming to you and saying, “Hey, this is what’s going on. Can we do this?” Then you can build the idea from there, which makes it a easier when we’re managing 50 plus brands.
Jay: I’m glad you mentioned email. It’s such an important communication vehicle for a lot of restaurants. How do you tie in what you’re doing in email on a week to week basis to what you’re doing in social media?
Lauren: From an email standpoint, we definitely do a lot of email, a lot of e-blasts, a lot of people that subscribe to our emails. But just from a social marketing standpoint, what we do with email is what we just talked about.
We really are in constant communication with our GMs, whether it’s our risk management team, it’s people who are talking on social media. A lot of people don’t like to talk on the phone. So email for us is very important, and from a traditional marketing standpoint, our brand managers and our marketing assistants handle all of the e-blasts and things like that. So I give them a little bit of information if they’d like that, but other than that, it’s very much right around communication for us.
Eric: Lauren, how do you measure what you’re doing? Do you use the same standard reports across all of your brands, or do some brands measure more than others?
Lauren: Yes, actually. We do things differently. We do use a combination of tools. One of the tools we use is Radian6. Obviously, with 50 plus brands, that can get a bit pricey. So we’re selective with which ones we use to . . . totally lost my train of thought. Sorry, guys.
A lot of people you hear now is that, “This return on relationship, return on engagement.” I’m sorry, that’s crap.
I have to tell you, if I ever went up to our CEO or our SVPs and told them, “Hey guys, guess what. I want you to spend $100,000, and we’re going to get return on engagement,” they would laugh at me. They would say, “What is that? What are you talking about?”
For us, it’s very much that dual process. We never do anything if I can’t tie a measurable objective into it.
Lauren: I tell my boss all the time, whenever I send her a strategy document, it’s split up by measurable objective, strategy, tactics. PR people love their tactics. They don’t understand the difference between what strategy is, what a tactic is, what measurable objective is.
For us, foot traffic is just as important as engagement is. Am I getting people into the store? Are they redeeming a code? Are they talking about us online? Is it turning into a sale?
If we have a blogger preview event, are they telling their friends who are bringing them into the store, and how do we track that? Action is important. Impact is important.
We measure if there’s been an increase in foot traffic. We measure if there’s been an increase in word of mouth. We measure all kinds of stuff. We group our brands together, so we can have our high-end steakhouses in one measurement type thing.
We have our specialty concept, like Rainforest Cafe and Bubba Gump, together. We do monthly reporting, and I very much value the analytics side of thing. I can tell you, when I have people say, “Oh, we did this social media stunt and it did this,” I go, “Okay, but how did that impact your bottom line?”
If it doesn’t impact your bottom line, it’s not worth it. I can’t validate what we’re doing if it’s not impacting our bottom line at the end of the day.
Eric: Hallelujah. You are preaching to the choir, Lauren. I’m working up a sweat, I’m fanning myself off. Keep going.
Lauren: It’s fine. I tend to get on a little bit of a rant when it comes to that stuff, mostly because I’ve had a lot of people talk to me lately about return on relationship. I tend to go off on my, “oh my gosh, don’t say those terms,” type thing.
I tend to talk about whiskey and grilled cheese on Twitter, so it’s a bit of a jump for me.
Jay: Return on grilled cheese, that’s the best success metric you can have.
Lauren: It would be.
Eric: How do you measure return on grilled cheese? You know it’s a mathematical equation.
Lauren: It probably is.
Jay: We can create an algorithm. We have the technology.
Lauren: As long as I can eat as much grilled cheese as possible, I think this will be a good deal for us.
Jay: I’m glad you mentioned foot traffic, because this weekend’s Work It Out segment . . . cue Work It Out music that does not exist yet.
Work It Out
This week’s Work It Out segment of the podcast is from an actual listener. David Horne emailed us, and actually as just a side note, you can go to SocialPros.com, and if you want to be on the show or ask a question in the Work It Out segment, SocialPros.com has the form to do that.
We’ll take a look at it and maybe, just maybe, we will use your question on the show as we are right now for one David Horne.
David asks: “How do we effectively combine the online and the offline in social media?” Lauren, I thought you would be the perfect guest to answer that question.
Lauren: Awesome. Combining offline and online, that’s always my favorite question. For us obviously, we want to get people into our stores. How do you do that?
It’s always going to be very difficult to track online how people are coming into the stores. It’s a hurdle that PR has seen, and advertising . . .
Jay: Unless you dress like a shrimp and come into the restaurant, then we can identify sort of ID you.
Lauren: Take a picture, right, and we can see that you’re part of us. That could probably work.
Jay: That one’s free.
Lauren: For us, it’s very much, we use a lot of codes. So it’s online codes, things that we can track. Say that you go into a restaurant. Do you mention to your server, “Hey, I saw this on Facebook.” We train our GMs and our servers to be able to keep track of those.
Then we can keep track of that, and on our back-end system can see that. It’s very much, how are you going to tie in your tactics that you have?
Jay: The customer mentions it to the server?
Jay: Then the server goes behind the scenes into the magic server place and notes it in the point of sale system somehow?
Lauren: Yes. We have a set-up to where, when we run contests like that or things of that nature, our GMs are very well trained. They understand the tracking system having to provide us with that information.
We’re also very lucky that we do have that set-up. Trying to get people, if it’s hey, you go onto this and you won a free appetizer, you give them an online code. They print out and get a unique code. You can scan it when they get into the restaurant, and then you can start tracking, okay, how many people by each store are coming in. Is it more successful for Los Angeles than Chicago? Then we can geo-target the next tweets and Facebook updates to be about Chicago, and push people into that store.
For us, because for example for Morton’s, we have 69 locations. Some might want to do a little bit more push because they’re not getting the numbers they need to get. We’re very lucky that we do have a way to look at all those numbers.
So that’s just one way that you can kind of tie it in. I’m not saying it’s easy. The reason that people struggle with it is because they don’t understand how to tie it in and how to be able to track and use that kind of stuff.
Jay: One of the things that makes it hard is that you can’t geo-target Facebook status updates or tweets. You can ads, but not the actual status updates.
Eric: I’ll make a prediction, Jay. I think within the next 12 months, you’re going to be able to. It’s a no-brainer.
Jay: It is comical. The two things that are most comical about social media: A, that you don’t have different levels of administration on a Facebook page; and B, we have seriously the largest technological advance in terms of number of users in the history of the world, and you can’t geo-target, which we could do on the Web 20 years ago, at least on some level. It is really crazy that we’ve gotten this far without that capability. I very much hope that you’re right, Eric, because it would make a lot of people’s lives a whole lot easier, including yours.
Eric: I think that game changer is coming down the pike. It’s got to.
Lauren: Guys, you’ve got to think about this, though. Say that I’m Lauren in Houston, and you guys are geo-targeting people in Portland. I have 8,000 plus followers on Twitter, give or take a few. I have a ton of Portland friends. Wouldn’t you want to target those people that also have an effect on the Portland people? That can say, “Hey, Friend A, heard about this, saw this on for example Morton’s Twitter feed, and I think you should go”?
Are we making this too exclusive if we geo-target that specifically?
Jay: I think it’s a great question. You could probably do a whole show on that. I think it comes down to whether you look at social as more of a direct marketing platform or more of a brand platform.
Eric and I both come from the direct side, so I think our thought would be from an efficiency of spend and efficiency of effort standpoint, I’d rather go with what I know is relevant as opposed to what I hope is relevant.
Now if I can map that, if I can peer into the account and say, “Look, I know that Lauren has a disproportionate amount of Portland connectivity compared to the average chick in Houston, well, then hell, yeah.” But that’s a whole other level of craziness.
Lauren: Right, right. I think I kind of play devil’s advocate. You hit on the advertising, marketing mentality versus PR, to be honest.
Jay: Yeah, absolutely. I think as we move forward in this world, the same way that online advertising eventually split into a more direct side, powered more by search marketing and things like that, and more of a brand building side, which is where you still see banner ads and rich media campaigns and things like that, I think we’ll start to see that same sort of split in social as well. More direct based email equivalent type activity, and then other things that are more brand-centric. It’s going to be interesting to see.
Jay: Eric, final thoughts for this week’s episode of Social Pros?
Eric: I think my final thoughts are that Lauren Fernandez is indeed a social pro.
Jay: She is a fantastic guest. We thank her for her time, and we are expecting some sort of shrimp in the mail.
Eric: 208 Rigsbee Avenue, Durham.
Lauren: Guys, if you actually tweet at me using our handles, perhaps you would get something. But if you don’t mention it, I can’t read your mind. Although this started out as a Jedi podcast type thing with a New Hope reference.
Jay: All right. We’ll do our best.
Lauren: I’m totally going to get tweets now.
Jay: I’m going to take this opportunity to thank our sponsors, including Eric and Argyle Social, the presenting sponsor of Social Pros, and Fusionsoft, who we use for all of our email marketing. Our good friend Jim Kukral at DigitalBookLaunch.com.
Actually, I will be on the road next week in Cheyenne, Wyoming, giving a speech. So Jim is going to guest host the Social Pros podcast. Eric, next week you and Jim can end up doing a far better job than you and I do. I will be so disappointed to hear how good you guys are without me.
Eric: I will do my best to prevent an overthrow or any sort of change in power, Jay, but I can’t make any promises.
Jay: I appreciate that. It’ll be like Egypt. You’re going to think it’s better, but it will actually end up worse.
All right everybody. Thanks very much. For Eric Boggs, I am Jay Baer. You are a social pro. Take care.
Na maanden van speculeren heeft Microsoft een soort van sociaal netwerk uitgerold, So.cl. Een site die een beetje lijkt op Facebook in het begin, namelijk gericht op studenten. Lauren Gores van Mashable gaat in onderstaande video wat verder in op Mirosoft’s sociale site. Meer info is natuurlijk ook te vinden op de website zelf.
Some call them wackaloons, others visionaries, however any way you slice them the Founders Fund – consisting of Partners Peter Thiel, Luke Nosek, Brian Singerman, Derik Pridmore, Lauren Gross, Bruce Gibney, Sean Parker, Toby Prosky and others — is definitely an unconventional lot.
There is a well-worn saying that the only difference between a crazy person and an eccentric is money. Well, perhaps as a clue as the where the VC industry as a whole is going, Founders Fund just received $625 million (a IV fund larger than all its other funds combined) in order to invest what it holds to be world-changing ideas.
Maybe when you examine that philosophy closely, it’s not that unconventional. Partner Bruce Gibney tells me that Founders Fund basically adheres to the old VC model of “You can make a tremendous amount of money on companies that can solve difficult and important problems, and create durable value.” Gibney holds that only issue is the definition of what constitutes these companies changes over time.
Gibney tells me that the fund intends to create enormous value independent of market conditions, not just dropping cash into a company because Google needs a product or there’s an S-1 bubble.
People are too focused on readily graphable metrics according to Gibney, “The acme of this was a year ago, when you polled people who invested in Groupon, many of them had strong opinions what would happened a year from now, but no opinion about where the company would be in 10 years,” he says. “People have become so focused on near-term metrics, that they don’t consider the long-term prospects for the business.”
Refusing to think ten years ahead because you’re too worried about having a short-term success — essentially optimizing your resume for three years from now — can be disastrous to a VC portfolio. Gibney thinks VCs are more diligent when there’s skin in the game — “When .2% of fund is out-of-pocket, a VC invests with much less seriousness than when its 10% percent.” For the record, Founders Fund’s newest fund is 20% out-of-pocket.
“If you walked up and down Sand Hill Road with a basket of securities, and the business plans not logos, of Google, Apple, Microsoft, Genetich, synthetized insulin, and a basket of derivative follow on consumer Internet stocks, and you asked people on Sandhill Road which basket you’d like to choose … the depressing answer is that they’d take from the second basket.”
Sure the value proposition of big-idea Founders Funded companies like SpaceX, Palantir, and Genentech takes intellectual effort to understand. The problem no longer is “Can we get distribution?” But rather, “Does it work?”
When asked what kinds of companies the new $625K fund is likely to finance, Gibney asserted that Founders Fund wasn’t necessarily against consumer Internet companies despite its outspokenness, “The consumer internet of our time is consumer internet, but it will look like nothing that came before,” he said. “It is ludicrous to think that one of the most powerful technologies that we’ve ever created is tapped out after 15 years. It might be fashionable to say so, but it’s not true.”
Healthcare and AI were also on Gibney’s wishlist, as were “industries that have been practiced for generations as art, yet now we have enough information to practice them as a science.”
“The complexity of the problems we face as a species may exceed our ability to solve them,” Gibney said, urging entreprenuers and VCs to shoot for the difficult problems. “We know a lot of problems, and a lot of people who can solve them. It’s a great time to be in VC but that’s not how people are behaving,” he says.
“Groupon is the acme or nadir of this phenomenon,” Gibney emphasized, bringing up the fact that out of $15 billion of venture capital expenditure last year, one billion went into Groupon, “[This suggests] Groupon either is the best idea ever, –which may be true — or people don’t really know where to put that money.”