Become “Astonishingly Innovative” with Social Media

Listening to podcasts from idea brokers in my field is one of the ways I keep up on current thinking in the world of digital marketing. I listen on a headset via my ancient Blackberry Storm when I’m walking the dogs, working in the kitchen, or doing laundry. I pause to take notes and later I’ll go online to check out the resources mentioned.

This week I had the pleasure of hearing Mitch Joel’s interview with the irrepressible Avinash Kaushik on the Canadian Twist Image podcast “Six Pixels of Separation.” Avinash is Google’s Digital Marketing Evangelist. He’s the author of Web Analytics 2.0 and his blog Occam’s Razor has a ton of good information on it. He’s also a passionate photographer. (Check out his collection of flower close-ups.)

If you’ve got 53 minutes to invest in challenging your understanding of what social media is capable of, take a listen to Episode #286 (air date January 1, 2012). I actually played it through twice and found myself nodding in vehement agreement on many of the points made…such as:

  • too many companies are simply replicating TV and magazines on the Web by copy/pasting content without bothering to explore the medium’s deep creative potential.
  • brands are fatally short-sighted in the ways they’re using social media tools…employing Twitter, for example, solely to shout at people about the latest deal, or to repeat-display links to customer service.
  • to fulfill social media’s promise of engagement and relationship, brand marketers need to focus on providing utility, relevance and value. The quest for “Likes” and “Plus Ones” as an end in itself is a waste of effort. (Avinash flat out calls it “stupid.”)
  • It’s what you DO for the people who engage with you that what matters. Utility Marketing focuses on giving people something they can actually use. It shifts from shouting to giving incredible value. Prospects align with your brand because of the wonderful experience you provide for them.

If you’re wondering what “astonishingly innovative” looks like, Avinash shares his personal experience with Skull Candy and JetBlue. Then he cites Red Bull’s Facebook page as an example of a brand that’s pulling off Utility Marketing. It’s cool that 25 million people “like” Red Bull’s page…but the fact that 474,530 people are engaging with the brand and talking about it on the page…now that’s super cool. The company’s achievement is directly related to the number of (useful) attractions it offers people seeking to be entertained (i..e. all FB users…).

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There is one part of the podcast that I take issue with and that’s Mitch and Avinash’s position that outsourcing marketing is less than ideal. Perhaps, if you turn the reins over to a big agency where you have to fight for attention…But in my experience collaborating with a small, skilled and passionate team reaps enormous benefits.

Guerrilla digital marketers ARE capable of loving your brand and understanding your essence. You don’t have to come from inside the company to possess those important and necessary traits. In fact, one of our greatest strengths is the innovative strategies and thinking we bring to the table precisely because we’re outsiders who don’t suffer from “can’t see the forest for the trees.”

I endorse what Mitch and Avinash say early on in the show: “The person you involve has to get it.” That’s the most important thing.


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