Be cool, part two

November 12, 2009 —

I should clear up my last post. To start, I’m not rallying against marketing. I have a very specific way I like to see marketing handled, and while it definitely differs from traditional tactics and strategies, I do recognize the other way works.

The other way, the traditional way, is quite simply outbound promotion. Selling. Pressing. Engaging. That last one is where it gets fuzzy. I hear marketers talking about engagement but practicing interruption. And that’s where I take issue.

Instead of finding ways to get anyone in front of anyone else, look for ways to open up, maybe even invite others in. It’s not about interrupting, or even engaging. It’s about letting them engage you. (If you must use that word.)

Maybe this looks like I’m just playing with words, forming sentences to make my way look noble and the other way look corrupt. But, like I mentioned, I recognize there’s a place for both, providing the priorities are straight.

Enter the consultant.

I’d like start this part out by saying I don’t have anything against marketing consultants or SEO specialists or social media experts in general. But, if “in general” represents the typical form of each, I definitely have an issue with their playbooks.

I’ll start with SEO specialists. Without piling on, I’d just like to point out what I think went wrong. Search engines reward very specific characteristics like code structure and hierarchy, incoming links, and content relevancy. These characteristics exist organically in any well formed site, but there are also basic tactics an SEO can employ to not only mimic these characteristics but also exaggerate them. The SEO playbook takes advantage of this fact and aggressively leverages tactics, hacks, and cheats. So, rather than allowing the search engines to properly index and rank information, it deceives them into sliding you in front of people you wouldn’t have otherwise been in front of, and that drives certain results an SEO can profit from.

So what, right? Right. I don’t expect any company to worry about an imaginary code of ethics or use good manners or avoid disruptive marketing or anything really. Unless they’re cool. It’s when SEO advice is given to companies who do hold themselves to that imaginary code, who do avoid deception, and who are respectful of customers that I get frustrated. Especially when the company comes back to the development team with their new plays and a “why didn’t you think of this?” look on their face. They don’t see that altering descriptive content or stuffing keywords or farming links is deceptive, because it’s just code stuff, simple hacks to stay ahead of a bot and get in front of more people.

Getting in front of people has been pitched by marketers for so long now, it just seems like part of doing business. Whereas making it easy for people to get in front of you rarely gets mention. My opinion is that your online strategy should focus more on the later and less on the former. Which brings me to yesterday’s rant against certain social media strategies.

I see a lot of the social media playbook heading down the same trail SEO went. Expert advice focuses on sneaking companies in front of buyers. Everybody needs to look like they spend time on (and care about) facebook. Everybody needs to have a bunch of followers on twitter. Everybody needs to look like they get it, and look like they care. Because there are unsuspecting buyers in there.

I’m not suggesting companies shouldn’t play in facebook. I’m suggesting they shouldn’t troll there, accumulating friends for the coming sales pitch. Don’t put up a show of caring about a community if you’re only there to find new buyers. Participate. Or don’t. Just hang out and let people find you. Let them find your content, don’t press it on them. Let them dm or ping or poke you first. That’s being cool.

So, to close this down, I think there’s a pretty good chance that at least two of the social media guys I spoke to yesterday will see this. From what I can tell, at least one of [them] is helping clients better understand how to actually participate. So, good on ya. But [the other one] will have to continue to disagree with me or take offense by my suggestion that barking sales pitches into a social network is like taking AFLAC pamphlets to your little sister’s class reunion. Maybe your client isn’t cool and doesn’t care why that’s wrong. But I’m guessing that isn’t the case. I’m guessing they look to the expert to lead them a bit.

And then there’s the expert who won’t read this post who wanted us to refer him to our clients in need of more friends. We aren’t even talking about him. Or the expert who charged a real life friend of mine for a customized MySpace profile. That one happened prior to yesterday, but that’s when I heard about it. Surely, each of them had a business case for their services. I’m pretty sure, though, that neither of them subscribes the be cool strategy.

Maybe I’m wrong. I’m on twitter and facebook if you need me.

The Agency

February 19, 2008 —

Today, AdvertisingAge drops word of a 15-year low in the Media Work Force. Here’s my overview: Bad stats. Don’t worry, it’s just the newspapers. Look over there, marketing consultancies are up. Net net null.

Except, it’s still down. Oh yeah, there’s this:

Ad-agency staffing, for example, is 10% below its 2000 peak; employment at PR agencies is 11.5% off its 2000 high.

So, what’s going on? Well, part of it is that traditional agencies are bouncing developer talent as well. The bubble gave them confidence to scale their broken strategies, so their interactive departments grew to more than a solo coldfusion guy in the corner.

Clients saw through it, though. Traditional agencies are learning now that it takes more than a modified speech pattern and a few muffled coders to deploy successful web plays. So they’re laying off the talent they weren’t able to integrate / weren’t able to sell.

The result is a lot of unbundled, highly-skilled talent scrambling to figure out the business aspect of their craft while fending off arguments from significant others to plug back into something stable.

Meanwhile, the unstable types (development shops) are scrambling to find highly-skilled talent. More and more clients are looking for development partners that can deploy web plays / can bundle a proper team. And anyone demonstrating they get it seems to be in the middle of a denial of service attack from work requests.

These two scrambles need to meet up. Maybe it’s a contractor network. Maybe it’s everyone coming to work with Pulp. Whatever it is, it’s better than a 15-year low.

If you’re looking for more, Oberkirch already killed the topic this morning, once again proving why he makes it into the egos pile and I just make the updates.