Hire a brand journalist to get the right tone

image of reportersA great post by Jeannette de Beauvoir on the MarketingProf’s website discussed two key roles in content marketing: marketing content director and brand journalist.

Her point was to underscore the importance of these two titles/positions — and also to offer a slight dig at those companies that think hiring a copywriter is enough for a content strategy. (As a long-time B2B marketing project manager, I can vouch for the fact that her point is spot on: hiring a writer is a start of content campaign — and only a start).

What I really loved about her post, though, was that she emphasized the role of a “brand journalist.” She gives credit to Larry Light, former interim CMO for McDonald’s, with inventing the term.

For those unfamiliar with the term, the idea is to hire someone who is well-versed in the art of reportage and who views “markety” language as pure poison. Usually this means a journalist — or someone with a healthy journalism background. The main point is to get someone who can weave a story together; who can weave a narrative together and make it sing.

I think the trends in content marketing — and all marketing in general — are paving the way for more -integrated storytelling across all types of marketing. I also think that setting the proper “tone” of corporate communications has never been more important. The right tone matters more than ever, and “traditional” business communications are in more danger of alienating readers than ever before.

Here’s why:

Social media has reset the expectations of the proper “tone” for marketing messaging. Impersonal and jargon filled communications simply don’t resonate well in the echo  chamber of modern content marketing. More people are acculturated (big fancy word there) to the personal, almost intimate tone of social media than ever before.

This means that when brands want to relate to consumers and customers, the impersonal tone of traditional communications will come off as … flat, or flatter than usual. It’s an uphill trend that marketing professionals will struggle with for a long time.

Now, I know what you’re probably thinking: How is someone who writes like a journalist (which implies an impersonal tone) supposed to solve this problem? The answer is this: a “brand journalist” is more akin to the “feature” writer of newspapers, or a magazine writer who brings the reader in to a more intimate-setting. It’s not hard to do if you have a good feature-writing background, as many journalists do.

The important thing is, tone matters, and a more informal/personal tone + storytelling is what will resonate in content marketing copy.

[Photo Credit: John Picken via Compfight cc]

A Web marketer’s dilemma: the head and the heart

image of decisionData, data everywhere — and not a thought to think.

Is that what it feels like sometimes when grappling with analytics? Does it really inform the creative side of the equation? Of course, you know it does, but there always seems to be tussle between a “hunch” and a good solid data-derived decision, isn’t there?

If you have anything to do with Web marketing, you know that it’s a world increasingly awash in the promise of data-derived decisions. And yet … experience tells me that sometimes just plain old hard word works too. And so does a brilliant off-the-cuff hunch.

It’s a classic fight of whether you are following the head or the heart when trying to drive a result. Of course you are using data … but we all know at some point creativity and the ability to reach the human element matters, too.

So a recent post on the HBR Blog Network caught my attention with this headline: “What Data-Obssessed Marketers Don’t Understand” (requires free registration to view). It’s an interesting post that offers up an interesting thinking tool called “The Intelligent Brand Framework.” The two Gartner Inc. coauthors argue that the obsession with “big data” can obscure something basic: That data-derived decision making may be disconnected from what really motivates buyers.

Fair enough (though I suspect they are conflating “big data” with “analytics” … but that’s another story). They include a nifty chart, however, that I’m beginning to toy with for my own work. I must say it is a nifty tool — and it has a great name that makes me feel smart just for using it, too.

Or manipulated — I’ll leave that to your judgement.

So: I heartily recommend the piece and the tool. And check out the discussions at the end too. Good comments on this post from David Bloch, in particular.

[Photo Credit: Victor1558 via Compfight cc]

Sheena is a click farmer

image of The RamonesIn case you missed it, there’s been plenty of great articles and posts recently asking a very simple question about Facebook: How many Facebook accounts are bullshit due to fraud from click farms? A well-made video kicked off the recent spate of stories on the topic. Here’s a run down of what’s been in the news:


Veritasium on YouTube: Facebook Fraud 

Washington Post: This blogger paid Facebook to promote his page. He got 80,000 bogus Likes instead

Salon: Facebook’s black market problem revealed

USA Today: Want fans? Hire a social media ‘click farm’

This of course leads to the natural follow-up question that any marketer should ask: So how much bullshit am I paying for when I buy an ad on Facebook?

I really loved the “Facebook Fraud” video (the first link above, by real-life science geek Derek Muller). However, there are some very big caveats to his video which need to be mentioned. Muller starts off mentioning an experiment run by a BBC reporter back in 2012. The reporter set out to determine what a “Like” was worth by building a Facebook account for something called “Virtual Bagel.” Then, he used Facebook’s ad platform to buy $100 worth of “Likes” … in countries where known click farms come from (gee – wonder if that affected results?).

The lesson here is fairly obvious. If you don’t target your ads (which is fairly easy to do on Facebook ad manager settings) I would imagine that of course you are attracting a lot of bottom-feeders. That’s lesson number one (and keep track because there will be a quiz). Facebook in 2012 since then said it deleted millions of “fake” accounts from click farms — something Muller follows up on by reproducing (more or less) the “Virtual Bagel” experiment.

What he discovered, however, is that nearly all of those new likes he got from a recent experiment were not engaging with his page. So … nothing seems to be solved, and may indeed be getting worse (according to Muller). In fact, it gets more nefarious. Many of these new accounts didn’t appear to come from known “click farm” countries. They seemed to be coming from the US. But there was something odd about these Likes … these accounts “Liked” way too many things to seem natural — and the things these “people” liked were odd.

My own experiment

Recently, I conducted some testing of Facebook (and other) ads for a client. I’m not going to divulge the results, but I will say this. Of the recent Likes we gathered, I decided to look at a representative sample to see if I could find accounts that screamed “click farm” — clearly.

I did not find a torrent of fake accounts. Not by a long shot. You see, I took the trouble to carefully target the ads.

However, I certainly found between 10% and 20% that were suspicious. A few fairly screamed click farm — which seemed to represent about 12% of the total (I looked at a sample of my new Likes — not all of them). Either way you cut it, paying for obvious fraud is not acceptable.

One of the new Likes my client gathered was from a person I’ll only identify as “Sheena.” Because there is a small chance — very, small — that I’m wrong, I won’t identify the account completely. But let me tell you a bit about “Sheena”…

Sheena certainly likes a lot of things. And yet, the only thing on her profile is that this blonde-haired twenty-something is female. Good to know! Oh, and according to her timeline … she changed her cover photo. There are no other posts to see.

Oh, and she sure likes a lot of things. To be specific … 33,000 things. Just to put that number in perspective, if you “liked” five things a day, for every single day of the year, rain or shine, come hell or high water, it would take you 18 years to hit that number. Or let’s say 20 things a day, for every single day of the year for 4 and a half years … Possible, but not plausible.

And it’s not just that Sheena likes so many things (and she’s so young and … blonde … too!) This little OCD like-monkey has quite the unusual taste in what she “likes.” It seems, for instance, that she “Likes” 10,000 restaurants. Which is quite the feat. I’m sure I’ll get to know “Sheena” better when we all see her on a future episode of “My 600-pound life” on the The Learning Channel. And it’s not just that she likes so many restaurants … she even likes every location of a franchise! Isn’t that neat-0!

She also “Likes” the Chicago Blackhawks AND the Montreal Canadiens. If you know hockey, you know how ridiculous that last sentence is. That’s like saying you’re a vegetarian who just LOVES to pick out their own baby cow to kill to make veal patties.

The sad reality is, I don’t really know if Sheena is a click farmer or not. I do know her account fairly screams it. My concern is that … I can’t tell. And that should worry Facebook a lot that people putting money on the table can’t really tell what’s fake and what’s real.

(And yeah, I supposed I should have named the blog “Is Sheena a click farmer?” … but “Sheena is a click farmer” sounds too close to “Sheena is a Punk Rocker” by the Ramones. And I like the Ramones. Suck it Robin Thicke)

I will say this: if you don’t target and test, you are opening yourself up to manipulation by fraudsters. Maybe that’s the price of playing this game. Nonetheless, I doubt there are very many businesses that contain an asterisk in their billing statements that reads “*Your results may vary. Sometimes you’ll be paying for a lot of fraud.”


Photo credit:By Plismo (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons