You cannot package the storytelling process as a “product.”

There is a huge difference between video production as a product and as a creative service. We can try to wrap it up as a product with some neatly packaged technology. We can try to bundle it with a service for one cut price. We can try to sell it with a mark-up so a sales force can find a way to make a buck. Video production can be a product…but it is based on technology that is an evolving commodity.

I would prefer video production as a creative service…better yet, a creative exploration. As technology changes…you know the technology that allows us to shoot, edit, write, host, deliver, and watch the video product…the creative enterprise is a constant flow.

As one who used to run and own a few companies that tried to package video as a product, I learned that there are two variables that cause a huge disruption in the business model: technology and the creative process.

Each time you tried to package a “video production,” the natural selling point was the technology that will be used to support this creative enterprise. Within a year (or shorter)…it had changed. You had to have a team of individuals dedicated to working solely on the innovation of technology that supports that package price. That is hard to do in small/entrepreneurial business that needs to support a technology staff and a creative staff.

You cannot package price the creative process…at least I do not think so. You can estimate the amount of time, effort, intellectual knowledge, experience, etc…but this is a variable that is most times is hard to predict. You can set a budget as “not to exceed” but have you really achieved the goals? The creative process is sometimes is an evolution…finding a way to package the creative process with technology is challenging.

As I watch so many organizations struggle with this idea of packaging video production as product…how do you sell the metric of results. If the technology fails, the video does not play, the device does not work, the e-blast is not received, etc…then you have lost that one shot to share that video message. So a metric to measure the success of the creative enterprise is not found….because the packaged technology is out of date or not working.

I think about the un-measurable results of video projects, wonderful stories told that create communities of conversations. The ones where a message is carefully crafted with care and love. That message is shared in the right setting at the right time, regardless of the technology. It is then shared over and over whether through DVD’s, YouTube, sharing a link, inside a powerpoint, or even shared when it is least expected. The results create a culture of change, a change in language, change in point-of-view…un-restricted as a product and crafted as a creative enterprise.

Sharing stories is more than packaging video products inside this nicely fit constraint…it is about crafting visual messages that make people connect in ways they have not before. You can not sell that process as a product…it sells itself as a creative enterprise. It comes from years of experience, the intuition of a storyteller, the heart of a person who truly listens, and the soul of those who want to be a part of the storytelling process.

Next Phase of Social/Digital Strategy?

What is our social/digital strategy in a 2.0 world or even a 3.0 world. Is it one of social/digital practicality or is it just trying to begin to pull all these elements together? It is more than just having a social presence, having a website(s), having blogs, etc…how are we using these tools in our overall strategies as we communicate. What do we want to measure and how do we want to starting tracking “success”? I break this concept into two categories:

1) Community Building
2) Marketing

Community Building
Community Building is a huge portion of this social/digital initiative…and will always be when we are using social/digital tools. This includes all our PR efforts, community activities, blogging, give-aways, sharing, promotions, etc.

So let’s think about what we do when we are building our community:
1) We share to grow our followers (build our tribe).
2) We share to build digital awareness (spread our brand)
3) We share to engage conversation (get people to comment, like, retweet, etc.)

We leverage this community from a Community Building perspective when we have something exciting that is happening, crisis communication, event engagement, etc. But if you look above, each one of those three points is trackable.

So let’s look again:

1) We share to grow our followers (build our tribe).2) We share to build digital awareness (spread our brand)3) We share to engage conversation (get people to comment, like, retweet, etc.)

OK…let’s shift gears to Marketing…

In the marketing world, this works hand-in-hand with community building. How can we leverage the community that we have built to create downstream revenue opportunities. Many hospitals talk about number of patients, so we have to decide what the “bean counters” consider the most important. How can we create social/digital initiatives that we can track over a period of time to find increase in downstream revenue opportunities.

Here is an example from my friend and colleague Reed Smith in Austin, TX. St. Davids in Austin has an an initiative called the HeartSaver CT…a simple example to consider. The goal is to promote this initiative using social, digital, and traditional means to get individuals to sign-up and have a HeartSaver CT. Basically, you sign up a form inside the website to come in for a $200 evaluation and chat with the doctor.

Here is a link to the page inside the website:

Here is a link to sign-up form:

They used specific Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and traditional marketing efforts to direct people to this page, to fill out the form, and come in for this HeartSaver CT. This is done so they can track the following:

1) How many clicks to the page
2) How many of those clicks came from social outlets (Facebook, Twitter)
3) How many impressions in social outlets
4) How many filled out the form (Collected trackable information like name, address, etc.)
5) How many came in for the HeartSaver CT (immediate revenue opportunity of $200 per person)
6) Track downstream revenue from those individuals that had broader services from this visit (Track over a longer period of time)

Each of those items are trackable. Each of those gives us an idea how our digital efforts worked and if it create immediate and downstream revenue opportunities. From a social/digital perspective…you have to have built an online, social community. So when you share, there are people there to click and hopefully re-share. You are not only measuring the revenue, but you are measuring the value of the online community. You also measuring the value of their reach…so to speak.

So…you all are just as smart (if not smarter) than me and probably are already creating initiatives in our digital/social space that integrates marketing opportunities like this…so we can ultimately measure some success. In my most humble opinion (as we look at all of our social/digital outlets) I think we should ask ourselves the following from each of our outlets social/digital outlets:

1) What is the mission/purpose of this outlet? (social sites and web sites)
2) Who is our audience in this online community or digital outlet? (social sites and web sites)
3) How/what are we going to communicate to build community?
4) How are being a good steward of the larger community? (sharing to make the online community a better place)
3) How/what are we going to promote (initiatives) that we can track downstream revenue opportunities?

We want to build a strong online community. We also want to contribute to this larger community to make it a better experience. But we also want to share opportunities that create revenue as well…or do we?

A New…Digital/Social Media Strategy –> We are hungry for the next stage?

As I sit in a meeting discussing next years digital/social media strategy…I feel hints of my old days sitting in those morning editorial meetings as a journalist. Every morning, we talked about the stories of the day, relevance to the audience, timelines, how to tease, and how to cross promote.

Large organizations are no longer structuring new media & social media strategies…they are online content creators and providers. In the age of digital media…it is no longer about delivering content, it is sharing content. Big difference. Delivering and sharing are two completely different models and mind sets.

Today, my friend Sandy Dees of shared a New York Times article about the digital/social strategy behind the movie Hunger Games. “Danielle DePalma, senior vice president for digital marketing, drafted a chronology for the entire online effort, using spreadsheets (coded in 12 colors) that detailed what would be introduced on a day-by-day, and even minute-by-minute, basis over months.”

As you read the article…this digital distribution strategy is more than just an editorial calendar, it is a timeline associated to digital scavenger hunts using Twitter; cultivating fans to take part in a virtual world like the movie Hunger Games.

We are moving past exploration…it is no longer about just creating a Facebook page, a Twitter account, a YouTube channel…we are in the age of engaging conversations and learning we must let the audiences guide us. It is no longer about using social and digital outlets to just post content and hope the audiences will come…more about how can we cultivate conversations.

Now, I know I am sharing what we already know…but do we really? We are still creating post card websites, YouTube channels full of content that no one will watch, Twitter feeds with little interaction. Large hospitals all over have numerous pages for no other reason than pleasing another department and hoping they are updating the page in three months. I have them in my newsfeed, numerous hospitals and none of them make me want to click…AT ALL. Or is that the point?

My colleague Reed Smith, who helps manage social and digital efforts for numerous healthcare organizations in Texas, shared some insight from his conversations with many of his counter parts from other hospitals during the social conference at the May Clinic. He explained that many large hospitals are dealing with the same situation…learning how to deal with digital and social efforts in a 2.0/3.0 world. Lots of departments, services lines, physician practices want to take part in the social space yet have a hard time living up the true burden, how to truly engage their audiences. Lots of spaces, lots of websites, lots of social accounts…leading to a house of brands.

Vanderbilt University Medical Center shares their social/digital tool kit online…funneling people inside the hospital to this site who are interested in having a social presence. If you want to join in the conversation…you must fill out the form. Cool tool kit…but it is more than a checklist…it is a culture.

Dr. Wendy Sue Swanson is a pioneer in this space, leading us down a path of understanding how to integrate the social space into the daily routine of a physician.

As stated in an opinion article from the LATimes:

“The problem, Swanson said at the South by Southwest conference Sunday, is that insurers won’t pay for the videos she creates to educate patients or the blog posts she writes about important new developments in pediatric care. No matter that these steps would lead to healthier patients who place fewer demands on the healthcare system.

She does them anyway, but the idea of communicating online with patients is anathema to her fellow doctors. “There’s an overwhelming climate of fear” among physicians, she said, about the liability they may incur or the privacy violations they might commit if they respond to emails or write blog posts about medicine.”

We are our own news organizations. We are taking control of our content…but are we building communities? We can find metrics for success by building fan bases, creating social strategies to sell services? But are we really measuring success or just graphing some numbers to make ourselves feel better? Better that we are empowering our organizations as we take control of our content?

I asked my wife today, why would you want to follow a healthcare organizations fan page? What would you want to get from that experience? She wants information that she can use, invitations to events to educate her about our child’s care. Relevant services that make sense to her daily life. No where did she say she wanted to see awards of recognition as a top hospital, best “this” and best “that”…she wants information that make sense to her.

I think I have to agree with Dr. V’s thinking:

“I can’t help but wonder if we’re in the midst of a social health correction – a readjustment of expectations and beliefs about the near-term potential of social media to revolutionize health.”

And I love this as he continues…

“We created filter bubbles that allowed us to hear the messages of those telling us precisely what we wanted to hear.  We saw the rise, plateau, and ultimate dissolution of social media consultants who would save us by telling us how to correctly use Twitter.”

It is time to move on and actually start engaging our tribe before we loose what we supposedly built over the last few years. It is time to consolidate, focus, and have a conversation with those who are our brand ambassadors. These social/digital outlets cannot save us..especially when all we do is use those channels/outlets as a one directional conversation and push our stuff. If we want to be a newsroom, content providers…it better be relevant or it will diminish faster than many traditional news outlets.

blogging is our story…our free will…content RULES!

There are so many mixed messages and “how-to’s” about blogging that absolutely drive me up a wall. It is actually disheartening to read much of the online conversation surrounding this space.

I spent Sunday night watching the mixed conversation surrounding opinions of personal blogs and the value they bring to the space. Many people think that there is no place for these personal spaces of exploration. Some people think that there is no room to use them as a journal or place to write our “pity parties.”  Some even think that you should use the same SEO and marketing techniques to broadcast and optimize for the web.

I have news for all you self-promoting, money hungry consultants who are trying to share your business and shape online content…go sell your mess to someone who is willing to pay your lame, nominal fee.

I am terming personal blogs as spaces to that are not used to generate a business lead or promote some service/product. These spaces are places of self-expression, places of free will, and spaces to write…just to write. These are spaces owned by those who create the content and if they choose to connect, open for commenting, post on social sites, make them anonymous, make them public, or share their darkest moments…then they are just as organic and crucial to the space of digital free-expression as business blogs.

“By the end of 2011, NM Incite, a Nielsen/McKinsey company, tracked over 181 million blogs around the world, up from 36 million only five years earlier in 2006.

Bloggers: Who are they?
– Women make up the majority of bloggers, and half of bloggers are aged 18-34
– Bloggers are well-educated: 7 out of 10 bloggers have gone to college, a majority of whom are graduates
– About 1 in 3 bloggers are Moms, and 52 percent of bloggers are parents with kids under 18 years-old in their household
– Bloggers are active across social media: they’re twice as likely to post/comment on consumer-generated video sites like YouTube, and nearly three times more likely to post in Message Boards/Forums within the last”

Ok…so if you look at these stats, you can probably infer that not all these bloggers are business bloggers. They are probably individuals writing about their lives, their kids, their thoughts, and probably have a tremendous sphere of influence. They are probably not writing to make money, they are probably writing to share and connect.

In the B2C world…we need these bloggers and all their willingness to generate self-expression and share raw, un-marketed content. We need them to write from the heart. WHY?

First…it reminds our souls that it is ok to share our thoughts/feelings/expressions online. We live in “free society” and we should encourage self-expression. I would be willing to bet that a small portion of these bloggers listed above tell a tremendous story and eventually turn this content, their into a book. I will address the idea of self-destructive content in blogs.

Second…from a digital marketer’s perspective, we need to share. We want them to talk about their experiences, their favorite food, their favorite place to go, what makes them happy, what makes them sad. Why, so if they happen to talk about “our” brand, then we can glean some rich consumer driven, un-solicited attitude that could help us better understand the effectiveness of our brand. If a mom was fussing about a bad visit with a doctor, I would want to know and have context so we could find a way to fix the experience.

Third…these blogs/journals/spaces of self-expression are spaces in our digital/social documentary. We now have a place that allows us to publicly share our lives then allow us to go back and re-live that experience. Blogs are perfect organizational tools for social content. It gives us the place to organize information according to dates, times, categories, etc. so we can go back and find that recipe, that video,  that thought we had that day when we were happy, sad, or whatever.

Fourth…these spaces can create rich communities. We are so bogged down with self-promoting, ego driven, digital marketers selling the snake oil that an “effective” community is all about large numbers. A rich, sustainable community can be a community in small numbers. I think of many blogs from women who are going through/dealing with breast cancer. These outlets are not only crucial for the healing process, but a place to connect with others sharing the same experience whether it is a shitty day or a high-five. We are social creatures and we want to connect with people having similar experiences.

Personal blogs are the backbone of this sphere of self-expression. We should not try to put these people in a silo and force them to conform to the same practices as those trying to make money from clicks. We should not also condemn these individuals for having enough strength to share their inner most thoughts online. BUT… Tumblr has drawn the line with this self-destructive content being generated by reversing it’s opinion:

“Tumblr has announced that the policy of permitting self-harm blogging has been reversed. The updated content policy will disallow any blog post which “actively promotes or glorifies self-injury or self-harm”. The company plans to prohibit content which urges cutting, disordered eating habits or suicide. Instead, Tumblr searches which look for these subjects will be directed to information on helpful organizations such as the National Eating Disorders Association and other counseling hotlines.” 

Yes…there maybe a line between self-expression and destructive discourse, but we have to be-careful how judgmental we are when we read. Maybe those same bloggers think your business blog is just as self-destructive as their whimpering about the day when lost a loved one, dealing with breast cancer, lost a child, or just got fired.

I am still thinking through where the line should be drawn between self-expression and destructive content, but this was not the topic for this blog post. The topic focused more on the need for more self-expression in blogs…if not more so than business blogs used to generate clicks, Likes, tweets, revenue, and other sources of business income.

Blogs are our place…our story…our free will to explore our ability to articulate our free expression.

Content Rules…It Is Our Story!

Japan Tsunami Remembered … the Social Documentary Continues

This past Sunday, March 11th marked the one year anniversary of the Tsunami in Japan. One year ago, we all watched it unfold online, on television, via radio…where ever we could get information. It was a disaster of international reach.

A colleague of mine from my television day told me a story as I was asking for help trying to find some unique video tapes. He told me this video tape was rare because of the Tsunami. The video tape was made in Japan by Sony and stored in a warehouse that was under water after the Tsunami . But the story only begins here…the engineers and staff from Sony had climbed to safety on the top floor only to notice another building off in the distance had school children on the roof, waiting to be rescued.

So those Sony engineers and staff built a boat. There was a huge boat on display downstairs of the Sony building…so they worked to transform that boat into a usable form of rescue. They eventually put it in the water and made their way over to the school to try to rescue the children. This story was passed around by executives during last year’s NAB conference.

Each day we are telling stories. Each day we hear new ones. Each day we read articles like this from Mashable using a timeline to document the events from a past event, specifically the Japan Tsunami.  We are human and we like to share, recount, and re-live a time from “our” past. So how about the technology, the social technology that now surrounds us to document these events.

We still remember January 28, 1986…the day the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded in front of our eyes. I remember watching from my 6th grade classroom as we watched the first school teacher go to space. It was just a few days ago, March 9th to be exact, that Huffington Post reported the finding of a new Super 8 film of an amateur recording of the explosion.

The article talks about how many people stored away old film from their past, and as they begin to go through their belongings…they find artifacts of national importance right in their drawers, closets, and attics.

These artifacts are so very precious, so rare, so valuable that even the Huffington Post finds the need to purchase the rights to this newly uncovered Super 8 film.  Compare this event to the Tsunami where we have thousands of user generated accounts of this day. Tweets, pictures, video, blog posts, Wiki entries…all of which unfold along with the main stream media’s reporting.

We no longer are having to rely on the individual to “just so happen” to find that Super 8 film, we now just do a Google search and the social documentary of our present day events unfolds right infront of us. We are writing the social documentary…and it is more that just recounting the day. It is sharing our thoughts, feelings, and expressions upon every update and upload.

How many of you saved stuff/articles from 9/11? I know I did…I purchased the NewYork Times and USA Today from Sept. 12, 2001. I saved every digital image I could find during those days so I could share them with my children one day. Sarah recorded the whole day of reporting from NBC News on VHS tape. All of this is locked away in safety deposit boxes.

Outlets like Facebook and Twitter bring the social documentary to the forefront. They interweave social memories using media in a time line fashion. No wonder Facebook has moved to the timeline interface, because we want to remember. Hashtags allows us to aggregate topics based on two variables: the particular hashtag and time.

We are creating the social documentary and it is unfolding right in front of us.

Is your social story your truth or someone else’s?

The social documentary is one of the most fascinating layers of this new era of social discourse that is believe is truly shaping our culture. We are surrounded by it, we are engulfed in the conversation, we are in dire need to interact…yet we sometimes despise the outcomes.

Everywhere we look…we are documenting our very thoughts. For every tweet we post, every status we share, every check-in, pin, video created…a time stamp and internet location bears down on this global platform of social commerce.

Why…why do we take part? Why do we so gingerly engage in this social drama to feed the ever changing need to share just one more time. We do it so colorfully that we take great pride interweaving our social drama…sharing when we are at the lowest and at the highest of peaks.

We find ourselves submitted to the brand autopsy leading charge as we are influenced to follow. Each time we document, each time we share, each piece of data…bits…bytes are uploading into the cloud for the social brothers to create more reports to feed the social machine.

This social documentary is interwoven in our everyday lives. I ask my students, what are the first things you do when you get out of bed and I wonder if it differs from most connected business leaders…”we” check our Facebook page then our email. Oh, then we get out of bed. We then share our morning thought and a morning picture of our loved ones. We then check-in for a coffee and a status update like we are turning on the keys of our automobile. Social sharing is as easily created as breathing the every breathe of our day.

This technological documentation is one hell of an aggregator. We can be found and held accountable for each tweet, update, picture, check-in, video shared. We find ourselves scared to talk more freely and engage in collaborative innovation through connectivity. Steven Johnson was hoping that this social share would allow a since of transparency that would cultivate thought and break through barriers. But now we are scared to say what we want because now the social share is our own social morality.

In update we trust…it has become our truth. We are creating the truths of today each time we document our thoughts, moves, opinions, reviews…etc. Whether if someone has passed away..or not…we choose to follow and tweet just so we can be “the first” regardless of fact…but it is our truth. Just ask Erin Andrews…from the romanticized scandal of the lewd photos to speculative tweets she is leaving ESPN…whose truth? Oh, and how about Komen and Planned Parenthood. Komen is probably hating the social documentary…just go read the recaps on Huffington Post.

We are creating these truths each day and we are shaping beliefs as fast as we can post the link. Why do you think politicos love the social space…ones beliefs can saturate a timeline enough and eventually create a truth which shapes a vote.

I just sit back and think about this large role of the social documentary…we have been creating the layers, the stories of our documented lives and it is unfolding as fast as we can get to a device and share it…or someone share about us. Don’t lie…how many times have you un-tagged a photo because you hated the double chin or even the person you were standing with…are you reversing truth?

The social documentary is all around us and we are taking part in it regardless if you like it or not. It has become our truths and we are shaping it for the brands and the social brothers to aggregate. We are creating their social commerce…we are just the documentary storytellers, sharing our lives with the world.

Is your social story your truth or someone else’s?

Social Sustainability – Social 3.0

It is time to move on and start thinking about the most important part of this social argument…how the hell we are going to sustain this movement and our communities.

It is time to get past the “Like” programs, the various blog posts for SEO, the YouTube strategies that might get over 100o views…we are emerging into Social 3.0 and it is all about sustainability and connected growth.

So what do we know…

We are in an age of Social 3.0 where we have been trying so many outlets as test beds (Social 1.0 & 2.0) and we are starting to see where we are gaining the most traction. Bottom-line…

1) Website is a primary destination point for fundamental information
2) Facebook is the primary community driver
3) Twitter is the amplification channel & secondary community driver
4) Blogs are our voice (our context) & secondary community driver
5) Pinterest is a Social 3.0 opportunity to engage that new age social/community influencer (women 25 -44)
6) YouTube is a organizations face/voice 3D along with being SEO driver

We know that the Facebook IPO is close and we are getting closer to a sustainable social model unlike the uncertainty of previous social models.

Basically …Facebook will be here for a while and many are predicting that it will be the place where we will push all our web traffic making it the most used dynamic portal to engage audiences. This is and will be a huge shift for organizations with static websites with small dynamic portals of information. What do we do with that site? Or should it be just a post card of information?

Pinterest is gaining traction ( article on Dec 22, 2011) –> “The site is especially popular with women between the ages of 25 and 44, which comprise 59% of its readership, and the majority of those visiting Pinterest are female, consisting of 58% of its visitors in the past 12 weeks.”

So given this context…this begs the question of web/digital strategy: Should we force all web traffic through Facebook, making it the destination point for people then expose them to the website inside Facebook. Basically funnel all traffic through it. The analytics are there to support and we do not have to worry about down time.

Well this leads to how Facebook is changing it’s Timeline not only implemented for individuals, but coming to businesses/organizations pages on March 30th. What the hell do you do with that header and what about those tabs you paid for?

The new Facebook header becomes the dynamic portal for discovery.

Each time you change the header, you are uploading a new image. This image is put on the timeline as a public post, along with being placed on the header. So, we could use this as an opportunity for discovery. So think through all the events, initiatives, etc. that we are constantly promoting. We post a link to Facebook for people to click to learn more. With this idea, imagine adding some visual discovery to this scenario…people like to click images, photos, etc that come across the timeline.

With this scenario, uploading an image to that header position carries a promotional aspect. It becomes a main billboard.  So each time you upload this image for the header, it comes across the timeline for people to see and click. This could bring a new dynamic element of discovery to our Facebook page.

So is Social 3.0 about cross promoted social spaces that allows us to discover new places to engage. Audi thinks so…they put a lot of cash into their Super Bowl ads. Last year, Audi tried using a hashtag in their Super Bowl ad to promote a give away (#IsProgress Campaign)  It must have worked but was not sustainable long term.

So this year…they wanted to create a community of conversation around LED lights and vampires. They used the #SoLongVampires hastag in the Super Bowl ad that received over 2 million views and tens of millions of Twitter impressions a week after the ad appeared during the game.

We are learning…we are pulling back. We are starting to realize what is working and what just does not make sense for our communities. We are learning it is hard to create communities when there is nothing to connect people online.

We should no longer spray our marketing mess across all platforms…and hope someone will bite.  It was just a few years ago that males 18-34 were the main targeted demographic, but to me that has shifted with the social space making the female 18-34 a huge influencer, especially in healthcare. But Nielsen’s new Digital Consumer Report shows something interesting…Introducing Generation C:

“The latest Census reports that Americans 18-34 make up 23 percent of the U.S. population, yet they represent an outsized portion of consumers watching online video (27%), visiting social networking/blog sites (27%), owning tablets (33%) and using a smartphone (39%). Their ownership and use of connected devices makes them incredibly unique consumers, representing both a challenge and opportunity for marketers and content providers alike. Generation C is engaging in new ways and there are more touch points for marketers to reach them.”

So how are we growing? How are we sustaining? Are we engaging new audiences? Where are we cutting the fat? Or are we in this just for the SEO and to collect some data points?