Trump’s inconvenient truth: Rule the social sentiment, rule the world

We’ve all seen the polls. On Brexit. On Trump. We quoted them, they were on our TV screens. They were headlines in our most thorough news channels. And they were all dead wrong. Europe woke up earlier this year with a burning headache, and a cornerstone of the EU that voted to go solo again. The USA that had prepared itself for the first female president, saw the keys of the nuclear codes being handed over to Donald Trump.

Hinssen versus Fortune

Short-attention spanned Serial Technologist Peter Hinssen was immediately heard with his catchy one liner “big data, big fail, big time”.  Fortune magazine countered that view by pointing out that the prediction disaster was not a failure of data after all, but that it was -as always-  a human error: a complete failure of correct forecasting and analysis. “The data was as good as it could be, but the analysis of it lacked depth. If anything, the forecasters’ spectacular and almost unanimous collective failure to see Trump’s win coming provides an opening for a more productive conversation between numbers and words, statisticians and analysts, data and message” stated Fortune. Fortune magazine did not provide however an answer on how those statisticians, analysts and reputed journalists all drew similar wrong conclusions out of the same “unflawed” datasets. Beats me. I’m with Peter on this one.

Trump versus Clinton

Sentiment was right

Clinton was the undisputed champion to win the Election throughout the entire campaign. The polls showed it. But, if you look closely at other datasets, another story was told all along. For most of 2016, Trump had a clear advantage over Clinton in both social engagements and positive sentiment. Marketing analytics and data firm 4C Insights 4 –who successfully predicted Brexit earlier this year based on social sentiment- showed how Trump stayed ahead even in the last month of the campaign with well over 57 million total engagements (versus 47 for Clinton). What’s more: Trump showed a clear 10 percent (48 versus 58) lead in sentiment. Enough positive sentiment to floor Hillary Clinton with a technical KO on Election Day.

Trump versus Clinton

King of Google, King of Twitter, King of Facebook, president of the USA

While Trump was publicly criticized for his trigger-happy and nightly use of Social Media, often in a very controversial way, it created mentions and news. His tweets became conversation starters, flashing up in on- and offline media, creating a relentless carpet-bombing of views and sentiment. His Facebook Live interventions, his consequent use of Facebook to spread his views, his addressing those issues that Americans actively search for, and his Twitter warlock strategy got him very visible and talked-about. His followers flocked around their leader on social media. I was accosted myself multiple times by Trump followers when I expressed concern on some of Donald Trump’s views on my personal social media channels. This shows how his strategy converted some followers in a hidden loyal social army.

Trump, the Obama of 2016

Just before the election Phil Ross, Socialbakers’ principal analyst pointed out on  DMN’s One-on-One Podcast, how social media was a clear win for Donald Trump, and how he won the “short and sassy” communication war with Hillary on social media on almost every single engagement.  Phil Ross stated on his blog on august 18th:

“(Social Media) trends seems to be failing Clinton. Instead of concentrating her resources on areas where she can deliver an emotional message immediately, via longer text and imagery, her most frequent activity is to post policy links on a platform Trump dominates anyway. No matter what causes each spike in activity and engagement for either campaign, one thing is clear: the social media advantage that famously helped power President Obama’s electoral victories now appears to be on Trump’s side.

It’s not about fact, it’s about emotion

Most of Donald Trump’s statements are controversial, at the least. Fact checkers could not type fast enough to show the inaccuracies, inconsistencies, errors and straight-out lies in Trump’s reasoning. Clinton was on the ball every time to point those out. The hard lesson learned is that in a war on sentiment, facts driven strategies do not matter. You cannot beat emotion with fact in a 140 character statement.

As every outlaw in the wild wild west knew already a century ago: if you bring a (fact driven) knife to a (emotional) gunfight, you are going to bite the dust.

I wish you a social media strategy for 2017, that has the right, balanced focus on building emotional connections.

We have the paid. Where is the Social?

Nomen es omen, it’s called social media for a reason. In the beginning days of social media, communications professionals revelled in sight of something new: an opportunity to create real engagement with a consumer. Forging a long term value. Creating dialogue.

But then, for a moment, it looked that there were cheaper and quicker solutions available that could scale quicker, and that could fit the existing thinking qua reach, targeting and monetization seamlessly. For a moment it looked like paid social was everything you’d ever need to reach your audiences.

Recipe for disaster

The social networks killed organic reach through changes in their algorithms, speeding up the exodus to paid only. Sales teams of the networks focussed on bringing ad-money to the shareholder, undervaluing the ROI of good content and engagement. With virality thoroughly killed in the coding, why spend money on great content? Connections could be bought, and were guaranteed.

Armageddon: No more social posts

Facebook got a solid swap in the face when a very damning report published by The Information earlier this year showed that Zuckerberg’s social network struggled to reverse a whopping 21% decline in “original sharing”. In other words, its 1.6 billion monthly active users are starting to share less and less original content. With timelines flooded by paid –and often meaningless- messages by corporations and businesses, people stopped sharing their very own personal updates. Fortune nailed it when it stated: “Facebook’s decline in personal updates reflects a common growing pain for online communities. What starts out as a special and intimate place to share things grows into a big, impersonal, and professional platform.”

Less of what matters

Amidst all that corporate advertising, your personal posts start to look oddly out of context. The posts of your friends, the baby pictures, the personal updates, the jokes, the silly holiday snaps are more and more difficult to find… but were a big driver to routinely go back to the Facebook platform. “It’s unlikely that users will get that information anywhere else, and they don’t want to miss important life updates from their friends and family. Without the personal updates, Facebook becomes a glorified, 400 billion content recommendation engine,” warns Fortune.

Breaking the tool

And that is exactly the pain point for Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. While it is absolutely normal that these networks move into a money generating model around advertising, they struggle to keep their authenticity. Beautiful targeting tools and ready-made ads-formats turn a lot of advertisers and their agencies lazy on the content. A deluge of grey and often meaningless content starts polluting everyone’s timeline, threatening to break the backbone of the very tool.

When social starves, the network dies

O Irony! The handles for paid social are now solidly in the hands of every social, creative, digital or media agency in the world. Paid social rocketed itself to a very powerful and adult mainstream connection tool. But the very DNA of the tool, the social part, the relationship-building, the true conversation, the personal connection was left out.  Matter of fact is that most big agencies consider Social Media primarily and largely as a pure advertising medium, and are thus missing the point entirely. Those networks can and should be way more than yet another use of intelligent display.

Change management

To succeed as a brand requires a complete rethinking of the business eco-system. It requires savvy leadership that is willing to go through the change management required to address things differently. Great engaging content, centred on the very interest fields of the consumer, and fuelled by smart paid targeting is the way to go. Brand should rethink the complete communications and connections strategy, and not just blindly add social media to their buying planning.

Knights of the Round Table

Succeeding requires a unique set of skills. Format specialists that can use the full fletch of engaging novelties per social platforms. Platform specialists that know all the unwritten netiquette rules and the do’s and don’ts per platform. Communications strategists, connection specialists, data miners, targeting wizards, digital creatives, audience profilers. If your agency has a senior sales guy, and a fleet of young, cheap community managers, you’re obviously fighting a losing game. Your team needs to bring the consumer true value, on top of the targeted reach of paid social. To win the battle for the consumers’ attention, without breaking the tool will be hard work.

True engagement needs to be earned.

PR, marketing and Digital: The arrogance of experience…

I confess, I admit: I could never ever coach an American Football team. I have never played it, never watched a full game, I do not understand any of the rules, and I am completely ignorant to all the habits and sensitivities. I would probably do about as good as a drunken rhinoceros in artistic skating.

In my book, to be good at something requires enthusiasm, sheer will, track record and hands-on experience. And that is exactly what I see as lacking in how most influencing agencies cope with social and digital media. They line up their usual experienced heavy weights to provide their clients with strategy and guidance on how to integrate digital and social media into the overall marketing and communication mix. Little side note: an alarming high percentage of these heavy weights have no experience in the digital and social media world.  Even more alarming is that the teams they roll out, into the field have none either.

A fascinating amount of power is given to people who have no clue what’s what in Social Media land. It’s not because you’ve read Groundswell or The New Normal that you are fully equipped to deep dive successfully into this fast moving area. It’s not because you know how a journalist thinks that you should take it for granted that a blogger thinks or behaves in the same way. It’s not because you’re a hotshot in direct marketing that you understand –at all­- how twitter works. It’s not because you were fab in influencing through 25 square meter advertorials that you can safely assume that a banner on a site will actually benefit your client or cause in any way. It’s not because your toddler is reasonably good with Lego that it is statistically safe to let him/her play with a fully loaded Kalashnikov.

I’m confronted on a daily basis with blogger relations experts that have never blogged, community managers that are online rookies, and twitter experts that have less reach and followers than my 83 year old gardening neighbor on a rainy day.  Robin Wauters of TechCrunch gave a PR professional a full broadside years ago for not playing online engagement by the online netiquette rules. And Wauters was so right. Too many arrogant old style off-line influencers think they can take the online new interactive digital scene by storm… and birthright. They look down on this booming online realm with an explosive mixture of denial, ignorance, arrogance, even disdain: an ideal cocktail for guaranteed distaster.

Not so long ago, agencies tried to offer top-notch journalists, analysts, Pulitzer Prize nominees and politicians a job to get extremely valuable hands-on knowledge, credibility and experience in house. To think that these same people will make the difference in online engagement is a huge mistake that cannot be remediated by an over lunch training session. Big time for agencies and their clients to go hunt for social media wizards, top-notch bloggers, proven star-profiled tweeps and highly connected  social networkers.

Only by upgrading their workforce with Digital Wizards will companies, organizations and agencies stay afoot in this morphing landscape. How did Cary Grant say it again: it takes a thief to catch a thief….

Social Media– The Darwin Doom: Evolve, invest… or die.

It is happening. Campaigns with a heavy social media component, start driving a lot of traction. From The Hunger Games, Twilight, Star Wars, and the British Imperial War Museum to a growing number of brands; it looks like social media can claim a growing part of driving the needle.  But what most are forgetting while looking at the award winning entrees or the mind boggling engagement figures is something disturbingly simple: it is not magic. It is hard work.

Social media success, and its golden unicorn “going viral”, is not based on luck, on a throw of the dice, or on a beneficial line up of some obscure stars and planetary constellations. It is based on careful planning, iron metrics, dazzling creativity, and a perfect understanding of the sociologic –and technical semantics of the social web.

It requires hybrid people capable to find seamless interaction between on- and offline components of a campaign, it requires access to influencers and amplifiers who can give the initiative enough boost to give it enough velocity. It requires specialized analytical brains to sift through data, and to translate these figures into actionable intelligence.  It requires people ahead of the curve.

Success does not happen overnight, it’s not based on luck. As with most pieces of a business, success is directly linked to skill, empowerment and passion.  Brands and agencies capable of harnessing the best talent, and setting up a suitable multi-lingual cross border operational structure see their initial investment returned in tangible results.  It starts with investment, it ends with the harvest. As every farmer knows: What you do not sow, you cannot reap

All too often, the wishful thinking is that social media can be bolted on as an afterthought. Reality is that it is a hard fought métier, requiring deep empathetic skills, innovative thinking and an uncanny ability to spot the right touch points within the target audience.

Olivier Blanchard (@thebrandbuilder)wrote all you’ll ever need to know on the possibilities to drive real ROI through social media in his book Social Media ROI. But before the cash machines will spit mountains of 4 digit bills, before sales will skyrock, before reputations will turn around… investments will have to be made in the very bone structures of brands and agencies. Going to war without modifying your army profoundly, without new weapon systems, without strategic experts that have inside knowledge on how the other side operates, you’re in for a certain Waterloo.

The first prize is a fancy car (well, a hybrid one with limited impact on the environment that is), the second prize is a set of steak knives. The third prize is simple: you’re out of business.  Darwin was right: evolve, or die…


Social Media- beyond cool: it’s real

The biggest take-away for me at #SxSW is that Social Media is not hip and cool anymore. There are tons of applications, tons of new tools. But there is nothing that really made the audience go wow. And… that is a good thing. Social Media is getting mature. People use it to find their way around, locate sessions, comment on content, book cars and taxis and hotels, hunt for food.

The different applications on the smartphones are used, often on daily basis. There might be less applications in average per phone than a couple of months ago, but the applications that make it to the phones’ homepage are truly used. Most people even forget that the app or service they are using was once called Social Media. It turned into the stuff they use every day: tissues, car keys, chewing gum, twitter, facebook, google maps.

Social media is mainstream, it is everywhere, and it slipped into people’s lives and became quietly ubiquitous. As people do not get excited about car keys and bottle openers any more, they do not get easily excited about social media anymore either.

Focus goes clearly on functionality: does it work, will it work better, smoother, quicker? Will it interact with my social ecosystem? Does it link to my social networks? Do I really need it? The crowd became picky, asking for proof before want. Having new is not cool anymore, having best in class is. That forces developers and strategists to shift down a gear, and to push the pedal to the metal: that download from the app store will from now on have to be earned. The days of cool and shallow are buried somewhere with the left-overs from #SxSW 2011.

Branding and social media…

Found a great infographic on on how to get smarter about personal branding while setting up your social media ecosystem. Smartly done!

Social Media : « Do, or Do not… there is no try » (Master Yoda)

Every time people come up to my office, call me or send me an email asking for a Twitter strategy, a Facebook strategy, or a YouTube strategy, I get an uncontrollable urge to rebuild their outer hull with the help of a pneumatic hammer and an icepick.

Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and tutti quanti are no strategies, they are not even tactics. They are simple tools, channels to convey a message. It’s simple. Think about an overall objective, build an overall strategy, and look what tactics and tools you need to achieve your goal. Success is often not  in the little details, but in big holistic, structural approaches like the planning of your community engagement :-).

When rightly integrated in an overall marketing and communications approach, digital and social media will help move the needle in a nice and measurable way, but are not a miracle recipe. No social campaign can make a crappy product look shiny, and no YouTube video can correct a manifest lack of vision. Success comes first with companies who value their audiences, and invest in the courtesy to listen to their market, and respond and act upon it.

Building a social capital requires listening first, and adequate responding after. It asks for building mutual understanding and trust. In short, it plays on the middle to long run. It’s not a quick-win/harvest soon methodology. Like most investments, you’re in for the long haul…  you will get longstanding dividends.  Just a quick dip in social media waters to test the temperature will not do, and is not done…  As social engagement plays out on the longer run, you cannot pull out early of the game. You commit, or not. Like there is no way to be a “bit pregnant”, there is no way of being “a bit social”.

Yoda said it wisely: “Do, or do not… there is no try!”.

Social Media: not revolutionizing the Revolution… call it Evolution

The tweeps from made a great infographic on the use of Twitter during the Egyptian, Tunisian and Yemeni crises…

Hundreds of  posts have been written on how Social Media trigger these uproars and civic protests. I beg to defer. Twitter and Facebook do not revolutionize revolution. At all. They revolutionize our ability to witness civic protest and social change in real-time. They give protesters an n-tieth way of communication. They allow a CNN-like “always on” voyeurism on how other people battle for freedom of speech and different lives… But Twitter and tutti quanti are no Kalashnikov, no “I had a dream” verbal igniters, no revolution starters.

People start revolutions when provoked enough, Social media help broadcast the revolution outward, and campaign inward.  It’s a bit upsetting to see how fast many Social Media users have been claiming that their beloved Digital Channels allow for a better social world, and warp whole countries into a democratic and open era. Do not steal the thunder of the people now demonstrating for their future, do not rain on their parade: they are playing with their lives, affronting real tanks, real guns, real risk. It’s called a revolution. It’s a very dangerous business.

The fact that we can follow it through our Twitter feeds, is merely an evolution of information technology. Egypt proves that the powers that be can shut the system down in the blink of an eye. The Egyptian government pulled the plug on ISP providers, and within minutes the whole country faded back into a black pre-social media era… we’re upset because we lose our firsthand eyewitness seats to the show. But with Twitter and Facebook down, people are still in the streets. Risking their lives….

And you?

Facebook gets 450 million from… Goldman Sachs

Hm. I kind of hate to talk about money. It’s such a dirty word ;-). But, I could not pass on the fact that Goldman Sachs just invested a whopping $450 million in Facebook. You know, Facebook, that crazy little start-up created as a social campus connecting tool. That Facebook is now estimated at a completely surreal 50 billion dollar. And it got 450 million dollar from Goldman Sachs. In Cash ;-). And that is, well, real money.

For the last months people have been arguing over the value of social media and social sites. Often  down talking of downplaying it. Often because they do not understand how much of a paradigm shift engaged social communication is…

The fact that Goldman Sachs joins other investors (like Digital Sky Technologies)  in Facebook  kinda shows how money crunchers value the social network’s prospect for sustained growth and ROI.

HM. I might be in the right business after all?

#use #hashtags #wisely

I get my social media streams funneled into my brain through five screens. Content comes in swiftly at a nice steady rate of about a tweet/post/second. Do not worry. If your content is remotely interesting, challenging, funny, edgy, groundbreaking or special… I will notice. I have a decent, well-equipped army of filters, aggregators, spam detectors and fluff busters.  None of the spam shall pass. None.

But I do get the flying green space invaders looking at messages, tweets and posts that get seeded by #’s. I know hash tags are a useful thing. I love hash tags. Heck, I use hash tags. But I would love it if people would just use them wisely, with caution. Not all the time. Not #everywordbelongsbehindahashtag you know. And if you need a hash tag so #yourmessagelooksfunny, maybe you should redefine the metric fun system.

O well. #maybeImjustgettingold.

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