Inspiring Response: 5 Ways Story Can Turbo-Charge Your Message

writeheart“Story is the DNA of all meaning.”  – Annette Simmons

Do your appeals have undeniable power? Do you enthrall, captivate, motivate ― and drive response?

With only weeks remaining in 2016, the cavalcade of carefully crafted requests will soon commence. For most of us, they will arrive from all points, directions and media ― email, snail mail, APPs, Facebook, texts and tweets. What will grab us? And more important, what will snag the  imaginations of our prospects? What will be deleted? Filed? Ignored? Dismissed? Or worse . . . unnoticed?

Some will be cloaked in gratitude. Others will lament the ubiquitous budget gap or unexpected organizational need. Still others are likely to promote a seductive donor challenge, captivating contest, new initiative, capital effort or recognition group.

But they should all have one thing in common ― a compelling story.

What’s the hook? And I’m not talking about a cheesy advertising gimmick or giveaway.  The power to resonate comes from the human, emotional connection.

Big, looming, seemingly logical organizational problems ― like deficits, shortfalls and even unmet needs are just that. The organization’s problems. As communicators, we must focus on the donor’s or prospect’s needs ― they are often triggered at an imperceptible, emotional and even subconscious level.

Though Marshall McLuhan might argue, the message is just as salient as the medium in this case ― especially given the media miasma engulfing us at every turn.  As I wrote in a prior post, I feel effective messaging must address the entire brain ― engaging the emotional, logical and habitual brain circuits.

Behavioral economist George Lowenstein confirms “our subconscious explains our consumer behavior better than our conscious.  Ninety percent of all purchasing decisions are not made consciously.”

Working as a writer, communicator and crafter of hundreds (maybe thousands) of appeals and calls to action throughout my career to to date, I have identified a few key elements that are absolutely essential.  [Where appropriate, I have changed names to protect client confidentiality

The Pain

This is probably the most important concept. And it’s personal.  What is the emotional state ― or discomfort your message can resolve for the prospect or donor?  According to brain theory, everything begins with an emotional nudge, which connects to the cerebral cortex or executive function of making a decision.  And the most important thing about framing a powerful request or appeal is articulating the pain in an intimate, relatable, visceral way. Compare these two.

        “I was deployed in Saudi Arabia on 9/11 . . . And I can still hear the screams . . .”             

         Corporal John Ray’s* battle-weary voice cracks and catches in his throat.

        “We were in combat overnight . . . and we weren’t prepared,” says the slight, sandy-haired U.S. Army veteran ― as he slowly brushes a single droplet of sweat from his brow. 

       “The nightmares never stop, but I just wish I had enough to eat . . . “

                                                                       (versus)

       “Veteran hunger is a growing problem in America . . . And their struggle is significant.”

The top copy is weaving a human story that’s drawing the reader into a specifically defined conflict ― not a daunting global cause that is difficult to quantify ― or feel. More to the point, one tells and one shows.

The  Problem

The next step is the core challenge or problem.  How does this pain manifest, and how does your organization or operation contextualize the issue you are addressing? Get granular. Explain why is your mission is significant, and why should we care? Again, it’s important to construct a very personal, human narrative. Here’s an excerpt form a letter:

It was January 2007. I was on a mission trip that rattled me to my very marrow ― and ultimately changed my life forever. We brought more than 285,000 nutritious meals for hungry, struggling children who were barely surviving in the war-torn squalor.

Shockingly, the meals ran out too soon. There were just too many suffering, vulnerable girls and boys like Maribel  . . . in such dire need.

 We simply did not have enough to go around . . . All  I could do was stand there and weep. So, I had to do  something. 

Are you hooked?  And better yet . . . are you wondering about the next three components? Well, you’ll have to stay tuned for these and other stories. It’s a real cliffhanger . . .

In addition to the five pillars of a great appeal, there are  many other components of your content concoction. Of course, we must artfully integrate urgency, all calls to action, testimonials/success stories, various digital platforms, and customer relationship management (CRM) interfaces. But start with this formula. Start with the IMPACT ― and you will definitely turbo-charge your results.

If you’d like to learn more, sign up below. Tell me about your project. Also, watch for the next installment.  Maximize your appeal. It all starts with the story of one. 

The Power of Influence: How People are Changing Social Media

handAttending Social Media Dallas’ 2016 Showcase  a couple of weeks ago, I was nonplussed ― but not for the reasons you might think.

I attended expecting to learn about the latest and greatest ― the slickest bells and whistles and the snap in the chat. Because I work clients who often use social media tactics, I am interested in staying abreast of the freshest online alchemies and digital wizardry. But what I learned was neither technical, nor expected. Everything old is new again. Or, coming full circle, again, anyway. The more we automate, schedule, trigger, track, integrate, regulate and calculate, the more we need two essential things:

  1. A novel, relevant and compelling creative strategy.
  2. Good, old-fashioned human communication.

Yes, all of these featured “showcase” programs started with clever, innovative, all-in thinking. That was pretty much a given. But the thing that surprised me was the human component. Though cynics mostly deride social media tools as anything but ― saying this brave new world alienates our souls and creates pariahs who prefer quality time with their phones to a human conversation, most of these campaigns attributed their success to “key influencers.” People.

Meaningful results did not arise solely from some artful mix of organic messages and social ad buys strewn across the e-verse. They required authentic, real-life relationships or champions ― on the ground and/or on the case to evangelize messages and carry them to the appropriate constituencies. I found this fascinating. The more we evolve technically, the more we stay the same ― the more we require human connection and relationship

socialmediadallas_logo

 

 

Here are some examples:

  • Harwood International needed the partnership of two very important Dallasites to drive the success of #HarwoodSummer. Two transplants from two coasts who have spent the last year immersing themselves in the culture & community of Dallas have become Dallasites. They provided the conduit to the culture and crowd. ( Lily Kramlich-Taylor and  Kara Shannon)
  • Hewlett Packard Enterprise in Accelerating Beyond. The concept to link with the Star Trek film was genius, but the real magic came from deputizing the HP employees ― empowering the people with the traditional and digital communication tools they needed to engage and spread the word.
  • Stub Hub. Apparently, this one required literal hand-holding on a global scale― due to the “technical” nature of Snapchat. Social Media Delivered reported that the “brand ambassadors,” professional proselytizers on the scene, were indispensable players in the campaign’s logistics impact ― managing actual face-to-face conversations at festival booths and navigating the musical melee.

All of the honorees had some important human dimension ― and kudos for that!  Social is now social in the purest sense. So, what’s next?

We are still asking that question, and that’s part of the fun. In fact, some of us were feeling a bit nostalgic that Thursday eve a couple of weeks ago ― as Chris Vary, our emcee, recalled his first presentation to Social Media Dallas. I was there. In fact, in What’s the Next Layer on the Stack? ― my Nov.1, 2009 blog post, I referenced some of Chris’ predictions at that time, as well. (Check out his thoughts on Twitter.)

Watching the evolution. Stay tuned . . .

 

Make Content Marketing Matter: Put Your Story to Work

bigbangWhat is content marketing? 

It’s a transaction ― fueled by the powerful intention to grow and expand your business.  It’s serving up delicious, enticing, seductive information to your prospects (and suspects) in exchange for their glorious attention and response. You give away something of value to build a relationship that will ultimately lead to something meaningful ― engagement, trust, loyalty, revenue and product/service evangelism.

The concept is not new, but the media models have morphed and changed over the years. Heck, maybe it’s the oldest profession. But today, managing the whole process is a bit trickier. We are our own networks. It’s a potent concept when you stop and think about it.

We can produce our own universes, but there are challenges. We’re concerned with integration, relevance, distribution management and analytics.  The secret sauce is in your story ― communicating your value effectively and persuasively. And it all starts with your website.

It’s all about the Blog

This is your publisher. I know it takes care and feeding, but it’s worth the effort. The blog is still the easiest way to connect with your audience and establish thought leadership in your space.  Actually, it’s less about “thought leadership” these days ― and more about delivering content worth consuming ― content that teaches something new, entertains, and provides a compelling reason to act.  The media may vary, but the blog gives you the framework. Experiment with video, infographics, whitepapers and e-books. Test, test and test some more.  Orchestrate the primary elements:

  • Video
  • Landing Pages/Email
  • Social Media

And You Gotta Have a Plan . . .

  1.  Define your Decision Makers and Brand Personas

Who makes the buying decisions? Who gets involved and when? Where do they live online? You don’t have to get too targeted in creating specific content for each stakeholder, but clearly identify “product champions” ― and then guide them step by step through the consensus-creation process.

  1. Articulate Your Key Objectives: Start with the basics, build and quantify.

Objectives might include:

  • Generating interest in your products ― and qualified leads.
  • Establishing yourself as an expert and preferred solution provider in a given vertical market.
  • Generating sales. (online or direct)
  1. Set Specific Goals: What are your key metrics and priorities ― long and short-term?
  • Organic traffic
  • Newsletter sign-ups
  • Leads
  • Qualified leads
  • Donations
  • Sales
  1. Create Your Content Strategy

Build a formal six-month, integrated content calendar creating relevant messaging that cultivates each one of your priority vertical segment.

  • Case Studies and Success Stories ― Highlight solutions and wins using video, blog articles and press releases that can extend your stories even further to third-party websites.
  • Guides and Tutorials — Guides do not have to be 100-page e-books. Give tips or easy how-tos.
  • Webinars ― Attract decision makers who are interested in learning from other industry leaders. Then, create a case studies or white papers from the webinar ― extending the life of your content and providing more opportunities for engagement.
  •  E-books and Whitepapers ― This is where we can get meaty ― really dig into topics and establish your firm as the expert or solution. This can drive lead capture from download requests and provide insight into particular areas of interest.
  • Infographics creatively visualize facts and figures and are highly shareable online.  http://piktochart.com/ https://infogr.am/ are sites that help facilitate creation.
  1. Promote 
  • Grow Your Opt-In Email List ― Add a sign-up widget to your website. http://optinagent.com/ Put a sign up form at the bottom of each blog post.
  • Enhance Social Media Engagement ― Optimize social media where appropriate – integrating Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, and Instagram, particularly for events — to drive engagement and enhance brand affinity with specific content deliverables.

Finally, connect the dots on all marketing initiatives (print, web, and multimedia) across owned, earned, paid and shared media streams ― to optimize conversions and KPIs. And build necessary resources to execute. Build relationships, not links. Make it matter. Make it count ― with rich, relevant, timely, thoughtful content. Early and often.

Are you ready to tell your story?

It’s All INREACH: Marketing Revisited

Inreach_sand“How odd I can have all this inside me and to you it’s just words.”

― David Foster Wallace, The Pale King

I hear nonprofits use the word “outreach” frequently.  We are doing an “outreach.” This can refer to everything from mission-driven programming — to marketing to fundraising.  They may even have an “outreach” department.” And many have even made it a verb. “We are outreaching across the globe.” But this brings to mind a sort of broad, cast-the-net-style effort, as opposed to a more targeted, precise, systematic approach — focused on engagement, conversions and revenue generation.  It’s like using the term email “blast,” versus “campaign” or “appeal.”

Recently, when I was working with one of my “heart” projects, I had one of those light-bulb moments. I really think there might be a more useful way to think about marketing for nonprofits — specifically digital tactics. And, actually, I suspect this can be applied across the board to other enterprises.

Ending the Silence is an important and powerful new program designed to help begin the conversation with adolescents about mental health and diminish the stigma that is so often a barrier to treatment.   The National Alliance of Mental Illness of Dallas (NAMI Dallas) is launching this region’s program in high schools, community centers and churches with high-impact, resource-rich presentations on how to recognize the warning signs of suicide and potentially life-threatening conditions, such as bipolar disorder, depression, borderline personality disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, schizophrenia, and others.

The dedicated volunteer team is passionate about creating a solid foundation for growth — and is recognizing the value of building a sophisticated digital lead-generation engine.  To underscore this importance, I proposed a mental flip.  “Let’s think about outreach as INREACH.”

In reality, when we use targeted marketing tools effectively, we are actually attracting suspects, prospects, and clients/donors based on their terms and interests.  We are simply opening the door— allowing the momentum of their needs to flow— satisfying their unquenched desires for life-changing experiences — inside. It’s just a different way of looking at the process.

Feeding the Beast

Consider SEO and SEM – the alchemy of Google — great examples of “inreach.” They are both cottage industries and sciences in their own right that intertwine.  Basically, Google is hungry beast; it’s favorite food is content — (and, of course, paid advertising.) But we as content producers want to create content Google craves — and that’s content that allows us to be FOUND when people search. SEO best practices (and white-hat tricks) help us do that.  Keywords give us the clues we need to tell us how our prospects are looking for us.  As digital marketers and humans, really, we would probably be better served if were more focused on “inreaching,” in general, as opposed to outreaching.   If we think more about how we can frame our missions in ways that satisfy the needs of our donors/partners/clients—instead of how that donor (or partner) will satisfy us, we will be much further down the success highway.

After all, when you think about it, we are all merely facilitators of desire . . .

What are you reaching for on the outside that has been inside — all along?

“If I ever go looking for my heart’s desire again, I won’t look any further than my own back yard. Because if it isn’t there, I never really lost it to begin with!”    — Dorothy

Creating Content. Inspiring Results.

RECENT PROJECT HIGHLIGHTS:

Romancing the Pants  | HAGGAR CLOTHING CO.

Haggar Content Elaine Gantz WrightWhen Joseph Marion Haggar, Sr. started the Haggar Company in 1926, the most prominent apparel manufacturers on the East Coast said, “Haggar can’t make clothes in Texas, and he won’t last one year!”  Today, it’s clear that more than 87 years of persistent innovation and keen ingenuity have certainly proved them wrong.  As one of the apparel industry’s most durable brands, Haggar has maintained a stable market position for almost a century—which provides a fertile ground for new creative energy and expansion to take root.

Led by apparel impresario, Rich Honiball, Haggar’s SVP of marketing, licensing and e-commerce, the Perfecting Our Craft Campaign has reignited the 87-year-old Haggar brand from the inside out—supporting Haggar sales, merchandising, and design partners in crafting creative strategies— not just building individual packages and promotions.  I had the privilege of helping weave the Haggar “back story” or essence into the venerable American menswear label through the fine-tuning of a compelling, fully integrated brand voice.  Now, the process continues as we interpret the story, bolster the brand,  and engage the Haggar man with various media—including web, email,  Football Hall of Fame events, fashion industry initiatives, social media, blogs, Sports Illustrated and even Mike & Mike radio spots on ESPN.  So, don’t just sit there, #GetAPair.

Discovering “A New Nation” | BENEVOLENT MUSIC

Benevolent MusicTexas and California-based Benevolent Music presents the world premiere of A New Nation,” the captivating new opera based on the biblical conflict between Jacob and Esau at the Fort Worth Community Art Center’s Scott Theatre Sept. 20 -22. Directed by Dr. Rick Piersall, opera director at Abilene Christian University, and conducted by Dr. David Thye, director of the Fort Worth Symphony Chorus and conducting chair at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, “A New Nation” stars tenor Samuel Cook as Jacob and baritone Daniel Lickteig as Esau.

Over the past month, I have been consulting with artistic director Mark Peterson on building a content marketing strategy to introduce his organization, vision, collaboration, as well as his world premiere work to Texas with five performances scheduled over two weeks in Abilene and Fort Worth. Tactics include integrated social media content, targeted promotions, video, inside-out campaigns leveraging production relationships, radio spots/interviews, and PPC advertising. Visit to https://web.ovationtix.com/trs/cal/34320 to purchase tickets. Read more about the production at Benevolent Music Notes; engage on Facebook – Facebook.com/benevolentmusic, Follow us on Twitter @MusicBenevolent and #ANewNation.

“A NEW NATION” PRESS RELEASE

WRR 101.1 Radio Spots

Triune Web Content

Building Success | TRIUNE GENERAL CONTRACTOR

Headquartered in Dallas, Texas with regional offices servicing the El Paso, Shreveport, Seattle, and Washington D.C. areas, Triune is a nimble, customer-riveted general contractor with a palpable passion for excellence. Since 1997, the team at Triune has been committed to exceeding customer expectations with unsurpassed levels of quality and service. Combining a national vision with regional responsiveness and local know-how, Triune is uniquely positioned to outperform the competition and needed a website that effectively communicated this capability and moxie. I worked with CEO/CFO Vince Fudzie to produce the necessary content to drive results.

TRIUNE WEBSITE

Talk to me about creating content to help drive your results.
Send me a note – and we will connect.

Dazzle Your Audience with the 4 Cs

Remembering the  4Cs  can help you frame a content marketing strategy that helps you cut through the communications clutter.  Consider:

Content – Share only the highest quality content. Whether email, website, blog, whitepaper or app, make it sizzle. Consider experimenting with video on your website.  Use your iPhone. You do not need to be Steven Spielberg. Try mobile apps, webinars, or even a luscious, visual feast on Pinterest. Feature video testimonials from customers, employees, partners, or even vendors. Fundamentally, social media is about telling stories—those tantalizing tidbits of truth that trigger action.  But the real challenge is this: “The medium is (still) the message,” as Marshall McLuhan said more than a half century ago.   How we interact with content can be just as (if not more) meaningful than the content itself.  That is why we need to me crystal clear about who we are, what we stand for, and what we are communicating to our audiences.

Community – Social media gives you the power to spread information quickly. But the irony here is that you have to let go. “Let it be,” as a wise dude once said. You don’t have to vet and control ever single word or comment.  Granted, issuing calls to action online on social media platforms can spark viral campaigns rapidly, economically, and effectively– but it’s often serendipity.  And, how cool is that? As NYU new media professor Clay Shirky observes, “Now, many can talk to many, as opposed to one talking to one — or one talking to many.” The chain reaction that results can be potent and powerful. We need only pay attention.

Culture – Just as everyone in a healthy organization is a salesperson, everyone in your enterprise should exercise a social media voice.  Weave the behavior into the communications fabric and expectation of your operation. It’s all part of outrageously good customer service, anyway. Make engaging on Facebook about your products the norm –rather than the exception. Make promotions and projecting personality a priority – in your store, via text, online and everywhere.  Make it part of your customer banter and all your in-person relationships. Work from the inside out. Hey, put the social in social media, and watch the referrals flow. Coach your staff to manage your business’ presence in an authentic and personal way online. Employees are built-in ambassadors. Give them guidelines. Train them–and deploy them first!

Character – Finally, social media is your opportunity to put a face on your organization and to humanize your brand.  Optimize your own, unique corporate back story. Transparency is a powerful differentiator, my friend—in addition to being highly seductive in our post-modern, reality-TV-obsessed world.   Think about ways to make the private public. This is the new “intimacy of commerce” that will effectively distract, attract and embrace your audience. As Constantin Stanislavski, the great acting coach once said, “If you know your character’s thoughts, the proper vocal and bodily expressions will naturally follow.”

Ready for your close-up?

Buzz Pill?

Is there a magic social media pill? We all seem to be looking for it.

As a professional riding the social media tidal wave, I’m engaged—in witty Facebook banter, of course, but I’m also digging deeper—doing some serious soul-searching about the role of social media in marketing, how best to execute it, how to manage it, and how to leverage its power to make clients and associates successful and happy. I guess taking a hard look at my path is sort of a mirror to my life—as some of my most enlightened friends would say.

Yet, it’s surprisingly tough—on all levels. With the ubiquity of mobile phones, iPads, Nooks, etc., social media is embedded in every fiber of our awareness. Personally, I feel unhinged without my Apple. (Remember Eden?) With something so pervasive, so woven into the fabric of our daily behavior, one would think clarity and monetization would be a cinch. But not so fast. It can be difficult to put the buzz back in the bottle! It is not enough to simply offer up content and post updates.

Brand advocates and marketers who want to take advantage of social media are encountering a tangled web. They are finding they need to design a fully integrated program of active and ongoing engagement, connecting customers with the actual human beings in their organizations who can meet their needs. It’s part Marketing 101 and part online alchemy, I suspect. Gosh, maybe it’s really not about the technology at all. It’s the humanity. Could it be that the stuff that happens offline is what really makes social media sing?

For instance, Dell currently engages with customers through what they call the “four pillars” of the company’s social media ecosystem:

  • 100,000 employees
  • Dell.com–ratings, reviews and customer feedback relating to Dell products and services
  • Dell communities, such as IdeaStorm, a platform launched in 2007 that is designed to give voice to customers and enable the sharing of ideas
  • External platform communities, including Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter

That first pillar represents one of the biggest changes in Dell’s use of social networking, lately—and possibly the most powerful. Although social media initiatives began with public relations teams at Dell, employees now play the role of brand ambassador across the company, notes Buck. This requires a purposeful, dedicated engagement plan, as well as policy development and training to ensure that the employees who will be representing Dell clearly understand company guidelines regarding the appropriate use of social media.“Our employees play a vital role in our social media outreach, and, to date, we have trained more than 8,000 Dell employees to engage with customers through social media,” says Michael Buck, executive director of global online marketing. “Dell’s Social Media and Communities University is a key enabler for the company to leverage the power of 100,000-plus employees as brand ambassadors, confident that they have been empowered to use it the right way.”

Perhaps the most effective social media strategy is to train your company’s employees to use social media—whether 3 or 300,000, fully integrating the support process and empowering interaction with customers/prospects on behalf of the company. This has not only spread the marketing buzz, so to speak, it has also building the brand across the farthest reaches of the vast social media psycho-sphere. To infinity and beyond!

Where are you going?

Twitter or Facebook?

Is that one of those fundamental questions like–The Beatles or The Rolling Stones; chocolate or vanilla; Letterman or Leno; paper or plastic?

Last week, a friend of mine sent me an article published by Slate“Who I Follow on Twitter and Why.” It was kind of a light-bulb moment. We seem to lump Twitter and  Facebook into the same bucket, “You on Facebook and Twitter?” But they are really so radically different.

I love discussing this stuff, because we are right in the thick of such a pervasive transformation in communication. We have no concept how this moment in time we are living right now will impact our behavior, relationships, culture, and lives in the next few years–and for the rest of eternity.

Not that Twitter will stand the test of time or  be around in the year 2100, but who knows what communication will look like then? Getting back to the here and now, I really do think there are “Twitter people” and “Facebook people.” I deal in both professionally–and more and more, Linked In. But they all render fiercely different experiences and visitor payoffs. As I was exploring this “Twitter person” concept, I found this Venn diagram from BoingBoing. It provides another way to slice and understand social-media behavior.  I guess the increasing interest in Twitter is understandable–as sort of the nexus of it all.

I agree with erudite Shafer in Slate  that Twitter is most valuable as a resource and a research tool.  It’s like a custom real-time info stream that’s completely personalized.  Connect with the great thinkers and follow the interesting things they say. Plus, you have the added benefit of commanding much higher quality attention from Google–from an SEO perspective. Hey, I smiled when I received a notification that Yoko Ono was following me on Twitter — even if it’s “her people.”

I read somewhere that Facebook is like playing in your fenced-in backyard. Twitter is like playing in the street. You are much more exposed, yet the asynchronous format is much more impersonal. Following is actually much less social than friending. Except for the way Mark Zuckerberg can mine our clicks and our navigation paths, I don’t buy the security complaints on Facebook. A user can manage access. You can protect everything you post with your settings dashboard. My son Elliot is a very good example. His profile is so well hidden, the way can see it is when he accidentally leaves it up on his computer. LOL. That’s security, huh?

As to Shafer’s being nonplussed about receiving a friend request from someone who ostensibly does not like you, consider Winston Churchill’s recommendation, “Keep your enemies close.”

Are you a Twitter person or a Facebook person? And why? Let me know . . .

Freedom of Tweet?

Elaine

Elaine Gantz Wright is a social media coach and consultant — providing the practical tools and action plans you need to survive and thrive in the brave new media world. She is a listener, writer, blogger, speaker, actor, and mom. Contact her ellagantz@sbcglobal.net.

I was just listening to the Diane Rehm Show on NPR and KERA/90.1. The discussion was a recap of the State of the Union Speech – #SOTU on Twitter. I embraced much of what President Obama said last night – particularly his statement about celebrating the winners of the Science Fair, as well as the winners of the Super Bowl.

I just did a quick search to confirm that the discussion is still chirping around the speech, and indeed, it is. There are tweets from Obama, the White House, elected officials, listeners from all over the world, news publications—and the list goes on. Communication and dialogue are the lifeblood of a healthy democracy, and I am heartened to see the banter.

The panel on Diane Rehm was discussing some of ostensibly incendiary tweets that flew during the actual speech. Rehm posited, “Should tweeting be banned during the State of the Union Speech?” I love Diane, but I truly believe she was showing her generational bias.   Conversation ensued that questioned the appropriateness of speaking out in real time. Hmm?  The question took me aback.  Rehm was concerned about the respect level of these Representatives (no matter where they were sitting) in deciding to “tweet the speech.”  Is tweeting during a speech disrespectful? Or is it actually the sincerest form of engagement?  It’s participation without yelling out disruptively, which the infamous elected official did not so long ago.

This is where the mobile rubber meets the road. It’s the clearest indication that new media is redefining the practice of communication from almost every perspective — not just the medium, not just the message, but the mores.  Just what is acceptable behavior? How must our behavior and associated social tolerance shift in conjunction with our morphing media modus operandi? Diane, I think this IS the new political dialogue.

Here’s the rub—our media revolution touches every aspect of our lives. If we are to reverently honor freedom of speech, shouldn’t we preserve the slightly  irreverent “freedom of tweet”? What do you think?

“The moment we are living right now, this generation, represents the largest increase in expressive capability in human history.” – Clay Shirky, NYU

2011: From “Oh, Wow!” to “So, How?”

Elaine Gantz Wright is a social media coach and consultant — providing the practical tools and action plans you need to survive and thrive in the brave new media world. She is a listener, writer, blogger, speaker, actor, and mom. Contact her ellagantz@sbcglobal.net

What have you always wanted to know about social media but were afraid to ask? Register for Breakfast and Blogs, a very social session with Elaine to find out. Start off your New Year with real social media sizzle.  Thurs., Jan 13  — 9:30 a.m.– 12:00 p.m., $10 at La Madeleine Preston Forest.

I’m really not sure how many people do this sort of thing, but I am actually going back to my predictions for 2010 – to compare them to what really happened.  It was as daunting and perplexing a task as I imagined. Especially since social media evolution is anything but linear. One thing we do know it that Google Wave never quite hit the beach.

My most significant memory from last year’s missive was actually my delight when Chris Brogan actually chimed in. Wow. Now that’s what I call social media He wrote:
I like and agree with the first four. I disagree with 5. Email is still the main protocol of the Internet age. I *wish* it were different, but definitely not in 2010. Great post.”

My number #5 was: “Email as We Know it Will Become Passé.”
So, I guess we’ll begin with the end – #5. Well, as Chris Brogan said, email did not go away in 2010. But, I venture to add this was probably just slightly premature. With Facebook’s Messaging Hub beginning to bubble up and mobile technology/SMS infiltrating our lives in terms of behavior, I think we are looking at more of an email mutation than elimination.  When Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg made her prediction that email is “probably going away” at the Nielsen Consumer 360, many balked, but her point about teenagers is well-taken. Stats she cited indicate that only 11% of teens email daily, and as we know, teenagers are really “the beta testers” for future techno-media trends. In fact, I have my own focus group right here in my own home. My 18-year-old would rather text than talk. He has Facebook up on his laptop whenever it’s turned on, sends very few emails and never uses the speaking function on the phone. My 14-year-old son is really text only. Good thing I have unlimited texting, or I we would be under a bridge somewhere. He never opens up email or even Facebook. Should Mark be worried? Hmm. We’ll just wait and see.

The most interesting shift between late 2009 and late 2010 is that the questions people are asking have changed dramatically. People don’t seem to be asking, “Hey, what’s the next big thing?” “What’s the next Twitter?” It’s more about implementation and impact – “What’s the most effective platform for my business?” “How do I integrate this into my daily operations?” “Where’s the best ROI?”  It’s no longer “oh wow!” It’s “so, how?” Social media tools and behaviors are now a given, our modus operandi. We just need to figure out how to do it. The old advertising model of trading money for attention is the anachronism. The new formula is trading time (even  energy) for attention. The activity is just as important as the message.

“Social Media Will Become Less Social.”hmm
I’d still like my term – “return on engagement.” It’s more active, deliberate and participatory. However, I think our trajectory has been very different from what I expected — largely due to the meteoric growth of Facebook. Engagement is now defined by the quality of the experience itself, rather than some tangible outcome. The value I spoke of last year was a slippery concept, because “value” can now be defined in brave, new terms, as well. Who knew Farmville and Mafia Wars would become the new American pastimes? Who could have predicted you can actually buy Facebook points in the grocery store? And the metric that “one-third of women 18-34 check Facebook when they first wake up in the morning,” according to an Oxygen Media study?

“More Enterprise Social Software Platforms Will Emerge”oops
Enterprise platforms continue to exist, but boy was I wrong on this one. I did not see the mobile app locomotive, powered by Apple, flying down the track. I think the branded in-house community concept has quite literally jumped the rails. And, to think, I was once so on board with that idea.   Simply, there is an app for that – in fact, what many signify as the emergence of Web 3.0 – targeted, segmented, defined and delivered to the user on demand. So, interesting how things can change in a year. Still, we may be moving in this direction yet.  Fast Society, a new iPhone app, allows the user to create small groups to text with on the fly, and the groups last for three days. Facebook is also providing ways to communicate with smaller networks. Facebook’s new Groups Feature allows segments friends into personal, professional and interest-based communities to better manage privacy. Watch for more of these smaller, closed networks to launch in 2011 as people seek deeper connections online.

“Social Media (Engagement Media) Will Become More Integrated”bingo
I think I get the winning buzzer for this one. Organizations of all sizes are embracing the value of fully integrated multi-channel strategies. Using social media channels alone for marketing, customer service or fundraising will not be as effective as designing coordinated campaigns and communication strategies that include traditional communication techniques. This includes email, website, online ads, SEO, face-to-face interactions, print advertising, social media platforms, blogs, events, and managed promotion to all media. This has become pivotal to social media success in general. Integrate and align with overall objectives. It’s a must.

“Relevance and Ease Will Become Increasingly Important”yep
There is no more compelling spokesperson for an enterprise or organization a passionate customer, employee, or supporter. This is the core strength of word-of-mouth advertising and peer-to-peer fundraising. And there is a range of scenarios—from a class agent soliciting annual fund gifts for his or her school, to a customer making a recommendation for a new restaurant on YELP! The brand voice is now filtered through the customer in his or her own geographic and psycho-graphic universe.

As we look to 2011, we can’t deny or ignore the brand power of Facebook “likes,” which will become the core advertising and promotional objective for many businesses on Facebook. “Like” strategies will become increasingly sophisticated and integrated into the overall marketing strategy.  For instance, instead of doing A/B testing between two photos to see which generates more Facebook “Likes,” the savvier brands and agencies will be leveraging technology that can simultaneously deploy 10,000+ ad variations to yield the lowest CPA (cost per acquisition) of those “Likes.” The art and the science.

Finally, there’s mobile and SMS. The app has arrived and has consolidated the expansiveness, chaos and clutter of the worldwide web to the simplicity and focus of a tiny button the size of a stamp that fits in the palm of your hand.  . . . Oh, wow!

What are your predictions for 2011, infinity . . .and beyond?