Social Media Judo, a Must-Have for PRs

social media judoIn 2006 social media was just a buzz term, and many marketing strategies were doomed to fail, for the same reasons they still are. Since there are no universally accepted definitions of social media, consider Wikipedia’s take as a starting point: “web-based and mobile technologies to turn communication into interactive dialogue.” But beyond technologies, are the people who make this dialogue possible. As Social Media Judo puts it, these are people, not targets or tools, and they deserve to be treated as such. Any social media strategy that does not take them into consideration, or takes them for granted, will not only fail, but, potentially, turn into a PR disaster.

Social Media Judo, the essential guide to mastering social media and delivering real results for your brand (by Chris Aarons, Geoff Nelson and Nick White) relates such a disaster from the opening chapter. It’s a concrete example of good intentions gone bad, featuring two power players: Microsoft and Edelman PR.

In 2006, Edelman sent out 120 cryptic letters to A-list bloggers, in an attempt to generate good will for Windows VISTA. The letters were part of a campaign based on Ivy Worldwide’s marketing idea, to send the software to 128 influential online content producers. They put Vista on top-of-the-line PCs, including Acer’s highend Ferrari notebooks, then send the PCs out to the influencers.

The problems followed when some of the bloggers who received the PCs haven’t received any letters from Edelman explaining the intent, but then, with or without the letters, the top of the cherry came from Robert Scoble, who wrote: “Scott Beale reports he just received a free computer with Windows Vista loaded on it. Now THAT is my idea of Pay Per Post!” What happened next? Social Media Judo explains it briefly:

Within 24 hours, most major bloggers had taken a stand on the issue. Some accused others of a lack of transparency and of accepting payola. Others turned against Microsoft, accusing them of crass pay-per-post schemes. The major news outlets caught wind of the whole mess and started producing their own stories about it. It was now public, and everyone was provoking everyone else.

To examine how this ended for Microsoft now, is pointless. Years after the fact, VISTA is still a successful product, despite the initial controversy. But we can learn from the mistakes of the past, to improve the way we approach social media campaigns in the future. And this is what Social Media Judo is all about.

Times are changing, and old-fashioned strategies are no longer good enough to compete online. It’s not enough for a company to have social presence on Facebook, Twitter, and the like – it’s not enough to “build it.” But of course, we already know that. Social Media Judo shows how marketing professionals need to adopt a new philosophy and, above all, a fundamental shift in mindset that can’t be faked or halfhearted in its application.

Stop Pushing the Same Old PR Spin

The above, is one of the main ideas transpiring withing the first chapters of the Social Media Judo book. And I have to agree that, despite all the efforts of some of the great PRs of the decade (Defren, Solis, and the like), companies are still practicing a “in your face” approach, with no value for customers, no interaction with communities, and no customer service backing up their promises. The “build it and they will come” mentality is still alive and kicking, and it invades social media, with Facebook pages and Twitter profiles that do nothing but broadcasting. Everything has a purpose, indeed, but for most of the companies broadcasting is just not enough.

Social Media Judo presents a new approach to social media marketing, a strategy that involves the judo philosophy of minimum effort and maximum results:

When used properly, the judo effect enables influencers or bloggers to transparently and credibly sell your product in all the ways they want and need to do it for you to be successful. That’s the new reality of marketing via social media in the online and offline worlds.

It’s All About the Blogs

Yes, you got that right. At the heart of the Social Media Judo approach are the bloggers, considered by Ivy Worldwide still the most important social media influencers. Why? this chart from Omniture, featured on page 18 of the book. shows how they have become the epicenter of social media:

Omniture blog influence chart.

To prove the point, the book mentions a few influencers as well. Think Chris Pirillo, Andy Sernovitz, Scoble and many others. The main idea is to approach influencers as friends with a desire to help, instead of as targets.

The above is just a short summary of what awaits inside Social Media Judo. The book is complete with concrete, tangible examples on how the judo principle can be applied in marketing. And if you can go around the first impression, that the book is all about Ivy Marketing this, and Ivy Marketing that, there’s a lot of value in every page. The value comes from Ivy’s experience, and success: tested strategies that work, and can be applied by others as well. And more importantly, strategies that rely on dialogue, transparency, and authenticity.

When I got the book for review, I was skeptical. I receive many such requests, and I honor very few. It’s not because most are not valuable, but because they are repetitive, and too generic. If you are looking for concrete examples on how to apply social media strategies, Social Media Judo is a book I recommend wholeheartedly.

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