Blog in the Air after Boğaziçi

To [mis]quote one of my all-time favorite bands, Pink Floyd:

Blog
Blog in the air
Don’t be afraid to care.

Yes, I’m blogging in the air. Turkish Airlines has a great new wifi service on some of their flights, and I am currently flying back to Toronto from Istanbul, Turkey on flight 0017. Right now I am over the Atlantic Ocean, somewhere south of Godthab, Greenland (do you love those inflight map monitors as much as I do?). The Turkish Airlines login page says something like “we are temporarily offering this new service free to customers.” Temporarily free. Which is sort of like offering crack in the schoolyard as “temporarily free.”

When you accept the terms of service they make you explicitly swear you will not use voice over IP protocols, so forget your dreams of Skype calling from the air. Ain’t gonna happen, it seems. Smoking, and VoIP—the two last frontiers of no-nos in the air. And surprising the Captain with a little hello visit. And, so I hear, using the bathroom to (re)assert your membership in the Mile High Club still tends to be frowned upon as well. So four no-nos in all.

Remember when long air flights were a chance to relax, or read a book? Not any more. Now you can return email and catch up on work instead. Of my entire row of 8 people, 7 of us are currently sitting with iPads and open laptops, clearly online. Wifi is provided in an alliance with T-mobile, so I’d expect this is going to be very commonplace on most flights soon.

Kozinets at Bogazici University IstanbulA couple of words might be in order about my presentation yesterday at the beautiful and historic Boğaziçi University in Istanbul (it is pronounced “bo-oz-uh-ji”). It was in a beautiful, wood-lined, seriously academic room with some very important executives from some of Turkey’s top businesses, retailers, agencies, HR firms, and other companies, as well as PhD, Master’s and undergrad students.

I presented an entirely new talk about social media, technology use, and the directions companies must follow. The room was a beautiful old room, and the hosting by  Boğaziçi U’s Dean, Aysegul Toker, a social media and mobile scholar who published a terrific book along with professors Kaan Varnali and Cengiz Yilmaz, was immaculate and eminently Turkish (in case you didn’t know it, Turkish people are world famous for their hospitality and warmth—and yes, I am biased).

Mobile Marketing bookI recommend their book—Mobile Marketing: Fundamentals and Strategy– as a very interesting, empirically-based and thorough scientific look not only at the Turkish mobile market, but also as at how mobile is permeating all sorts of new markets and raising fascinating strategic management and marketing issues. This is one of the most important frontiers of the marketing world, and this book contributes much-needed knowledge and know-how to our understanding. And yes, just in case you were wondering, social media and mobile marketing Professor Kaan Varnali himself was present at my presentation!

My own presentation used some concepts from recent analyses of “Arab Spring” to introduce and develop five new trends to explain where businesses need to go in their use of the Internet and technology. To give you a bit of the flavor of the talk, I opened it up by asking the audience how many of them believe that social media is currently in a “bubble” phase, with a lot of overblown hype about how they need to be out there investing their dollars in social media marketing campaigns.

What do you think? I would like to hear your opinions. And I will be happy to share some of my own thinking and to continue developing my ideas through this blog and in my other social media communications.

Hmmmm. Now the baby behind me is screaming its head off. This actually is not my office after all. Well, at least it’s not like the last flight back from Istanbul, where I was seated next to a guy who was having a 10-hour long gas attack. But this is definitely verging on sonic warfare.

Stay tuned. Everything in the world of social media marketing right now is, like me, up. And up in the air.

Making Triangles: Marketing Positioning for the Social Media Age

ValknutA lot has changed about marketing  in the last decade. And therefore a lot has changed about marketing strategy in the last decade.

But our theories of  marketing strategy have stayed strangely the same.

I have been waiting for a reasonable solution the these challenges for over a decade. And while I have been waiting, I have also been working on a solution of my own.

I have cobbled together what I consider to be the best of existing theory and thinking, and tested it through MBA classrooms around the world with some of the best students in the world. And now I have tried to unify it into one theory, a theory that balances accuracy with elegance to try to answer the following question:

How Should We Analyze Marketing Positioning in this New, Complex, and Multifaceted Age of Many Media (traditional, new, and social)?

The Answer, It Turns out, Is In The Interlacing Tri-Triangular Shape of an Ancient Norse Symbol: The Valknut.

Personal Brands and the Next Thing in Social Media Marketing

In January I started my MBA class in social media marketing and management at the Schulich School of Business and it really feels great to be teaching again. If you’re interested in the class, you can join our open to the public Facebook page, which is simply titled Social Media Marketing.

In today’s class we had an interesting discussion about positioning your personal brand. Of course, because it’s a social media marketing class filled with aspiring marketers, a number of people in the class were considering positioning themselves as social media experts (no, I don’t mean social media”gurus”, eek). So whatever the category they were interested in, whether it was a category manager, a brand manager, sales manager, advertising account manager, or even a financial professional, they were thinking about using “social media savvy” something like that as their point of difference that help them to stand out from the crowd in a way that would help them to be noticed and found relevant.

As we were discussing this topical an important point difference in class, it dawned on me that social media marketer as a descriptive term is becoming increasingly less unique and therefore less meaningful.

Gather round, children, for a tale from the origins of Web Age.

You see, when I began researching in this area, I was known as “an Internet guy.” Then I was a “virtual community guy.” And then “online community guy.” Then I was a blogging guy. And all the time, I guess I was a netnography guy. In the last few years, I’ve obviously been a social media guy.

And I guess that’s at the crux of my problem with all this. Because in the example that I gave to the class, I positioned myself as a social media marketing professor, and my point of difference was social media marketing expertise. However, when I think about it, that’s now a much more crowded space than it was a decade ago. And it’s getting more crowded all the time.

I think we are already at the stage, then, where social media and social media marketing are fragmenting into various specialties and subspecialties. First you could be an Internet person, then a Web person, a browser person, a new media person, a social media person, and so on.What will be the next phase of social media? Being a web analytics person. A community management person? A brand community designer? And online research community specialist. A co-creation and User-Generated Media specialist. A PR response person. A transmedia brand narrative storytelling specialist.

In other words, just as “Internet marketer” is a meaningless term because the Internet has become so diverse and complex, exactly the same thing is happening to social media. And that means that each day “social media marketer” is becoming less ad less meaningful.

The takeaway for smart marketers and marketing students concerned about their personal brand? If you are interested in this space, get knowledgeable and get specific. Find a cutting edge area, get skilled in it, and lead.

That’s the way to brand yourself. With a point of difference that is actually different. And that matters. And that will make you matter.

And what do you really think you can deliver on anyways: being “the social media person” or the “online research community specialist”? If you think the former, especially because it sounds vaguer and thus easier, I think you have an even bigger lesson to learn.

My advice? Social media marketers–Go Forth and Specialize.

Netnography in Turkish

Last SummTurkish_Flager I traveled to Turkey and had the time of my life there. It is a beautiful country filled with wonderful people and I cannot say enough about the hospitality, intelligence, and culture of the Turkish people. And of course they are a people of exquisite taste…which is why they are obviously so interested in Netnography.

I have had a number of brilliant Turkish students and colleagues who have been eager early adopters of the netnographic method and are already making big contributions to our global understanding of social media and social media marketing. Before my travels there, a very kind academic translated one of my white papers about Netnography into the Turkish language. I present it in a link here for everyone in Turkey, to hopefully help to bring Netnography to Turkey in even greater and more accessible fashion. Thank you so much for the translation!  I really appreciate it. Here it is

The Return

Someone should do research on keeping up a blog. The ups and downs. The thrills and chills. The attention and neglect. Maybe there is already such research. I would be very interested to hear about it.

How life can sometimes get in the way of blogging. Darn that life thing. What nerve!

Well, I’m back and the blogging is easy. Tomorrow, my Social Media Marketing and Management class starts up again at Schulich for the Winter 2012 term. I am hoping to share lots of good material with all of you good people. My voice is back online. Let the fun continue….

We Don’t Need No Steenkin’ Social Media Gurus

social-media-guru_callout.pngA couple of days ago, as I wrote in my last blog posting, I spoke at a Social Media Day gathering in an interesting, concert-like downtown Queen West Toronto venue, to an interesting and varied crowd.

After I had left the stage and assumed a position within the audience, beer in hand, a woman began talking to me in the crowd. Lets call her Jennifer. Jennifer told me that she knew nothing about social media even a few weeks ago, but that her husband had bought her an iPad for their anniversary and now she was devoting all sorts of time to learning it. She had driven up from Niagara Fallsabout a 2-hour drivein order to see the Social Media Day event.

I want to become a social media guru, she said to me, with a big, winning, business-y smile.

Gotta tell ya, Jennifer. Thats just about the last thing the world needs. That, another horndog politician, and four bucks will get you a Starbucks latte.

love-guru.jpgosho_rajneesh_photo.jpgI keep hearing this term social media guru everywhere, usually in puffed-up self-proclamations (which my mom always taught me were faint praise, anyhow) as in Hi, Im George, and Im an alcoholic–and a Social Media guru.

Now, give me a big fat molten chocolate-covered break.

Yes, I know the word guru officially and originally meant “wise teacher? in Hindi. Even so, if you say you are a social media teacher, what are your designations, where is your accreditation, who certifies you to teach about it? It is supposed to mean one with great knowledge and/or wisdom, who uses that wisdom to teach and guide others on a spiritual path. What the heck does it mean to be a self-realized and Fully Ascended Social Media Master, anyways? Is there supposed to be something Intensely Spiritual about the Like Button?

And, here’s the gist. Doesn’t anyone using that honorific realize that, since the days of Bhagwan Shree Rhagneesh, EST, and the whole weird 1970s ESALEN California spirituality vibe thing, the use of the designation guru” in the West always contains with it more than a salt shakers worth of irony, as well a distinctly greenish tinge of worldly avarice lying just underneath spiritual rhetoric, and leading, almost inexorably, to fleets of Rolls Royces?

I mean, come on. Guru? Guru? Really? In the West? In 2011? Without irony?

social_media_experts_as_real_as_unicorns_tshirt-p235421643853038531q08p_400.jpgMe, I am a Ph.D who studied social media in my dissertation and a Full Professor now, and I have had a strong social media component to my classes since 1999. That’s twelves years ago, for those who are counting. I began teaching the first social media course in Canada, and one of the first in the world, in 2007, calling it Word of Mouth Marketing. I have developed multiple courses at undergraduate, graduate, and PhD levels to teach Social Media Marketing and Management. Those course outlines are being used by dozens of other professors around the world right now.

And I am definitely no “Social Media Guru.” No thanks.

I much prefer to be known as a Still-Learning Social Media Expert-in-Progress. Or a Social Media Researcher. Social Media Pioneer? I think I have probably earned that one. I have been researching and writing in this area since 1995, with multiple publications in top peer-reviewed scientific journals. That is legitimacy. I pioneered a social media research approach and method. I have consulted to industry on these matters since before there were blogs. I was one of the first researchers to clearly specify the importance of social media to marketing. I have been in this space for 16 years. Like the few true experts in this area, I can give specific examples of what I have accomplished, rather than writing yet another book with some trendy title that is also subtitled How Your Company Can Profit From Facebook and Twitter” and calling myself by some ridiculously inapplicable Indian honorific.

social_media_guru-f918bc5.jpgSo please forgive me for being more than a little ticked off at the gathering of Social Media Guruslike ants at the proverbial picnic. While this boom is still booming, they will keep swarming. And I feel entitled to spray a little Raid.

As far as I am concerned, if someone comes up and tells you they are a social media guru, they are telling you, essentially, that they have a Facebook and Twitter account, talk about it to their friends and family, and hope to one day cash in on their spiffy mailing list of 406 friends and 217 followers. Maybe they have even written one of the 968 popular business press books about social media you can find lying around the shelves of your local bookstore like old remaindered copies of The Celestine Prophesy or The Coming Stock Market Crash of 2003.

If they come up and tell you they are a Social Media Guru, here is what I think you should say to them. Because it is probably just as true. Dont ask them for their credentials (I will write more about some interested efforts at WOMMA, at Universities, and at NetBase soon to tap in this market need soon). Dont ask them what is new or original about their approach. Certainly dont ask them if they know more about social media itself, or about its application to real marketing or business strategy needs (that might really confuse them). No, you just look them right in the eye nice and steady and say:

“Wow. Me too.

Talking Netnography in Toronto

social media day 2011If you are in Toronto, and we haven’t met, here’s a last minute chance.

I will be talking tomorrow at the Social Media Day 2011 Mashup, as organized by Michael  Nussbacher.

I will be giving an introduction and overview of netnography. Some new stuff, mostly familiar stuff. It is intended for an audience unfamiliar with the virtues of cultural research using social media.

Here’s the link: http://www.meetup.com/Mashable/Toronto-CA/103816/

If you can make it, please introduce yourself. I enjoy meeting the readers of this blog, and thanking you in person for your support and readership.