All posts in “Social Media Fundamentals”

Introducing the Social Media RFP v2.0 / RFP "Bill of Rights"

In January 2010 Social Media Group released the original Social Media Request for Proposal (SMRFP) template to help organizations select providers of social media professional services. This template was covered extensively in the media and widely adopted: in early January, 2010, searches for “social media RFP” generated fewer than two pages of results, whereas in December 2010 this search returned over 300,000 links.

Many of our peers and colleagues have encountered the template, and their feedback has been fairly consistent: while valuable, the Social Media RFP template is too long, has too many questions, and many clients and purchasing departments are simply cutting and pasting the content with little or no thought about their actual needs. In other words, the Social Media RFP has in some ways become more of a hindrance than a help (SMG has also experienced this firsthand).

So, it’s time for a revision (available for free download here). We’ve also added an RFP “Bill of Rights” which is intended to encourage fairness, acknowledge the investment on the part of respondents and foster the mutual respect that should be observed in all business relationships. We’d love to hear what you think about v2.0!

RFP Bill of Rights
I will not issue an RFP “Cattle Call”. Issuing an RFP to more than six or seven agencies is overkill. Instead, identify agencies you would like to work with and be selective in whom you invite to respond. Fifteen or 20 responses are too many to be able to truly judge relative merit, and it’s wrong to ask agencies who are not a good fit to waste valuable resources on an RFP they are unlikely to win.

I will be thoughtful. This and other RFP templates are intended to provide guidance, but don’t simply cut and paste the contents. Think about what you actually need and edit accordingly. Information overload will only winnow out quality agencies that are too busy to wade through all the unnecessary details.

I will do my own homework. Asking agencies to identify their own competition is only going to get you two things: a list of second-tier competitors that is of dubious value and respondents annoyed that you essentially asked them to undermine their own competitive advantage. A thorough briefing on your needs at some point during the process is also essential for success (ever heard the phrase “garbage in, garbage out”?). Spend the time.

I will be flexible. Yes, we know you have a timeline. We also know (even though you might not) that it is going to slip. Don’t ask vendors to meet your timelines or else. There are significant cost savings in being able to book flights in advance (and you want an agency that keeps an eye on the pennies, right?). Give respondents at least a week’s notice and be flexible in your dates.

I will keep you updated. Nothing is worse than the “black hole”. A response is prepared at great effort, submitted and… crickets. Let respondents know that their RFP has been received, and what the next steps are. When the dates slip, let them know that, too. They put a lot into their submission – show them the respect that this effort deserves.

I will give you feedback. You can’t win ‘em all – any agency team who responds to RFPs knows this well. What they don’t know (magic crystal balls being in short supply) is why they didn’t make it to the next round or win the brass ring. Acknowledging vendors’ efforts and letting them know why their response didn’t meet your needs helps them improve, and is more than a fair trade for the cost and effort invested on their part. It also ensures good feelings – you never know what your needs might be next; maintaining good vendor relationships is good business.

We’d love YOUR feedback on this latest round (please leave us a comment), and big thanks to everyone who provided us with their thoughts on the first version, especially Jake McKee of Ant’s Eye View!

Online Privacy: You're Doing it Wrong

Today I delivered a keynote at Defrag 2010, one of the best and most interesting conferences I am lucky enough to be able to attend (their tagline is “accelerating the a-ha moment”). I was pretty anxious about this presentation because it was in the “big room”, in front of all attendees, and they’re a smart, demanding crowd.

This year I decided to talk about privacy, and the fact that we think about it all wrong. My presentation was titled, “Privacy is a Commodity, Not a Place”. The basic premise is this: privacy laws in the U.S. are based on the 4th Amendment, which guarantees “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures”. Note the language: it’s all about physical space. The Internet has dramatically changed that, and made the physical space analogy quite inaccurate. Finally, I examined what the real value of your private data is in the real world, and who wants it most.

Here’s the deck. Let me know what you think about your privacy and what it means online:

Foursquare: Shiny Object or Mainstream?

Over the weekend, Foursquare scored a major coup via a new partnership with American Eagle: they got their name and logo plastered all over Times Square. The first story I saw on the subject was on Mashable, where blogger Samuel Axon noted,

“It seems like just a short time ago that these location services were only used by a few hardcore web tech geeks. Now they’re so mainstream that they’re taking up a chunk of the New York skyline.”

Um. No.

Foursquare has just over three million users and you need a smartphone to use it. It is far, far from “mainstream”. And the article in Mashable feels like something I’ve been seeing a lot of lately – mistaking a brand using a niche and emerging web service (the “shiny object” in the title of this post) as a way of positioning themselves as cool and hep, for some sort of validation of something as “mainstream”.

From where I sit, Foursquare and other location-based applications will be mainstream when they have 500 million users globally. Even Twitter, with 87% of American consumers aware of it but only 7% using it, is not mainstream (see: Facebook, Google).

Facebook: All Your Eyeballs Are Belong To Us!

Remember how we told you it was time to stop building microsites, think like a broadcaster and build channel? Well, big brands have been doing that very successfully. In fact, according to this article in AdAge, in many cases branded sites are being completely eclipsed by “owned” social media:

“Coca-Cola, with its 10.7 million Facebook fans, has three to four times… [the number of] Foursquare registered users. (There are at least 11 brands whose Facebook fan pages have quietly grown bigger than the biggest geo-location providers.) That certainly trumps U.S. unique visitors to Coke’s brand website, which fell by more than 40% to 242,000 in July compared to a year ago, per Compete.”

Of course the only problem is those eyeballs are not portable. They effectively belong to Facebook, no matter that Coke and others have spent millions in media dollars on the platform to drive membership (as they do to drive traffic to their branded sites) and the fact that those people have opted into membership on their brand page.

This of course leads to a very interesting concentration both in terms of audience (Facebook owns it) and media dollars (Facebook gets an increasing share since they deliver it to the right people – and measure the results). Pretty much a win-win for Facebook… but something that brands, accustomed to simply signing cheques, rather than helping shape the advertising platforms they’re using, need to start thinking about very seriously.

The article goes on to point out that Facebook is essentially morphing into a CRM solution – a “big list broker like Experian” – except that they are free. Of course the irony is that brands are subsidizing this new facet of the site, and if Facebook decides to change their revenue model, they could also end up paying for what they helped build.

Trying to fit Foursquare into a round hole

photo courtesy of http://www.flickr.com/photos/99935686@N00/

Catching up on some reading this weekend, I consumed this article from AdWeek with interest. It was essentially a litany of agency bitching that location-based service Foursquare didn’t have the tools, manpower or know-how to cater to their needs.

“They’re not responsive and extremely hard to work with,” said a digital agency exec who asked not to be named. “It’s hard to bring campaigns to life. Nobody knows how to create a badge or ask [Foursquare how] to enable behavior. It’s black magic.” In general, he said, “it’s pretty much unworkable.”

Guess what, folks? Foursquare is a startup, not CNN, and they are figuring out their ad model in this emerging space in realtime. That’s called “innovation”, and in a nutshell? It’s not them – it’s YOU.

Agencies are accustomed to working a certain way (especially when it comes to media buying), and when you deviate from that, it does not compute. Emerging platforms like Twitter and Foursquare are opening their doors to advertisers, but one of the biggest issues is that many client agencies simply are not flexible enough nor do they have the expertise to do it right. They revert to their comfort zone, which results in below-average performance and all kinds of friction around actually getting the work underway. Just ask Digg and Twitter; we’ve seen it there firsthand.

So what’s the answer? It’s all in the right approach and attitude. Imagine this – as a participant in closed betas and other first-of-their-kind opportunities in the paid social space, advertisers often have the chance to co-create by providing meaningful feedback. The rewards of participating well can be significant (we’ve seen results of between ten and 40x that of “traditional” display advertising with our clients, never mind the value of the business intelligence gathered). In other words, you don’t just write cheques, you get to help influence direction in order to generate maximum value. I’m not sure where else an advertiser would have the chance to partner, learn and get a significant competitive advantage in quite the same way.

However, the catch is that if your agency isn’t adaptable or able to help you keep pace with innovation (and likes to prove it by bitching in print) you might have a problem.

[photo courtesy of Kathleen Leavitt]