How to Suck Less at Your Personal Pitch

The number one thing people want to talk about is themselves. When you facilitate this, you’ll be remembered because they enjoyed the conversation. Just remember: A good question prompts people to tell a story about themselves, in turn creating a deeper connection.

i am uniqueWhen you meet someone for the first time, the question “What do you do?” inevitably makes its way to the conversation. I don’t know about you, but I am not a fan of this question. It is not a great question to ask, nor is it fun to answer.

Let’s explore some reasons for why this question is not so great. “What do you do?” implies you are asking what someone does for a living. This makes people define themselves by how they earn a paycheck. What if they are in transition? What if they hate their job?

So you can see how this simple and common question can quickly make someone uncomfortable. Plus, you are not really getting to know that person.

Here are some alternative questions to ask instead:

  1. If you won the lottery what would you do?
  2. What are you passionate about?
  3. What do you like to do?
  4. What is your favorite thing that you own?
  5. How do you spend your days?
  6. What are you most excited about right now?
  7. What are you working on?
  8. What are you most proud of?
  9. What’s the number one item on your bucket list?
  10. What gets you up in the morning?

The number one thing people want to talk about is themselves. When you facilitate this, you’ll be remembered because they enjoyed the conversation. Just remember: A good question prompts people to tell a story about themselves, in turn creating a deeper connection.

Now let’s examine some ways to answer “What do you do?” because you will undoubtedly get that question. Do you say, “I’m a marketing manager” or “I work for ACME Corporation”? My guess is 95 percent of you answer with something along those lines.

Don’t let your work define you. How would you answer that question if you are currently between jobs? You might feel a little deflated when someone asks you that, especially if you haven’t given much thought into what you should answer.

What if you designed a different way of answering that question? What if you told a story? For example, I might answer that question with, “Right now I am really excited to be launching a new product that will help marketers manage their personal brand in only two minutes a day.”

It’s not true, but if that sounded interesting to you, let me know, and I may just start working on that.

To start to tell your story, think about these three things:

  1. Who is your audience?
  2. How do you serve them or provide value?
  3. What results are achieved?

Building Brand Trust Through Trusted Advocates

Nothing builds trust like a third-party endorsement; especially an endorsement from someone the consumer knows and trusts. Brand advocates extend your brand to their personal networks, generating more inherent trust among prospects. Customer advocacy and brand advocacy programs are interchangeable terms describing when companies cultivate brand advocates in a dedicated effort.

customeradvocacyNothing builds trust like a third-party endorsement — especially an endorsement from someone the consumer knows and trusts. Brand advocates extend your brand to their personal networks, generating more inherent trust among prospects. Customer advocacy, or brand advocacy, occurs when companies cultivate brand advocates in a dedicated effort.

A customer advocacy program aims to build consumer trust by increasing the volume of trusted voices on behalf of the brand. Brand advocates are most likely to be your customers or employees, but they could also be analysts, partners, writers or others involved with your industry, category, company, or products and services.

While advocates can appear naturally and organically, a successful customer advocacy program requires the structure, funding, time and talent to find, recruit and nurture these valued relationships. The program must meet the needs of both new and long-time advocates, from various locations, across target populations, in different channels, with different motivations and different response triggers.

It may seem like a monumental amount of work, but it will be worth it. All evidence suggests that quality personal recommendations and objective reviews highly impact buying decisions. And the results are even more exaggerated in decisions regarding technology, high-ticket items and B-to-B.

As consumers become less reachable through traditional advertising methods, a customer advocacy strategy becomes a necessity. The crux of a consumer advocacy program is finding the right advocates to engage in strategic brand conversations. These advocates may have a lot of followers and influence, or they may serve a niche audience. Most importantly, you want them to have passion and knowledge of your subject area and relevant topics to assure credibility. These advocates are often found on social media, but can also be gleaned from customer email lists and other channels.

Dedicate social listening and other research efforts to look for those with digital influence, quality content and brand affinity. You want them to already have a platform that you can enhance with product trials or betas, special access to company leadership, partnership opportunities and special offers for their followers. But reward their brand participation only through a completely transparent relationship, so as to protect the your public integrity and trust.

A brand with a customer advocacy mindset thinks of their advocates as more than opportunistic sources of content, leads or sales. Smart brands cultivate customer advocates as precious resources that create credibility and positive sentiment, reaching into and influencing populations the brand can’t touch as effectively itself. If a brand is authentic and responsive to these advocates, the relationship can start dialogue that returns immediate value.

The brand derives value from customer advocacy in numerous ways, including:

  • Frank feedback from knowledgeable and objective resources.
  • Reviews and testimonials that ring honestly to broad audiences.
  • Increased referral rates.
  • Humanization of the organization or brand.
  • An empowered staff.
  • Personalization of the customer experience.
  • Development of third-party resources, knowledge bases and assets.
  • Increased positive brand sentiment.
  • Increased overall awareness, share-of-voice and influence in your industry.
  • Increased leads and sales.

Tracking the value of an advocacy program requires the same strategic approach as other marketing program analytics. Start by crafting a goal statement that outlines specific, quantifiable objectives and then benchmark the appropriate KPIs. Regularly track and report against goals to keep the program performance on target, and to understand the relative value of different advocates. Look for impacts on business outcomes, not just measures of activity, to draw a straight line between this critical effort and your strategic business goals.

It is likely that your program analytics will identify some assets and channels that have more activity than others. Share these great stories and numbers with your team to develop key insights about your audiences and inform content planning across the organization.

Many organizations are investing in some of the activities that define a customer advocacy program but have yet to combine the elements into a cohesive plan under dedicated leadership with appropriate goals and funding. Plant the seeds for a true customer advocacy program by following these few key rules for advocacy within your organization:

  1. Earn Trust: Brand trust is essential to advocacy success. Organizations or brands challenged by scandal or disappointed customers should reform their business practices before attempting to encourage word-of-mouth marketing.
  2. Show Empathy: Understanding and communicating an emotional brand message will resonate with audiences in a way that other messaging approaches cannot.
  3. Focus on Quality: You don’t need the biggest network of advocates — you need the most impactful.
  4. Think Long Term: You will need to dedicate resources and incorporate advocacy activity into strategic planning.

Want to know more about building an effective customer advocacy program? View our free, one-hour webinar on the topic with audience Q&A, available here until 3/2/2017.

Donald Trump’s Directive for Marketers and Copywriters

No matter what you think of your drunk uncle at Thanksgiving, a message he keeps repeating is one that successful direct marketer’s heed: To succeed in selling, you have to make great deals. More importantly: You must close them. If there is a component of marketing that often seems missing these days, in a sea of marketing messages pummeling consumers at every turn, it’s this: Deals aren’t always clearly offered, and when they are, there is often a failure to close.

No matter what you think of your drunk uncle at Thanksgiving, a message he keeps repeating is one that successful direct marketer’s heed: To succeed in selling, you have to make great deals. More importantly: You must close them. If there is a component of marketing that often seems missing these days, in a sea of marketing messages pummeling consumers at every turn, it’s this: Deals aren’t always clearly offered, and when they are, there is often a failure to close.

Direct marketers know that to survive in business, you have to close. When someone is looking at your direct mail, email, landing page, or other channels, and you don’t close the deal on the spot, you’ve probably lost the sale forever.

Successful salespeople know that to get their commission check, they have to close on the spot, or the prospect will walk away possibly buying from a competitor.

So, why does so much marketing messaging fail to close?

A few observations:

  • Scarcity of big and bold ideas
  • Emotion missing or misdirected
  • Lack of persuasion
  • Failure to offer proof and credibility
  • No engagement with storytelling
  • Focusing too much on logic when emotion usually prevails
  • Products or services not positioned as usual or unique
  • No urgency
  • Failure to anticipate and leverage a message of how the buyer will feel when accepting your deal

Instead, people are assaulted with triteness. Marketers blast away with the usual “Buy Now!” “Act Now!” or “But Wait…” and too often, they fail to sell before asking for, and closing the deal.

Clearly, in some channels you wouldn’t ask for the order and attempt to close the deal all in the initial contact. In those channels, you may be building trust and credibility, such as in mass media brand advertising or content marketing in social media.

But after expending so much time and money to build trust and credibility in mass media, content marketing or social media, if there isn’t a plan to migrate the prospective customer to another channel where the opportunity to close is greater, it’s a lost opportunity.

That’s where direct mail and opt-in email can be highly effective, using physical space, or square inches in print, and the opt-in nature of email, to effectively persuade with the right copy and close the deal. Here are a few pointers:

  • When using direct mail, include a strong order device — even if a majority of orders come in electronically. These days, an order device is often missing in the interest of cutting production cost. But what too many marketers fail to see is that a printed order device is your closing piece.
  • Push — and possibly incent — the customer to close the deal online if you’re using direct mail. For email, a link to a landing page is expected. Take advantage of the opportunity to upsell or cross-sell other products.
  • State why the customer benefits by picking up a phone to interact with a live salesperson. This is important for older age individuals, or products whose sales process are more involved.
  • Motivate your prospect to go to a retail store to touch and see the product, and interact in person with a salesperson. When you do that, include mechanisms to help measure the impact on the direct mail and email campaign.

Closing a deal is tough — perhaps more so now that ever.

With so many marketing messages around you, you have to get attention. That’s part of the art of the making the deal. Prospective customers will work hard to ignore your deal. So these days, you have to work harder to close your deal.

P.S. Last week I experimented with Periscope and presented a live preview of this blog post. If you’re not familiar with Periscope, I recommend you look into it. Recordings only reside on Periscope for 24 hours, but we grabbed the recording so you could watch it. Here’s the result:

Trolling the Internet With a ‘Dislike’ Button

As a public relations professional, I suppose I should be happy that Facebook is going to soon enable “dislikes” as much as “likes” — giving its account holders the capacity to rip on photos, posts, pages and other assets to which they wish to convey a negative sentiment quickly.

As a public relations professional, I suppose I should be happy that Facebook is going to soon enable “dislikes” as much as “likes” — giving its account holders the capacity to rip on photos, posts, pages and other assets to which they wish to convey a negative sentiment quickly. Such venting apparently is in demand, Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg reported.

Helping brands keep likes more numerous than dislikes can require lots of public relations help. And where dislikes far outnumber likes, so the more. However, the best public relations may only help temporarily for any product or service that’s not up to par — you have to fix the product or service first.

To me, it’s concerning that the Facebook platform — a mostly “nice corner” of an otherwise diatribe-filled Internet — may go the way of sports, political and news site bulletin boards, where public comment sections always seemed to be polluted by bullies, trolls and hatemongers. It’s not as if trolls can’t already post “hater” messages now on Facebook. But don’t we have enough online garbage without Facebook further facilitating the frothy fray? Perhaps Facebook well knows that dislikes count the same as likes — so by enabling dislikes, they’ll be getting a whole bunch of engagement they’re otherwise missing out on.

Turn to marketing: By reducing any branded or non-branded digital post to a real-time popularity contest (likes v. dislikes), how do we inform the consumer marketplace in a constructive way? We probably don’t. I foresee “dislike bots” driving up the thumbs-down tally by anyone with a bone to pick. At least with the solo presence of the “like” button, Facebook users lend someone or some brand a tiny bit of affection. I believe the world could use of little more positive encouragement — we have enough of the other kind.

Thankfully, Facebook is not abandoning the like button. I just hope the trolls don’t get the upper hand, and do unnecessary damage.

Better yet, instead of sending me a simple like or dislike, choose from any number of emoticons. If feedback needs to be easy and icon-driven, then I’d rather have a full set of offered emotions to choose from, then just a thumb pointed one way or another.

Mobile’s Impact on the Consumer Path to Purchase

One in three ad dollars will go to digital advertising next year, meaning digital media spending will be almost equal to television spending. Digital strategies will help drive the U.S. advertising market to $172 billion in 2015, according to new research from Magna Global. This—in combination with mobile and social networking—will push digital to the forefront

One in three ad dollars will go to digital advertising next year, meaning digital media spending will be almost equal to television spending. Digital strategies will help drive the U.S. advertising market to $172 billion in 2015, according to new research from Magna Global. Additional research shows that digital advertising will overtake television advertising by 2017, due in large part to the growing popularity of online video, with sites like YouTube and Netflix. This—in combination with mobile and social networking—will push digital to the forefront.

A digital strategy is no longer a nice-to-have, but a must-have for retailers and brands. If you don’t believe that, then you need to take a hard look at the following data points:

  • Mobile devices lead to in-store purchases. 52 percent of U.S. shoppers have used a mobile device to research products while browsing in a store.
  • Tablets are the cornerstone of online shopping. Tablets are expected to bring in $76 billion in online sales, two times that of mobile devices.
  • Digital content and mobile devices go hand in hand. According to eMarketer, U.S. adults will spend 23 percent of their time consuming media on a mobile device this year.
  • Mobile advertising is at its tipping point. Ad spend is expected to hit $31.45 billion this year. By 2018, it will top $94 billion.

How Do You Get There From Here?
Effective digital strategies take a cross-channel approach that integrates the various mobile channels, such as SMS, app, Web and social.

Value comes behind the scenes, as brands can learn useful information from mobile interactions. For example, customers reveal their operating system when they download an app or open their Web browser. Smart marketers collate such data points into one centralized customer profile—an ideal asset to maximize personalization for mobile.

Companies just getting started with cross-channel mobile marketing should focus on small wins. True cross-channel takes time and iteration, so commit to integrating what makes sense in the short, medium and long terms instead of trying to do everything simultaneously. Below you will find some key areas to consider when building out a mobile strategy:

1. Tablets, Smartphones and Watches, Oh My!
It will be vital for brands to take different form factors into account as they roll out their mobile campaigns. Mobile campaigns can quickly be compromised if brands don’t think about the impact on visuals and the call to action across various screen sizes.

2. The Mobile Marketing Tipping Point
Mobile marketing is evolving as more than just a tactic and is being embraced as a core part of the marketing strategy. With the goals being relatively the same as traditional marketing, marketers will be able to attract, engage and retain new and existing customers. Marketers will be able to target their audiences through highly relevant content based on location, interests and interactions throughout the mobile lifecycle.

3. Deliver a Seamless Experience From Discovery to Purchase
Brands have to make a conscious effort to remove the silos across organizations to be successful at mobile marketing. The goal of marketers should be to collaborate across initiatives by taking in to account different screen sizes, channels, design and messages to deliver ONE consistent experience to consumers.

4. Connecting the Dots Across all of the Consumer Lifecycle
As digital becomes a more integral part of the marketing strategy it will be vitally important to understand how mobile campaigns are performing across the entire customer lifecycle—including mobile ads and messaging, QR Codes, mobile website, branded apps and social media. With these insights, marketers will be able to optimize their campaigns to better understand the triggers that lead consumers down the path-to-purchase.

People everywhere are becoming more reliant on mobile devices and mobile websites to provide them with instant access to product information, deals and the opportunity to purchase in an easy, straightforward manner. Brands have to make it easy for their customers to navigate mobile sites and quickly decide to purchase, regardless of what device they are on.

Zeroing in on Your Consumers With Geo-Marketing

Mobile geo-marketing is growing at a rapid rate. This growth is driven by applications such as navigation, local search and social networking, as well as the public’s understanding of location-based marketing. With the increasing comfort level of sharing location data, brands are turning to location-based marketing to tap into consumers’ behavior to deliver more timely, personalized mobile experiences

Mobile geo-marketing is growing at a rapid rate. This growth is driven by applications such as navigation, local search and social networking, as well as the public’s understanding of location-based marketing. With the increasing comfort level of sharing location data, brands are turning to location-based marketing to tap into consumers’ behavior to deliver more timely, personalized mobile experiences.

Geo-marketing comes in a variety of flavors that utilize different technologies depending on how you are communicating with your consumers:

  • Geo-Fencing: This method is essentially a “virtual fence” designed to enclose a specific area for a marketing purpose. For example, a retailer can run a geo-fencing campaign where they “fence” in an area around their stores for the purpose of pulling in consumers who are near, but not shopping at their stores. Geo-fencing is not location detection in itself, but the geo-fences you setup—and the business rules you define as to what message to communicate to consumers when they are inside, or outside, those geo-fences—can be leveraged in conjunction with location detection capabilities.
  • Broad-Range Location: Some campaigns can leverage general area, such as city or ZIP code, to determine the right message to communicate. For example, an airline simply needs to know the metro area a consumer is closest to in order to personalize offers for flights out of the nearest airport. Location detection in this case does not need to be highly accurate to get the job done, and can generally be supported through most any mobile interaction.
  • Geo-Conquesting: This specific method of geo-targeting allows businesses to capture consumer spend away from competitors. The effectiveness of these campaigns can be further enhanced if the technology partner you are working with can layer on additional data that helps to understand the consumer better, such as third party sources that identify likelihood to purchase certain types of product.

For this article, let’s focus on geo-fencing. What you need to know is that geo-fencing simply needs to be paired up with a location detection technology, such as GPS or carrier network triangulation. Once detected to be inside a geo-fenced area, a brand can then alert potential customers who may not have visited your store otherwise. Retailers can also choose to send information, such as directions to the store, or run hyper-local promotions.

Retailer Takes Geo-Fencing to the Next Level
Belk, the nation’s largest family owned and operated department store, has added geo-fencing to drive in-store traffic and increase revenue across all of their stores by selecting very specific times, like major holidays (Easter and Mother’s Day) or sales (Belk Days) to geo-target customers with time sensitive coupons. For example, coupons for 20 percent off between the hours of 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. were sent out to customers who were near a Belk store to act now before the coupon expires. By offering relevant, time-based coupons, Belk has been able to grow their mobile marketing database and target real customers more effectively.

More Data, No Problems
Today, GPS, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth-enabled smartphones are capable of aggregating and sharing huge amounts of data. This data is very helpful for marketers to get a better understanding of their consumers’ behavior and target them in a more relevant manner.

Geo-Fenced data can then be used to see which offers and locations actually attract more customers, and whether that translates into more sales. Other possible metrics include the effectiveness of advertising, how often a customer visits the store, and how long they shop for. Additionally, geo-fencing can lead to better customer rewards programs. Once you know where your customers are and how they behave, you can encourage and reward them effortlessly.

Geo-fencing gives the customer a much more personalized interaction with brands by offering them timely, relevant offers via their mobile devices. 

Although privacy has been a concern in the past, recent surveys show that customers are happy to trade their personal information in favor of receiving special offers —but it needs to be additive, not intrusive. If it’s done right geo-fencing will revolutionize location-based sales and drive customer loyalty.

3 Ways to Use the Spell of FOMO in Copywriting

FOMO: The “Fear of Missing Out.” Perhaps you’ve heard of it. Perhaps this particular fear describes you or someone you know. FOMO is a phenomenon reported by 56 percent of social media users, and it even has its own hashtag. This particular fear isn’t just of missing out on social media posts, it extends to checking email, phone calls and more. More importantly to direct marketers, the driving emotion of the FOMO is powerful and when properly used

FOMO: The “Fear of Missing Out.” Perhaps you’ve heard of it. Perhaps this particular fear describes you or someone you know. FOMO is a phenomenon reported by 56 percent of social media users, and it even has its own hashtag. This particular fear isn’t just of missing out on social media posts, it extends to checking email, phone calls, and more. More importantly to direct marketers, the driving emotion of the FOMO is powerful and when properly used, you can write copy and create messaging to leverage this basic human fear.

The term FOMO was added to the Oxford English Dictionary in 2013. The acronym may be new, but classically trained direct mail copywriters have recognized the power of the fear of missing out for generations. We can use it in our copy to effectively sell because of how our brains are wired.

With mobile technology today, it is genuinely possible to become addicted to social networks because of the fear of missing out. It’s now effortless to compare and evaluate our own lives against that of our friends.

A survey last year of social media users by MyLife.com and reported by Mashable suggests:

  • 51 percent visit or log on to social networking sites more frequently now than two years earlier.
  • The average person manages 3.1 email addresses (up from 2.6 a year earlier).
  • 27 percent check their social networks as soon as they wake up.
  • 42 percent have multiple social networking accounts (61 percent for those age 18 to 34).
  • 56 percent are afraid of missing something such as an event, news or an important status update if they don’t keep an eye on social networks.

These stats suggest you’re more likely than not to be in the spell of FOMO.

But the reality is this: We’re all wired to have basic fear. And without taking inappropriate advantage of your prospective customers, there are ways you can appeal to this part of the brain—the amygdala—with messaging to make your sales programs more effective. Here are three uses with FOMO in mind as you write copy and create message positioning:

  • First to Know: If you fear missing out, you must surely want to be the first to know of an important development, new product or news. And, when you’re first to know, you’re most eager to tell others you’re first to know, and pass it along (to your benefit).
  • Inside Story: People like to have the inside scoop combined with effective storytelling. Combine the concepts of revealing your inside story with a unique selling proposition, or positioning, and the sum is greater than its parts.
  • Limited Time: When there is a limited time a product is available, it intensifies desire to acquire it now. The challenge today, however, is that it’s easy for customers to check out competition and discover that limited time appeal has its limits.

These uses also create urgency in your copy. Writing copy and messaging based on this intense human primal fear will drive higher response. There can be no question that the spell of FOMO is real and a part of your customer’s minds.

Melissa Campanelli’s The View From Here: What Marketers Can Learn From Divorce Attorneys

This week, I learned an interesting statistic about social networks: Eighty-one percent of the nation’s top divorce attorneys have seen an increase in the number of cases using social networking evidence during the past five years, according to a survey published earlier this year by the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers. What’s more, Facebook holds the distinction of being the unrivaled leader for online divorce evidence, with 66 percent citing it as the primary source, according to the survey.

This week, I learned an interesting statistic about social networks: Eighty-one percent of the nation’s top divorce attorneys have seen an increase in the number of cases using social networking evidence during the past five years, according to a survey published earlier this year by the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers. What’s more, Facebook holds the distinction of being the unrivaled leader for online divorce evidence, with 66 percent citing it as the primary source, according to the survey.

The main reason divorce attorneys use social networks is to track any possible contradictions to previously made statements and promises by estranged spouses. Apparently, it’s relatively easy for lawyers to gather this information, at least according to a June 1 article on CNN.com.

“It’s becoming all but impossible to protect your information, unless you spend hours and hours figuring it out,” said Lee Rosen, a divorce attorney in North Carolina, in the CNN.com article.

To be fair, Facebook has acknowldedgd that it’s gradually relaxed privacy settings over the last year, enabling some members’ personal details to be leaked without users realizing it. And, as a result, last month it announced new tools that make it easier for users to tighten privacy settings and block outside parties from seeing personal information.

Still, lawyers are relying on the sites and other social tools for gathering evidence. According to the CNN article, for example, they’re accessing sites such as Flowtown.com, which allows them to enter a peron’s email address into the site, and the site returns various social media profiles on that person.

I thought this sounded interesting, so I investigated. It seems that Flowtown was co-founded in January 2009 by Ethan Bloch, a serial entrepreneur who founded his first business at the tender age of 13.

Flowtown, according to its website, is a “platform that businesses use to connect with their customers everywhere in the social web. Companies like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and MySpace have made it standard practice, for all of us, to publicly share information about ourselves. Flowtown helps make sense of all this data and turns it into meaningful output in the form of stronger business relationships.”

I thought I’d give it a whirl. I registered on the site (it took all of 60 seconds), added a few of my personal email addresses, and bam, within seconds my Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn profiles appeared. While it took me aback, it made me realize what a powerful tool this could be for marketers.

Imagine importing entire email lists into your system and getting access to thousands of customers’ social networking profiles. This information could be used to track which customers are key influencers talking about your brand (or your competition), as well as what your customers’ interests are.

What do you think? Have you ever used Flowtown.com? Let me know by posting a comment below.

Margie Chiu’s 15 Minutes Ahead: Observations from SXSW – Checking Into Geosocial

SXSW 2010 has come and gone, but to the dismay of press, attendees and those who yearn to claim “I was there when … ,” there was no sign of the next breakout app at this year’s event. Instead, the consensus was that geosocial – the convergence of location-based data and social networking – was the unexpected star of the event. 

What’s the big deal with SXSW?
South by Southwest Interactive (SXSW) has become the must-attend annual event for the digerati. Some of the brightest digital starlets in recent years, including Twitter and foursquare, were first “discovered” at SXSW. Those in attendance at Twitter’s launch in 2007 and foursquare’s in 2009 still delight in having the bragging rights to “I knew them when … ”

So what created the buzz this year?
SXSW 2010 has come and gone, but to the dismay of press, attendees and those who yearn to claim “I was there when … ,” there was no sign of the next breakout app at this year’s event.

Instead, the consensus was that geosocial — the convergence of location-based data and social networking — was the unexpected star of the event. Take, for example, the thoughts of one venture capitalist interviewed by The Wall Street Journal: “One thing that was interesting was it ended up being a little of a social experiment with everybody there. All 17,000 or 18,000 people were connected on Twitter, Foursquare and Gowalla. It served almost as a big test for what would the world be like when people start adopting all these social tools.”

There was definitely no shortage of tweets and foursquare check-ins. In fact, foursquare set up 16 new badges and other exclusives for the event. Gowalla, foursquare’s rival location-based social network, also put its best foot forward. (Side note: Gowalla was also launched last year at SXSW, but like Jan Brady to Marsha, Gowalla has largely been in the shadows of foursquare. But Jan got her day; Gowalla beat out foursquare this year as SXSW’s best site in the mobile category.

So what actually happened?

I decided to dig a little deeper into this delightful microcosm of SXSW where “everybody” was connected.

First of all, most SXSW venues only had foursquare check-in rates in the double digits. On average, SXSW tagged locations registered a lackluster 35 check-ins. The Austin Convention Center had the highest number of check-ins at 4,634, but that also included 2009 numbers. So let’s say 75 percent of those were in 2010. With a base of 18,000 attendees, that’s a participation rate of just 19 percent. Gowalla didn’t fare much better (sorry, Jan), with 2,634 check-ins at the Convention Center — about 15 percent of total attendees.

And Twitter? Well, using Wunderman’s Listening Platform to sift through the retweets and mentions from nonattendees, we estimated that just over 5,000 unique individuals were actively tweeting from the event. Not bad at about one in four attendees, but definitely falls quite shy of “everybody.”

What’s the takeaway?

Even among the early adopters, usage of geosocial clearly hasn’t yet caught up to the hype.

But the real story that’s still writing itself is how eerily similar all of these services have become. Let’s see: You can post tweets simultaneously to Facebook and Twitter. Gowalla lets you tag your check-ins with comments and photos, not unlike Twitpic. Twitter is now rolling out geo-tracking, bearing an uncanny resemblance to foursquare and Gowalla. And there are rumors that Facebook is getting into the game by integrating with Gowalla and foursquare.

Who’s going to win?

My money is on Facebook as this year’s gorilla in geosocial. Its user base dwarfs that of every other social networking service. In fact, it’s recently eclipsed Google as the most visited site on the web. It already serves as the default cc: for many who are broadcasting Twitter updates, check-ins and mobile photo uploads via other services. A partnership with Gowalla and foursquare will place Facebook squarely in the sweet spot of geo-based social networking — without the fuss of building its own technology.

If you haven’t done so already, take a closer look at geosocial marketing. Once Facebook gets into the mix, it’ll explode. Guaranteed. Anywhere your company has a physical presence — retail locations, local events, industry conferences, etc. — is a great place to test the waters.

Recently my company tested foursquare and Twitter for a consumer product client’s local events. It’s been consistently seeing participation rates of around 10 percent or higher. Certainly not “everybody,” but definitely a respectable showing for a mass-market play.

Time to get on it. Perhaps you can be the one to say, “We knew about geosocial when … ”

Melissa Campanelli’s The View From Here: Business Schools Offering Social Media Courses

To meet the demand from companies for skills around social media strategies, tony business schools — including Harvard Business School; London Business School; Insead, the international business school based in Fontainebleau, France; and the École des Hautes Études Commerciales, known as H.E.C., in Paris — are incorporating courses on social media into their M.B.A. curriculums. Social media strategy courses, according to the article, “aim to build on existing skills to teach an understanding of social media, of how to build marketing strategies within social networks and of how to track their effectiveness.”

I read a March 30 New York Times article that said that many national and international business schools are incorporating social media strategy courses into their curriculums.

Take that, all of you social media marketing naysayers!

To meet the demand from companies for skills around social media strategies, tony business schools — including Harvard Business School; London Business School; Insead, the international business school based in Fontainebleau, France; and the École des Hautes Études Commerciales, known as HEC, in Paris — are incorporating courses on social media into their M.B.A. curriculums.

Social media strategy courses, according to the article, “aim to build on existing skills to teach an understanding of social media, of how to build marketing strategies within social networks and of how to track their effectiveness.”

While most of the students entering these programs may be adept at using social networking tools in their personal lives, that’s not enough, says the article. Companies want executives that “can transfer this experience into the commercial world.”

Textbooks aren’t required in many of the courses; instead, students are asked to follow industry-specific blogs to keep up with developments. They’re instructed to communicate with people involved in the social media industry, listening to the issues they deal with on a strategic level.

Schools are teaching social media marketing in a variety of ways. In an upcoming course at Insead, students will work on a project for the luxury brand Hermès, generating detailed social media marketing strategy ideas for the brand. A course at London Business School required students to participate in the 2009 Google Online Marketing Challenge, where teams were given $200 of free online advertising with Google AdWords to work with companies to devise effective online marketing campaigns. Meanwhile at Harvard Business School, a second-year elective course on “competing with social networks” is being offered as part of that school’s M.B.A. program.

The article made the argument that the high level of engagement of top digital media professionals with these courses has reciprocal benefits. Students get to learn from the skills and experience of the executives, while the companies get to make contact with potential future hires with the skills needed to exploit social media channels for commercial gain.

Sounds like a win-win to me. But what do you think? Do you think social media strategy or social networking skills can be taught, or can they only be mastered by folks after they’ve gotten their hands dirty with them?

And should elite business schools — elite, expensive business schools, that is — bother with social media strategy or social networking courses? Should they be instead focusing on more lofty subjects?

Let me know by posting a comment below!