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Why Ello isn’t the new Facebook (and the reason has nothing to do with technology)

Last week, new social network Ello was all over my social streams. I mean ALL OVER them.

Early adopters were handing out invites. And people were snapping them up. Hell, people were BEGGING for them. BEGGING!

Lots of tire kicking I’m sure went on over the weekend. And, I’m sure we’ll see tons of posts this week about how Ello is going to be the next Facebook. Or, how it isn’t (whoops–we already saw that post).


But, here’s the funny thing. Through all this testing and “early adopting” (although, to Jeremy Pepper’s point, testing new platforms is something you owe to your clients), Ello isn’t going to be the new Facebook. It’s not going to be like Twitter was in 2007. It’s not going to take off.

And you know why? Nope–not because the “beautiful, clean social network” isn’t easy to use (it’s not, in my opinion). Not because it’s ad free (they’re hanging their hat on this). The answer has nothing to do with technology.

And everything to do with behavior change.

Getting people to test out Ello–OK, that’s not too tough. Especially when you’re talking about the plugged in of the plugged in, which was what was happening last week.

But, to get people to give up Facebook or Twitter and start using Ello wholesale? That’s something completely different. And, let’s be honest, that’s what you’re asking people to do. Because, the average person (heck, the above average person when it comes to digital) just doesn’t have time to keep up on all these networks. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Yo. I mean, the list is getting pretty damn long.

So, to change that behavior–that’s REALLY tough.

I know, I know, people will say Twitter took a while to take off. And that was once a very small niche network. But you know what–that was a MUCH different time. Twitter didn’t have to compete with itself. It didn’t have to convince people to leave another network to come to it. There was no other network (just Facebook, I guess). Yeah, I know about Plurk. But man, that was REALLY niche. I’m talking big numbers here.

So, if Ello is going to be successful, it needs to win some of those folks over. It needs to “convert” people, to use marketing language.

And I know, I know, maybe Ello isn’t trying to be the next big social network. But, even if it’s going to be niche and survive, it’s going to have to gain a following.

And, that’s going to be tough because it has a few key things working against it right now:

1: It’s not all that user-friendly. It took me a while to figure out how to post–and apparently, I’m not the only one (David Armano also struggled). If you’re going to “convert” people, it HAS to be easy. Huge deal-breaker here.

2: WHY? What’s the “value proposition”, as they say? In other words: Why should I spend time on Ello? Because they protect my privacy? Because it’s ad-free? Those are nice, but they’re not strong enough reasons for people to convert.

So, Ello will go and quickly as it came, I’m afraid. I may be wrong, but that’s why I see right now.

It’s just awfully tough to build a new social network from the ground-up these days with all the existing competition.


PS: If all that wasn’t enough, it looks like Ello is venture-funded, which can be a big red flag re: their “manifesto” as this post points out.

Microsoft Stories: Best brand storytelling site on the web?

After just a quick peek at the Microsoft Stories site, you can’t help but be impressed.

Clean. Easy to scan. Big, popping visuals.

It’s a pretty slick site.

Microsoft Stories 1

What’s more, dig in a bit, and the content is every bit as good as the wrapper it comes in.

For example, take the post about Microsoft’s “Garage” concept (titled “Inside Microsoft’s 24-Hour Idea Factory”). Just read through the first few grafs of that post. Doesn’t that read like a novel? The writing is fantastic. It’s well researched. And it’s clear, the author (Jennifer Warnick, who writes many of the Microsoft “stories”) has spent a great deal of time in the Garage as preparation for writing the story.

For those of you who write content for your company–when was the last time you actually spent time with the products or services you were writing about?

Then, look more closely at the posts. Notice how they’re produced. They’re not slapped together like some make-shift blog. Every post seems to be almost individually designed–I don’t see a lot of “templates”here.

What I do see is big, eye-popping visuals. I see large close-ups of employees and leaders. I see pull quotes (remember pull quotes?). I see unique artwork. I see illustrations.

This is high, high quality brand storytelling folks. And yeah, it’s Microsoft that’s creating it. This just in: They have a bit of money lying around.

But then again, so does Apple. And a number of other companies.

My point? Microsoft may have figured out the key to fantastic brand storytelling–and I think it goes something like this…


Your employees = personal stories

Microsoft Stories 2

Right on the front page is the story of Kevin White, program manager at Microsoft. And what do we see in the photo promoting the story? Kevin working with Bing, the platform he’s responsible for? Kevin collaborating with his team at Microsoft HQ? Nope. We see Kevin sipping wine. Wait, what? In fact, the story begins by talking about Kevin and his winery, with few mentions of Microsoft of his work (we get to that later). And, that’s the rub. They could have told the story of a smart program manager working on the latest updates on Bing. But, they chose to tell the story of a part-time winemaker who happens to work at Microsoft. Sure, they worked in the “work” angle later in the story, but what MAKES the story is the combination of his interest in wine-making and his chemist/data-mindset. Many brands write these kinds of executive and employee stories. But, they frequently fail to let that human side of the story come through because they’re so worried about promoting the brand. Forget about the brand for a moment. Your EMPLOYEES are your brand. Promote them. Promote their passions. Their interests. Their loves. And your brand will eventually win. Microsoft has figured this out.


Produce posts like magazine stories

Microsoft Stories 5

As a teenager and college kid, ESPN the Magazine was one of my favorite magazines. Sure, I loved sports, but it was the layout and format of the magazine I loved. It was easy to read. Big visuals. With well-designed graphics that helped tell the story–or pique my interest. Take a run through a few of the Microsoft Stories–you see the same thing. Take the story titled “Digital Detectives”, for example. First thing you notice: Black background. Second thing you notice is the embedded graphics (a few grafs down)–just like a magazine story! That whole story–it just FEELS like a story I’d see in ESPN the Magazine.


100 percent focus on quality content

Microsoft Stories 9

If you look closely at the Microsoft Stories site, what’s the one thing you DON’T see? Social share buttons, for one. And also: Comments. Hmm…strange for a corporate storytelling site, don’t you think? Not if you’re focused on one thing, and one thing only: Content. For example, this 88 Acres post that really effectively launched Microsoft Stories is really 8 different posts in one–a chapter-based blog post, if you will. And, it’s all about the story. Now, the drawback to this intense focus on “story” is the Microsoft folks lack a couple of key potential measurement signals. But, if they really are focused more on corporate reputation and sentiment (which, by the way, is what the Microsoft folks themselves say), then social signals and comments really may not matter as much as they would for other blogs/sites that look more closely at shares and impressions. And, it also allows the content team to focus on what it does best.

Now, not EVERYTHING Microsoft does on the site is perfect. For one, they still have too many employee profiles on that front page (14 of 21 to be exact). I mean, I’m on board with showcasing your employees, but if it’s me, I’d like to see a bit more balance.

I also don’t like the 3,000-plus executive message from CEO, Satya Nadella (yes, 3,000 words). Long-form content is fine, as long as it’s an interesting narrative–and we all know executive messages will never be classified as “interesting narratives.”

But, that’s nit-picking. Like I said, overall, Microsoft Stories may be one of the better corporate storytelling sites I’ve seen to date.

What do you think? Has Microsoft really hit the nail on the head here?

Talking Points Podcast: An interview with SHIFT’s Scott Monty

In a year of huge social media job moves, unquestionably the biggest was the decision of Scott Monty to leave his long-time job at Ford, then deciding to join Todd Defren, Christopher Penn and the ranks at SHIFT later in the year.


Kevin Hunt and I had the fantastic opportunity to sit down with Scott this week to discuss his new role at SHIFT, the state of content marketing, and what he sees as the future for the PR industry. As usual, Scott had some pretty interesting things to say. I hope you’ll consider giving this 20-minute interview a quick listen.


SHOW NOTES – September 25, 2014

Scott Monty http://www.scottmonty.com/

SHIFT Communications http://www.shiftcomm.com/

No time to create content? Follow Jay Baer’s lead

OK, I know what you’re thinking. He’s writing a post about a significant industry thought leader in hopes of landing a RT or share.

I would have been guilty of that charge…5 years ago. Now: I could care less if Jay reads this post (no offense Jay, if you do in fact read it).

What I do care about (and continue to be astonished by) is the way Jay creates, curates and distributes content on a daily basis–better than almost any brand.

In fact, I think brands could learn a TON from how Jay creates, curates and shares content. I mean, I’m sure he would love it if you would pay for him to tell you how to do this, but really, you could learn a whole bunch just by WATCHING what he’s doing.

More importantly, let’s look at the way Jay creates and curates content in as little time as humanly possible:

Get in your customer’s inboxes–DAILY

Jay Today

Jay’s “e-newsletter”–One Thing–is smart. He sends a daily email to subscribers that’s made up almost entirely by other people’s content. Oh sure, he sneaks in his own stuff–usually right at the top, but it’s usually full of 3-5 posts, events and reports/studies by Jay’s partners, friends or sponsors. This way, Jay is in front of you every day with useful and relevant content (sure, it’s a bit salesy sometimes, but he does a nice job of not over-playing that)–content that is mostly created by OTHER people. Many brands struggle to create content that would sustain a daily e-newsletter–but, like Jay, could you CURATE content to get that steady stream going instead?

Use EVERY SECOND of your free time to create content

Jay recently unveiled a new outpost to his content empire: #JayToday. It’s a short, three-minute video where he shares a quick-hitting piece of advice, and promotes a few sponsors. But, that’s not really all that ground-breaking on the surface. What IS smart about this approach though is how Jay is almost always (appears) to shoe-horn it into his day in some way, shape or form. So far, from what I can tell, he’s recorded these #JayToday videos from: a busy street in Fargo, an airport lounge, many conference rooms in whatever building he’s working in that day, and potentially his backyard. The lesson? Jay most likely didn’t have time to add ANOTHER content piece to his plate. But, he knew he could knock out these 3-minute videos no matter where he was, with the right technology (his phone). So, the next time that client tells you they just don’t have the time to create content, point them to Mr. Baer’s #JayToday series.

Create content where others do the majority of the work

Social Pros Podcast

I’m very jealous of Jay’s “Social Pros Podcast”–mostly because I really wish I had come up with that idea first. So simple, but so brilliant (real pros doing real work in social). But, from a content creation point of view, what’s extra smart about the way he set the podcast up is his guests do most of the work. Sure, he has to find and schedule them. Sure, he has to craft a few questions for the interview itself. But, for the most part, the content the guests bring is the main attraction. I’m guessing Jay does maybe a half hour of prep for each show–that’s not all that much considering what he’s getting in return (awareness, and a chance to get to know all these guests he’s having on his show, who by the way, are all potential clients). Really, really smart.

So, I don’t want to hear that you’re too busy to create content. Everyone’s busy. The better response would be “content isn’t a priority for me.” Because believe me, if Jay Baer has the time to create a content empire like this–your client certainly has the time.

Why does the marketing media continue to ignore Gen X’ers (and focus on Millennials)?

I get it. Millennials are the best thing since Harrison Ford flew the Millennium Falcon (wait, Millennial friends, you do know who Harrison Ford is, right? RIGHT?).

I get it. Your generation will comprise 99.9% of the workforce by 2025.

I get it. Your generation shares more, consumes more and is more digitally savvy than any other generation. Ever.

I get it. Your generation features legends like Kelly Osbourne, Johnny Manziel, Jennifer Lawrence and that guy who founded Snapchat.

I get it all. And I’m sick to death of hearing about it.

reality bites

And, more importantly, I’m tired of hearing about it from the media–specifically, the MARKETING MEDIA.

I’ll admit, I’m also sick of it because I’m a Gen X’er. And I’m tired of our generation being overlooked.

After all, why is there so much marketing focus on the Millennials (ages 18-33, roughly). Doesn’t the Gen X generation (ages 34-49) have more current buying power?

Aren’t we the ones in leadership roles–or, at least, very close to taking over leadership roles for our Baby Boomer masters?

Aren’t we the ones who will lead this country for the next 10-20 years?

Aren’t we the ones who are managing Millennials in the workplace right now?

Then why do Millennials continue to get all the attention from marketers and marketing media?

Now, I realize I sound very much like a jilted older brother here. I completely acknowledge that. I actually feel similar feelings that my oldest son feels day-in and day-out (“Dad, why does SHE get so much attention?”).

But, I still don’t understand, for the life of me, why marketers (and again, the marketing media) continue to ignore us.

We earn more money than Millennials (OK, outside of Mark Zuckerberg).

We’re in positions where we can make purchase decisions for our companies (and will be for the foreseeable future).

And, despite reports to the contrary, we’re more digital savvy than  you give us credit for.

So, you’ll have to excuse me if I don’t apologize for feeling jilted.

In the meantime, I’ll be sitting on my couch, listening to Def Leppard, counting my pennies, and waiting for that apology letter…