05/09/2011 – We are truly saddened by the news of Trey’s death today. He was a true gent and the time he took to respond to our questions and the general feedback he gave us is testament to this. Our thoughts go out to his family and friends. Rest in peace Trey.
In June I attended the Glagow leg of media140 and had the pleasure of listening to and meeting Trey Pennington . His talk was engaging, thought provoking and took a different angle to the norm. Since the conference we have often conversed on twitter and Trey very kindly agreed to answer some questions for The Social Penguin Blog, read on for part 1 of this great interview with a man who truly understands the merits of Social Media for businesses and individuals.
Describe what you do in 140 characters or less:
I’m a story prospector and professional speaker. I help folks discover, develop, and deliver their story.
When did you first realise the power of Social Media as a marketing tool?
In 2005 I started using something I called “social marketing.” I wish I had stuck with it. Though it was a term academicians wrote about in the early 1970s, it wasn’t a term in current use. One of the domain names I let expire in 2006 was www.socialmarketingsystem.com; again, with much regret. Here’s the whole story of my initiation into the wonderful world of social media, excerpted from Spitball Marketing (Trey’s soon to be published book).
“It’s the twenty-first century. That’s when everything changes”
Captain Jack Hartness in the introduction to the BBC hit series Torchwood. Everything IS changing.
Not everything turns out the way you imagined it when you were young. When I was in my early twenties I had a picture in my mind of what life would be like at forty. My car would be whatever the largest BMW was at the time and I’d wear custom suits to work. After I met a stockbroker in Manhattan who wore a new custom made shirt every workday, I added custom shirts to my dream. Between then and now, my wife and I had six children. That changed things a bit. Our family car is big, but it’s not a fancy BMW. It’s a Ford E-150 twelve-passenger van. Though we don’t carry twelve passengers, the van is still quite full whenever we’re all in it. The car I drive isn’t fancy either—a Volkswagen Super Beetle. It gets the job done. So far, I have yet to purchase my first custom-tailored suit or shirt. Having the big van instead of a fancy BMW isn’t too bad, though. Whenever my teenagers and their friends want to go somewhere, they say, “Hey, let’s see if Erin’s dad (that’s me) will take us!”
That’s what happened during the summer of 2006. Erin and her friends wanted to go hiking at Jones Gap in the foothills of the Appalachians in the Upstate of South Carolina. They invited me to go along. The morning of the hike came and all the teenagers piled into the van for the trip up to Jones Gap. When we got there, I watched them scamper down the trail and resigned myself to being very sore the next day. They had all the energy; I had what was feeling profoundly like a middle-aged body. You can imagine my relief when they all stopped about a couple hundred yards up the trail! They huddled around, faces all pressed together as close as possible, while one person aimed the digital camera and took the shot. They broke huddle and headed back up the trail. I followed along. Before I was out of breath again, they stopped once more. Once more they huddled around, giggled, posed, snapped photo, and then broke to continue up the mountain. After the fifth or sixth photo opp, I began teasing them about needing such frequent breaks. On the inside, though, I was quite thankful!
We eventually made it to the top of Jones Gap, oohed-and-awed over the spectacular waterfall, enjoyed lunch together along with the inspiring mountaintop views, and then headed back down the mountain. We piled into the van and headed to Patrick’s house (home of one of the teens on the trip) where we would eat supper.
We weren’t at Patrick’s home very long when I realized the house was remarkably quiet. Teenagers usually make a lot of noise. This group didn’t. As a father to six, the noise at home is often a challenge for me, but silence generally represents a bigger challenge.That usually means folks are up to something. Acting on my daddy-sense, I found the whole group huddled once again. This time they were all trying to see Patrick’s computer screen. I said, “Hey, what are y’all doing over there?” My oldest daughter, age 16 at the time, said, “Oh dad, we’re just uploading pictures to the Internet.” “Um…show me what you’re doing,” I said. They did. That was my introduction to Facebook. As I watched them, it dawned on me just how much things were changing.
Sure, I took photos when I was a teenager, too, just not so many. Film processing was expensive, so I couldn’t take that many pictures. Even so, I took a bunch. Unfortunately, I won’t be able to tell you where we were in many of them, nor will I be able to tell you who is in the photos. While they’re my photos of my experiences with my friends, all the data associated with the memory is long gone. My connection with those people is quite distant.
That’s not the case for Erin and siblings and her friends. Now for the first time in history they have a central repository for the artifacts of their shared experiences with others. They can upload as many photos as they want; there’s no limit. Digital image processing is dirt cheap (free). Now when they load their photos, they can add captions and tag their friends, who will then add comments and maybe even a few links. They’ll build enough data around the artifact that it’ll tie them together with a concrete shared memory for a long, long time.
My artifacts of youth arouse only a minor, fleeting twinge of warm memories. Erin’s give her everything she needs to maintain the relationships involved in her memories indefinitely.
Everything changes. Some things stay the same. Our tools for documenting, sharing, and remembering our experiences have changed and are still changing. Our human drive to spend as much of our time and experiences with people we know hasn’t changed. Therein lies the huge opportunity: getting back to being human.
3. What advice would you offer brands that are looking to take their first steps in to Social Media?
First, be willing to abandon your basic assumptions about business. Let go of the cultic obsession for return-on-investment and the pursuit of profit. Instead, assume you’re in business to create value for others (i.e., help other people accomplish the things they want to accomplish), and the profits and return on investment will tend to take care of themselves.
Second, see social space as an effective versus efficient communication tool. While marketing communication has been defined in terms of frequency and reach, social communication is a matter of connection, understanding, and affirmation. People want to be seen and heard on social channels; make sure you DO everything to let them KNOW you see them and hear them. When you do, they’ll take care of you so you can stop worrying about yourself so much.
Third, jump in and listen. There’ll be plenty of time for you to create content, promote yourself, and do all the things marketing communication requires of you. Take this time (your initial foray into social space) to BE there, watch and listen. Go ahead, ask questions and share worthwhile content you find along the way. BUT, determine to have the discipline to gain understanding before you share your own wisdom (i.e., get their message in; don’t worry about getting your message out).
Many businesses see Social Media as a threat, how much can the influence of an internal champion help this?
Well, the perceptions are well founded. Disgruntled customers and employees can find each other on social media, share their grievances with each other, whip each other up into a frenzy, and then coordinate an attack (see Greenpeace vs. Nestle) on the brand. Directors live in a fantasy world if they think they can they can put their hands over their eyes and plug their ears, and the attacks, loss of control, and negativity will go away. The internal champion only needs to show what the brand is already losing and will continue to lose by failing to cultivate loyal, educated, and well-equipped fans in social space. At any given moment, one of several hundred million publishers can turn on the video camera built into their phones, and push a live video stream of a company employee’s worst behavior to the publisher’s sphere of influence. The best way to insulate the company from the escalating damage and embarrassment of such a reality is to have well-fed fans looking out for them. Brands have already lost control; now they need to ensure fans will say, “we’ve got your back.”
Because companies start with the question, “how much money can we make,” they miss the opportunities that come from non-financial endeavors. They also become vulnerable to non-financial threats when they only see the world in terms of profit and loss. For example, maybe they won’t ever MAKE any money through social channels, but they could certainly LOSE all of their goodwill by neglecting the people active in social channels.
Do you believe that content is king?
That’s a challenging question. It’s difficult to establish a hierarchy of value when it comes to relating with people. There’s a symbiotic relationship between connection, visibility within a community (social proof), content, relevancy, timeliness, awareness, affirmation, and a host of other variables. Content, by itself, is probably not quite so valuable as relevant content easily accessible at the right time, in a preferred format, from trusted and admired sources. The classic Ethos, Pathos, and Logos, combined with logistics and economics, are probably the crowning
Do you see differences between people’s use of Social Media across the Atlantic divide?
On the trans-Atlantic distinctions: To some degree, people are the same way wherever you go. Throughout the Western world, we all tend to share a fondness for the individual, independence, and freedom. Our identification as members of a community, however, may vary from one side of the ocean to the other. I get the sense citizens of the Commonwealth have greater identity as part of the community than Americans. We tend to revere the Lone Ranger, David vs. Goliath and the Philistines, and Underdog—folks who acted “alone” to accomplish mighty feats. It seems to me you all have a more developed sense of connection with others. Even so, I perceive on both sides of the Atlantic, a desire to use social media to create a future more clearly defined in terms of interrelatedness and community membership.
Ok folks that is all for now, stay tuned for Trey’s thoughts on the longevity of the term ‘Social Media’, what brands/individuals he thinks are using the space well. Not to be missed! In the meantime why not follow the man himself on twitter. You can now read Part 2 here.