Every social media cocktail needs a beer chaser.

By now you’ve probably been bombarded with enough posts elsewhere on Google Plus, so you’ll be glad to know this isn’t one more of them. Because what I’m writing about has wider implications than just one tool. It has to do where your entire brand lives in the social media realm.

I’ve come to the conclusion that clearly in terms of social media we should all be on TumblrGoogTwitBookTube.

Sorry for the confusion, but I think others with their behaviors and proclamations of late are just as confusing.

I’ve had it with those who feel another social media tool has to die so that another may live. Maybe it’s the rush to be proclaimed as a prophet of some sort, but it’s bogus. Actually, to be more accurate, it’s dangerous brand strategy and it risks burning the relationships you’ve cultivated.

I really have to marvel at people who are writing about how they are leaving their current outposts because something else has come along that’s far superior.

“We were on Facebook but we’re moving everything to Tumblr.”
“We were on WordPress but we’re going over to GooglePlus. Follow us there!”

Dumb, dumb, dumb.

They’re missing the point of how their own fans and followers use social media, which is to say that we almost never put all our energy toward one channel.

We have a hub and then, many times, we have at least a secondary channel. The most common example I’ve witnessed of this is Facebook for personal relationships, LinkedIn for business relationships. Or LinkedIn/Facebook as primary hub, Twitter as a 2nd, lesser visited destination.

It’s kind of like a favorite of restaurant of mine that serves a Bloody Mary with a beer chaser of Miller Lite during Sunday brunch – every good primary hub deserves a secondary accompaniment. Much like the primary and secondary ways we consume social media. Or “Hubs” and “Outposts.”

It’s downright rare for us to spend 100% of our time in one place and that’s more than OK. Yet, every single time a new tool comes along like Google Plus, it has to be the Killer of something else. It was the Facebook Killer, the Twitter Killer and the LinkedIn Killer.

Nope. I’m not buying it.

Why can’t we research, experiment and explore? I spend the majority of my time on WordPress, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Not only because it’s what I’m comfortable with at the moment but more importantly, it’s where the people I have relationships with and potential clients are spending their time online. With Google Plus being new, I’ve done my due diligence to check it out because like many other people, I was curious. If enough of my audience is there – and stays there – I’ll deepen my commitment (I wouldn’t get hung up on the 10 million people who signed up for it until we see the staying power months from now).

I remember a much simpler time when we only debated in absolutes between “digital” media and “traditional” media. 

Which was seriously only a couple years ago.

Now, just as social media is gaining credibility in the boardroom as a viable option for marketing budgets – yes, I believe we’re moving past that point – we’re going to complicate matters and confuse them by saying, “No, don’t go here anymore, you want to put all your energy over here.”

“But I thought you said Facebook was equivalent to the 3rd or 4th largest country in the world.”

“Yeah, I did, but it’s on its way out. You want to be on Tumblr. You can do so much more with it.”

“But our audience is in their 40’s. Isn’t that a tool more popular with Gen Y right now?”

“It’s OK. They’ll come around to it.”

Sure. But they’re not all there right now. So it’s more sensible to dip my toes in that water before jumping in with reckless abandon.

This may sound like you shouldn’t be flexible, but I’m actually championing for greater mobility.

Far before this thing called the Internet and social media came along, advertising agencies who had intelligent planners knew that their audience probably watched TV, listened to the radio and read certain magazines. They didn’t tell companies to put 100% of their marketing budgets in one medium.

We shouldn’t be telling people that now.

What I’m hearing is the equivalent of someone not only telling a marketer to put all their money in TV, but all their money in one channel like ABC. That doesn’t sound like good advice, right?

Well, telling a brand to go “all in” on one social media channel is probably along the same lines of competence.

We should be telling people to diversify and plan based on what we have gathered about the way their audience has, is and will behave. If social media is a component of their brand strategy – which it is – we should be treating it as such by diversifying our percentages of time spent on various channels rather than flipping off the light switch while people are still in the room talking.

I’m not suggesting that you should spend time on a dying channel or a channel that’s not reflective of your audience. That would be silly. What I am suggesting is that you should add social media channels rather than burn bridges. We can still be pioneers and sherpas of social media while being true to how our brand’s followers are living today. Then, if and when it appears that either the channel is on its way down for the count or that your audience is steadily trickling away from that channel, you make a move to change your commitment to it. From “primary” to “secondary” to “non-existent” if you have to.

So it’s OK to suggest when appropriate that we should take a hard look at spending time on a new channel because that’s where we believe based on research and conversations that this is where our audience will be headed. We’d be doing a disservice not to communicate this.

It’s just that when you build up a following on any medium, it’s something that’s not only taken time on your part but is a serious investment made on the people who have chosen to follow you that should never be taken for granted.

Sometimes I wonder if brands and gurus remember that before they torch the old place.

Spotify’s here. And Klout Perks are suddenly more valuable.

A music service that I was waiting to land here from Europe has finally arrived and from playing around with it in a short time, it was worth the wait. Spotify enables you to play basically any track of music you like for up to 20 hours per month, for free. There’s also a nice social component to Spotify that allows you to share tracks with others on Facebook or Twitter.

That’s exciting in itself.

What’s also exciting to me is the way I received my invite. To be honest, I wasn’t sure if Klout‘s “Klout Perks” rewards program would be all that impressive right away (the $10 Subway card is cool and “Falling Skies” Survival Guide is nice, but I was looking for even more), but by giving people access to new services by virtue of having a high enough Klout score, select individuals right now can receive an invite to try out the free part of the Spotify service. Suddenly, a score that only means so much to some people gets a little more muscle to it. It means you get tangible goods and services for being strong socially. And that makes improving your Klout score more worthwhile, even if you only give so much credibility to Klout. It also opens the door for marketers to do some good segmenting and invite influentials on Klout to attend events or try product samples.

Whatever music you want, whenever you want. Free and legally. Was that so hard?

Back to Spotify – if you didn’t get an invite yet, there’s a way around the system. For an extra $5-10 per month, you can sign up for the Premium or Unlimited levels, which may be more worthwhile to you anyway, because the free level is more limited in monthly listening time.

Give it a try and let me know what you think. Don’t worry, Pandora, I’m not leaving you behind – you still help me stumble upon new artists like nobody’s business.

What do you think? Is marketing to influential people on social media networks based on their special score (Klout, PeerIndex) a worthy approach? Or is it superficial to you?

The Google Gap: Useful? Yes. Emotional Pull? Well…

A rather stunning irony occurred to me as I was thinking about the latest tool Google is introducing, Google Plus.

For all the tools I use from Google, I don’t believe I ever got extraordinarily excited about using them before or during the time I’ve actually used them.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m a fan of certain tools and highly recommend them. In particular, I regularly use Google Calendar, Gmail, Google Reader and Google Alerts. I’d even describe them to others as “great.”

So what’s the problem? The problem is despite the fact that Google delivers a highly efficient, highly productive group of tools for me, none of these tools have stirred the senses with a “got to have it now” factor. And this wouldn’t be such a big deal if Google weren’t aiming to stand toe-to-toe with the likes of Facebook to be our all-everything place for connections, searching and relationships.

Say what you want about privacy issues, but Facebook owns a great deal of emotional investment from people. It’s the place where their family and friends commonly are when it comes to online community interaction, if not their business associates too. The technology to keep and enhance those connections is important, but technology is almost secondary to why people are there and stay there. This emotion is not to be underestimated.

Take another company, like Apple. Apple has the “got to have it now” factor in spades. It’s safe to say that for a large number of people like you, there’s been at least one Apple product released in the last 10 years that you really, really wanted….NOW. It’s why people had to have the iPod, stood in line for the iPhone and they’re salivating over the iCloud. And if you didn’t have it, you felt left behind. Even with the one product that met a bit more skepticism at first, the iPad, there’s little question now that people who bought into it love what it can do on a personal or business level.

And there it is – the “L” word. Love. There are many companies that produce useful, efficient, productive products that people buy and even keep buying…but don’t love them. This is coveted territory that not everybody can own. Dare I say that Google has never produced anything that’s, well, FUN. It’s never ENTERTAINED. Absolutely, it’s helped me get the job done, find what I’m looking for and keep me organized. But it’s never brought a lasting smile to my face.

Love isn’t always attained by adding more to an existing solution but actually stripping away what isn’t needed. One of my favorite examples here is 37 Signals with their Basecamp product for project management. There’s more emotional pull here not because it’s complicated but because it’s more simple than other tools with just enough to give me everything I need, nothing that I don’t. It doesn’t hurt that 37 Signals is great at customer service and exceedingly quick to inform its customers of enhancements or technical difficulties they’re working on.

And by the way, I didn’t have to wait for an invite to use their software.

Therefore, the Google Gap has nothing to do with technology but an emotional pull. A legion of fans that are passionate about spreading the word to others unsolicited because that product enhances their life just SO MUCH that they want the people they care about to experience that feeling too.

Never had that situation with Google. Never had a “Oh wow, you’ve got to try Gmail” moment. Instead, the exchange goes like this:

Them: “What’s your favorite calendar program?”
Me: “Google Calendar. It’s great.”

That’s not love – it may sound like it at first glance, but it’s not. That’s a positive recommendation that wouldn’t have come unless it was initiated by someone else. To close the Google Gap and be seen in a different light, Google Plus and future products from Google need to be more than just useful and efficient. We also don’t need versions that seem better in appearance but in practicality are more complicated to use.  They have to bring remarkable new categories of technology we haven’t used yet or dramatically strip away the complications of technology we’re using to the point of where it almost feels like a brand new category.

By virtue of his product line, Steve Jobs enjoys this emotional capital. By virtue of the relationships he has ownership over, so does Mark Zuckerberg. If Larry Page wants to stand on the platform with these gentlemen, this is the challenge before him to shape a new chapter of the Google era.

What’s the Plus Side, Google?

The concept of the phrase, “Facebook competitor,” almost makes you giggle at this point. Kind of like staring into the Grand Canyon and imagining then and there what could be better. Oh sure, there are other picturesque places. But it’s pretty hard to imagine them being more beautiful than what you’re looking at right now.

Facebook isn’t always beautiful. Far from it. But what it does have are a boatload of relationships between existing friends and family members. And that’s going to be pretty darn tough to break.

Yet, Google is out to try anyway with their new Google+ product. To cut to the chase, Google+ sounds a lot like Facebook with its profile pictures, feeds, etc. The big difference appears to be that you can better organize groups of people – and share what you like with those people specifically rather than your 690 friends on Facebook, 10 of which are real friends. But I digress.

Great idea, Google. And yes, Facebook has had major challenges concerning privacy controls. No doubt about it.

But here’s the challenge – you don’t have to just jab at Facebook with nicer tweeks to the model. In order to dance with the undisputed heavyweight of the social networking realm, you’ve got to full-on throttle Facebook with features that kick its ass. And even if you do, you’ve got to consider just how difficult it is to motivate people to uproot themselves from Facebook and the myriad of relationships they have in place.

It’s not impossible (Exhibit A: MySpace). It’s just that where MySpace was geared to a younger audience in general, the average age of a Facebook user is 38 years old. So there are more categories of demographics that have to get in the moving truck over to Google+.

Of course, maybe Google just wants a piece of the social networking pie. But if I may put on my more demanding customer hat, we don’t just want better technology. We want tools that are easy to use and fun. Google Buzz sounded kind of interesting, but did it enhance our lives over what was already in place? Not really. Same with Google Wave – kind of cool, but also kind of hard to understand.

Probably one of the most frequently mentioned books on business is “Blue Ocean Strategy,” the concept of getting out of the same pond as many competitors and fighting within that pond like sharks. Which essentially Google is not utilizing here. It’s fishing in the same pond and saying to people, “Hey, look at this cool new pole we’ve got for you to try!” We’re looking at that pole, agreeing that, yes, it probably is nice and even better than what we have, but still not enough to make us put down the pole that we’re already using. I think we can agree at least that’s this has been the experience with Google’s most recent efforts.

Google’s had just a little bit of success with that ol’ search engine of theirs. And Gmail. And Google Reader. And Google Alerts. But if you’ll notice, several of these are in the search, research and online storage realm. Not in the “connecting with others” interactivity realm. Anything outside of this set just feels like tinkering to me.

I will say Google has this much going for it: 1) It’s a giant in its own right and 2) If you read the comment streams of articles speaking about Google+, there is a LOT of pent-up frustration about the privacy issues of Facebook. These people want Google+ to succeed and they can’t wait to try it. That raw emotion, acted upon, is going to be honestly more important to the success of this endeavor than the bells and whistles of Google+ alone.

But with all due respect to those folks, Google didn’t work on this project as long as they did just to nab some Early Adopters. To avoid being mentioned in the same breath as “Google Wave” and “Google Buzz,” Google+ has to feel a whole lot of love from the mainstream too.

I don’t think we’ll have to search too long before we know the answer.

I found my Klout on Empire Avenue while staring at the PeerIndex.

The other day, someone bought 200 shares of me. I was flattered, but would’ve been even more excited had it been real money. Still, the virtual game that measures your influence, Empire Avenue, had shown that in my brief period of time on it, my shares were going up and up. Mind you, I’m not really sure what the algorithm was for this other than the fact that I’d participated in several social media outlets including Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, all while doing a blog post.

Hey, driving up your simulated shares is hard work.

Meanwhile, I noticed that my Klout score was similarly going up and up. Normally, I would be very excited by this, except for a few things.

There are people in my industry who I look up to who I can’t imagine having less real “clout” than me yet have less Klout than me. I’ve enjoyed reading Bart Cleveland for years as an AdAge columnist along with his work at McKee Wallwork Cleveland. I’ve admired the work of David Oakley at BooneOakley – frankly, I am looking up at them in a balanced world, not the other way around in a Klout world.

The second quibble I have is that while it says I am influential about social media and social entrepreneurship (OK, I’ve written about those plenty, I’ll buy that), Klout also says that I’m influential about, of all things, Groupon. I wrote about Groupon in one blog post in my life. Unless that was a hell of a post, I don’t see how that’s possible.

The third issue with Klout is that, unless I’m off, the system can be potentially gamed. If you like someone and are influenced by them, you can give them a “+K” to their Klout rating. Which sounds fine and good until I convince 20 of my closest friends to get together and Klout our scores into the stratosphere.

Meanwhile, over at PeerIndex, I have a similar issue with the influentials as I do with Klout. I’m a humble man and there are some peers that are ranking lower than me that just shouldn’t. My score is fine enough, trending higher and nothing to sneeze at. Kind of like my Klout score. At least here I can tell it’s from a combination of Audience, Authority and Activity. So I know which “A” to work on most.

What to believe? Who to believe? Are these tools helping or hurting?

I think I have the answer – you have to take these “measures of influence” for what they are – the best methods we currently have to measure social media capital that have room for improvement. Better than nothing? Yes. I would not ignore or blindly dismiss them. They do have meaning. They are a fair measure of activity, reach, etc. And like most other tools, they will probably be replaced by something more efficient and accurate, if these tools can’t tweek themselves fast enough.

But don’t get so wrapped up in your score that you can’t stop looking at your Klout, Empire Avenue share price and PeerIndex rating. I’m not proud to admit it, but I was doing just that when I first signed up. The worst thing you can do is say to yourself, “Oh heavens to Betsy, my reach isn’t far enough, what do I do?”

Breathe. Relax. These are algorithms that need work and will get better. Embrace the technological steps forward for what they are and realize there are slight imperfections – hey, Google’s algorithm isn’t perfect, but I’ll bet you still used it to search today, didn’t you?

Meanwhile, focus on what you CAN control:
Creating great content regularly and interacting with people who matter to you most on the channels where they “live.”
I believe when you concentrate on that consistently, the rest will hopefully take care of itself anyway when it comes to influence.

Of course, if this post influenced you and you’d like to throw a few “+K” to DanOnBranding or buy a bunch of shares….ah, never mind.