Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Leveraging social media in gorilla and viral marketing as great business equalizers: a reconsideration of business disintermediation and from multiple perspectives 15

Posted in social networking and business, startups, strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on May 18, 2019

This is my 15th posting to a series on disintermediation, focusing on how this enables marketing options such as gorilla and viral marketing, but also considering how it shapes and influences businesses as a whole. My focus here may be marketing oriented, but marketing per se only makes sense when considered in the larger context of the business carrying it out and the marketplace it is directed towards (see Social Networking and Business 2, postings 278 and loosely following for Parts 1-14.)

I began working my way through a to-address topics list in Part 11, that would apply to the analysis and planning efforts of a still resource-lean startup. And I repeat the first three entries in that list as I continue addressing them:

1. What types of change are being considered in building this new business, and with what priorities? In this context the issues of baseline, and of what would be changed from become crucially important, and even for startups where that means building new with an awareness of past experience elsewhere.
2. Focusing on the business planning and development side to that, and more specifically on high priority, first business development and operations steps that would be arrived at and agreed to for carrying out, and setting aside more optional potential goals and benchmarks that would simply be nice to be able to carry through upon too,
3. Where exactly do those must-do tasks fit into the business and how can they best be planned out for cost-effective implementation (in the here and now) and for scalability (thinking forward)? Functionally that set of goals and their realization, of necessity ranges out beyond the boundaries of a Marketing or a Marketing and Communications context, applying across the business organization as a whole. But given the basic thrust of this specific series, I will begin to more fully discuss communications per se, and Marketing, or Marketing and Communications in this bullet point’s context. And I will comparatively discuss communications as a process, and as a functional area in a business there.

My goal for this narrative-continuing posting is to complete my discussion of the above Point 2, at least for purposes of this series. Then I will build from that discussion thread and from what I have already offered concerning Points 1 and 2 in earlier installments, to delve into Point 3 and its issues. And I add to that, in further anticipation of what is to come here, that I have been discussing those and related topics in general business planning and development terms and certainly in this series. But this is a marketing and communications-oriented series at heart:

• Even when I write in the starting paragraph to each of its installments that understanding Marketing and Communications in a business, and making them work for it, requires an understanding of the business as a whole and its contexts, so everything can fit together and work together.
• So I will begin offering a specifically Marketing and Communications focus here too, in anticipation of pursuing that approach in a Point 3 discussion.

I begin all of this with the above-repeated (and here simplified) Point 2 as carried over from Part 14, by reconsidering its set of issues from a strictly here-and-now implementation perspective. And that means adding consideration of benchmarks and of explicitly specified final goals to this narrative.

Let me take that out of the abstract with a very real-world example, of a type I have seen play out many times in real businesses that in general have been well managed – but not for some specific “this.” That anticipatory starting sentence, indicating what is to come here, is probably too general and open ended, as I could easily and realistically cite any of a very wide range of familiar strategic and operational blind spots to this narrative here, that I have seen and that I have had to work with and work through, and with that type of discussion still meeting its vague goals. For a more “business functionality” example, I could cite and at least briefly discuss an inventory management problem where there are at least contextually recurring disconnects between in-house employee end users of stock or supplies held in inventory, and the ultimate suppliers of these items. But I will set that and similar case in point examples aside here, and simply note that for purposes of this narrative they are probably too obvious – and I have to add too easy, at least in principle to both proactively prevent and reactively correct from. Quite simply, these are types of issues that would be closer to the hands-on and more routine management experience of the mid-level and more senior management there, so they should start out better understood, and both for any problems in place and for finding effective ways to prevent or resolve them.

So I will pick a Marketing and Communications example here, and more explicitly, I will pick gorilla marketing as a working example (with a few references to viral marketing too):

• In a standard business process or business systems example, everyone involved generally knows the precise starting points and end points that should parametrically define what should be done and how and when, and certainly at a task-by-task or set business process by set business process level. This certainly holds for processes and tasks comprised of them, that fit into specific planned-out business operations chains and with those functionalities serving as tightly connected links in them. In that context, these functionalities should begin and quickly pickup in activity carried out, starting from the point in the overall work flow that they get their initial performance requests from and with any material, informational or other input that they would work from, coming to them from already completed work in that chain too. And they should in turn pass on their output to other next step processes or tasks in that chain and to the people who would carry them out as needed and expected too.
• But now let’s consider a gorilla marketing campaign, or an effort to jump start and encourage market-sourced and supported viral marketing on the behalf of a business. What is the starting point that you would use and what end points do you seek to reach, and how would you best benchmark performance in between those endpoint defining marks?

In principle, this might mean reviewing sales and related data to set an initial starting point benchmark to measure the success of such a campaign from. And this would take seasonal and other predictable cyclical sales patterns into account as well as any observably known longer term (non-cyclical) directional trends too. And goals would be set (e.g. to at least triple the number of positive shared messages about the company’s premium, up-market oriented widgets on Facebook in the next six months, with that translating to at least a doubling of sales for them by the end of this period.) Then performance tracking benchmarks would be selected and measured during that trial period to see how this marketing campaign is working, and to provide input for course correcting it if needed.

That sounds both reasonable and doable, and it should be on all measures as touched upon there, and certainly in principle. But in practice, all of these measures and the metrics that would track them can get very soft and uncertain. For an obvious example of how that can happen, consider the above-cited “positive shared messages … on Facebook.” What type of shared comment or update note, qualifies here as meeting that criterion? Is it sufficient to simply name one of the company’s widget models in text format, as long as nothing negative is said about it? Does it qualify as a positive if one of those widgets is prominently visible in a shared photo, as a matter of viral marketing product placement? What if it is just sitting there as what amounts to background clutter? How would that compare to photos where a widget is being actively used, and appreciatively so? What of mixed message updates that might include images or text that involves the company’s widgets, but in a partly favorable, partly unfavorable way? And how would the company take into account issues of visibility for any of this? Should they consider how many direct contacts such a content poster has on the site, and score higher value to marketing references that show on Facebook pages of account holders with larger numbers of Facebook “friends”? And I have not even mentioned the issues of robo-accounts and fake friending connections here, even though that has to be considered when somewhere over two thirds, and even something over three quarters of all Facebook accounts are almost certainly automated fakes, abandoned and unmaintained ghost presences, or both.

My point in all of that is very simple. Look over my original “reasonable and doable” benchmarking and goals description as offered just before the above paragraph. What defining elements of it can legitimately be assumed to be clearly defined and unequivocal besides the six month duration of this trial campaign? And objectively and given the uncertainties in everything else noted there, how realistic can that be too, and certainly as a meaningful timeframe for gathering in actionable value creating information and insight?

Gorilla marketing is nonstandard in nature. And that means at least some of the types of metrics that would be used, and that a business would want to use for performance tracking it, are going to nonstandard too, even as others will be completely familiar and well understood. Viral marketing might be initially instigated by a company that seeks to benefit from it, and people from their Marketing and Communications might even in fact seek to in some way steer it by selectively sending out marketing updates that would fit into it as fuel for further consumer sourced messages. But viral marketing per se is outside created and maintained, if it actually is viral in nature. And that adds novelty and a measure of the nonstandard to it too, and from the lack of message shaping control that that brings with it if anything. Outside sourced messages amplify and fade, and mutate and in unpredictable ways.

What I am saying here, in both continuation of what I have already offered in a Point 1 and Point 2 context in this series, is that while it might be both possible and easy to set endpoint goals and performance benchmarks for standard processes and procedures, the more novel they become, the more uncertain all of this becomes too. I am going to conclude my discussion of that set of issues in my next installment to this series, where I will at least offer some thoughts on how to make them more rigorous and more definitively useful as a result. And that will bring me directly to the issues raised in the above noted Point 3. Then after completing my discussion of that, I will turn back to Part 11 of this series to continue addressing its topics list as noted above here.

Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings and series at Business Strategy and Operations – 5, and also at Page 1, Page 2, Page 3 and Page 4 of that directory. You can find this and related postings at Social Networking and Business 2, and also see that directory’s Page 1. And I also include this posting and other startup-related continuations to it, in Startups and Early Stage Businesses – 2.

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