Posts Tagged 'WOM'

Social media for business 101

Social Media have been attracting significant attention thanks to their explosive growth all over the world. Figures suggest that well in excess of 1 billion people around the globe already use social networks, and that millions more join them every week.

Facebook and China’s QZone report more than half a billion users each. Even more startlingly, reports suggest that the time spent on Facebook alone each month is approaching 1 trillion minutes – an astounding 62,000 years worth of sharing photos, commenting on walls, and ‘Liking’ videos, every single day.

With such huge audience potential, it’s easy to understand why companies are rushing to establish a social media presence of their own.

However, effective use of social networks entails much more than creating a Facebook page or Twitter account for your brand – especially if you hope to see a meaningful return on your investment.

The Evolution of Social Networks

The current excitement surrounding digital social media might suggest that they are a recent phenomenon, but their roots go back more than 30 years.

As early as the late 1970s, systems like Usenets and Bulletin Board Systems (BBSes) paved the way for the kind of online interaction that lies at the heart of today’s social networks.

In the second half of the 1990s, the rapid growth of the Web fueled interest in ‘cyber communities’, and the first recognisable social networking service – Six Degrees – launched in 1997.

However, the launch of Friendster in 2002 is widely recognised as the birth of the social networking model we’ve become familiar with today, and although its popularity has waned in recent years, Friendster is seen as the primary influence for platforms like MySpace and Facebook .

Relatively speaking, social networks are still very much in their infancy though, and the recent launch of Google Plus demonstrates many still believe they offer huge potential.

So what can social media do for your brand?

Debunking Social Media Myths

Before we explore how to use social media for business, it’s important to clarify a few common misconceptions.

Social media will replace all other advertising media

It’s unlikely that social media will actually replace anything; rather, they’re simply one more – albeit very powerful – addition to the array of channel options at the marketer’s disposal.

Social media are free 

Sadly, this is a long way from the truth; while the media space itself may be considerably cheaper than it is in newspapers or TV, the time involved in creating effective social marketing means social channels still require substantial financial investment.

Marketing has no place in social media

A number of researchers have reported this to be the case, but there are plenty of case studies to suggest that, when done properly, people even welcome branded activity in social media. The caveat to this is that social marketing must offer real value to its audiences, and not adopt the interruptive model we’ve become used to in mass-media advertising.

Principles for Success

There are no set rules for social media marketing, and even the most admired practitioners are still learning what works best. However, the following guiding principles will help you get started.

Do It For A Reason

Before you can develop a social marketing strategy, you need to know what you hope to achieve. Will you use social media simply to deliver advertising? What about customer service? Do you expect your social activities to generate revenue?

Critically, you need to identify social marketing’s role within your broader business strategy, and how it will complement and build on other activities.

People vs. Platforms

Ultimately, social media are simply means to an end; their popularity lies in the fact that they help us to interact with other people. Consequently, users gravitate towards those platforms that help them do this best, and if a superior alternative appears, people are quick to change their behaviour (remember Second Life?).

One key factor of long-term success in social marketing is to develop a strategy that is flexible enough to adapt to new platforms and behaviours as they become meaningful parts of your audience’s world.

It’s also vital to remember that most people use social networks to socialise, so it’s vital for brands to adapt their approach to suit the channel. Critically, brands can’t act in the self-centred ways that often characterise conventional advertising.

Brands are merely guests in social media, and even in situations where they are the guests of honour, they still need to behave with some degree of humility and social grace. Above all, they need to appear natural – anything cold or forced is will stand out as being very awkward next to heartfelt conversations between friends.

Deliver Real Value

The average social network user has connections to hundreds of people, organisations, and brands. As a result, their ‘social stream’ is full of different content, much of which has been shared by family and close friends.

Consequently, it’s very difficult for brands to capture people’s attention; unlike the interruptive paradigm of TV advertising, social marketing must compete with videos of unbelievably cute kittens, photos of last weekend’s party, hot celebrity gossip, and countless conversations about everything in between.

The only way to ensure your brand doesn’t get lost is to make sure everything you do adds real value to your audience’s world. This involves building activities around what your audience cares about; not around what you want to sell.

By creating and sharing a variety of entertaining content, and joining the subsequent conversations around it, Chupa Chups and BBH have built a Facebook community of more than 1 million ‘fans’ for the brand’s mascot, Chuck:

Conversations vs. Campaigns

Historically, marketers have used advertising as a way to introduce their brands, products, and services – in many ways, advertising is the business equivalent of a chat-up line.

Over the years, these chat-up lines have become ever more elaborate, but one key challenge has remained: how to evolve a series of disjointed one-liners (campaigns) into a lasting relationship.

Social media makes this evolution much easier, offering marketers a way to include two-way communication within their marketing mix. In so doing, social media allow marketers to establish a regular exchange of mutual value.

The ‘value’ the brand offers can take many forms – entertainment, information, rewards, etc. – but it’s the conversations that this content inspires that deliver the majority of the value back to the marketer.

By understanding what their audiences want, need and like, marketers can better tailor their approach – indeed, social channels can be used to deliver highly effective R&D, market research, and customer service, all at the same time.

What’s more, brands aren’t restricted to direct conversations with their audiences either; with the help of today’s online monitoring tools, marketers can also track other public conversations about their brands, and identify new ways to deliver incremental value.

Be Prepared For Awkward Situations

The old adage states that you can’t please all of the people all of the time, and nowhere is this more evident than in social media. Although the kinds of conversation we see in social media are nothing new, social platforms allow people to have them on a much greater scale.

Some brands have already witnessed what happens when things go wrong in social media, but it’s likely that we’ll see many more examples of brands being called out by disgruntled consumers in social media.

It’s worth noting that such situations can arise regardless of whether your brand participates actively in social media or not. Given this, it’s likely that, sooner or later, something, somewhere will go wrong, so it’s well worth preparing for such an eventuality in advance.

Be Responsive And Adapt As You Go

One of the greatest limitations of traditional advertising is that it can be very difficult and costly to change campaigns that fail to deliver what the advertiser intended, especially where media must be paid in advance. The conventional broadcast reality is ‘ready, aim, fire’, and if the shot is wide of the target, you need to start again.

Social media work quite differently, offering marketers real-time control over their communication activities. Critically, the interactive nature of the channel means that we can stop, start, or change different elements very quickly, depending on the audience response (or lack thereof).

Take Things Slow And Steady

The Supremes shared some wise words on social marketing as early as 1966:

You can’t hurry love;
No, you’ll just have to wait.
Love don’t come easy;
It’s a game of give and take.

For most brands, ‘success’ in social media takes time. It takes a significant amount of effort and commitment to build lively, enduring communities, and marketers can’t dip in and out as they might do with conventional advertising.

As in most relationships, though, social media is more about a journey than a destination. While it’s vital to have clear objectives before you set out, the things you learn along the way will inevitably influence where you get to, and it’s worth allowing yourself the flexibility to adapt to new and unexpected opportunities as they arise.

Next Steps: Getting Started

These principles should help you begin to formulate your brand’s social media strategy, but there’s no substitute for experience.

Fortunately, social channels are well suited to a ‘test-and-learn’ approach, where you can constantly evolve and refine your activities based on interactions with your audiences and the results they deliver.

Once you’ve developed the core of your strategy, try it out on a small scale, with a particular focus on watching, listening, and learning; you’ll quickly identify what works for your brand, and what you’d prefer to avoid repeating.

Inspiration From Brands Using Social Media

Through its ‘Twelpforce’ service, US technology retailer Best Buy uses Twitter to great effect, involving employees throughout its business to deliver tips, advice, and support to a variety of different audiences:

Popular Singapore bar, Brewerkz uses a wide variety of simple but effective social media activities to drive business at its outlets, proving that even brands with small budgets can make great use of social media.

The brand has a popular Facebook page where it shares a variety of news and social content:

Brewerkz also makes effective use of Foursquare, a location-based social networking service that allows people to ‘check in’ to physical locations and tell others what they’re doing:

What tips would you offer businesses about to start out in social media? Why not share them in the comments.

This article originally appeared in the August-September edition of Orient, the Official Publication of the British Chamber of Commerce in Singapore

word up

Nicole, a colleague at BBH Singapore, shared this fantastic piece of activity yesterday:

[image © Gunther Gamper, used with thanks]

It’s an initiative for the Fondation pour l’alphabétisation – an NGO that aims to promote higher levels of literacy amongst the French-speaking population in Canada.

The fundamental premise is very simple: by ‘buying’ words – either from vending machines like the one in the picture above, or from the “words depot” website – people can make donations to the Foundation that will fund literacy programs for the 800,000 Québécois who are hindered by low levels of literacy.

[screen grab of the motsdepot website]

I particularly admire the facility to buy the words in your Facebook status update for 10¢ each, which the site then posts to your Facebook page with a link back to the initiative:

Developed by Montréal-based agency Bleublancrouge, it’s a beautifully simple, yet incredibly powerful way to make giving to charity more personal and resonant.

As the Foundation’s overview says,

“Imaginez tout le plaisir qu’il peut y avoir à posséder un mot qui nous plaît ou auquel nous nous identifions. Car tout est pos­sible lorsque nous achetons un mot. Avec un peu d’imagination, ce n’est plus « royaume » que nous achetons, mais un royaume. Ce n’est pas « amour » que nous offrons, mais de l’amour. Alors, redonnons aux gens leur attachement aux mots, redonnons-leur le plaisir de jouer avec ceux-ci.”

Loosely translated, this means:

“Imagine the great joy of owning a word you like, or with which you identify. Everything is possible when you buy a word. With a bit of imagination, you’re not just buying “kingdom”, but a kingdom. It’s not just “love” you’re buying, but love you’re giving. So let’s help people rebuild a relationship with words; let’s help them enjoy the pleasure of playing with them again.”

By taking the benefit beyond simply relieving people’s conscience, this activity makes donating fun.

CSR at its best.

150 not out

Innocent Drinks – those masters of simple marketing – have just released a lovely new piece of activity:

“Hello… My name is Alex Horne and I’m trying to set a World Record to one day be the oldest man in the world. I have been attempting this death-defying feat non-stop for the last 31 years and 7 months and although I’m now getting tired, I am still confident that I can keep going.

So please get behind me, wish me luck and warn me of any imminent dangers. Keep checking this site for regular blog, video and twitter updates and watch me avoid the reaper for another century at least.”

Alex’s video tells more of the story:

Equally mad are his 10 reasons why he believes he’ll succeed in living to be the world’s oldest man:

The whole thing is totally daft, but (I think) that’s pretty much the point.

Overall, it’s a great fit with Innocent’s brand personality, but it doesn’t feel like they’re trying to sell me anything.

Obviously the concept of living to be the world’s oldest person fits well with a brand that promotes a healthy lifestyle, but there’s no overt mention of any Innocent products (at least for now).

Other great elements of this initiative include Alex’s blog:

His twitter page:

And the selection of random bits on the website:

Including this great little competition:

They’re supporting it on their wonderful Facebook page too:

Overall, a lovely bit of fun that successfully deepens my relationship with the brand.

I look forward to seeing how this one evolves.

See for yourselves at Long Live Alex.

shared happiness

Tiago has been sharing so much great stuff recently, I’m in danger of duplicating his Cultural Fuel stream here, but this clip was too good to miss.

It’s such a simple concept: take the brand benefit, exaggerate it, and bring that exaggeration to life.

The reach of the activity itself probably wasn’t huge, but the video has achieved over 400,000 views on YouTube in its first week.

Perhaps it’s true: reality is more engaging.

I wonder if the same concept would have achieved as many views if it had been produced as a traditional TVC.

Lovely stuff from the guys at W+K.

comparing apples with apples

A few weeks back, Seth shared this interesting anecdote on his blog:

“At the farmer’s market the other day, three perfect strangers
asked me what sort of apple to buy…

People are now afraid of apples: afraid of buying the wrong kind;
of making a purchasing mistake or some sort of pie mistake.”

From a certain perspective, I understand what he’s saying: it’s widely accepted that too much choice can actually lead to ‘decision-making paralysis’.

However, there’s an alternative interpretation of Seth’s apple episode that’s equally intriguing:

Maybe the questions weren’t asked in fear.

Perhaps those three strangers struck up conversation because they were excited about this abundance of choice.

In recent years, the apples available in Western supermarkets have become commoditised: the same few varieties, in the same standard sizes, with the same bland taste.

But people who visit farmers markets tend to care deeply about their food: they’re passionate about taste, colour, texture, perfume, and about the gastronomic experience in general.

So, when they’re presented with an exciting array of new apple varieties, it seems natural that they’d want to share their excitement.

Here are some alternative reasons why people might have asked Seth a question:

Questions quickly establish rapport by engaging people in active conversation. They give the respondent a chance to share their own excitement without feeling challenged or inferior, fostering a freer exchange of information and opinions.

Each farmers’ market offers different foods and different varieties, but a good proportion of visitors tend to be regulars. Faced with a wide variety of unknown apples at a new farmers’ market, I’d seek the opinion of those around me too, because foodies love to share their passion and recommend favourites to others. Indeed, this sharing and conversation is a central part of the market experience.

The broader appeal

There’s a more general truth here that offers marketers a fascinating opportunity.

When people are passionate about something, their passion often spills over: they like to share their excitement with other people, and their own enthusiasm often extends into adjacent areas of interest.

For example, a love of wine can easily extend into passion for Scotch and Cognac.

And while it’s unlikely that we’ll ever succeed in arousing everyone’s passion for our category, those who do get passionately involved are worth a lot more.

This is because people love to indulge their passions: wine enthusiasts tend to spend a lot more on wine than ‘average’ drinkers, and they often buy a range of expensive accessories too.

Putting it in context

The trick is to understand where your brand sits in people’s world, and how it relates to their passions.

Part of this involves understanding that people can get passionate about things that we’d never expect, and as a result, even seemingly mundane brands can become highly relevant to their lives.

For example, I know many people who are passionate about their homes, and who spend hours researching new ways to make their home cleaner and fresher.

Although these people are unlikely to get excited about bleach as a category, a household cleaning brand that extends its relevance beyond simple product attributes to offer advice and solutions for the houseproud is much more likely to engage them.

As we’ve seen before, the task isn’t necessarily to become their favourite brand ever; rather, it’s about demonstrating how good your brand is in relation to everything else it competes with.

This is more about two-way engagement rather than advertising: finding more immesrsive ways to share things with them, and more importantly, helping them to share things with us and their peers.

UPDATE: Just noticed this wonderful post by Spike over at Brains on Fire – some very wise words that add an important focus to the words above:

“…many [people] are still treating people’s passion as something a company can find and then own. Find? Yes. Own? Never. Passion is not a sales transaction.

Passion is sacred. Passion is a part of a person’s life. Their soul. To find it, you have to clear away everything else. You won’t find it in a focus group that is created to talk about you and your product. You won’t find it when you do all the talking. And you won’t find it wd a tree until it falls for it.

Passion is not a commodity. It is a gift. Treat it like one.”

Go read the rest here.


soap operettes

This is a fantastic Nescafé campaign from the late 1980s.

It’s an interesting variation on the leitmotiv approach: evolve a creative concept over time to deliver increased depth and duration of audience engagement:

The same technique was harnessed in the equally wonderful Nicole, Papa work for Renault Clio a few years later.

Such storytelling is a powerful communications proposition that brands can deliver through conventional media like TV.

However, the proliferation of storytelling media like the Web means we now have many more opportunities to engage people than we did in the 1980s; which brand will be the first to refresh this approach and deliver the first epic  transmedia story?

I’d love to see more examples of these brand ‘soap operettes’ – please share any links via the comments section below.

for love or money

love or money

After the recent post on KINDED, I was interested to read about a Canadian credit union’s approach to  ‘random acts of kindness’.

Springwise report that Servus is giving away 20,000 ten-dollar bills to allow people to “make someone’s day” and start what they refer to as a “Feel Good Ripple”.’

In their own words,

The Feel Good Ripple was developed to inspire everyone to make a positive impact in their community – today and into the future.  It’s the credit union way of creating harmonious communities and sharing our cooperative beliefs.

Participants have already put some of the money to good use, including anonymously buying an elderly couple breakfast, and buying pet food for the SPCA.

It’s an intriguing initiative.

On the one hand, it’s great for provoking conversations; my first reaction – ‘what would stop someone from pocketing the money?’ – even works in the campaign’s favour, by increasing the likelihood that people will talk about it.

It’s also a refreshing and differentiating alternative to the usual banking campaign full of stock images and financial cliché.

Furthermore, generosity isn’t an attribute people normally associate with brands in the financial services sector. This ‘corporate philanthropy’ angle highlights the brand’s credit union philosophy and co-operative approach.

Sure, cynics may suggest that it’s all just marketing spin – that’s it’s just another example of brands trying to buy people’s affection.

But does that matter?

The brand could have used this money to produce the usual, irrelevant blandness.

Instead, real people are benefiting from the campaign.

And when it comes to choosing between one bland brand and the next, that little ‘feel-good’ edge could become a critical motivator.

Sometimes, it’s not about how good you are, but about how bad everyone else is.

Read more in the Springwise article and on the brand’s campaign website.

counting sheep puts people to sleep

counting sheep

To everyone obsessing about how to increase page views, followers, or ‘friends’ on social networking sites,  here’s a simple word of advice:

Stop.

Forget keeping score: it doesn’t matter.

Reach doesn’t equate to engagement, and people are only ‘friends’ if you interact with them on a regular basis.

Let’s focus on what really matters.

Over to Seth

Many thanks to Niall over at Simply Zesty for sharing this video
UPDATE: seems a few people have run similar stories in the past day or so too – this post from All Facebook is one of the best examples

take a bite out of their apple

Apple’s North American online store went down for ‘updates’ earlier today.

Engadget reports that during this outage, the site displayed the following image:

apple store outage

Sure enough, loads of people contacted Engadget, who duly ran a story that attracted close to 100 comments.

I’m amazed: Apple have managed to transform a conventional source of irritation into an effective talking point that encourages people to check back until the store opens.

Brilliant marketing.

legends of the dark black

guinness

A few weeks ago, over on the wonderful Noisy Decent Graphics, Ben shared some history relating to the oldest logo still in use today.

He came to the conclusion that it’s the S.P.Q.R. mark, which dates back to Ancient Roman times:

spqr

This started me thinking about the world’s longest surviving brands.

The world’s major religions – Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity and Islam – would probably all make it into the top 10.

Surprisingly, this Wikipedia page suggests that they might be joined by a few hotel brands.

Less surprising was the fact that breweries would probably make the list too; I can think of a few beer brands that have been around for more than a couple of centuries.

Perhaps the best example of this is Guinness – a brand which, fittingly, celebrates its 250th birthday this week.

It’s by no means the world’s oldest beer brand, but it’s certainly one of the most widely recognised; indeed, it enjoys such cult status that people happily wear Guinness T-shirts, even if they’re not big fans of the drink.

So what is it that has helped Guinness to survive and continue growing for so long, and what can other brands learn from its success?

Here are a few thoughts:

The brand is a story

Many people still believe that the recipe for Guinness was discovered by accident when Arthur accidentally burnt a batch of his normal brew. The story goes that he sold this batch at a discount to porters at the local docks, who all came back asking for more. Regardless of whether this story is true*, it’s exactly the kind of trivia that the brand’s core consumers love to share in pubs and bars, inspiring talkability at the point of purchase and consumption.

In a similar vein, I’ve heard many people retell the more accurate story that Guinness was regularly prescribed to new mothers, people who gave blood, those with heart conditions, and for a variety of other ailments. A variety of functional qualities, not least the drink’s high iron content, mean that many people still believe the brand’s historic claim that “Guinness is Good For You.”

The product is highly distinctive

In a market saturated with hundreds of lager brands that all look, smell, and taste the same, Guinness offers something different. It’s thick, dark, and bitter, and as a consequence, it stands apart from all the competing offers at the bar.

What’s more, outlets invariably serve Guinness in distinctive, branded glassware – vessels so prized that drinkers often ‘forget’ to return them once they’ve finished their pint.

It’s part of numerous consumption rituals

To many people, Guinness is Ireland, and vice versa. Every year, people make a point of visiting bars on March 17th to drink a Guinness in honour of St Patrick. A good proportion of them will do so in an Irish Pub – another ‘brand’ which has successfully travelled the globe, invariably taking Guinness with it.

And then there’s the product ritual itself. The real Guinness pour – ’119.53 seconds to perfection’ – is a brand ritual like no other. It’s an unparalleled intangible social object, reinforced by barstaff and brand fans the world over. Not only is the ritual observed, but people share the story themselves, citing the brand’s famous “good things come to those who wait” explanation.

Crucially, consumers can be a part of all these occasions – indeed, the brand is often merely a facilitator in their occasions – and that draws people deeper into the brand’s franchise.

It delivers a strong expressive (emotional) benefit

Guinness is often seen as a ‘real man’s beer’. The strong, bitter taste takes some getting used to, and more than a couple of pints in one sitting requires determination. The associations vary subtly by culture, but most relate to strength, courage, and masculinity, as well as a sense of mystery and intrigue.

It delivers inconic communications

The brand has built on its talkability through a long-standing association with iconic advertising. From the famous “Guinness is Good For You” slogan and the instantly recognisable toucan, to more modern incarnations such as the Rutger Hauer “Pure Genius” campaign and the award-winning surfer (both below), Guinness’s advertising regularly inspires conversations.

Guinness toucan

It’s an experience

It’s hard to rush Guinness, even if you could find a reason to want to. It’s a stout that’s meant to be savoured, not guzzled. The rituals, the distinctive glassware, the experiential settings all combine to make a Guinness so much more than a “quick pint”. Because of this, Guinness actually helps the drinker to slow down, which makes it a relevant choice at the end of a long day.

It’s tasty

While taste is a matter of subjective interpretation, it’s unlikely the brand would sell 1 billion pints around the world each year if it didn’t tickle the right taste buds. And that makes a big difference; no matter how much hype surrounds a brand, if it delivers fundamental utility, it stands a better chance of surviving in the long run.

I’m sure I won’t be alone in raising a glass (or two) in celebration of the Dark Black on September 24th.

*Apparently this story is pure legend, but I think I’ll stick with it anyway.
Remember that alcohol is only fun in moderation – don’t ruin the occasion by having too much.



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