CONNECTING WITH CONSUMERS

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Wednesday, June 6 2012

76ers Connect With Fans




I'll begin this installment by openly admitting that although I consider myself an avid and knowledgeable fan of baseball and American football, when it comes to the one American sport that has accrued any degree of an international following, NBA basketball, you can count me out.  I'd be happy to challenge you to a game of HORSE or spend a couple hours watching college hoops on the tube, but try to have a conversation with me about the NBA and I will quickly bolt for the nearest exit.  Nonetheless, there is something talkable that I would like to focus on here regarding this past regular season and it just so happens to pertain to the one NBA team I have any degree of affiliation for - the Philadelphia 76ers.

I spent more than a decade in Philadelphia during much of the 1970s and a few years into the '80s, a period perhaps most noteworthy for Julius 'Dr. J' Erving and a trip to the NBA finals  during the 1976-77 season.  Unfortunately, the Sixers and Dr. J. were no match for the Portland Trail Blazers and Bill Walton, the latter of whom promptly won four straight to take the title after starting off 0-2.  Recent years have been lean indeed for the Sixers, until this season when a ragtag team of overachievers nearly shocked the basketball world before falling in the semi-finals to Boston after taking the series to deciding game seven.  But enough about the sport itself, what I want to write about here has to do with the marketing of the sport. 

The Sixers' traditional advertising campaign continued unabated during the season, and it remained as tired and hackneyed as most sports teams' marketing efforts.  Each ad largely followed the same script: swelling music, and a voiceover recounting some team facts, along with some footage from past successes.  Although a few of the ads ended with coach Doug Collins saying how proud he is to be a Sixer, all finished with the same tagline, "Passionate. Intense. Proud."  As losses began to mount during the second half of the truncated season, the ads began to look more and more ludicrous. 

Sixers_TV_Spot_-_HISTORY.mpg

So much for traditional marketing - however much money went into those communications no doubt accrued little dividend from jaded fans who quickly tuned them out.  But since purchasing the team in late 2011 for the relatively low sum of $280 million, the new Sixers' owners, a group of largely anonymous personalities led by Josh Harris, the billionaire private equity titan, created an amazing turnaround for the franchise by dipping into the connected marketing toolbox.  Through a combination of savvy non-traditional sports marketing techniques, Harris and the Sixers' chief executive, Adam Aron rejuvenated the fan base, which had been staying away from games in droves.  No, this did not involve luring Jack Nicholson, Snoop Dogg, and Will Ferrell away from the Lakers' front row seats; instead, the Sixers relied on some tactics that spoke more directly to consumers struggling to get by in hard times--cutting ticket prices as much as 50% on thousands of seats, jazzing up the in-game presentation, and speaking openly and often to fans.  According to Harris, when he and his partners acquired the team, "the Sixers were an undermanaged and undervalued asset that wasn't connecting with its fans."  Like many sports fans, people in Philadelphia prefer team owners to have some allegiance to their cities.  A wealthy New Yorker, Harris made sure to attend nearly every home game, shuttling down from NYC in his chauffeur-driven SUV, and then made sure to sit among the fans: "I like to be on the floor. I like seeing the games down there, and it's good to be down there with the fans."  Fans were invited to apply for free seats behind the basket, an opportunity that came with a caveat:  they had to dress up in Philadelphia-theme outfits.  Aron bought the basketball court on which Sixers' great Wilt Chamberlain scored 100 points in Hershey, PA, and then proceeded to give away pieces to fans during the game that took place on the 50th anniversary of Chamberlain's astonishing feat.

Not surprisingly, with this new fan-oriented approach, the Sixers are also active on social media.  Aron regularly converses and jokes around with fans on Twitter, posting dozens of times a day from his account, @sixersceoadam.  And the Sixers' Facebook fan page scraps the "Passionate. Intense. Proud." blah blah, replacing it with "Like. Comment. Share."  There are regular opportunities for fans to check out interesting videos and cash in via Facebook with special offers and contests.  At the time of this writing, visitors to the page could win access for two to the 2012 Sixers' draftee press conference and official NBA Sixers draft hats.  Fans, of course, are fickle.  Sportswriters are skeptical.  It helped that the Sixers' brass launched this marketing approach at a time when the team was surprising the pundits.  There's nothing better for marketing a sports team than winning.  It will be interesting to see what the Sixers' owners have in mind for their sophomore campaign.



Tuesday, May 8 2012

From B-to-C to B-to-B

Although this site is dedicated to consumer marketing, it goes without saying that more and more companies are waking up to the potential of new technologies and approaches for connecting with other companies. So in this entry, we go a bit outside the box to take a look at what businesses are doing these days with social media. The best window for meeting that objective may well be Mike Stelzner's  2012 Social Media Marketing Industry Report, with findings based on a survey of more than 3800 marketers.

SOCIAL MEDIA USE

Among the key results, we see that most B2B marketers claim to be using social media in their businesses, which essentially matches their consumer marketing counterparts:





SOCIAL MEDIA TOOLS

Perhaps not surprisingly, B2B marketers are catching up to B2C marketers on Facebook, although they surpass their consumer-oriented counterparts on LinkedIn, Twitter, blogs, and Google+.  The key to using such channels is to focus on where one's intended audience is likely to be spending the most time.



SOCIAL MEDIA BENEFITS


What about results?  These results reveal some of the potential benefits of social media for B2B marketers:

  • Over 56% of B2B marketers acquired new business partnerships through social media (compared to 45% of B2C marketers)
  • Nearly 60% of B2B marketers saw improved search rankings from their social efforts (compared to 50% of B2C marketers)
  • B2B marketers are more able to gather marketplace insights from their social efforts (nearly 69% vs. 60% of B2C marketers)
  • The one area where B2B marketers significantly lag behind their B2C counterparts is in developing a loyal fan base.  63% of B2C marketers found social media helped them develop loyal fans, compared to 53% of B2B marketers.
  • The fact that many businesses are not seeing a direct link between their social media efforts and increased sales or reduced marketing expenses may have something to do with a lack of acumen as to how results can be measured:  20% of the respondents asked “How do I measure the effect of social media marketing on my business?”


THE FUTURE


Some projections concerning how B2B marketers intend to invest their time with social media also were culled from the study:

  • Respondents claim to be far more likely to increase their use of LinkedIn, with, over 76% of B2B marketers stating that they will increase their use (compared to 55% of B2C marketers).
  • 71% of B2B marketers plan to invest more time in blogging (compared to 65% of B2C marketers).
  • As for Facebook, a majority of marketers predict they will increase their use of Facebook this year, but B2B marketers (68%) lag behind B2C companies (76%).

The top topics B2B marketers want to learn about (compared to B2C) are:

  • Measuring effectiveness of social media (77% vs. 78%)
  • Converting activities to sales (72% vs. 69%)
  • Discovering best social media tactics (69% vs. 74%)



THE LESSON LEARNED

... is one we probably knew already:  Social media is now as much part and parcel of B2B marketing as it of B2C marketing.

SOME LINKS TO CHECK OUT

Why Marketing is Broken and How to Fix It

83% of Consumers Bailed on a Purchase Due to Poor Social Media Customer Service                                                    


Friday, September 9 2011

What's There to Like About 'Likes'?

With all the talk these days about consumer insight, we sometimes forget that demographics matter.  The Facebook agency SocialCode just reported some findings relating gender and age to Facebook ad clickthroughs and "likes." 

Since last Fall up to August 2011, SocialCode analyzed Facebook ads for 50 clients and focused on those that included an image, text and a “like” button. The study analyzed how many consumers clicked on the ads, and from there, how many went on to “like” the company’s page.

Though the results are not exactly striking, the study revealed women to be more likely to click on an ad on Facebook, though both men and women are about equally likely to then click “like” once they’ve done so. The average clickthrough rate for women of all ages was 0.029%, compared to 0.026% for men of all ages. The “like” rate among those who clicked an ad was 39% for women and 38% for men.

In terms of age differences, older consumers were more likely to click on a Facebook ad, with clickthrough rates increasing from 0.026% for the 18-to-29 age range, up to 0.033% for the over-50 group.  As I said, not exactly striking, but there it is.  Moreover, consumers under the age of 50 were more likely to then “like” a brand, with 18- to 29-year-olds and 40- to 49-year-olds doing so 40% of the time. Those ages 30 to 39 had a 38% “like” rate, while only 36% of those over 50 hit the “like” button.


The conclusion?  According to eMarketer, 'Marketers can leverage these data to create Facebook ad campaigns that resonate with their target audience, and thereby increase “likes” and clickthrough rates. For example, in order to reach an older audience, brands should optimize their landing pages so these consumers can learn more about brands without necessarily clicking “like” right away. If brands are targeting a younger, more male audience, in particular, they would be well-served to focus on the “like” button within the ad.'

Good advice, but how did 'Like' become such a central benchmark of anything in marketing?  'Like' just sounds so milquetoast, kind of like having your date tell you that you are a 'nice' person, but he/she wants to start seeing somebody else.  If you're such a nice guy, for example, wouldn't she want to keep seeing you?  Or is it that she 'likes' you, but can live without you?  See what I mean?  It's pretty easy to be mildly amused by a humorous message and quickly click the thumbs-up 'like' button.  Ten seconds later, you are likely to have forgotten the brand and the message.  Who wants that?  As an attitudinal reference, I'm not sure 'like' taps any lasting evaluation.  Pringles has garnered nearly 15.5 million 'likes' for its Facebook fan page.  It's a pretty decent page, with nearly 100% response to consumer posts, plenty of short, amusing videos, etc.  How many of those 15.5 million 'friends' return to the page on a regular basis or truly appreciate the product?  'Like' - Just a passive measure of an increasingly passive culture.

Sunday, May 22 2011

The Real Cost of Social Media: Infographic

Here you go, a very insightful infographic shedding light on the value of social media for firms.  This is based on research conducted by Syncapse, including a comparison of 20 brands to assess the economic potential of having fans on Facebook.  Thanks to WOMMA's Pat McCarthy for bringing this to my attention.

Monday, April 18 2011

Pretzel Crisps' Social Sampling and Twitter

On the heels of my recent Pretzel Crisps' and Facebook campaign excerpt, I heard from Pretzel Crisps' PR Director Jessica Harris - another example of how the makers of an everyday snack product really understand how to resonate with consumers through social media - they listen and they connect.  Ms. Harris provided a summary of Pretzel Crisps' so-called "Social Sampling" program, along with a window into how the firm uses Twitter to generate brand awareness and consumer conversations.  I've presented the campaign summary verbatim below.


Pretzel Crisps’® “Social Sampling” Program Rethinks How to Connect with New Consumers

 

Objective:

 

Pretzel Crisps® wanted to introduce the brand to new consumers in a targeted and high-impact way.  “We needed a groundbreaking, cost-effective way to raise brand awareness and attract new users,” said Jason Harty, Director of Field & Interactive Marketing for Pretzel Crisps and recently referenced in the newly released, Listen First! Turning Social Media Conversations into Business Advantages, by Stephen D. Rappaport.  “By listening to the cloud of conversation and engaging with consumers in relevant dialogue, we could build increased interest in the brand and move Pretzel Crisps from an overlooked brand to a must-have brand in the competitive snack food category.”

 

Strategy:

 

As a humble pretzel cracker, it’s a pretty lofty goal to become a catalyst for social conversation, but that’s how they started.  By listening to and engaging in relevant conversations online, Pretzel Crisps delivered just-in-time product sampling to unexpecting new consumers.  The brand refers to their innovative marketing tactic as “Social Sampling.”

 

Results:

 

The Social Sampling tactic has innovated Pretzel Crisps’ field marketing approach and helped to bring new users into the franchise.  Since the launch of Social Sampling, the brand has used Twitter to: bring the idea of being a catalyst for social conversation to life and manufacture significant media impressions.  By measuring the number of impressions generated from each social sampling interaction and the resulting reach through each user’s following, Pretzel Crisps has been able to garner 2,877,000 earned media impressions since July 2010. 

 

Social Sampling delivered earned media via tweets, blog posts, reviews and comments.  While the brand has not been able to measure the specific sales lift resulting from their Social Sampling program, the brand is confident that this hyper-targeted, high-impact sampling is creating new consumers each day.


Tuesday, April 12 2011

Social Networks Scorecard

Another piecemealed infographic on the current winners and losers among social networks, from Mashable via Ignite.

Needless to say, social networking preferences vary according to gender, age, educational level, and geographical location.  Plaxo is the preferred network for elderly online users (over 65 years old), Facebook is more popular with women, whereas Digg and Reddit attract more men. Plurk outperforms LinkedIn as the preferred network for well-educated users who hold graduate degrees.



Interesting findings, but it's important to bear in mind that these are snapshots of social network usage at a particular moment, subject to change.  A good bet is to regularly check on social network profiles where they are regularly monitored, such as Quantcast's 'People' (which tracks the profile of site visitors) and 'Visitors' (which provides measures of site visits, but doesn't always match Google's Analytics 'Actual').  Here are a couple snapshots from Quantcast's latest evaluation of American Facebook usage:


Slide 10This charts provide further evidence that Facebook skews towards female youth, although 53% have children and earn a salary of over US$60K per year.  Not surprisingly, 50% of users are university students.  These trends are changing as the university market becomes saturated and as more moms come onboard. 

Saturday, March 5 2011

Connecting With Teens

I remember our first TV - a monstrous Zenith black and white box with an essential horizontal hold button, rabbit ears antenna, and three channels.  No HDML ports, no USB or ScanDisk inputs, no remote control, and I don't even think the word 'computer' had been invented yet.  If you're a teen today, that mini-techno-biography must send shivers up your spine.  Because you've grown up with laptops, the Internet, smart phones, and remotes up the wazoo.  You are the avant-garde of new technology.

A recent eMarketer report estimates that by the end of this year, 96% of US teens between the ages of 12 and 17 will go online monthly, compared with 74% of the total US population.

Regarding social networks: more than 4 in 5 teens are expected to use social media this year (vs. 64% of all Internet users) and 75% will use Facebook monthly. 

And texting is so second nature to a teen that it has just about relegated most email accounts to the trash bin.

The online social connectedness of teens for retailers is pretty phenomenal according to a new report, 'Teen Girls: Always on a Social Shopping Mission.'  According to eMarketer analyst Tobi Elkin, who authored the report, "Peer influence is the key driver in teen girl shopping behavior."  Although more than 4 million US teen girls purchased items online last year, shopping in the bricks & mortar context is still a major element of teen consumer behavior, as Elkin writes in her report:

"Teen girls are intrepid social shoppers who eagerly embrace digital and mobile tools. They enjoy hunting for clothes and accessories online and offline. Most thrilling, however, is the experience of shopping and buying in physical stores with close friends by their side."


"While they are price-conscious and driven by a great deal, teen girls weigh these factors against the all-important consideration of whether peers will approve of their purchases."



Still waiting to see how all this compares to teens outside the US.  And whither the teen boys?
Just have a look:











Sunday, February 6 2011

You Say You Want A Revolution

'My goal is to simplify complexity.'  So said Twitter creator Jack Dorsey, in a recent interview with Charlie Rose to explain his new C2C credit card project, Square.  Well, you sure don't get much simpler than 140 characters, and in an increasingly complex world, who doesn't crave simplicity?  Yet revolutions are anything but simple events, and anyone who has been pointing to social media like Twitter and Facebook as the underlying mechanisms to explain the recent uprisings in Egypt and other Middle Eastern states is sorely mistaken.  And if anyone has been doing the job in perpetuating that myth, you simply have to look at traditional media outlets. 

The role of Twitter in fomenting the mass anti-government protests in Egypt was initially questioned by Malcolm Gladwell, in his recent The New Yorker blog:

Right now there are protests in Egypt that look like they might bring down the government. There are a thousand important things that can be said about their origins and implications: as I wrote last fall in The New Yorker, “high risk” social activism requires deep roots and strong ties. But surely the least interesting fact about them is that some of the protesters may (or may not) have at one point or another employed some of the tools of the new media to communicate with one another. Please. People protested and brought down governments before Facebook was invented. They did it before the Internet came along. Barely anyone in East Germany in the nineteen-eighties had a phone—and they ended up with hundreds of thousands of people in central Leipzig and brought down a regime that we all thought would last another hundred years—and in the French Revolution the crowd in the streets spoke to one another with that strange, today largely unknown instrument known as the human voice. People with a grievance will always find ways to communicate with each other. How they choose to do it is less interesting, in the end, than why they were driven to do it in the first place.


Perhaps even more damning was this Sunday's simple observation by The New York Times' op-ed columnist Frank Rich, that at no time were the protests last week more intense and populated than the day immediately after the shutdown of social media sites by Mubarack and his gang:

The social networking hype eventually had to subside for a simple reason: The Egyptian government pulled the plug on its four main Internet providers and yet the revolution only got stronger. “Let’s get a reality check here,” said Jim Clancy, a CNN International anchor, who broke through the bloviation on Jan. 29 by noting that the biggest demonstrations to date occurred on a day when the Internet was down. “There wasn’t any Twitter. There wasn’t any Facebook,” he said. No less exasperated was another knowledgeable on-the-scene journalist, Richard Engel, who set the record straight on MSNBC in a satellite hook-up with Rachel Maddow. “This didn’t have anything to do with Twitter and Facebook,” he said. “This had to do with people’s dignity, people’s pride. People are not able to feed their families.”

Citing Evgeny Morozov's new book, The Net Delusion, Rich reminds us that there were only 19,235 registered Twitter accounts in Iran at the time of that country's American-dubbed 'Twitter Revolution.'  That's .027% of the Iranian population, hardly enough to create a groundswell.  And, of course, there is the growing likelihood that authoritarian regimes will put digital tools and technology to their own malevolent purposes, to spread propaganda and trace dissident networks.

 Like Rich, I would not begin to deny the power of social media for 'organizing, publicizing and empowering participants in political movements' around the world.  Certainly there is great potential there - when mainstream journalists quote unidentified tweeters, this enables getting word from people right where events are happening - but unless you know the source, and the overall context of the situation, what does it mean?  As the technology evolves, so too will the impact of social media.  For example, early last week, Google and Twitter unveiled a new speak-to-tweet service (@speak2tweet) that lets anyone with a voice connection upload a tweet, even without an Internet access. But to attribute such historic movements to social media alone is simplifying matters to such an extent that I doubt that even Jack Dorsey would approve.


Tuesday, November 9 2010

Consumers Connecting With Halloween

It was only a matter of time before social media and Halloween got together, and this generic Facebook profile costume deserves some kind of award for creativity, absurdity, or as suggested over at the Advertising Lab, the world's most postmodern Halloween costume.  Here it is, compliments of the aptly named WTF Costumes site.

Tuesday, October 12 2010

Connecting With Facebook and 'The Social Network'

With all the (still-growing) hype and banter about “The Social Network,” the David Fincher-Aaron Sorkin movie about Mark Zuckerberg and his circle of ex-friends and partners and the events leading up to the founding of Facebook, the film is soaring to pop culture iconic proportions, which could well be buttressed by a best picture Oscar early next year.  Already dubbed by a Sony executive as 'the first really modern movie,' Maureen Dowd, in her New York Times column yesterday,  noted how the film shares some strikingly similar themes as found in Wagner's feudal 'Das Rheingold,' or the Ring Cycle, which some claim inspired J.R. R. Tolkien's 'The Lord of the Rings.'  According to Dowd, those themes, epitomized by "quarrels over riches, social hierarchy, envy, theft and the consequences of deceit," and "fighting about social status, identity, money, power, turf, control, lust and love" simply underscore how little human drama changes through the ages.  

Yet, from everything I've read about the film and what it says about the social network about which the plot unfolds, I would have to say that the person who really nailed what Facebook is and the functions it serves was New York Times film critic A. O. Scott.  In his words:

THE great virtue of Facebook — as articulated early in “The Social Network” by Mark Zuckerberg, the Harvard student who was one of that site’s founders — is that it is “exclusive.” This may sound counterintuitive, given that one of the seductions of Facebook in the real world is that it is open to everyone. Far from exclusive, the network seems to have the potential to become universal.

But of course what the fictionalized Zuckerberg means is not that access to his nascent network is limited (though at this point in the story it exists only within the already restricted pool of Harvard students), but rather that the people who enlist can choose the company they keep. The film’s viewers, even those who have resisted the charms of Mr. Zuckerberg’s company, will recognize the logic, both human and mathematical, that has turned the word “friend” into a transitive verb with a newly formed opposite. Every Facebook user, friending and unfriending at will, can travel freely in intersecting circles of his or her own design.

In the utopian version of this resulting horizonless network, status is not something inherited or enforced by others or even earned: it is something you can change, update and revise according to your own whims. You are who you say you are, and what you want to be — a citizen of a perfect Emersonian republic of self-selection and self-reliance.

Another way of articulating the nature and functioning of Facebook from a more academic perspective is to consider it within the context of the long-standing concept of 'weak ties.'  As conceived in his famous 1973 American Journal of Sociology paper, "The Strength of Weak Ties," sociologist Mark Granovetter argued that weak social ties play a more critical role in the transmission of information through social networks than strong ties with our closest friends and intimates.  Think about it:  Our close friends tend to move in the same circles and access the same information channels as we do.  They know about the same films, concerts, TV shows, new products, gossip, etc. as we do.  Whereas the information our close friends receive considerably overlaps what we already know, acquaintances (i.e., weak ties) tend to hang out with people we don't know, and may have quite different media usage habits and behavioral patterns.  From our perspective, they receive more novel information.   

Now, it has been estimated that the average person has 500 to 1500 weak ties, but only 11-12 intimate connections.  It also has been suggested that 150 is the upward limit to the number of social contacts the average person can maintain in his or her life, the so-called 'Dunbar number.'  More precisely, the Dunbar number is the theoretical cognitive limit to the number of people with whom one can maintain stable social relationships.  True, I realize that number sounds like a lot, but then my name is not Dunbar and I did not come up with this figure.  But then again, it is far more easy today to stay in relatively constant contact with more people than possible in the pre-texting, pre-email era.    But what does all this have to do with Facebook?

As it turns out, the way most people manage their Facebook friends coincides very closely to the numbers above and also tends to reflect the ideas concerning strong versus weak ties.  Let's consider some numbers:  As famously pointed out in a 2009 article in The Economist on Facebook and the size of social networks, the average number of Facebook friends among current users is 120.  Yet most people actively interact with only a small subset of that total - less than 20, however you measure it.  More specific details regarding maintained Facebook relationships is seen in the following graphic, from Cameron Marlowe's Overstated blog (the numbers may vary, but the point is consistent):

    To pull these points together, it appears that, contrary to popular opinion, online social networks like Facebook do not appear to increase the size of one's social network (in essence, reitering 'The Social Network' notion of exclusivity).  Thus, although you may experience a periodic rush when you see your Facebook friends total steadily rising, you are not gaining new friends in the traditional sense of the word.  You are gaining access to an increasing number of weak ties, people you will follow passively for good (you will have access to information and lifestyles you would not otherwise be privy to) or bad (you will be bored out of your skull) - this isn't exclusivity, it's inclusivity.  As a possible resolution to this apparent inclusivity/exclusivity conundrum, Director of the Pew Internet and American Life Project Lee Rainey argued the following:

"What mainly goes up, therefore, is not the core network but the number of casual contacts that people track more passively.  Put differently, people who are members of online social networks are not so much 'networking' as they are 'broadcasting their lives to an outer tier of acquaintances who aren't necessarily inside the Dunbar circle."

The outer tier of acquaintances that Rainey is referring to is what Granovetter had in mind when he elaborated on weak ties.  Sure, a number of your Facebook friends may be old schoolmates or distant relatives you've long lost touch with.  So there clearly is a nostalgia element to the Facebook friending system.  But in the context of social networking theory, there's obviously a lot more going on here.

Friday, October 1 2010

The Future of Social Media: The Magic Number 5

With attention spans reduced to 140 characters or less in the contemporary, high-tech era, it's no surprise that lists have shortened.  It won't be long before end-of-the-year 'top 10 lists are reduced to 9, then 8, then 7, ... until they disappear altogether.  However much I may enjoy the Village Voice's 'Year-End Film Poll' and Pazz and Jop Poll, once you get to 'The Last House on the Left' 'and Nine' on the former, and Abe Vigoda's 'Reviver' on the latter, I think it is safe to say that it's time to start cutting.  Getting to the point, in this installment I begin a two-part series (how's that for short?) on 'top 5s for social media' - with a look to future social media trends.  Next up, a look to the present (I know that sounds backwards), with some advice on how to advance a social campaign today.  Conveniently enough, both topics come in the form of simple five-point bullet lists.

FIVE TRENDS THAT WILL SHAPE SOCIAL MEDIA 

Some intriguing insight into the near future vis-a-vis evolving technologies and social media provided at The Next Web.  Let's face it, however smart we may be, predicting the future is still pretty tricky business, and Marshall McLuhan's much-quoted future-thinking acumen, still applies: '. . . we tend always to attach ourswelves to the objects, to the flavor of the most recent past.  We look at the present through a rear-view mirror. We march backwards into the future' (Ray Kurzweil's The Singularity is Near notwithstanding).  Given that caveat, TNW's list, with useful commentary provided by PSFK and Paul Marsden, is more than interesting, and I believe their predictions fall within the timespan of plausibility.  Here are the trends, with verbatim commentary lifted from the aforementioned sources:

1.  Identity will become embedded in devices
Imagine this: your social media identities (Twitter username, Facebook profile, etc.) will be entered as part of the initial process of setting up your new devices, and will be propagated into all applications. You no longer will need to enter your Twitter or Facebook credentials to access related functionality on mobile applications – instead, they will seamlessly access your profile. The recently rumored Facebook phone offers an example application.  Paul Marsden suggests that this possibility will provide an opportunity for smart app-based loyalty programs and deal feeds that use social media identities to personalize communications.  Of course, the transition from paper to electronic couponing is well underway and the conversion of the portable device into a credit card reader has become a reality, but embedding identities, albeit threatening from a privacy perspective, takes these developments to a logical next level.  PSFK illustrates this first trend by envisioning a typical product thusly:




2.  Online sharing will become embedded in media life

With social identity embedded into the devices we use daily, social sharing will become an integral part of the way we enjoy media on our regular TV’s, DVD players and music players. These devices will evolve towards all being Internet enabled and allow us to share likes, links and personal commentary. Remote controls and store shelves may include “like” buttons which autopost to Facebook, while music players will sync preferences to preferred identity.  Disney's buggy ABC.com Full Episode Player (FEP) is a start in concretizing this trend, providing greater intimacy for the TV viewing experience. 

3.  Location will be embedded in all activities

Location aware devices will employ pre-emptive use of location to alert the user to things or people nearby that may be of interest. Four-square writ large.  Users won’t have to check in to a place to see if their friends are nearby, as their device will automatically alert them. This trend bears particular implications for marketers, enabling them to provide consumers with value in that message and offer – and not just another annoying discount offer that they will eventually tune out if it becomes an onslaught.  Individual targeting is clearly a trend I think we can all agree on for marketers, for whom broadcasting no longer makes sense.  From a personal perspective, we can only hope there is a clear opt-in aspect to this trend, so that consumers can decide where, when, and for whom they willingly can be located.  In more cases than not, more than I need to know is not always better and persistent targeted messages from marketers can get annoying pretty quickly.  But these personal tics aside, Paul Marsden intriguingly inquires about this potential scenario:  'Opportunity for a new breed of tuangou group buy offers, bringing together real time flash mobs to buy in bulk in store?'

4.  Smart devices and web apps will automatically check in and post updates

Identity aware devices, empowered by embeddable RFID tags, will allow this type of technology to spread beyond the mobile phone. A smart coffee thermos, for example, could enable automatic check-ins and send coupons to your phone as you enter your favorite coffee shop.  This is going to be the nuclear explosion in the coupon business. 

5.  Social networking will redefine how large organizations communicate

Large organizations have always struggled to share knowledge across multiple teams, divisions and geographies.
Social media inspired design patterns applied to existing enterprise software and/or intranets opens up opportunities for collaboration on an unprecedented scale. Employees in large organizations will finally be able to find colleagues with knowledge or experience they could benefit from. Collaboration will no longer mean simply sharing documents and version control, but the ability to find colleagues by shared interest and collaborate seamlessly in a multi-channel environment.  To some extent, this echoes, but also advances Tapscott and Williams' Wikinomics ideas.  As TNW points out, at present, current examples of this fifth trend include disruptive innovators like SocialText, Yammer, Podio and SocialWok.

In summing up, TNW suggests that what links these five trends into the big picture is convergence, as in traditional media (TVs, radios, etc.) becoming social media devices, corporate intranets becoming private social networks, and so on.  All of this, of course, is being powered by ongoing developments in consumer generated content and content creating tools.  No question, the future is now.

Friday, July 9 2010

WOM, The World's Greatest Marketing Approach

Thanks to the creative folks at 1000 Heads for their eye-catching WOM infographic (available here).

Centered by the greatest piece of puffery in the history of marketing ('WOM, The Most Powerful Force in the World" - I wonder, does that include the atomic bomb?), it simplistically conveys some very important points regarding WOM that indeed often are lost in all the exaggeration and hype about this critical form of C-to-C influence.  Hey, what's a little puffery to get across the idea that in many situations, WOM has a far greater impact than formal, paid-for marketing efforts.  And who hasn't used a bit of exaggeration to make that point?  To wit:

'Word of mouth is the most important marketing element that exists.' - Gordon Weaver

'Word of mouth is more powerful than all of the other marketing methods . . . put together.' - George Silverman

'Because of the sheer ubiquity of marketing efforts these days, WOM appeals have become the only kind of
persuasion that most of us respond to anymore.' - Malcolm Gladwell

'Word of mouth is the greatest of all brand messages.' - Dobele & Ward

Let's briefly dissect some of the key elements of 1000 Heads' perspective on WOM:

It isn't just Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.  That's for sure.  Keller Faye Talk Track studies have shown that a majority of WOM doesn't occur online at all, but that up to 90% is spread offline via face-to-face (73%) or by phone (17%).  Interestingly, these results are tempered by age, with younger persons (13-17 y.o.) giving relatively more WOM online (~19%) than other age groups.  Yet, many marketing managers feel comfortable with their social media strategy that consists solely of creating a Facebook page and Twitter account.  As Carlos Diaz of Blue Kiwi has argued in his social media maturity model, companies that limit their social media activity to setting up a Facebook fan page, corporate Twitter account, and a YouTube channel are social media immature, locked between the 'Pre-social' and 'Engagement' stages, and are merely adding a lot of 'blah blah' to cyberspace.



It's people talking to each other.  Offline and online, seamlessly.  Key word, 'seamlessly.'  True, I allude to the distinction between online and offline above, but maybe it's time we stop talking about WOM as occurring either online and offline.  WOM is fluid. As I wander through the streets of Paris, ride the metro, visit clubs, what have you, it is rare to see young people not talking to someone, either face to face, via a portable device, or both simultaneously.  Receive some WOM via one channel, it won't be long before the recipient is transmitting it to someone else via another, online or offline.

It happens when we feel something.  Emotion is our social currency, and passion drives us to share.

That passion is driven by everything from nappies to Napa Valley, from porkies to Proust, and of course, brands.

I can't argue with this emphasis on passion as being at the root of WOM, and passion comes in all shapes and sizes.  People may be passionate about many things.  A new book or film, a band, a restaurant, a dress shop, a new iPhone application - our affinity and enthusiasm about these sorts of things can light a fire that fuels and continues to fuel our conversations with others.  My nephew, a grad student at Clemson, often encourages me to check out new indie bands he comes across in S. Carolina.  No big surprise there.  But as I wrote in my book, he also was so passionate about his new Swiffer mop, that he posted about it on Facebook.  That's somewhat more surprising.  Okay, passion is important, but we also must take care to recognize that passion isn't the whole story when it comes to WOM.  Another large part of the story is need.  This morning I woke up with the realization that my house may have termites.  Termites.  Never spoke about them in my life.  But you can bet that starting today I'm going to be interacting with some of my neighbors, asking for recommendations about local services, who to trust, who to avoid.  That's WOM, and passion has nothing to do with it.  Passion is emotion.  Need underlies motivation.  Both stimulate WOM.

And where there's trust, there's talk, which leads to recommendation, and in turn, sales.  You don't need rocket science to understand the importance of trust in the WOM process and why we are more apt to follow the advice of our friends and relatives than advertisers and salespeople.  Friends and relatives, we are likely to presume, have our best interests at heart.  They want to help.  Advertisers and salespeople have their own interests at heart, and if they do want to help their customers, that desire is only secondary to wanting to help themselves.  I've often been perplexed by research findings suggesting that consumers in general do not admit to very high trust levels for bloggers.  But maybe that isn't as surprising as it sounds. Most likely, you don't know the blogger personally and you have no idea what might be the blogger's connection to the companies and brands that are recommended.  Until that blogger earns your trust, you'll prefer to seek out the recommendations of friends who have experience or expertise in the category of interest.  That's why I'll listen very attentively to the neighbors I trust who have previously dealt with a termite problem, and very warily to the experts who hope to sell me their services.

But brands need breadth and depth.  Mass buzz, but also deep advocacy to ensure their WOM isn't just a flash in the pan.  Another great point from 1000 Heads.  Passion and trust are often at the center of terrific brands.  Brand competition has never been more intense.  Yet brands that offer - and, importantly, continue to offer -  quality, innovation, and engagement, inevitably resonate with consumers, thereby enabling a long-term commitment that translates into deep advocacy.

It's always changing, so we have to keep listening and innovating in real time.  WOM waits for no man (or woman) . . .  Unfortunately, even some of the greatest brands are learning the hard way how quickly one can fall in the age of social media.  Nestle learned very quickly what happens when you try to inappropriately set the boundaries of engagement and disrespect your consumer audience.  The Nestle's Facebook fiasco is now an infamous case study in how not to engage with consumers via social media.  And you have to wonder what's going on with Johnson & Johnson.  Their customer-oriented response to the 1982 Tylenol crisis is in all the textbooks.  So what is with their current secrecy surrounding the 2010 recalls?  That attitude is contrary to just about everything I've written above.  Instead of stimulating favorable WOM, the company now finds itself fighting consumer lawsuits.  It's always changing, indeed.