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                                                    


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.


Sunday, March 6 2011

Blogging Is Not Dead

Despite recent suggestions to the contrary, written words online - beyond the burgeoning 140-character attention span limit - continue to represent a useful means for companies to connect with their targets. Recent musings about the demise of blogs tend to center on the argument that the new online conversational tools like Twitter, Quora, YouTube, Facebook, LinkedIn, and so on, have rendered blogs as essentially superfluous, redundant, and more time consuming than necessary.  Despite my beliefs to the contrary - my modest Paris Restaurant Reviews and Beyond blog continues to welcome an average of 60 visitors per day - I would probably be the first to agree that the blogosphere is littered with countless blogs, abandoned by their creators who quickly learned they bit off more than they could chew, or discarded like space debris once it was realized the blogs served no more useful purpose.  From the blogger's perspective, to maintain a fully-functioning blog, regularly updated with informative, engaging new content and maintaining a two-way conversation with commenters, well, it's a full-time job (which, for personal bloggers, only pays for the very lucky).  Yet, from a marketing perspective, just look at the evidence - more and more companies are taking advantage of the tool and claim that the outcomes more than offset the effort (at virtually no expense).




In terms of payoff for firms, check out the following results from HubSpot's Rick Burnes' 2009 analysis of 1,531 HubSpot customers (mostly small- and medium-sized businesses; 795 of which blogged):






In a nutshell (but more than 140 characters), Dreamgrow.com's founder and CEO Priit Kallas offers the following reasons why blogs are important:

  • Create an image of an expert
  • Interact with clients and prospects
  • Improve search engine rankings
  • Spread the word
  • Talk about more than just products and services
  • Solve client’s problems
  • Build trust
  • Stay on top of your field
  • Build brand
  • Exercise your creativity
  • Put a human face on your brand
  • Proving ground
  • Foundation for social media activities
  • Differentiate from competition
  • Educate clients, prospects, stake holders
  • Increase traffic
  • Make money

Still not convinced?  Then check out this little graphic from  Jonny at Technobabble 2.0:




Technobabble's blogging vs. Twitter assessment recalls my casual comments above:

Writing as a blogger, I an confirm what many people know, in that it takes a great deal of effort and dedication to compose a blog post. it’s not like twitter where brisk thoughts can be jotted down in 140 characters – instead a blog is a place where context is added to headline, where ideas are fleshed out and where structure is given to a proposition. Twitter and Facebook are not the right platforms for this – this is where a blog shines and becomes a library of all your thoughts and ideas. In essence it is where ‘idea starters’ reside.

But it's all relative, or should I say, connected?  Another finding from the HubSpot analysis:



In other words, the more meaningful and informative your blog content, the more interesting you will be on social networks like Twitter, Facebook, FourSquare, etc.  Easier said than done, but The Next Web offers a great start:  21 Tips to Create A Brilliant Business Blog.

And here are some suggestions as to how to draw a crowd, thanks to Problogger's Darren Rowse:



I hope to offer some more tips based on my own blogging experience at a later date, but you know, it's tired and I'm getting late.
I would love to hear from you, though - consider this a call for blogging tips and ways to keep building your follower base.






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.


Friday, October 15 2010

One Forty Plus

It was inevitable that once Twitter became famously established as the '140 characters or less' social media format, somebody would come along and - unless you are a stickler for concise and pithy updates - offer something better: 'one forty plus.' Welcome Tumblr (http://www.tumblr.com), Posterous (https://posterous.com/), and whoever else just added another innovation to the social web that I've missed in the last 10 minutes.  As it happens, these new social web innovations are different concepts from Twitter, which is still the leading real-time conversational channel on the web - at least, for now.

In short, the fledgling Tumblr and Posterous are extremely user-friendly blog creating/following sites that facilitate not only the sharing of user-generated content, but even more so, any sort of online content that you want to share with others (photos, articles, etc.).  As for the user-friendly aspect, I can personally vouch for that in the case of Tumblr, having set up my 'Connecting With Consumers' blog last night in about two minutes (http://connectingwithconsumers.tumblr.com/).  As for Posterous, we'll have to take the New York Times' word on that one.  What is particularly interesting about Posterous is that you can literally phone it in - that is, you can add content to your blog via an email from your smartphone.  Just shoot some snapshots at a concert you're attending?  You can have them posted on your Posterous blog in nearly real time.  Sounds pretty cool.  Here's the screenshot from Posterous:



Here's what the Tumblr dashboard looks like.  Looks familiar doesn't it?  Just click on one of the icons (text, photo, etc.) to upload content.




In fact, although not mentioned in the NY Times piece, it appears to be possible to upload content as easily as with Posterous.  Here's the welcome email I received after
setting up the CWC blog:



As for my CWC Tumbler blog, I intend to use it as a place to upload photos that I've taken (and as those I've found elsewhere that I deem worthy of sharing), as well as to quickly post shorter installments than what might be found at this website - something intriguing that I've seen online that is in one way or another linked to my book, Connecting With Consumers.




It remains to be seen how successful these new blog-generating entities will become, and how people will choose to use them - do we really need more blogs in the already bloated blogosphere?  Ultimately, it will be users who shape and sharpen the uses of the Tumblrs out there.  As I mentioned in my book, who knows what the social media landscape will look like in the very near future?  Well, we're finding out, every day. 

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.

Wednesday, June 30 2010

Larry King Is A Tweet, I Mean 'Twit'

Well, he tries.  Click on the link to hear King Larry butcher social media terminology.

Larry King