Archive for the ‘Social Networking’ Category

Twitter Works, but Is It Working for Your Brand?

Wednesday, May 4th, 2011

(This is a special guest post from Douglas O’Donnell, Possible Worldwide Associate Director of Measurement & Analytics. The other day we were trading emails about how many brands fail to think about how to use Twitter the right way, and he took the initiative to write up the following point of view. Please enjoy and reach out to Douglas directly on Twitter, of course.)

Most brands have no business on Twitter. They apply traditional push marketing strategies and spend large amounts of money on irrelevant content that annoys customers. Most are on Twitter because it’s cool or to be on par with their competition.

The problem is that brands do not humble themselves for the new medium, nor do they consider how their strategies might affect operations challenges. My favorite southern saying is, “Big hat, no cattle,” and it applies here. If you don’t connect with customers in a human way, they won’t buy what you’re selling.

6 Rules of Humanizing Your Brand

  • Be human and humble (this should come naturally).
  • Follow the 80% (value add content)/20% (marketing) rule.
  • Establish Twitter-specific objectives, strategy, and measurement, and optimize.
  • Seek out your advocates and follow them first; don’t make them find you.
  • Interact with customers, like you would with a friend in a coffee shop.
  • Be relevant to their interests, be available to address their needs, and embrace negative comments as opportunities.

(Bonus rule: Fire your legal and editorial departments–unless they are solution biased.)

The Issue

Your brand is a snob. It expects that people will automatically love it. This approach doesn’t work in the social media space, especially on Twitter. The whole premise of Twitter is real-time, relevant interaction, and this is where brands drop the ball.

Let’s talk some psychology and consumer science. Your brand wants to be loved and talked about, but this does not happen in a vacuum. People like exclusivity. Access is the reason Twitter a la Southwest or Zappos (or Lady Gaga) is interesting. It’s an opportunity to peek behind the curtain of a company (or celebrity) that interests you. This plays to social media’s other strength, voyeurism. It’s the direct connection to someone or something you otherwise have no access to. So make it interesting. Who cares about your new product push? But it might be interesting if you tell me you’re the VP and post a picture from the manufacturing plant while finalizing the “new product” nobody knows about yet. For your followers, it’s a ticket to the party.

Twitter vs. Facebook

Brands struggle with Twitter because the people pitching content do not typically use the medium. Twitter is a completely different mind-set than other social media platforms. Twitter is public as opposed to Facebook’s walled garden. Twitter is about the conversation, in real time. On Facebook, conversations are fragmented over time based on when you access and check the posts within your social circle. A community manager on Facebook will have a planned strategy, a content calendar, and some guidance on occasional real-time interactions. A community manager on Twitter should be on call, like a doctor. This doesn’t necessarily equate to high-maintenance or time-consuming tasks. But Twitter must be monitored consistently for it to work as intended. Some brands such as @DellCares actually put the hours up of their social media outreach team on their Twitter profile, which is completely acceptable.

Provide Valuable Content

Nowhere is an 80% value-add and 20% marketing approach to content more important than on Twitter. If a brand is churning out coupons and a weekly pre-planned “buy our stuff” Tweet, they should not be on Twitter. If a brand is not committed to interacting frequently, each week with their customers or fans, they should not be on Twitter. If a company’s legal department can’t get over itself and its 1970s processes, the company must either educate legal on a real-time communications tool or not be on Twitter. In short, being on Twitter badly is worse than not being on Twitter.

Who does this well? There are good case studies and they’ve been exhaustively covered so I won’t rehash. But I will say that @southwestair (customer service strategy) and @zappos (transparency strategy) are two of the best. They are directly and intimately connected to their customers. They actually know them. They study them–not their ComScore profiles–but the actual customers and what they discuss. Also the “tweeters” are actual human beings, not mascots or faceless brands.

The Human Touch – @RoadID

In 2009, I launched Road ID on Twitter, a maker of identification gear for endurance athletes. We built a following by first seeking out and following people already interested in the brand or common interests that aligned with Road ID offerings. Engagement was instant and in six weeks we had more than 1,000 high-quality followers. Road ID is smart, tracking promotions to the sale so they truly understand how Twitter interactions influence sales. And they do.

Here’s the key. The account was attributed to Edward Wimmer, the cofounder, not a mascot or a brand. Ed is a human. The company and the content match the personality of the customer. He posts relevant content about sporting events, sponsorships, and highly engaging contests tied into Ironman or Tour de France races. Content his followers appreciate. He also interacts regularly when people tweet about his product, thanking them or taking on a customer service role if there is an issue. When you execute the 80% well, people accept the 20% marketing because it’s genuine. Transparency is key.

Paradigm Smashing

“It isn’t about who follows you; it’s about who you follow.”

This process works well on Twitter, but is completely counterintuitive. You must seek out and follow your customers first. Likely, people are already talking about your brand. Find them. Not with a social listening tool, although those can be helpful (Radian 6, Crimson Hexagon), but manually. Get intimate. See what people say over a few weeks time (content is different each time, as this is real-time search). Follow those people. Interact with the ones who say something clever or relevant.

Put yourself in the customer’s shoes. Why should I follow a brand? Offers? Coupons? That creates a pretty shallow relationship with your customer and you condition them to expect “deals.”

However, if I get followed by a brand the reaction is: “Interesting, Brand X just followed me, cool!” Especially if it was in connection to an @ response to something I posted. You got my attention because you didn’t sell me something. Instead, you engaged with me and thanked me, you told me what I had to say was interesting, or you acknowledged my frustration, humanly. You reached out to me in context and for that, I’m more likely to follow you back, brag to my friends, or even defend the brand. The brand must humble itself as a new kid in town. Get out and meet people!

“Remove traditional editorial and legal barriers.”

How many lawyers understand that that offensive tweets do not appear on a Twitter brand account, like they do on a Facebook page? The problem is editors and lawyers do not use the mediums they police. The premise of Twitter is real-time human interaction wrapped in authenticity. Timely interaction is what makes the ecosystem hum. Tweets that require legal review or editorial proofing before posting are useless. The opportunity has passed. If you’re a brand that cannot let go of editorial and legal control to an expert community manager you hired for their expertise, cancel your account today. Being human requires human attributes, like trust.

“Negative comments are opportunities. Embrace them!”

This is rooted in public relations and referenced frequently by David Meerman Scott, author of Real-Time Marketing & PR. Acknowledge issues as they unfold in an authentic way and you have the potential to convert a bad customer experience into a great one or an annoyed customer into a fan. It’s powerful when a brand directly contacts a customer who has an issue via Twitter (instead of requiring the customer to contact the brand). Goodwill is extended to the brands that try.

“My brand must be followed by important people to gain clout!”

If by important people you mean your customers, then yes. There is much talk about clout, or Klout the social influence aggregator. Both are nebulous, subjective, and changing daily–just like judges’ scores at the Olympics in figure skating. I have a striking example of clout on Twitter, Sarah Slowik.

Sarah (@lovelybutton) is a nice girl from Michigan and was randomly chosen by Conan O’Brien to be the only person he follows on Twitter. Conan has nearly 3 million followers. He follows one person, Sarah, who originally only had a few dozen followers. When Conan followed her, her followers increased to more than 45,000. So her clout by association is substantial. There’s value in being followed (or endorsed) by an influencer, but that rings true in life as well. And influencers are more likely to endorse you if you have something relevant to offer. Again, human rules apply.

So take a step back and truly understand why Twitter would make sense for your brand from a business standpoint. Then align that with the needs of your customers, humanly. Are you committed to establishing a long-term, meaningful relationship with them? If the answer is yes, then Twitter can be a powerful tool to improve your brand’s business performance.

“Haul Videos” Turn Another Private Moment into Marketing

Tuesday, June 1st, 2010

Although the term “Social Media” seems due for its trip down the hype curve into the dustbin of once-powerful historic buzz words such as ”Information Superhighway” and “Web 2.0,” the concept continues to gain traction because it really does represent a change in how people live their lives. When people can take private or small-group moments and share them with the world with a push of a mouse button or swipe of an iPhone, things can get more and more interesting. Small things that happen every day suddenly can turn into legitimate media movements. Such is the case of “haul videos,” which are turning shopping and sharing among girlfriends into the latest must-have for beauty and fashion marketers.

Haul videos have become the new trend for sharing among trendsetters and watchers. They represent the act of shopping at a store, then videotaping yourself showing off your purchases on camera, and then uploading it to YouTube for sharing. As seen in the ABC News video above, there are more than 100,000 individual haul videos on YouTube already, which have received millions of views. Some individual videos have been viewed as many as 700,000 times, while others are starting out with just two viewers (great quote: “…my mom begged me to do one!”).

The act of sharing your fashion purchases with other people is not new. Girls have been doing this for years—inviting friends over to their homes and showing off their latest buys from the mall. The difference now is that technology is allowing people to share with the world. Just as blogging turned diaries from private to public and Flickr allowed people to share their photos with the world, now cheap video cameras and YouTube are turning this once private activity into public, “social media.” Let’s also skip the concern that Gen Y is over-sharing or becoming too materialistic. These kids grew up regulating their privacy (with parents’ help) and are just doing what they’ve always done.

Once this private act goes public, some pretty interesting changes can happen. Some girls are able gather a large audience and can quickly impact product sales. Viewers see them as honest and “real,” and thus trust what they are sharing and saying much more than any advertisement. Advertisers become interested whenever they see a large, trusted audience and will continually look to earn a positive review. In fashion specifically, word of mouth has a very large impact on product popularity and sales, and these videos are a major catalyst for word of mouth. And not only do thousands of girls closely follow specific video producers, but search engines such as Google and Bing send additional traffic when the videos are posted.

This is an important point that signals a deeper change in how social media is impacting the marketing world. Instead of buying ad placements that are trusted less and less, advertisers are increasingly providing free samples to top bloggers and video creators. Advertisers must trust that their products will be liked by the reviewers, who in turn will talk about these products in their own words. If reviewers accept money or are perceived to be biased, then they risk losing the trust of their audience. This is much more meaningful than the typical model of buying glossy print ads or paying celebrities millions of dollars to promote your products.

This is also part of a larger trend toward social-media shopping. People are increasingly using technology such as Facebook and mobile phones to virtually take their friends along with them when shopping—both for assistance and fun. For example, they are using a location-based app called foursquare to tell their friends where they are browsing, and they are scanning UPCs to find product reviews on their mobile phones. At Bridge Worldwide, we created a tool for Pearle Vision that allows people to upload photos of themselves in various pairs of glasses so that they can get quick feedback from their friends before making a purchase.

So the question for you is: What can you do to make shopping for your products or services a more social experience? Social shopping isn’t going away anytime soon.

Promoted Tweets Might Unlock Marketer Engagement

Tuesday, April 20th, 2010

So the biggest non-surprise of the social-media business occurred last week when Twitter finally introduced its advertising model, Promoted Tweets. We all knew that the company had to show some significant revenue model in 2010, and we all knew that it would work to “monetize its traffic” by, we guessed it, placing advertising in front of people’s searches and tweet stream. Now it’s time to address the unanswered question that our clients are already asking us: “Should I jump into Promoted Tweets?” My simple answer, “Yes, and…”

Promoted Tweets basically applies the Google AdWords model to Twitter. Brands buy keywords based on what Twitter users are saying and searching for in hopes of getting a positive brand impression, click to website, or retweet of the ad to friends and followers. A very basic example is the one above: Search for “Red Bull” (full disclosure: a Bridge Worldwide client) and the first result is a Promoted Tweet that the brand created. Twitter is slowly and cautiously rolling out the service—starting with a handful of A-list brands such as Starbucks and Best Buy, and only using it on search pages. But the company promises to add this to the regular stream of tweets users receive, both on and the many third-party applications that use the Twitter API.

So what is a marketer to do? Especially one that is still not sure what to do on Twitter to begin with? This is the question that kept me up all Friday night as I pondered this blog post and a Digital Alert that we will send to our clients next week. There is a simple answer and a complex answer.

The simple answer is that marketers should definitely experiment with Promoted Tweets. Once it opens up to more than the first handful of brands, Promoted Tweets will likely be very easy to set up by anyone on the brand team. Like Google or Facebook, a very small amount of money can be used to start testing results. (I’m talking about even a few hundred dollars.) For brands that are already buying Google or Facebook ads this is an opportunity to divert a tiny amount of that existing budget to send traffic to the same places and gauge click-through rates and cost-per-click among these three options. Easy enough, right?

But the complexity comes when a brand manager opens a Promoted Tweets account—as this simple step can open up a can worms. First, you have to start thinking about people who like your ads and want to follow your Twitter feed. Uh, oh—you don’t have a Twitter feed. And if you start one, who is going to monitor it? After all, people expect brands on Twitter to be there for them and truly interact. This is what makes Twitter a “social media” after all. So when they complain about your service or rave about your new product, what do you do? Suddenly your work got a lot harder, legal wants to review your tweets, and your customer service and PR people are coming to your desk. Maybe it’s not worth the effort after all…

Don’t panic.

The lesson here is that it is time for your brand to start playing with Twitter and engaging with consumers through this new but high-growth service. The real first step is to create a Twitter account on your own and spend a few minutes per day playing with the service. Then read Advertising Age or Brandweek and see how a handful of marketers are using the service in new ways. By personally diving into the space you will quickly have the smarts to deal with the right approach to engaging with consumers as well as your organizational hurdles.

You will discover as a new Twitter user and already-smart marketer that the interruptive advertising model represented by Promoted Tweets is interesting, but by far the least meaningful to your consumers. Promoted Tweets will work best if you are already “out there” with added value. Red Bull, for example, bought its brand name on Twitter so that it can highlight its killer content and existing high-quality Twitter account.

But there are many more meaningful ways to use Twitter to create marketing that people choose to engage with, and advertising that adds value to people’s lives. For example, here at Bridge Worldwide, we recently gave Healthy Choice coupon downloaders the chance to share a product review on Twitter. Subway is giving people a chance to win gift cards by tweeting about their favorite celebrity. Dell sold more than $6.5 million in product through its Dell Outlet Twitter feed. And Southwest Airlines uses its Twitter account to live and breathe the fun that its equity represents. The possibilities can vary widely based on your business goals, customer insight, and the creativity of your team. And although you will have to put in some work to understand this new medium and get your organization comfortable with it, Twitter is an incredibly cheap and potentially powerful tool.

Just as Twitter is evolving as a company by experimenting with an ad model, your company should be evolving its marketing by experimenting with Twitter.

Pringles Tests Spontaneous Facebook Fun

Tuesday, April 13th, 2010

I’ve read far too many articles and white papers about how brands should approach social media. Most make the topic more complicated than necessary—most likely in order to suggest that they have some secret sauce that is available at a convenient hourly rate. But complexity makes marketers even more frightened of jumping into the social pool. So here’s a simple suggestion: Listen and add value. Thanks to digital technology, it is extremely simple and low cost for your business to do both. As an example, let me share our work on the Pringles brand that just hit the social scene last week.

For well more than a year now Pringles has been very active in social media. We chose to embrace this as a focus of our digital marketing work because the brand fits within the world of entertainment and social sharing. The brand itself aims to create moments of unexpected fun. One of our first steps was to pull together many brand and consumer-generated Facebook groups. Within a few weeks Pringles became one of the top five brand Facebook accounts with more than 3 million fans around the world. In the months since, we have used the space mainly to share how others are playing with the brand. For example, highlighting fan-created videos such as this one.

We also used the Facebook page to share our “Can Hands” banner ad last summer. The ad that you can’t stop clicking became a minor sensation on sites where people share what’s cool (rarely advertising)—such as Reddit, CollegeHumor, BuzzFeed, and Fark. Over one weekend we had 300,000 people play with the banner on our staging server. Many completed all 95 clicks to get to the end.

But as much as we like to seed the engagement ourselves, a lot of Pringles social sharing comes from consumers’ passion and initiative. For example, in January someone created a Facebook page titled: “Dear Pringles, I cannot fit my hand inside your tube of deliciousness.” The group apparently arose as a humorous “protest” to the size of the can, and some people’s inability to reach down for the last few crisps. We watched as membership grew to 10,000 fans within the first week, and then to 100,000 fans over the first month. When the group reached 1,000,000, we knew we had to do something.

But what to do? Well, the most obvious solution when people are having fun with your brand in the social sphere is to join in on the fun—even if it means poking fun at yourself in the process. Our team worked with our global client to answer the buzz with something that could be quick, cheap, and meaningful. It’s important to call out why I chose these words:

  • Global: Pringles is a global brand and Facebook is a global platform, so we had to be broad.
  • Quick: The passion around this Facebook page might dwindle over time, so we wanted to act before it faded.
  • Cheap: You never know whether an idea will catch fire or not; in fact, the odds are against it. So better to try something that works on a small budget. Further, when you spend a little to test an idea it means you have to have fewer conversations about various approvals and ROI measures.
  • Meaningful: Again, the key is to add value to the community. People love to see a brand get involved, as long as its participation adds to the fun versus sucking it out.

Our agency and client team worked on ideas together and ended up choosing to use video to “respond” to people who are having trouble getting their hands into our cans. We developed ideas and shot video in an extremely short time period, and just uploaded them to YouTube and our Facebook page last week. You can see one of the directions we took in the video above—a tongue-in-cheek exercise video for people to work on their can/hand skills. At the end of the day, the Pringles can is engineered to protect the crisps and maximize value for consumers. A shorter can would mean fewer crisps, and a wider can would result in more broken pieces. So we’re not changing the can, but we can have fun with it—even building in the solution to consumers’ frustrations: “Tip & Enjoy.”

Another miniseries takes the form of a taunting voice from the bottom of the can. Check out one of these videos below:

It’s far too early to call this a success. We just launched it last week and will be doing a few things to seed it in the weeks ahead. Whether this becomes the next great social-media case study or not, we have entered the conversation in a meaningful way and will definitely learn lessons that will make us more successful as we continue our venture into social media. No matter what white papers you read or how many social-media experts you hire, there is nothing more valuable than getting firsthand experience with your fans.

Sharing Social Insights from #SXSW

Thursday, March 25th, 2010

sharing kids

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about how our society is becoming more “social” thanks to digital tools that are bringing us closer together. Blogs, online communities, Twitter, Facebook, and Foursquare are helping people help each other more than ever since we broke out of small clans thousands of years ago. For a while I have believed that these social-media tools are taking off because they match the way the human race has evolved to survive and advance by sharing. At the SXSW Interactive conference, I had the chance to see professor and author Clay Shirky connect more dots for me in his talk, titled “Monkeys with Internet Access: Sharing, Human Nature, and Digital Data.”

Shirky retold several stories from his excellent book, Here Comes Everybody, but focused on describing some fundamental insights around what and why people share. His first point was that people are programmed to share based on millions of years of evolution in which we lived in small groups and traded favors and resources to survive. Remembering favors and managing personal relationships takes up a large part of our advanced brains, and studies show that there is even a limit to how many relationships our powerful processors can manage at one time (Dunbar’s number, which is said to be 150 for humans). The act of sharing releases a pleasant-feeling dopamine reward and positive memories that last for some time.

But all sharing is not created equal. While all forms of sharing can bring positive feelings, different types come at different costs. Shirky painted the picture of an old woman walking toward you on the sidewalk. She is trying to get your attention and can ask for one of three kinds of favors:

  • Goods: She might ask for money. This causes us to tense up and feel most negative, because sharing a “good” like this comes at a one-for-one cost. If you give her your money, then you cannot benefit from it any more.
  • Services: She might ask you to help her cross the street. This comes at some cost, as you must stop what you are doing and spend your time backtracking with her. But this favor does not take much from you.
  • Information: She might ask for directions to a nearby store. This favor is essentially free because it takes very little time and nothing is lost. Interestingly, because information is given at no cost, our society generally looks down on people who fail to share this. We have evolved to punish people who fail to share alike.

Shirky used this model to describe how online music swapping arose so quickly with Napster despite claims that it was socially unacceptable—like stealing. In the days of records, people did not share music very often because you would literally have to give up your record album to a friend. It was a good people did not want to part with. With the rise of cassettes and CDs, people shared more often by making a mix tape or burning a copy. This was a service that took some time to do for each person, so it was still fairly difficult. But the ability to rip and share music online turned music into information that people easily shared among friends. In fact, we became compelled to share this information at risk of being perceived as a hoarder.

Technology that allows for greater sharing, say turning goods into information, or making information much easier to share broadly, has led to some of the largest societal changes in history. The adoption of the printing press in medieval Europe brought religion to the masses and sparked revolutions in faith and science. According to Shirky, “abundance brings more change than scarcity.” He described how already digital sharing is “turning small, private, expensive good acts into big, public, cheap ones.”

I believe marketing is one of those models that will change dramatically because of the power of sharing. Today, digital tools have turned us all into consummate sharers. With five seconds on Facebook or TripAdvisor, we can benefit from the positive feelings of sharing tips and reviews with friends and strangers. Such information is more trusted and useful than anything advertisers can say, and Google places much heavier weight on what society says when individuals search for answers online. Advertisers, grocery stores, maitre d’s, and travel and real estate agents no longer have the power of information scarcity in a society in which people are rewarded, encouraged, and compelled to share with each other.

In a presentation after Shirky’s, renowned speaker Tim Sanders shared his experiences and secrets on how to make a living from the speaking circuit as he does. That’s right, Sanders gave away extremely rare and powerful information to people who might end up competing against him for speaker fees in the future. But Sanders enjoys helping others, and he believes that he is better off sharing with others who will drive the personal connections and positive word of mouth that will him get more, higher-paying speaking gigs down the road.

Interesting, Sanders was asked by someone in the audience about whether “transparency” was the defining word of our new age of digital social sharing. He actually disagreed, saying:

“Anyone can be transparent. I believe the history books will say that social media was about ‘being helpful.’”

My many thanks to both Shirky and Sanders for sharing information that will help me be more successful in guiding marketing strategy and winning speaking opportunities. And through this blog post, I hope you benefit from their knowledge as well.

Must We GRP-ize the Tweet?

Tuesday, February 16th, 2010

05_Flatbed_2 - MAY

This week our strategy team got up in arms around a question from a partner agency that focuses on traditional (i.e., non-digital) marketing, and I felt it was worth sharing and discussing here. The agency was working on a project for one of their clients and asked the question: “What percentage of tweets are seen?” The data team at this agency was sitting down to build an algorithm to model tweet impressions and was looking for our digital/social expert opinion. An interesting question, indeed, and an example of how much baggage we need to overcome to move to the next evolution of marketing.

First, to address the question directly, our own Jonathan Richman provided some insights on the challenges of measuring how many people see a given Twitter message. He brought up the points that tweet readership varies by the time of day, how many people retweet a message, how many followers they have, the number of lists people might be on, the use of hashtags (#), and the types of Twitter API readers that people are using. There are challenges such as the fact that the more people you follow and more people who follow you, there are more “impression opportunities” but the ability to pay attention to any one of the individual tweets goes down. Richman’s answer as to how you can calculate all of these impacts: You can’t.

I added my own two cents to his response: You shouldn’t.

I didn’t have to ask my partner agency for an explanation to see what they were trying to do for their client. In the traditional marketing world that still dominates, clients want to measure marketing in common terms. For years this least common denominator has been the “impression”; brands have bought TV, print, and radio ads in the cost-per-thousand-impressions format, which allows them to compare spending across any form of interruptive media. In theory, this also helps marketers decide where to focus their budgets and time. Our industry’s most-frequent response to new media is to try and stuff it into the box of old media, so that dollars can flow from one to the other with confidence. So the question: How many impressions does each tweet receive?

So lots of very smart people are now spending their time modeling impressions per tweet, just because it’s the model we’re used to. The very obvious problem is that this is the wrong way to measure new media and new marketing that tools such as Twitter are bringing to brands. If we want to win in a world of exploding social change and killer competition, we must invent new measurement models rather than forcing ourselves through something that means less and less.

Last fall I wrote about how we marketers must abandon the common yet meaningless measure of impressions and instead begin to measure engagement—a key step on the path to Marketing with Meaning. Engagement to most of us in the industry occurs when a customer chooses to spend time interacting with marketing. It’s actually something that can be measured across all media as well. You can count the number of people who, say, choose to watch your YouTube video, subscribe to your email list, or become a fan of your brand on Facebook. Sorry, you do have to do a little more modeling to gauge the value of these different types of engagement—but this is how we marketers must earn our salaries, rather than just turning our jobs over to algorithms and up-fronts.

So instead of trying to count how many people view a branded tweet so that we can compare impressions to TV and print, how about we count something related to engagement? On Twitter, this would be the number of people who sign up for a brand’s Twitter feed, click on a brand-related URL through Twitter, mention the brand in Twitter posts, or retweet something about a brand. These are all examples of customers choosing to engage with a brand and share it with their friends. These activities (note the root “active” versus “impression”) show times when someone is consciously, choicefully dialed into your brand.

And, of course, we could develop similar metrics for traditional advertising. We could count the number of times people subscribe to your commercials on their TV sets, or how many people bring in print ads and hand them to their friends. Wait a minute: You can’t do that. No one does that. Which is exactly the point.

Facebook Makes Birthdays Better

Friday, December 4th, 2009

facebook charity

This week I’ve had fun writing about how technology companies are marketing themselves in meaningless and meaningful ways. I want to end the week with a timely surprise from Facebook that made me smile.

I have to admit to you, dear readers, that my birthday is coming up in a few days. I’m one of those people who really dislike birthdays. I don’t think I’m that “old,” but I find that once you graduate from childhood and reach the last cool birthday of 21 (legal drinking age in the U.S., for those international followers), the birthday is just a reminder that you’re getting older. It also doesn’t help that I have a birthday that’s pretty close to Christmas. When your “special day” is completely overshadowed by Thanksgiving and Christmas, it tends to suck. Until recently, only my family and a few close friends remember when my birthday arrives. But now, thanks to Facebook, a couple of hundred additional people now get reminded to wish me a Happy Birthday.

I am sure that a lot of you know the drill by now. Your birthday hits and suddenly tons of people in meetings and online take a minute to wish you a happy one. Facebook isn’t the first social network or tool to remind users of others’ birthdays. I recall Plaxo doing this a while back. But Facebook is the first truly mass social-media tool to take off, and its ability to call out this personal event has made a small, noticeable impact on people’s lives.

For years, Facebook has been doing nothing more than highlighting the day, but this year I got a message from the service a week ago that invited me to ask my friends to make a donation to a cause of my choice. This immediately got my attention for several reasons. First, the message was sent when I was aware of the big day coming up (and starting to dread it). Second, Facebook noticed that this is a great opportunity to use the power of friends’ attention to promote special causes. And soliciting donations for a cause is much more meaningful than giving yet another gift. It’s easier than shopping and better for the world than more junk.

The simple, straightforward “Birthday Wish for Charity” can be seen here. Within a few minutes you can choose a cause, explain why you believe in it, set a fund-raising goal, and share with friends and well-wishers. It made me feel like my birthday attention could be directed to something real and positive. I will admit that there are a few flaws in this tool. For example, the number and diversity of charities represented is very small. I found about 15 total causes, and about 12 of them were related to animal issues (noble, but not my first priority).

This idea is not necessarily a mass marketing tool that is going to help Facebook generate another 25 million members, but it does hit every single member in a meaningful way and special time of year (every year). By helping people share and support their values, the tool helps people get more value out of Facebook. Simply put, it’s Marketing with Meaning, and I hope to see many more examples like this from the company in many more birthdays to come.

Healthy Choice Offers “One Little Review”

Monday, November 23rd, 2009

healthy choice review

(Today Megan West, one of our rising star strategic planners, takes over for a guest blog post about a program that she and our ConAgra Foods team at Bridge Worldwide led for the Healthy Choice brand. I think this is another example of how social media is not a strategy, but rather offers many tactics that can help deliver better results on a strong overall marketing strategy. For more examples see my previous posts on Golden Tee, Estee Lauder, and MoMA.)

In September 2009, Healthy Choice launched a new TV spot featuring Julia Louis-Dreyfus, in which the main call to action was to drive consumers to the brand website to print a high-value coupon. This was a first for our Healthy Choice team, and the number of people who would actually visit the site was a complete unknown. To be clear, this wasn’t just a 3-second tag or 10-point font callout at the end of the spot, but Julia Louis-Dreyfus herself telling people to go print a coupon online.

This was big. We were going to give away massive amounts of $2 printable coupons for two Healthy Choice products. And we also saw an opportunity to capitalize on this influx of visitors by giving them an opportunity to register for the Healthy Choice relationship marketing program after they printed, which offers a promise of more offers and goodies in their inbox.

Because this campaign was about trial of the new Healthy Choice products, getting a bunch of new registrants into the database was a tertiary benefit for many of the key stakeholders on the brand. But the digital team challenged itself to make sure these new people stayed active and engaged with the brand far beyond a commercial message and coupon redemption.

The Idea: Bite-Sized Reviews

We saw an opportunity to hit our trial goals and build long-term loyalty by implementing a “Bite-Size” review program. Here’s how it works:

  • Two weeks after printing the coupon (i.e., enough time to go to the store, redeem it, and try the meal), consumers who registered for the Healthy Choice newsletter are sent a welcome email.
  • The email invites them to come give a mini-review of what they thought about the product in exchange for another coupon. We offer $1 off any two products to encourage repeat purchase of different varieties.
  • At the review site, consumers choose the product they tried, rate it, and post a 140-character or fewer review of what they think.

healthy choice review 2

They then get a preview of the review and the opportunity to share their review in real time by pushing it out via their personal Twitter or Facebook accounts. The tool makes it simple for consumers to sign into their account and update their status.

We put a lot of thought into what information we want them to be able to share via Twitter. As marketers, our immediate thought was, “Make sure to get the URL in there,” but after really thinking about the true objective of pushing out reviews (awareness for the products), we decided to leave it off to give consumers more space to write their review.

Why It’s Meaningful for Consumers:

  • It sends them an email soon after signing up, showing that the brand is going to deliver on the promise of “More Offers” and validating their reason for signing up.
  • It gives consumers a chance to post their actual thoughts about the products they tried, with no content censorship by the brand. This lets people know that the brand believes in its products and really wants to know what people think about them.

How It Delivers Marketing Results for the Brand:

  • It leverages our consumers’ social-media networks to build awareness of the brands’ products in the form of actual consumer language.
  • It keeps news registrants active and delights them with additional offers and a chance to share their thoughts, hopefully turning them into brand advocates.
  • The brand soon hopes to launch a Rating and Review section for all of the products on (because they have recently re-launched the brand with all new food formulas and tasty new dishes!), and this helps us to build a repository of “seed” reviews that can pre-populate that section. We planned for this by asking consumers who submit reviews to agree to let Healthy Choice publish them for marketing materials later.

It’s far too early to report in results of this campaign and the specific review tool, and this gets into the area where we want to keep data confidential, anyway. But you can see for yourself the amount of reviews posted to Twitter by checking out the responses to @Healthy_ChoiceAs you can see, the reviews are starting to come in nicely in terms of amount and reaction. Taking just one example, @debbiemekler says: “Tried @Healthy_Choice Grilled Chicken Marinara. Tasty and well-seasoned. Would try move in the future.” This great, personal review went out to her 50 followers, who trust what she says as word of mouth, not advertising.

This goes to show that brands can benefit by finding ways to turn traditional marketing programs such as coupon offers into a way to tap into consumers’ growing desire to share socially.

healthy choice review 3

Golden Tee Video Game Extends Experience with YouTube

Friday, November 6th, 2009

golden tee youtube

A few weeks ago I was having a beer with a friend at a local watering hole, and something caught my eye in the background. It was a YouTube logo that flashed on the screen of the Golden Tee virtual golf video game machine behind our table. Being a passionate meaningful marketer and always on the lookout for a new blog entry, I ran over to the game to check it out. I discovered a very cool add-on to this ever-popular bar game.

One of my personal goals in my job as head of strategy at digital agency Bridge Worldwide is to convince my clients that they don’t necessarily need a “social-media strategy.” Yes, heretical as it might sound, social media such as Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube are all important and offer great marketing opportunities, but that does not necessitate a specific “strategy.” Rather, we should stick to strong overall marketing strategies, and discover ways in which new social-media tools might fulfill a need or take advantage of an opportunity. A few months ago I made this point here and used an example from New York’s Museum of Modern Art to show how great social-media ideas can deliver on a solid marketing strategy. Let me try that exercise again here in an effort to continue to make my case.


Golden Tee is a coin-operated (i.e., arcade-style) golfing game that was introduced in 1989 . The game is produced by Incredible Technologies, the largest producer of these types of games in the world. Golden Tee is its biggest platform, and there is an update to the game system each year. Just like producers of home sports games such as Madden NFL and Tiger Woods PGA Tour, Golden Tee must add must-have features to its game system each year in order to keep players and bars interested.

Business Objective

Like real-world golf, Golden Tee (GT) is not for everyone. It is played in bars, standing up, with loud music in your ears. It takes some time and skill to master the roller ball used to hit the ball. It also sucks a lot more quarters from your pocket than what casual users are used to. In my personal experience, it normally attracts two or three guys who spend hours at a time on the machine pumping dollars into it.

My assumption would be that the company has a very thin number of customers who are responsible for a vast majority of the playing time. So GT’s business objective is likely something close to: Increase the playing time and occasions among regular customers. This puts more dollars into the machines for GT, and bars love their share of the cut and added drink and food sales, ensuring that they make the move to the annual game upgrade. And it is a business objective that is very easy to measure.

Customer Insights

First, these regular players are very competitive. They spend hours on the game going against close friends, and I’ve seen rampant wagering (often for the next round of brews). There is even a national tournament for GT players. One thing you have to know about competitive players of ANY game is that they love to remember and share the stories of their greatest feats. Basketball players remember their greatest shots. Regular golfers love to talk about their longest drive or first birdie. I will never forget taking the lead for my team at 5 a.m. in the Bourbon Chase run a few weeks ago. That’s the key insight for passionate players of any game or sport. The more we remember and share, the more the game becomes a special part of our lives, and the more we will (pay to) play.


Put these together and the strategy is simple: Find ways to help regular users remember and share their greatest shots. But how do we deliver on this idea? Back in my days of playing at arcades this would be a real head-scratcher. The closest thing I can remember from those days was that Activision had a program in which if you got a certain high score on one of its Atari 2600 games, you could take a photo, develop it, and mail a copy to the company, and months later they would send you a commemorative patch. I still have a towel that I sewed all my patches on somewhere (unless my mom or wife has disposed of it by now).

Here’s where digital and social media come in: They give marketers unprecedented tools that allow them to deliver on strategies in amazingly rich and cost-effective ways. Golden Tee now flags certain “Great Shots” in the game (holes in one, for example) and provides players with a code that they can use to see and save a replay of the shot on their computers back at home. GT uses YouTube, a free, ubiquitous service that allows the company to organize all of its videos and provides players with a way to share them on their personal websites and social-networking profiles. Here’s one completely random example of a Great Shot from a player named “sixfootsixbrad”:


The folks at Golden Tee have not shared results that I can find about the program or how it has affected their sales, but that won’t stop me from trying to measure it. On the Golden Tee YouTube channel, more than 58,000 videos have been uploaded by players. Most videos have anywhere between a handful and 100 views, and the most-viewed one has more than 7,000. My guess would be that there have been at least 1 million collective views of these user-generated videos in the year or so that the tool has been in use. If this is compared to the many other user-generated video contests, it would be at or near the top in terms of total participation and views. Not bad at all.

More evidence of success of the program is seen in the recent upgrade to Golden Tee 2010. Now the game maker has added the ability to update your Facebook status through the game itself.

The Lesson

The folks at Golden Tee might or might not have gone through my specific steps to come up with the idea of integrating with YouTube. However, I would bet a lot of quarters that they also didn’t pay an agency to “come up with a social-media strategy.” The company might very well have simply come up with this idea out of the blue, but it was a deep understanding of their marketing strategy and consumer needs that led them in this direction.

Brand managers don’t need a social-media strategy. They need to understand what social media is and what it can do for brands and their customers. Then, by laying out strong marketing strategies, they might find new and powerful ways to deliver on them.

Estee Lauder Makes Social Media More Meaningful

Wednesday, October 14th, 2009

estee lauder social

If Twitter had a dollar for every brand marketer who said “I need a social-media strategy” in the last year, then it might just have a business model worthy of its multi-billion-dollar valuation by now. But seriously, every time there is a new media option with promise for advertisers, our industry jumps to turning tactics into strategies. The reality is that very few brands have figured out social media, and I believe one of the big reasons is that they fail to think about how they can add value to customers’ existing activities. But I’m a big fan of how Estee Lauder is testing a new service aimed at bringing life to the beauty counter in a focused way.

Last week Advertising Age broke the story of how Estee Lauder is preparing to launch a promotion at cities in Southern California plus New York, Miami, and Chicago in which it will offer visitors to its cosmetics counters the chance for a free makeover, 10-day foundation supply, AND a professionally shot and retouched photo for use in online social-media profiles. The promotion will kick off on October 16 and run in select Bloomingdale’s, Macy’s, and Saks stores. Estee Lauder spokeswoman Tara Eisenberg says that it might move to more cities for a longer term if the effort is successful.

I love that the brand is testing something new to breathe new life into an age-old cosmetic-counter marketing strategy that has been in need of a face-lift for some time. Free makeovers and product samples have been a staple at these sections of the department store, but they have thus far failed to adapt to new times. By offering up these social-media profile photographs, Estee Lauder is differentiating itself from a crowded field and giving women a new reason to stop by and try something new. This also helps the brand connect with the rising younger generation of women who tend to shy away from the traditional makeup-counter experience.

I also appreciate how the brand is using this promotion to help women solve a new problem: that of the crappy profile picture. Whether they are engaged in online dating or meeting new friends through Facebook, the personal photo is now frequently the first impression you make. It’s just too important to leave to a household digital camera and a friend with a shaky hand. With this idea, Estee Lauder is helping its customers reach their higher-level goal of looking good no matter what the location or medium. It’s brilliant meaningful marketing.

One thing that I do not like is the fact that the resulting photograph comes with an Estee Lauder brand logo in the corner. This little grab for social-media advertising real estate could cost the brand any chance to make an impact. After all, who wants to show the world that their great picture is the result of an Estee Lauder marketing event? The brand’s makeup doesn’t force an Estee Lauder logo to appear on women’s faces today, so why go there in the digital realm? I am very sure that use of the photos and customer satisfaction will be much higher when women are free to use the photos logo-free. And by making women as happy as possible, the brand will end up earning strong loyalty and word of mouth.

Another thing I like about this promotion is that it is tied to existing social-media activity, rather than an attempt to create its own Facebook page or force people into an Estee Lauder Twitter feed. A few months ago I wrote about another brand that is using customers’ existing social-media tools to add value. The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York City created a smart planning tool that uses keywords from visitors’ Facebook profiles to make recommendations about which exhibits and events they might like best. Like the Estee Lauder example, MoMA is not trying to “butt into” a social network, just add value and move along.

This promotion by Estee Lauder is not a “mass” or “scale” social-media marketing strategy, but rather a way to plug smart social-media marketing into an existing, proven approach.

Bonus: The first reader who gets one of these free photographs at an Estee Lauder counter and sends it to me with permission to post it here will receive a free copy of my book!