Tag Archives: social marketing

A fun activity for Christmas if you’ve failed to board the social media train so far — enroll in SMUG

Two-thousand-and-nine will go down as the year when social media and marketing finally moved beyond the fishbowl of early adopters and entered the marketing mainstream.

I first started getting involved with social media in lurker mode — that is, subscribing to blogs, listening to podcasts, digesting the emerging literature on the topic, but not personally writing or commenting — toward the end of 2006.  As my interest and knowledge grew and I began to breach the topic with colleagues and clients, no one knew what the heck I was talking about.  Even at the beginning of 2008, when I began this blog, there still wasn’t a whole lot of attention being paid to social media by mainstream marketers or the press.

In the meantime, every other article in Advertising Age touches on some dimension of social media, CNN and other traditional media outlets invite you to follow them on Twitter, my clients are experimenting and creating social media staff positions, Ford’s Scott Monty, who was virtually unknown outside the social media fishbowl three years ago, is a marketing superstar, and even my 86 year old mom is on Facebook.  If there’s anyone left in the marketing community who hasn’t at least thought there is something definitely HAPPENING out there, he or she must be living under that proverbial rock.

Okay — but what if you’ve come late to the train?  You’ve recognized something is going on, but for whatever reason — you’ve been buried under the weight of your anachronistic to-do list, your boss has his head in the sand (or worse places) when it comes to social, or 2009 was the year you finally got to the final round of American Idol — you just haven’t had the time to look into it.

Here’s what you do.  Go to SMUG — Social Media University Global.  SMUG — an unfortunate acronym, as there is nothing smug about it — was created by Lee Aese.  Lee is the manager for Syndications and Social Media for the Mayo Clinic and has been a pioneering innovator in the application of social media strategies in health care.  (I have written previously about the Mayo Clinic’s social media efforts here.)

Enroll in the SMUG curriculum.  That sounds kind of old fashioned and boring, but it’s anything but.  The SMUG curriculum consists of Lee’s own clear and concise explanations of social media strategies and tools, as well as links to articles, blog posts, etc. relevant to the topic at hand, authored by others active in the space.  Add to that a good dose of charm and humor that Lee brings to the party and you’ll find that getting up to speed on the new world of social media and marketing can be an awful lot of fun.  Best of all, it’s free.

So in between the figgy pudding, chestnuts roasting on an open fire, and your annual viewing of It’s a Wonderful Life, why not log in to SMUG this holiday season and give yourself a gift that will truly last the whole year long and beyond.

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The latest station in Charlene Li’s crusade to prove the business value of social media

Sometimes I get the feeling that Charlene Li is on a crusade — a crusade to prove with hard data that social media can have real value for business.  First there was Groundswell, co-authored with Josh Bernoff, which highlighted an array of companies leveraging social media successfully to achieve business objectives.  Now there’s a new study from Charlene’s company, Altimeter Group, and Wetpaint, that shows a correlation between social media engagement and financial performance.

Engagementdb

The ENGAGEMENTdb Report looks at the top 100 performing global brands according to the BusinessWeek/Interbrand “Best Global Brands 2008” ranking and measures and ranks their engagement in a range of social media channels for both depth and breadth.  The analysis shows a clear correlation between social media engagement and financial performance.

While correlation is not the same thing as cause and effect, the data is impressive.  And as Mark Pack points out in a blog post, if one assumes that the world’s top performing companies are run by the world’s most capable managers, it’s noteworthy that these business leaders appear to endorse a deep and committed engagement in social media.

The report concludes with a useful assessment of the best practices of four of the most socially engaged brands — Starbucks, Toyota, SAP and Dell.  It’s interesting that the way companies engage in the space can vary greatly.  For example, while Starbucks only permits a small group of designated employees to speak for the company in social channels, SAP has 1500 employee bloggers.

There are a few details missing from the report that I would like to have seen.  Each company was rated on 40 engagement attributes, but the report doesn’t provide the specific attributes.  What’s more, while it lists the specific social media channels analyzed, there is no analysis of which, or in what depth, each company engaged with the individual channels.  This might have helped to better understand while Apple, a company that doesn’t receive particularly high marks from me for online social engagement, made it to the top third of the ranking.

So, what will be the next station in Charlene Li’s crusade to prove the business value of social media?  I wouldn’t be surprised if she’s already working on the next quantitative study, the one that show not only a correlation, but an actual cause-and-effect relationship between social media engagement and business results.

Some crusades are good.

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Twitter has made money for Dell Outlet — is it just a big yawn?

I was interested to hear that Dell has attributed $3 million in sales to its Twitter feed @DellOutletDell Outlet sells discounted computer products and systems that have been used and refurbished, or were left over from canceled orders, or are the equivalents of “seconds,” that is, hardware that has some kind of cosmetic fault that doesn’t affect its performance.

I just looked at Tweetcounter, which currently places @DellOutlet at rank 75 for Twitter users.  @DellOutlet has 779 thousand followers.

Three million is a sliver of overall Dell sales, but the assertion by Dell that Twitter has actually helped the company make any money at all has been celebrated by some in the blogosphere as validation of the business viability of Twitter. But some critical voices have been raised as well.  They say that the use of Twitter as a sales promotion channel will adversely increase traffic, spam and “fail whales” on the site.  They ask why Dell, and other companies using Twitter to generate leads, announce promotions, etc., don’t limit this kind of stuff to their own online turf.  In other words, “Don’t do your dirty work here, guys!”

A few obvious answers come time mind.  If there’s an online channel that a seller can use free of charge to contact potential customers, why wouldn’t he use it?  Then, of course, there’s the fact that Twitter is so immediately searchable and socially spreadable.  Anyone interested in a 2nd-hand computer system can find a whole range of potential sellers in one place, and can follow all of them easily, and in real time, using Tweet-deck or other applications that allow the user to group and aggregate tweets.  Many Twitter users who hear of a good deal will happily post their finds on their own Twitter feeds spreading the word beyond the seller’s direct followers.

It does beg one question though.  If Twitter starts charging companies to use the service commercially, will those companies still come?  Apparently Twitter and Dell are talking about compensation models.  It will be interesting to see where they end up.

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Slay big old Goliath with social media

The May 11th, 2009, issue of The New Yorker features an article by Malcolm Gladwell entitled “How David Beats Goliath.  When underdogs break the rules.”  Gladwell reviews principles by which the weaker of two competitors, who under normal circumstances would surely suffer defeat, can shift the odds to come out the winner.

One of the key principles will be familiar to anyone who has read Adam Morgan’s marketing classic, Eating the Big Fish: How Challenger Brands Can Compete Against Brand Leaders.  Morgan says that in order to succeed, small-share challenger brands, as he calls them, have to change the rules of the game — for example by breaking the conventions of the category.

A great case study of a challenger brand (although I’m not sure it’s mentioned in Eating the Big Fish) is Felix Cat Food.  Originally the number 4 or 5 cat food brand in the UK, Felix advanced up the ranks to challenge the market leader Whiskas with an unconventional, consumer relevant creative approach and by using newspapers as its primary medium, rather than TV.  TV was where most of the other cat food brands were putting their money.

In The New Yorker article, Malcolm Gladwell’s signature case for this principle is the story of David and Goliath.  Gladwell writes:

In the Biblical story of David and Goliath, David initially put on a coat of mail and a brass helmet and girded himself with a sword: he prepared to wage a conventional battle of swords against Goliath.  But then he stopped. “I cannot walk in these, for I am unused to it,” he said … and picked up those five smooth stones.

When the David’s of this world choose to play by different rules than the Goliath’s, more often than not, they win.

iStock_David&GoliathSmall

Another great example that Gladwell writes about in some detail is the story of a girls’ junior high basketball team, whose players were neither especially tall, nor especially gifted, but who nevertheless made it to the national championships.  They did it by utilizing a strategy that is basketball’s equivalent of David reaching for the five smooth stones.  It’s called the full-court press.  Many basketball teams practice the full-court press a few minutes at a time, but the Redwood City girl’s basketball team pursued it relentlessly.

There is a convention to playing basketball that most teams follow.  When Team A makes a basket, they immediately run back to their own end of the court to await the approach of Team B, who now has possession of the ball.  As Gladwell explains, this convention favors good teams:

Good teams, after all, had players who were tall and could dribble and shoot well; they could crisply execute their carefully prepared plays in their opponent’s end.  Why, then, did weak teams play in a way that made it easy for good teams to do the very things that made them so good?

The coach of the Redwood City’s team — who, by the way, had never played basketball or coached a basketball team before, and therefore had no preconceived notions of the game’s conventions  — took a different approach.  He coached his girls to exercise the full-court press constantly.  Rather than retreating to their own side of the court after they scored a point, they aggressively challenged the opposing team for the possession of the ball on that team’s side.  Instead of standing behind the single opposing player she was assigned to shadow, to impede her if she received a pass, each Redwood City girl maneuvered herself in front of her opponent, to prevent her from even receiving the pass in the first place.

Often this meant the opponents would lose possession because they would fail to advance the ball across the mid-court within 10 seconds, a rule of the game.  This helped the Redwood City players to regain possession close to their opponents’ basket, which meant they could score more often with an easy lay-up, rather than going for lower percentage, long range shots, which demanded greater skill.

They also aggressively tried to block the inbounds pass, which is when the opposing team throws an out-of-bounds ball back into play.  Most teams don’t bother with this, but the Redwood City girls did.  This often forced the opposing team either to exceed the five second limit for getting the ball back into play (and lose possession) or, panicking, to simply throw the ball away.  In general, the opposing players simply lost their groove against the Redwood City team’s tactics.  Flustered and frustrated, they couldn’t take advantage of the strengths that normally made them so powerful.

iStock_girlbasketballSmallSo what does this have to do with social media?

As I read Gladwell’s article, I began to see interesting parallels between advantages of the full-court press strategy for the Redwood City underdogs and the use of social media for a challenger brand.

First of all, social media is not the conventional choice most big brands will use for communicating with consumers.  They aren’t comfortable with it and continue to focus their efforts, and their budgets, on the standard TV, radio and print media they already know.  But just as Felix replaced TV with newspaper, which was the unconventional medium for the time and the category, a dedicated commitment to social media and the power it has to forge brand-consumer relationships can be a potent strategy for stealing share from the big guys.

Another point Gladwell makes about the full-court press is that it takes much more physical effort than the conventional way of playing the game:

It is easier to retreat and compose yourself after every score than swarm about, arms flailing.  We tell ourselves that skill is the precious resource and effort is the commodity.  It’s the other way around.  Effort can trump ability … because relentless effort is in fact something rarer than the ability to engage in some finely tuned act of motor coordination.

In other words, it’s easier to create and produce a flashy 30″ TV commercial and stick the thing on air, than to be out there in the social media space day in and day out, talking like a human being with individual consumers, engaging with your brand enthusiasts and building your brand’s reputation one consumer at a time.   As my friend Joseph Jaffe says:  in the world of new media, “Marketing isn’t a campaign, it’s a commitment.”

And finally, consider this quote from the Gladwell article:

Redwood City attacked the inbounds pass, the point in a game where a great team is as vulnerable as a weak one.

Putting a positive spin on it, the inbounds pass is the point in a game where the weak team is as powerful as the strong team.  The same can be said for social media.  It doesn’t require a mega-budget for a brand to put together an effective social media effort.  Unlike conventional broadcast media, the playing field in the online social media arena is fairly even, whether you’re the market leader or a smaller challenger brand.  Social media is the place where great ideas can catch on and spread without big budgets, thanks to the connections people have within their communities and their passion to pass on content they love.

So to all you small players out there in the marketing world — think like David and the Redwood City girls basket ball team.  Consider how social media can help you shift the rules of the game to your advantage, and slay big old Goliath.

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