Tag Archives: social media marketing

In social veritas

A new study from Euro RSCG Worldwide, referenced by eMarketer, shows that a fair number of people say they are more likely to “lash out” at brands online.  Not a surprise.  It’s been a long-time observation that people will say (or write) things online that they never would say when talking to someone directly.  I just can’t help wondering.  When it comes to brands and products, does that freedom to lash out mean people express more accurately what’s true for them, or less?  Either way, it’s worth paying attention.

Among some other findings from the study, eMarketer points out that “the stigma of online socializing is fast disappearing … Although only a minority of US Internet users thought online social groups could be ‘truly social,’ nearly three-fifths disagreed with the idea that socializing on the Web was only for ‘sad, antisocial types.’”

Even more interesting, something that eMarketer doesn’t mention is that contrary to what one might think at first, it’s older internet users who most disagree that online socializing is only for antisocial losers.  For example, 59% of 45-54 year old’s disagree while only 51% of 18-24 year old’s do.

Conversely only 26% of 45-54 year old’s agree that “social media online enhances my social life offline” compared to 36% of 18-24 year old’s.

So compared to us sad, old online socializers, who are apparently more content to engage with others armed with an internet connection from the comfort of our living room sofa, and go no further than that, the 18+ set more often sees online socializing as just a means to an offline end.

Ah — to be 18 and old fashioned again!

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From podcast to publication — the social media success story behind J.C. Hutchins’ The 7th Son

The 7th Son

I just received the first 10 chapters of J.C. Hutchins newly published thriller, The 7th Son: Descent, in a free, down-loadable “special edition” pdf.  It was sent to me courtesy of CC Chapman’s podcast Managing the Gray.  I say newly published, because the novel has been around for awhile.

Hutchins originally released it as a serialized podcast, also for free.  From those humble beginnings the story’s fan base spread through online word-of-mouth until it eventually caught the attention of a “real” publisher, St. Martin’s Press.  It is “now in bookstores everywhere,” as they say.

Hutchins’ web site, J.C. Hutchins Thriller Novelist, is highly interactive, providing links and downloads, updating fans on the novel’s progress —  e.g.  Amazon ratings, recent reviews and the like — and even has a section called “evangelize,” where fans will soon find tools for spreading further world of mouth.

It’s a wonderful case study in how online social connections can build a groundswell of support for an aspiring novelist’s work that eventually leads to publication by a recognized institution of the trade with access to an even wider audience. Interesting that despite everyone talking about the democratization of content and the wisdom of the crowd, the ultimate “legitimization” of a work of fiction, or for that matter non-fiction, still seems to be if it is picked up by an “old media” publisher and gets reviewed by the likes of  The New York Times and Publishers Weekly.  Why is that?  Deep down inside, do we still rely on the official arbiters of literature to tell us if something is good or not?

Despite the fact that Hutchins can now earn money on his work in book form, he continues to offer it for free as a podcast or pdf.  I admire his generosity and idealism, and I hope, for the sake of his bank account, that there will be enough readers who are willing to spend $14,99 to read the novel in what for many is still the most enjoyable format of all, words on a printed page between two covers of a book.

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General Mills goes social

Here’s the killer chart…


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During the launch of the Fiber One Bar, General Mills could see a nearly exact correlation between weekly online postings and volume.  As Mark Roddicks, General Mills’ CMO, points out in his inspiring presentation General Mills Goes Social, it’s the kind of chart you can take to management to prove the value of consumer participation in the development and launch of products through social media tools.

General Mills has a stable of well-known, iconic food brands, including such favorites as Pillsbury, Cheerios, Green Giant and that venerable but ageless queen of the kitchen, Betty Crocker.  Back in the 40’s, the Betty Crocker brand received up to 3,000 letters a day from passionate homemakers.  Social communities built around brands have existed for decades.  Only now, thanks to today’s online social tools, General Mills can leverage the power and passion of those communities in unprecedented ways.

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Here’s just a few examples of how General Mills is “going social,” because, as Addicks says, the company has only recently started on this journey and continues to learn as they go.

General Mills regularly gets new products into the hands, and kitchens, of engaged consumers before they launch.  The company uses social media tools to encourage those consumers to talk about the product, share experiences and feed back opinions and suggestions.  Not all the feedback is positive, but that’s how the company learns.

Two tools they use for this are My Block Spark and Pssst…, which invite connected consumers and bloggers to participate and provide them with platforms to share and provide feedback.

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By leveraging communities in this way, General Mills builds early awareness and involvement among influencers, which facilitates fast word of mouth when the product actually launches.  Progresso Broth was launched through the Pssst… community with almost no support from traditional media.

One way General Mills gets the conversation going is by saying to consumers, here’s why we created this product, here’s how we think it works, tell us what you think.  Feedback can be in different forms, including video, and the ensuing dialogue provides rich insights for the product developers and food experts.

General Mills brands also support a number of causes.  The effectiveness of these programs has been enhanced through web 2.0 tools put in consumers’ hands.  The Yoplait “Save Lids to Save Lives” initiative in support of  Susan G. Komen for the cure saw participation increase by nearly 50% when women were provided with online tools to set up their own teams behind the program.

Addicks understands that going social with consumers with this degree of transparency can seem pretty radical to C-suite members who are used to a traditional tell and sell approach.  One way he suggests to get started is within the company itself.  One of the first things General Mills did was to create a common portal inside the organization, which enabled employees to form communities, discussion groups and interactive best practices.  This helped senior management understand the power of becoming social by demonstrating the power of the organization to help itself through these kind of tools.

Inspiring stuff.  You can see the presentation deck, as well as a video of Addicks presenting it, at the Business Building Blog.

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Peer Squared fast forwards the convergence of online marketing and social networks

Peer Squared is a new platform that allows people to share commercial messages with their online communities and earn points that are redeemable on Amazon.  It’s an interesting concept and the first one I’m aware of that actively encourages people to share brand messages on their personal social networks by offering tangible rewards for doing so.

Peer Squared Ducati

The motorcycle manufacturer Ducati just got on board, but I haven’t heard of any of the other four brands that so far have “programs” on the site.  So when Peer Squared calls itself “a peer-endorsed online marketing platform that rewards you for promoting the brands and products you love across the internet,” that’s only true if 1) a brand that you happen to love is there, 2) your motivation for promoting the brand is that you truly love it, vs. you’re only 1000 points away from that Sony speaker system you’ve been dying to get for free.

There’s the rub.  It’s one thing for brand enthusiasts to share messages and brand content out of their true love for the brand, with no motivation beyond the fact that when we find something we think is really good, there’s nothing more rewarding than being the source for others to discover and enjoy it for themselves.  And it’s perfectly legitimate for brands to help enable that, through widgets, links and sharable content.  That’s the beauty of social media marketing.  Your customers do the marketing, out of love for your brand, and that marketing achieves a new level of integrity and effectiveness.  But it’s quite another thing when someone’s motive for sharing information about the brand isn’t simply out of love, but out of a more self-serving objective — to get stuff in return.

And what does it say to our online social connections when we throw commercial messages in their faces, for products we in fact may not really believe in, for the sake of a few thousand Amazon reward points?  Is that what the social web is becoming?  A platform for shilling products to our friends?  “Hi friend, I interrupt my Facebook feed for this short commercial message.” With friends like that …, well, you know how the rest of the saying goes.

I’ve started a little experiment. I’ve signed up to Peer Squared and placed content on my Facebook page, Twitter and elsewhere.  I’m curious to see how fast I can accumulate points, and whether my social network notices, is indifferent or protests.

I’ll keep you posted.

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