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Bits & Pieces?

Bits & Pieces

It’s one of my lifelines. It’s something that I try and bring with me everywhere I venture. I’m constantly looking for more. Drugs? No. Not unless you argue the properties of physics. I’m talking about music. Which one could probably argue has similar effects on the body. Personally, sound has the ability to alter my mood, outlook, energy and creativity (among others) in a moment’s time. So. Sometimes I try and use this to my advantage. For instance, right now, I’m listening to a band called Efterklang. Long drawn out tones with soothing notes, a variety of voices and a repertoire of instruments puts me in a state of thought and emotion. Something I think suits whatever it is I’m trying to ultimately describe in this post. But. If I was handed a project, say for 88Nine Radio Milwaukee (a hip, young, edgy client), I’d quickly sift through my library and find something like Miami Horror. With this bands uplifting melodies, steady beats, and a mixture of synths and electro-ism I feel better connected with the persona and clientele of 88Nine. It also gives me the energy I want in order to design something, I feel, would fit into 88Nine’s positive and edgy image.

Now this is just me. Your choice in music, depending on what you’re trying to achieve, could be completely opposite of mine. Or maybe you’re just not into music. But I think not only our work, but our outlook and day-to-day personalties derive from whatever was just emitted from our car speakers, our headphones, our computers or whatever that noise is coming from in the office next door. So the next time you’re having a rough day or feel like your creativity is stale, try searching for some new sounds.

Heres a few bands that immediately were adopted into my library (along with the two above):

Bag RaidersBlackbird BlackbirdGypsy & The CatThe Head And The HeartStornoway

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Awhile back I was chatting with my sister and brother-in-law about the current Get Crackin’ ad campaign for pistachios – which is cute. Hopefully you’ve seen it – but for this discussion it’s not really critical that you watch it before we go further. I commented that I thought it was pretty cool, and a bit unusual, that a nut would advertise. Seems a rather unusual client, no? (“Ohh, I can’t wait to land the Pistachios account!?”)

But, when we gave it more than a second’s worth of thought, we realized that advertising for an entire segment of an industry (across all brands) isn’t all that unique. There are quite a few other products that do this –

Milk via the California Milk Producers Board

Orange Juice via the Florida Department of Citrus growers

and Potatoes via Idaho® Potatoes

And while these advertisers do want consumers to choose the product grown in their state – they don’t specify a brand name. These products are marketed under many, many brand names and the campaign benefits them all.

There was only one campaign that I could think of that didn’t even specify where the product was produced – it was the one for high fructose corn syrup.  It was produced by The Corn Refiners Association. (I do feel responsible to advise other moms that this campaign did NOT stop the dirty looks when I brought the gallon of Blue Razz drinkaid to the daycare picnic. Ugh! I hope no one else fell for that!)

Like the corn refiners, I thought I was going to be able to add the pistachios growers to the short list of advertisers that create campaigns for their industry as a whole…

But wait. Hold up. It wasn’t until I began researching this blog post did I realize that the pistachio commercials are actually FOR A BRAND.  Did you all know this?? It is the Wonderful® brand. Wonderful® pistachios.  I thought they just meant they were wonderful! As in, tasty or healthy or engaging (you know, the way you have to work with your hands to produce the meat part…). But no. They actually mean pick our pistachios, not just any pistachios. I’m sorry Wonderful®, I’m sure you are indeed lovely, but I totally missed that whole thing about your brand name.

So that changes everything – and I can’t resist taking a momentary excursion to explore a different question:

Is it smart to go to market with a brand name that is also an adjective like that?

Not surprisingly, I have a story to spur this debate…

Awhile back on Living Social there was a coupon for Milwaukee’s Best Massage. After purchasing my own, I forwarded it to friends (hoping to get mine for free!). A girlfriend e-mailed me back asking what salon it was for. Reasonable question, right?  “Where can I get this best massage in Milwaukee?” Well, see, the name of the business is actually Milwaukee’s Best Massage. I agree, it’s a tad confusing, where there really need be no confusion. (And though I can’t be certain that it IS the best massage in Milwaukee, it certainly was delightful (as are pretty much all massages, actually). A little plug for Lay.

But back to the original topic of the nut campaign –

Even if I did not understand that Wonderful® was behind the pistachios campaign, does it matter that much to Wonderful® ? Perhaps Wonderful® is just fine with dramatically lifting the cool factor for ALL pistachios – and is confident that, via their well-executed television commercials as well as their well-coordinated distribution channels, that they will BE THERE and look right when we reach to the shelves for this otherwise-never-thought-of nut that suddenly has influence some in our lives.  That would be a pretty sweet place for any wonderful brand to be, don’t you think?

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I participated in a great #smmeasure (Social Media Measurement) Twitter chat yesterday. The topic was online influence and how to use it for social marketing purposes, a personal favorite. After the chat, several people asked me to define influence and explain how to find the right individuals. Since it seems that more than one person is interested in the topic, I decided to share my thoughts here.

First, what exactly is influence? Brian Solis has a great definition:

“Influence is the ability to cause desirable and measurable actions and outcomes.”

Sounds great right? Who wouldn’t want to cause desirable and measurable outcomes? In reality it is hard (should I say almost impossible, unless you use fMRI) to measure the changes one person triggers in the behaviors of others. Instead, online influence is almost always measured by impact, reach, visibility or authority.  However, online influence should not be confused with popularity. Influencers can be popular (e.g. Robert Scoble) and popular people can be influential (e.g. Kim Kardashian), yet not all celebrities are influencers.

How can influencers help with your social marketing goals?

They can help you increase awareness and/or share of voice, improve sentiment or increase positive sentiment, and sometimes they can even increase sales. Using influencers in campaigns leverages the power of third-party credibility in a very cost-effective way.

How do you find influencers?

First you need to define your audience and research which platforms they use. If your audience is teenagers, influential bloggers won’t help you achieve your objectives. If your audience is German businessmen, approaching  influential Xing users is a much better option than influential LinkedIn users.

After that, you need to define the topics and keywords within which you are looking for influencers. Is it a certain industry? A specific genre of music? Be as specific as possible.

The next step is to research the topic for volume. Some industries are much more social than others, thus they produce more activity. It is much easier to find individuals with high Klout or PeerIndex scores within the marketing industry than among mechanical engineers. The idea behind this step is to establish realistic expectations for the next step: using social/online influence tools.

With dozens of online influence measurement tools, how do you know which ones to use? Good question! And I don’t have a good answer because all tools are in their infancy stage (unfortunately). My solution is to use Klout and PeerIndex for multi-platforms rankings and then compare the results since they have different algorithms. If I am looking specifically at blogs, I’ll check Technorati. I look at TweetLevel (because it gives a trust score) and Twitalyzer, together with Klout and PeerIndex, when I am focusing specifically on Twitter.

Finding influencers is much more than relying on tools with obscure algorithms. You need to do some manual labour too. First, you should research each individual and see if the content he/she shares is relevant to your brand/product. Establish if they reach your audience in terms of demographics. Determine if you’d like these individuals associated with your brand/product. The process is the same as selecting a celebrity to endorse your brand.

What do you do after you discover the right influencers?

Engage with them. I know it is a cliché, but people say it for a reason. Build relationships with the individuals you want to reach. Comment on their blogs. RT their tweets. Ask them questions about things they find interesting. Send them articles they might find interesting. Help them before you ask for help. Give before you get.

After all this hard work, it is time to ask an influencer for whatever you want from him/her. That’s why you need an influencer, not just another friend. A few things to consider during this final step:

  1. Reach out to them using their preferred channel of communication. If they prefer e-mails then send an e-mail. If they prefer to be taken out for coffee then take them out for coffee at their favorite place.
  2. Focus on the influencer. What’s in it for him/her? How will your request help him/her? Will it be interesting to his/her audience.
  3. Personalize your request. Seriously! No one likes receiving mass e-mails that start with Dear Sir or Madam.
  4. Get straight to the point without long overtures. No one has time to read five pages. If someone is interested, he/she will contact you for more information.

What are your options if you don’t have time to build a relationship?

It happens. Actually that is the more likely scenario. So what do we do? Here are a few options: ask for an introduction from someone who knows the influencer well and/or optimize the request in a way that will really benefit the influencer.  If all else fails, give him/her a blank check. Not sure if that works, but you never know.

How do you find and approach influencers? What are your secrets?

P.S. I know this just scratches the surface. Let’s dig deeper and discuss more specific details in the comments.

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Social Influence

Last week Advertising Age published an article on the possibilities of using Klout score and other online influence measurement tools for marketing campaigns. The author, David Teicher, mentioned the Palms Hotel and Virgin America as examples of companies using online influencers to promote their products and services.

Although it was refreshing to see that more companies equate online influence to something more than the number of fans, likes and follows, there are still some issues to consider when planning a campaign around online influencers.

First and foremost, online influence should be measured across all platforms a person uses, not just Twitter and Facebook. Although PeerIndex includes blogs into its influence score and Klout is working to integrate LinkedIn, MySpace, Digg and YouTube, there are dozens of other networks to be included if a measurement tool strives to provide a single number as a significant indicator about someone’s online influence.

The other technical issue to consider is the difference between the total number of conversations and impressions an influencer creates across all platforms and the number of unique conversations and impressions across all platforms. Some people use Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, just to name a few, for different purposes, thus they have different audiences. For others, all platforms serve the same purpose and such individuals engage with the same audience on several platforms.

But beyond technicalities.

Online influence is relative and highly contextual. Someone’s influence depends on the category/industry/topic he is trying to be an influencer in, so to speak a highly credible expert. How do we know if a user is influential unless we compare him to someone else? But we can’t compare apples to oranges. We need to compare people who are in the same field/topic. Online influence doesn’t simply depend on someone’s area of expertise, but also on what others in this industry are doing/talking about: how many people talk about the same topic, how many conversations each one of them initiates on average, what is the depth of these conversations, how much information each one shares, etc. If John is one of the few online active people in industry XYZ, even a few clicks, mentions, retweets and comments will make him influential.

As (buzzword alert) propagation planners say, it is not about reaching influencers; it is about reaching and engaging the right influencers. Engaging people influential in the HR field, even if they have a Klout score of 70, to promote fishing equipment is wasting money. Targeting people influential among fishermen, even with a Klout score of 20, is a much better idea.

In all fairness, Klout does allow you to search for influencers within certain topics, but there are two problems with it. First, it still provides a single number to rank all users, not a number within an industry. Second, users have to sign up for Klout for others to see their score. Although it might seem ridiculously irrational to some of us, there are people who tweet and blog for reasons other than influence and sales. PeerIndex, on the other hand, can compare a score within a topic, but it compares it only to users with whom you engage, not to all users within the selected topic.

The bottom line is that all online influence measurement tools are still in their infancy stage and if we want to create marketing campaigns around online influencers, we need to focus on something more than a single number ranking credibility across one or two platforms. We need to identify influencers within specific topics and industries with specific demographic and psychographic characteristics.

Just my $0.02.

What would you add to all these issues and considerations? How can we use influence measurement tools effectively?

Image : Stefano Maggi

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