Bits & Pieces?
Last night I spoke to a strategic writing class of seniors at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee about how social media has changed marketing for the better. (In other words: I’m old.)
We talked about how the balance of power has shifted from brands to social media users, the birth of real-time marketing, the new marketing funnel and how to activate a brand’s fan base, and the power of video and blogging, among other things.
In my opinion, all of this has made marketing and creativity much more fun and interesting; it’s a great time to be graduating college. It’s also a total win-win for both users and brands. Users get brands that offer better experiences and are more responsive. And brands GET BETTER.
I shared some of Jigsaw’s social media work for BloodCenter of Wisconsin, Alverno College and Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare. And I pimped our super-awesome internship program, OrangeAid, that allows students to work as a socially-driven agency-within-the-agency.
I hope the students enjoyed it and learned something; I know I did. Here are the slides:
From my very first days on LiveJournal, Hi5 and MySpace, I’ve always used social networks to stay connected to the people and issue I care about. Of course, some of the platforms I use have changed and some of the people/issues I care about have somewhat changed, but the reason why I, just like everyone else, used and will keep on using these networks is to maintain relationships. Every piece of content members of my personal networks share is a small piece of their stories: from major milestones such as being accepted to the London School of Economics, getting engaged or moving to a foreign country, to more minor things such as discovering a new favorite restaurant or a new band. Social networks have always been about the multi-dimensional stories that we are allowed to experience even from thousands of kilometers away, made even easier with Facebook’s timeline.
And then brands joined all these networks and somehow every bilboard idea that didn’t get executed ended up in our news feeds: “Our new shoe collection is here.” “Check out our new shoe collection.” “Here’s our new shoe collection.” “Have you seen our new shoe collection?” with a link to the same landing page and with the same few pictures/videos used with every post for six months until the next shoe collection is released. And then it starts all over again. Of course, the most common response to this activity is unliking/unfollowing the page/account for two reasons.
- No one likes repetitive content. With the exception of films and books deemed masterpieces, very few of us will go to a website or buy a newspaper that has exactly the same content every day, so why bring repetitive content to Facebook, Twitter and the other social networks?
- Our friends have set the bar high. We expect multi-dimensional stories told in unique voices with unique content every day and repetitive content doesn’t contribute to an interesting and multi-dimensional story. You make shoes and you sell them. That’s not a very appealing story that keeps us glued to our small screens waiting for the next few lines of the script.
I am well aware that brands are much less interesting than people. I am well aware that content development isn’t easy or cheap. I am well aware that to be able to tell a multi-dimensional story, a brand has to stand for something other than just making money. The reality is that most people who don’t work in this industry don’t care about any of these reasons. If a brand wants a spot in my news feed then it should stop with the billboard messaging approach to social media and start creating and curating content that is as interesting and relevant to me as the content shared by my friends.
It’s not a secret anymore in today’s market that user participation in social networks is more a necessity than it is a suggestion. With over 800 million users on Facebook (yes folks, that is the population of the entire continent of Europe) there is obvious demand by consumers for fun things to contribute to their social networks.
So when our client, Alverno College. came to us with the great news of being voted number one in the Midwest by U.S. News and World Report—we had an idea. Why not involve the students who made it happen? Why not give the students a chance to show their pride for their school? And why not make it fun?
So we got to work. It was simple. We created a 32×40 polaroid frame and recommended an event. Alverno created a fun lunchtime-in-the-cafeteria event, distributed the frame to students, and had a contest to encourage them to take their photos in the frame and update their profile picture on Facebook. Slowly but surely the news began to spread. Student and faculty participation turned into alumnae participation and tens of thousands of eyeballs could see Alverno’s news in their Facebook newsfeeds.
Who’s #1 in the Midwest? Why Alverno College is.
Special thanks to Facebook for making this way too easy and to our client for teamwork on a great idea.
Yesterday, Hanson Dodge and Marquette University hosted a Public Relations and Social Media Summit, themed “Navigating the Social Media Landscape.” Milwaukee is booming with social media enthusiasts, so the event sold out and raised more than $20,000 in scholarship funds for MU communications students. (*cue applause*) It was a great lineup of speakers, and given that I am recreating this post after losing it to a 7AM WordPress glitch (*cue violins*), and no one has brought me a caffeinated anything yet, let’s just hit the highlights.
Pamela Bennett from the North Face spoke about How the North Face Uses PR and Events to Leverage Passion in the Active Lifestyle Marketplace. It was super-refreshing to see a beautiful-content-generating-machine-of-a-brand so focused on strategy. They build around their core brand idea of “enabling exploration” and on three brand pillars – heritage, outdoor participation and sustainability. They even plan events to welcome, engage and enthuse explorers of different segments/levels. It warmed my little strategist heart.
Christopher Barger, former director of global social media at General Motors, generously shared the lessons he learned while helping GM through its Chapter 11 crisis. A great tip for content/community managers: always ask yourself, “If I didn’t work here, would I read/watch this?” Chris spoke about how handing over the keys to customers is “scary as hell” and one of the most effective social media approaches, and how the social web is a H-U-G-E customer service opportunity. GM assigned several customer service agents to social platforms. Service marketing folks, take note, this is important stuff!!
One of the absolute high points of the day was this presentation of “meaty, provocative trends” from Augie Ray, formerly with Forrester Research and now Executive Director of Community and Collaboration (great title!) at USAA.
In addition to being a really nice guy and a former Milwaukeean, Augie is a brilliant prognosticator. He spoke about how social media is still very, VERY nascent and how the future of social media isn’t media, it’s business. He enlightened us about the forthcoming explosion in the sharing economy and the future of radical transparency and serendipity. Through Augie’s intellectual eyes, the future looks very bright indeed. But I’m also supposed to tell you now that the bubble will burst for social media companies (e.g. Groupon). So, you heard it here first. Thanks, Augie, for everything.
Finally, Jenny McTiche from IBM spoke about the Watson project, inspired by the company’s heritage of “doing something unprecedented.” Their social media strategy is to enable as many IBM-ers to tell stories as possible, and give them the tools to do so, similar to GM handing over the keys to some of its customers.
Overall, the best thing about this conference was that it was very strategic, including the rock solid presentations from Hanson Dodge’s Sara Meaney (social media measurement and the real meaning of ROI) and Al Krueger (creating social media programs that move people to act). So often these things can devolve to conversation about the shiny tools du jour, and that was not at all the case here. There was much talk about building social media around a solid, core brand strategy. Very well done. *cue more applause*
If you were at the summit, what did YOU take away? If you weren’t, are there social media topics that you’d like to learn more about?
A book I recently read, “The Thank You Economy” by Gary Vaynerchuk, shed light on my perspective of customer relationships and word of mouth. “The Thank you Economy” is about genuinely treating each customer as the most valued customer in the world. It’s about taking every opportunity to show that you care about your customers and how they experience your brand in a way that’s memorably and uniquely you.
Have you ever thought about what it was like when businesses actually knew and interacted with their customers? It is likely that any elderly person will reminisce about how retailers and local businesses knew their name and made them feel like family when they walked in. It was possible for the business owner to know them their whole life, and there was no need to encourage people to “buy local” because local is all there was. Unfortunately, massive corporations squashed any attempt at customer interaction, but with the onset of social media, building customer relationships is possible again.
Social media allows for word of mouth and brings power back to the people. A key difference between the spread of information and opinion then and now is that recipients more often care about the individual sending it to them; we talk more passionately about things we care about and listen more closely to people we care about.
While it’s obvious that social media allows greater opportunity for larger corporations to interact with their customers, it’s also key for small business owners. Social media provides the opportunity to listen, participate in conversation, ask questions, solicit feedback, and most importantly, gain HONEST feedback (something that is not possible with traditional customer relationship management methods).
My favorite chapter in this book features a local restaurant that leverages social media to communicate with their customers and the community. AJ Bombers is not afraid to try something new and has certainly created a buzz with their bomber airplane peanut delivery system, peanut butter burger, or cheeseburger infused Bloody Mary’s. The endless conversions of scrolling tweets on the company website allow the customers to have input on almost every aspect of the restaurant, and online customers get as much attention as anyone sitting in the restaurant.
AJ Bombers took a chance on social media by spending their money rewarding customers with free food (for those who checked in or posted a tip on FourSquare), and actually ignored advertising and traditional marketing. Of course this is not something the author recommends for all companies! But they have succeeded by speaking their customers’ language, rewarding the right people, and have created a community made possible by FourSquare and Twitter.
And, one last inspiring takeway from this book: “The Thank You Economy is now, it’s here, it’s relevant, and I believe its scale may be bigger than any of us can even fathom. And it’s still very early…The day you recognize that the Thank You Economy exists, and you begin to take the steps necessary to execute properly within it, will be the day you ensure your business or brand a place in the future.”
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