Category Archives: Social media

What Drives Word of Mouth? Interesting Content

Compelling content will drive word of mouth for your brand, even if that content is irreverant and in the form of *gasp* a 30-second spot on broadcast TV. Exhibit A: McDonald’s talking fish. 

YouTube views of most popular posting of the spot: 246,757 <warning: this tune will stick in your head like spackling paste>

Google blog search results for “McDonald’s talking fish”: 29,921

Members of McDonald’s Filet O Fish Commercial fan club on Facebook: 289 

The spot’s been running for two weeks.

Social Media and Skittles

In about the time it takes to down a bag of Sour Skittles, a handful of nitwits hijacked the redesigned Skittles.com website, which Mars Snackfood relaunched over the weekend as an aggregator of user-generated Skittles content.  The new home page features the deep, Skittles-related insights of Twitter nation, and a few morons quickly figured out this was a cool way to post random obscenities on a company’s public website. Even better if that brand sells candy to kids! 

The new Skittles site also pulls in content from Wikipedia, YouTube, Flickr, and Facebook. That’s it – nothing from the company except a feedback form and its video ads (via YouTube). In other words, Mars has turned over its Skittles brand strategy to the unwashed masses. Bad idea. The point is that social media should inform marketing strategy – it shouldn’t be the strategy. This is a nice gimmick, but I doubt it will have any staying power – and it won’t do much good for the Skittles brand.

Marketers Sick of Web 2.0? Not So Fast

Survey results released this week from the Marketing Executives Networking Group and Anderson Analytics are getting a lot of play in the blogosphere, particularly this nugget from the press release:

Twice as many marketers are “sick” of hearing about Web 2.0 and related buzzwords such as “blogs” and “social networking” compared to last year’s survey; however, marketers still admit they don’t know enough about it.  This was evident in the results of a social media study MENG released on November 6, 2008 showing 67% of executive marketers consider themselves beginners when it comes to using social media for marketing purposes.

A couple of points here. First, only 19.4% of the 643 respondents said they were tired of hearing the term “Web 2.0” (up from 9.1% a year ago), 12.2 % said the same about “social networking”, and 11.3% cited “social media” as a term they had tired of. Not exactly overwhelming condemnation of the concepts. And it’s no surprise that the year-over-year numbers would go up, considering those terms generate an endless drumbeat of media coverage. Hell, I’m sick of hearing about/reading about/saying them myself.

What the press release and subsequent coverage of the survey overlook is that when the respondents were asked what they considered to be the most important marketing concepts, the percentages citing “word of mouth,” “social network sites,” “viral marketing,” “Web 2.0,” and “consumer generated media” all rose year-to-year. Granted, these categories did not crack the respondents’ top 10 priorities (word of mouth was #11), but it’s clear that these concepts are rising in importance, even as the buzzwords themselves are becoming cliche.

The greater concern should be whether marketers will be able to sustain any progress they’ve made with their social media marketing programs. With more than half the respondents noting that their ’09 budgets have been reduced, the tendency will be to fall back on more traditional investments like sales promotions, which are viewed as safer bets than the experimentation that goes into identifying social media strategies that really work. The sales folks will be happy, but innovation will take a hit. So even though 79% of the execs in the MENG survey said that customer satisfaction was their top priority, customers can expect to be subjected to the same hard-sell tactics that have become so annoying (and so easy to ignore). Talk about tired.

Proof that the Mass Market Is Not Dead, Just … Different

The backlash against Johnson & Johnson over its ill-conceived Motrin ad proves that the mass market is alive and well, with one major shift: It’s now controlled by the consumer. Consider the irony: An ad that had been living innocuously for more than a month on a Motrin website and in a few print mags was Twittered into a national story by a small but vocal group of moms. This tells me that even the most targeted Web advertising – in the hands of the right viral (pick one) advocates/mob – has more potential reach than TV advertising in the pre-cable days. Not only that, but thanks to YouTube and the search engines, the campaign will endure in all of its infamy well into the future.

The Decline and (Rapidly Approaching) Fall of the TV Empire

A new study from a research firm called Grunwald Associates indicates a significant shift in the media habits of children:

Sixty-four percent of kids go online while watching television, and nearly half of U.S. teens (49 percent) report that they do so frequently — anywhere from three times a week to several times a day. … The study reveals that 73 percent of TV-online multitasking kids are engaged in “active multitasking,” defined by Grunwald Associates as content in one medium influencing concurrent behavior in another. This trend represents a 33 percent increase in active multitasking since 2002. While kids are using more media, their attention primarily and overwhelmingly is focused on their online activities.

I don’t need stats to tell me about the decline of traditional TV among tomorrow’s generation; I see it daily in my own house, as my 17-year-old watches downloaded episodes of Degrassi on her iPod, as my 12-year-old focuses far more time IM’ing or fast-forwarding through DVR’d Celtic games than watching live TV, and as my 9-year-old runs around the house making videos and begging me to let him post something on YouTube, or as he surfs for PS2 cheats online, half-listening as Jimmy Neutron drones in the background.   

Sure, there are a few seminal TV events that the family feels obligated to watch live, like the Super Bowl or, to a lesser extent, American Idol. But today’s kids are edging – no, rushing – away from the passive TV experience. I do not envy network execs.
 

Social Media Curriculum: Beginner or Advanced?

Companies are all over the map in their embrace/avoidance of blogs and other social media. Some, especially tech firms, have given virtually free reign to their employees to launch blogs and talk directly to customers. Others are paralyzed by concerns over governance issues and the possibility that some corporate blogger will disclose something that doesn’t adhere to corporate policy or catches the probing eyes of the SEC.  

Even the experts can’t agree on how to approach corporate blogging. In the true spirit of this new medium, a curriculum of sorts has organically sprung up for social media marketing. Start with Jeremiah Owyang, a Forrester analyst who posted on the “three impossible conversations for corporations” (1. Asking for Feedback; 2. Saying Positive Things about your Competitors; 3. Admitting You Were Wrong.) Good, solid advice for the social media novice. 

David Churbuck retorted that those tips are way too basic to be useful for most corporate marketers, who he believes are past the Blogging 101 stage and are seeking more advanced education:

This corporate blogging stuff isn’t a two headed chicken in the freak tent anymore. This is mainstream baby. Anyone writing posts about “impossible” corporate conversations has to step it up – talk about the serious stuff, like – contravening corporate policy by privately resolving a blogged customer support issue and having the blogger publically state the solution and thereby set a precedent for all future complaints. Let’s get into that one and you’ll earn my respect.

Challenged to provide his own advice (as someone who lives the stuff daily), Churbuck offered a couple of Blogging 201 primers: one on the risks of a no-questions-asked blogger appeasement strategy, the other a broader list of 10 topics that he’d like to see more discussion about:

  1. Tool and platforms
  2. Pronouns
  3. Metrics
  4. Rogue SMM
  5. How to do SMM/SEO right
  6. Going Uplevel
  7. Organizational Ownership
  8. One vs many
  9. Review mechanism and buddy systems
  10. The politics of being a know-it-all

The pundit and the practitioner have both agreed to dig into these and other social media marketing topics over the next few months, which is good news for any marketer trying to get his or her arms around this brave new world of “customer engagement.”

Of course, any curriculum would be incomplete without some backround reading: I’ve provided a bit of that with a dusted-off interview I did in 2005 with Lenn Pryor, who created the Channel 9 website for Microsoft in 2004 that serves as a touchstone for current social media marketing.