Archive for February, 2009

Happy Birthday Facebook!

facebook-logo1The social media networking site Facebook is five years old which in itself seems incredible. The fact it has become such a part of our cultural landscape within such a short period of time is breath-taking.

So how has Facebook affected how businesses and organisations communicate? Such is the influence of Facebook, people have been fired for criticising their employers on this social network. HSBC was forced to stop charging interest on previously free overdrafts to students after a vigorous Facebook campaign. Cadbury bowed to public demand after about 90 Facebook groups called for the return of Wispa (although some marketers suggest it was a stunt). A campaign  on Facebook to bring back National Service, though, has floundered!

Barack Obama has shown the importance of businesses connecting with audiences where they are. He did not win last year’s election on Facebook but he had more than five million ‘friends’. John McCain had about 500,000. So that probably helped! One of the interesting facts about Facebook is that it is opening  up and creating where you can make your Facebook profile more mobile across the web and other connecting technologies.

FT article encourages businesses to plug in to ‘critical’ web 2.0 transformation

ft-logo1We are naturally grateful for the articles in the FT which are acting as cheerleaders for social media and web 2.0 (!) – and another important feature was published by the paper last week.

A couple of business professors argued that business is being transformed by web 2.0 (social media) technologies:

‘…the basic model of customer contact and marketing is being transformed by online advertising and web 2.0 technologies, whereby companies move away from directly influencing their customers and towards either reacting to their customers’ electronic intent, or mediating the influence that consumers have on one another…..As customer preferences evolve in reaction to the recession, acquiring intelligence through aggressive web 2.0 investment strategy is critical….

‘Curbing spending with a short term focus will eventually cost more than it saves, while IT investments based on an intelligent framework could generate long-term gain.’

As an example, the professors point out that consumers of video entertainment are turning to video entertainment that is exclusively internet-based which has massive ramifications for traditional corporate advertising and PR

The professors conclude: ‘These turbulent economic times present new opportunities for companies that invest wisely in information technologies, and new threats for those without a sufficiently forward-looking IT investment strategy.’

It is clear that companies with strict firewall policies that prevent communications teams from even seeing what their audiences are saying on key blogs and social media communities and networks are potentially disabling the chances of that company succeeding in this new  environment.

Of course lots of agencies are going to be banging on the doors of companies about web 2.0 and social media. It is crucial though to get strategies right so these new social media/web 2.0 technologies are used effectively.

Gen Y: not easy to reach

gen-yOnce upon a time, advertising your product was easy, if expensive. You hired an agency, rented some billboard space, bought some slots in newspapers and, if you could afford it, paid for two minutes on a commercial television channel. True, it was a hit-and-miss process, but you could be fairly confident that your audience would see your ad, even if they then decided to turn the page or switch off the tv.

It doesn’t work like that any more. Today’s 20-somethings – generally known as the Millennials, or Generation Y-ers – aren’t spending their coffee break poring over advertisements in newspapers, and when it comes to television, they regard the appearance of the ad break as an excuse to channel hop.

Generation Y prefer to spend their leisure time on the web, sending instant messages and joining Facebook groups, or on their phones, texting their friends. Which is why, according to this Texas newspaper story,  car manufacturers are targetting Gen Y by using the tools that they themselves prefer. Mercedes Benz launched a social networking site, Generation Benz, offering advance pictures of new models, while BMW made some short videos for the web, featuring performers such as Madonna and James Brown.

So, how can your business reach Gen Y? They won’t come to you, so you need to go to them. Send texts. Set up Facebook groups. Create viral videos. But whatever you do, don’t assume it will be easy. As Alan Whitebread, a marketing professor quoted in the piece, says: “Gen Y is a very difficult group to understand. Gen Y probably splits into more subsegments than any other group.”

The Wisdom of Crowds

th_pr_ov_king90x601Steve King has a nice post on how businesses can use social media as an easy, cheap way of doing market research.

We’re not talking here about quantitative research: if you want to know what the market thinks of your product, you really need a market research firm to do it, using well-designed questionnaires and proper sampling techniques. But if you’re looking for ideas, leads and even solutions to problems, then social media can be a very useful way of getting results. One marketing director held a competition asking Twitter users to define innovation in 140 characters or less; an economist posed a question on LinkedIn that received 1000 answers. (Caveat: King doesn’t say whether they were good answers.)

The beauty of the approach is that costs so little you have almost nothing to lose: at worst, you won’t get anything useful; at best, you’ll have engaged with your customers and learned something that could add genuine value to your business.

Stuck In the Stone Age