Archive for January, 2010

Experiental marketing and social media

I’ve been spending the past few days talking to the marketing agencies that run ‘experiential’ campaigns for brands. These are events held in stores, festivals, etc., where companies can interact directly with consumers to showcase a new make of car, the latest game console or mobile phone or whatever.

Social media has been playing a big role in these campaigns. If you take a roadshow to, say, ten major cities, or take a stand at a couple of big music festivals, you can interact directly with thousands of consumers. Creating a campaign website has always been seen as a way to extend the reach of the campaign to reach other people.

But in the past year, agencies have been going further, filming people at these events and then posting the clips on the website and YouTube. They are also creating their own Facebook and Twitter pages and encouraging people to create and share their own content.

An example: Adidas created a campaign to drive awareness of the tie-up with UEFA Champions League, visiting five different locations in the UK and inviting 10-14 year olds to show off their football skills. On its own that was never going to reach a lot of people. But by encouraging the kids to share their experiences the total reach was over  800,000 consumers.

Another is VW, which avoided conventional advertising when promoting its new camper vans and instead started an online dialogue with the camping community via social media, using content generated at marketing events.

The agencies make the point that social media is different from other forms of marketing. It’s not about pushing your message out, it’s about getting consumers to interact with you, by providing engaging events, competitions and other stuff that they are likely to be interested in, and then encouraging them to share it.

Some companies do worry about not being able to control what goes out – it’s just not what they are used to. It’s important to be aware of the pitfalls. For instance food brands who tried to copy the famous Cadbury gorilla ad, and get the same sort of exposure on YouTube, were heavily criticised, as their efforts lacked the creativity and spontaneity of the original.

But done well, it really works, the agencies say. And where experiential marketing used to be seen as a low-cost add-on to conventional advertising, the use of social media has suddenly made it into a viable alternative – and at virtually no extra cost.

Pope Gets Social Media

popeThe Pope is encouraging priests to get in on social media.

He obviously gets it. He is telling priests not to bother just sticking up times of church services, but “to proclaim the Gospel by employing the latest generation of audiovisual resources (images, videos, animated features, blogs, websites) which, alongside traditional means, can open up broad new vistas for dialogue, evangelisation and catechesis.”

“The increased availability of the new technologies demands greater responsibility on the part of those called to proclaim the Word, but it also requires them to become more focused, efficient and compelling in their efforts,” he goes on.

Good advice for any business, too.

Keeping your discipline with social media

Granted it is relatively easy to set up your own Twitter channel, YouTube page or Facebook presence, but a lot of companies are rushing in and not applying the usual disciplines that they would apply for other media. It is possible to build your own website for free on the web, but what serious company would do that?!  Companies appoint agencies to help them plan, deliver and maintain web sites. And serious companies should do the same for social media. It is simply too important to treat in an amateurish way.

There are different divisions of social media practitioners  in the world of business. Some are light years ahead of others because they have thought seriously about their social media strategies. They have not just dived in and set something up to demonstrate they are doing something.

Instead they have developed plans, resourced them properly and thought through what will work best. They have also listened to what is being said online and realised that social media requires companies to behave and act differently. Simply transferring existing corporate materials into the social media space is not going to work.

The other point that some companies fail to appreciate is that social media networks and platforms are in essence empty vessels. It is what you do with them that matters. How you use them is crucial. Of course you can channel anything through Twitter. But what is really going to appeal to your audience? You might want to start a blog, but is it appropriate? Will people bother to read it? Are you sure your audience will want to actually spend their valuable time reading it? Social media requires a more professional approach.

Gaining control through social media

How does an organisation maintain control of its brand through social media? How can you protect your brand from the myriad of comments, videos, and tweets?

If you are absent from what is going on through social media then you are at the mercy of those people who are commenting on you.  You have in effect abdicated your role. You have surrendered the story to others.  To prosper in social media you need to be there telling your story. If you are not, others – including negative story tellers – will do the job for you.  So it is essential you participate.

Participation means listening, correcting and contributing and above all respecting the communities who are talking about you online.  You don’t have to respond to everything that is being said. You can be selective or address a group of comments through one post. But you have to be there.

Who would sit on their hands while the FT writes articles about you? No one.  So why should you sit on your hands when thousands and sometimes millions of people – your customers – are talking about you now through social media networks?

Man U criticised for lack of social media policy

man uManchester United has issued a statement saying that players will not be using social networks and that all official statements about the club will come through the web site.  The club has been accused of sitting on a pedestal and failing to capitalise on or engage with all the conversations their fans are having through social networks.

It does not make sense. Think of the commercial opportunities they are missing to reach out to fans around the world who are on social networks.

Facebook better than Twitter for marketing

Interesting piece by Amy Porterfield about the relative merits of Twitter v Facebook as a marketing tool. Amy points out that Twitter is more outward-facing and therefore less sticky than Facebook. She also refers to a report about how marketers predict they will be using social media. Worth a look.

Facebook in Haiti

haitiIt has often been said of new innovations that they are technology in search of an application.  You can make what looks like a breakthrough but actually has no practical use.

This is one case where the opposite has turned out to be the case. Social networking is so natural, and so much a way of life for many people, that the technology sometimes struggles to keep up.

There’s a rather poignant example of that from the Haiti earthquake.   For all the destruction to the infrastructure Haiti citizens are keeping in touch with the rest of the world via Facebook.

One woman posted heart-wrenching messages about pulling people from the rubble, and was clearly so much in touch with what was happening that people in the US and elsewhere who had friends and relatives in Haiti bombarded her with requests for information. That triggered Facebook’s spam filter and the account was temporarily disabled, which turns out to have happened to many other users in Haiti as well.

The site clearly can’t keep up, although be fair, it probably never have envisaged usage of this type and this scale. When pressed, the site’s spokesman said this might happen in ‘rare cases’ and that it would now screen messages for the word ‘Haiti’ and allow them to pass the spam filters.  I wonder if this has happened in other contexts, and how easy or difficult it will be to adjust automated systems to cope with it.

The Economist and the Social Media Leadership Forum

economistThe Economist has kindly agreed to give a talk to members of the Social Media Leadership Forum.

As many of you know, we set up the forum at the end of last year to enable large organisations to collaborate with one another, share best practice and discuss common issues relating to how best to engage with social media.

Our excellent members include: Royal Dutch Shell, Aviva, Asda, Motorola, First Direct, SAB Miller, Unilever and Microsoft.

The talk with The Economist, who are using social media in some fascinating ways, is part of the new programme we are putting together for 2010. Members will also be sharing with other members the work they are doing, the lessons learned and sharing advice and tips.

If you are a representative of a leading FTSE 100 company and you would like to know more about the forum and are interested in joining so you don’t miss out on opportunities to hear directly from experts in this new important communications field, then please get in touch.

You can email me directly: or call on and ask to be put through to me.

Thanks in advance!

Hope to see you at the Social Media Leadership Forum soon!


How colleges use social media

I’ve been fascinated to see how much social media is penetrating higher education.  It seems to me that businesses might learn a thing or two from it.

Here’s an article that looks at the extent to which colleges in Springfield, Missouri have switched to social media as a way to communicate with students. It’s where they all are, so it makes sense to contact them that way, the colleges point out.

missouri stateMissouri State University set up a task force study in 2008 that led to the establishment of an office for Web and new media, with an annual budget of $386,000, a staff of five and several student workers. Later that year it started using iTunes, which enable audio and video files to be played on Apple devices like an iPod, iPhone or computer, as a means to make academic lectures available to students and the public. This averages about 50,000 downloads a week.

This month it launched software for Apple’s iPhone and phones that use Google’s new Android system. It means users can get news updates from the university, download university ringtones and wallpapers, access a campus map and locate the live positions of shuttle buses on their handheld devices.

It also uses YouTube to market the school through sports clips and videos on student life. A Facebook page enables students, past and present, to interact with each other and highlight campus events, and tweets alert followers to new goings-on.  All departments can have a presence, including tutors, who interact with students through Facebook and Twitter.

If these experiences are anything to go by, there doesn’t seem to be any limit to what one can do with these new media. It just needs a little bit in the way of resources, appointing some enthusiastic and savvy person to brainstorm initiatives with likeminded staff members, and a little bit of cash to make them happen.

Coke and Unilever switch to social media

Tectonic shifts are taking place in the advertising world. A decade ago big FMCG companies like Coca-Cola began the practice of setting up campaign micro websites as a source of information, offers, competitions, etc., and using conventional advertising to drive traffic.

What was oh-so-cool then now looks dated. Both Coke and Unilever say they are moving away from creating their own campaign platforms in favour of using existing communities such as Facebook and YouTube. They say it makes more sense to go to where their consumers already are, rather than dragging them to their own sites.

According to New Media Age Coca-Cola plans to position its official Facebook and YouTube pages as the lead online channels for upcoming international activity for its Coke Zero and Fanta brands.

This could be an issue for creative agencies, who have done well out of the demand for campaign websites. In practice, most expect that their expertise will still be needed, although figuring out how to engage with their customers in their customers’ own space involves extra layers of complexity. These are the sorts of challenges that marketers increasingly face, and it will be interesting to see what solutions they come up with.