Chances are you would. At least this is the conclusion that Kacie Kinzer has come to. The NYU graduate student has been conducting an experiment on the sidewalks of Manhattan where she sets free her small, human-dependent robots and observes.
The tiny, 10-inch smiling Tweenbots, able to move only in a straight line at a constant speed, bump into all kinds of trouble. But equipped with a flag displaying their destination, they overcome challenges, obstacles and curbstones, thanks to the kindness of strangers. Passersby and pedestrians seem more than glad to read the flag, right the Tweenbot, and send the little rolling object on its way.
For the last few months I’ve used the Tweenbot case study in all of my social media presentations. What’s it have to do with social media you ask? Simple, it teaches us three important lessons.
1. People will help if you make it easy for them
They’ll be especially willing to help if they can see their small effort contributing to a larger whole. Social media is ideal for this. You won’t turn your avatar green if it takes 20 minutes or if only three other people change theirs. But if it takes just a click of the mouse and you feel as if you’re contributing to something significant you’ll take action.
2. People will do the right thing when the community is watching
While Kacie expected disaster, it never came. Why? Who is going to step on, crush, or otherwise mess with a helpless Tweenbot on the busy sidewalks of Manhattan when the urban tribe is watching? We see the same in social communities all the time. Aware of the community’s presence we act accordingly; we shout out the people who do good and call out those who don’t.
3. Don’t be afraid to ask
I don’t mean the blatant, self-serving request for an RT, but rather the confidence to ask for help or advice, or information. Chances are you’ll discover human generosity in abundance. Same holds true when you’re seeking support for a cause or just trying to spread the news about a new product or service.
On her one page website sharing the story of Tweenbots, Kacie Kinzer closes with this thought. “As each encounter with a helpful pedestrian takes the robot one step closer to attaining its destination, the significance of our random discoveries and individual actions accumulates into a story about a vast space made small by an even smaller robot.”
Random discoveries, individual actions, a vast space made small. Doesn’t that sound an awful lot like social media?
Recently Mullen had a wonderful experience working with Olympus to launch its new E-P1, the world’s smallest interchangeable lens camera. This beautifully designed camera shoots great stills and HD video. As a content creating machine, it seemed the perfect product to bring to life in the social media space. After all, aren’t YouTube, Flickr and Facebook where we show off our photos and videos?
However, you don’t simply appear, announce your presence and hope people pay attention. You start at the beginning. So here’s what we did and what might work for you.
1. Make a commitment
Seems obvious, but it’s important. Social media isn’t a campaign or a program, it’s an ongoing relationship. Olympus understood this and made that commitment.
2. Define your community
The more clearly you define your community and learn how they engage with a category, a brand, content and media, the more effective you’ll be. We weren’t trying to reach a mass audience, but rather to connect with digitally savvy photo enthusiasts who might enjoy learning and talking about the new camera.
3. Determine objectives
True, Olympus signed up for the long term — to listen, learn, share, contribute — but our real objective was to launch the E-P1, generate buzz, get bloggers to pay attention, and have the press pick up the conversation.
4. Engineer your presence
Essentially we constructed a social media brand platform, connecting Twitter, Facebook, Flickr and YouTube so we could take our questions, content and conversation to the community rather than ask them to come to us. Of course, Olympus prominently displayed links on its website, too.
5. Build a following
You can let it happen serendipitously, or you can develop a game plan. We chose to follow key influencers, promote their content, contribute to their conversations, and offer them value in hopes they might follow back.
6. Engage, share and inspire participation
Long before we were even ready to talk about the new camera we got fans and followers engaged in discussions. We shared videos, product demos, invited them to submit content, and simply talked.
7. Do something attention getting
Even in the social media space, you have to compete for attention and generate content worth talking about. We did it by partnering with Tom Dickson of Will it Blend fame. We started with a teaser video that generated nearly 200,000 views in the first couple of days, then followed with a full blown product introduction. We didn’t create a viral video for the sake of creating a viral video; rather we came up with a fresh new way to demonstrate the totality of the camera’s features. It worked, evident by this blurb in Wired.
8. Mobilize your community
Ok, in this case we did something social outside the digital realm. We invited bloggers and reporters to a product demo and photo shoot at Coney Island. But we also provided our fans and followers with the full story and useful background about the camera.
9. Measure results
As our head of analytics likes to say, “you can’t put up a weather station and measure yesterday’s weather.” So early on we put in place systems to measure the conversation, sentiment, tweets, RTs, web traffic and impressions from both online and offline media coverage. This gave us a base to compare the conversation at the start of the project with the buzz generated after the announcement. It will also give us a baseline to use in determining actual sales and their relationship to the conversation.
10. Keep on going
As we said, and as Olympus knows, this isn’t a program or a campaign, it’s a commitment. So we’re still at it. Listening, talking, sharing, responding. Of course it’s too soon to see the sales numbers, but feedback from dealers has been very positive. And we know based on previous experience that there is a correlation between buzz and sales. So that’s a good thing, given that bloggers and press are writing, prospective customers are talking, and the videos are getting shout outs everywhere.
Can you think of anything we missed? Are there best practices we didn’t consider? Have you introduced a new product this way? Please share.
Social media is a wonderful thing. For practically nothing, any brand or individual can create a presence online, produce and distribute original content, find an audience and maybe even turn them into followers.
Of course as the saying goes, “that and $3.00 will buy you a latte.”
To think that employing social media will actually solve your marketing problems is akin to believing that the purchase of an expensive camera will turn you into Annie Liebowitz. It ain’t gonna happen.
Take a close look at three of the most frequently mentioned social media success stories: Zappos, Kogi Korean Barbeque and Gary Vaynerchuck. They’re not smart marketers because they’re using social media. They’re using social media because they’re smart marketers. They each have the right product or service, an insight that inspires customers, a differentiating brand position, and relevant content to get it across.
Does Zappos account for one out of all 60 UPS shipments because Tony Hsieh has 800,000 followers on Twitter? Doubt it. Tony has those followers because he’s passionate about customer service. Can’t find what you want from Zappos? An employee will track it down elsewhere. Get a sense they’re not trying to end your phone call? It’s because there’s no stopwatch telling them to. Zappos’s product is customer service. Their insight is the fact that a well-served customer will become a loyal one. Social media is simply a tool to demonstrate both.
The same holds true for Kogi. The roving taco trucks don’t find 200 people lined up waiting for a Kogi fix simply because the company started tweeting its whereabouts. It has loyal customers who like Mark Manguera’s concept of drizzling Korean barbeque sauce over a Mexican taco and selling it for a fair price, often next to clubs as they empty out late at night. As simple as the concept sounds, it never existed until Manguera followed through on his idea.
Or take the incomparable Gary Vaynerchuck. He didn’t grow his business from $4 million a year to $80 million a year because he bought a video camera and started a YouTube channel. He single handedly changed the way wine was marketed. He removed the mystery behind terms like grassy and tobacco and took the snobbishness out of Bordeaux. Gary’s product is his unique way of making knowledge more accessible. His insight was simple: people are intimidated by wine and don’t need to be.
Every brand or brand wannabe can get on Twitter, put up a Facebook page, and start a blog. The successful ones will be marketers first, social media users second.
What do you think? Does social media make you a marketer? Or do you have to be a marketer to take advantage of social media?
As the topic du jour, every media outlet is attempting to find an angle on the Twitter story so it can jump on the bandwagon without playing the same song.
Last night was WGBH’s turn. Beth Israel Hospital CEO Paul Levy and I made a joint appearance on Greater Boston, hosted by Emily Rooney, to talk about the value of Twitter as a tool for executives. We’re both active users. It was a terrific conversation and Emily gave us the opportunity to share perspectives on Twitter’s value when it comes to real time search, crowd sourcing, access to content, and a way to meet interesting people we may never encounter in our daily lives.
Hopefully viewers learned that Twitter doesn’t matter because of what it is, it matters because of what you can do with it.
But before we went on, there was another segment far more compelling. The subject was mandatory minimum sentencing for drug offenders. In Massachusetts, since the 1980s, if you’re convicted of selling drugs within 1000 feet of a school, whether to a student or not, there is no judicial discretion; you go to jail for 15—20 years. You could have simply been in the adjoining room of a house where the deal went down and still find yourself guilty.
Long story short, no one, including the Massachusetts Bar Association, thinks mandatory sentencing works, either as a deterrent or in helping people with drug problems. Not to mention that the prison population in Massachusetts is up by nearly 400 percent since the law went into effect.
Which brings me back to social media and Twitter. These are tools that we can use to accomplish things, to express our opinions, to start conversations, to have our voices heard, and to influence change.
To me, that’s the story the media should be telling. What we, as mere individuals, can do with social media when we gather a community, build support around a message or cause, and then spread the word, inspiring others to join us.
Here’s the Governor Deval Patrick’s Twitter handle. Care to join me in letting him know it’s time to change the law when it comes to mandatory sentencing and treat each case individually?
If you want a simple understanding of the difference between advertising and social media, look no farther than some of the terminology we use to describe what we do.
In advertising we have the target audience. These are the people we hope to hit with our messages. We don’t know any of these people personally, but that’s OK. We know where they are or where they’re supposed to be and when they least expect it we’ll load, aim, fire.
In social media, we have our community. These are folks we actually have a relationship with. We listen to them, interact, share stories, and offer up content that we’ve actually taken the time to know they’ll be interested in.
In advertising we have penetration. In social media we have conversation. In the former we force our way into people’s lives. With the latter we ask to be invited or invite them to join us.
In advertising we have the roadblock, a technique designed to intercept that elusive target audience in such a way that they can’t avoid an encounter.
In social media, instead of this holdup we have the Tweetup. We don’t apprehend our prospective customers; we host a social event they might actually want to attend.
In advertising we have share of voice, a measurement of how loud we can shout in comparison to our competitors.
In social media we just have sharing. We offer up content, links, utility, relevant information and whatever expertise might help our fans and followers.
In advertising we have impacts. How many times did we whack someone with our message.
In social media we have updates. How frequently do we keep them informed and in the loop.
One of the big differences between advertising and social media is that in advertising we create messages. In social media we learn to listen. Perhaps we should listen to some of the words we use to describe what we do.
Can you think of any other terms that illuminate the difference?