The debate has raged for a year now. Old media is dead. New media owns the future. Advertising interrupts. Social media engages. Outbound marketing has lost its clout. Inbound marketing delivers greater efficiency. The fact is they work together. And most brands need both.
Let’s take Facebook as an example. Consider that the social network absorbs more of our online time than Google or YouTube. Its users number in the hundreds of millions — in the US alone 110 million people actively use the platform every month – easily rivaling the Superbowl and American Idol for reach.
The question, of course, is whether Facebook is a social media network or an advertising medium. Remember the quote from Ted McConnell, P & G’s head of interactive marketing and innovation, who just one year ago demanded to know, “What makes you think you can monetize real estate where somebody is breaking up with their (sic) girlfriend?”
It’s clear now, of course, that it there are plenty of ways. Victoria Secret introduces new products to its fans first, driving sales and word of mouth. McDonalds serves up local information and offers, and Splenda has created new products in significantly reduced time frames.
It helps, of course, to have a robust fan base. That can be achieved with the proven efficacy of Facebook’s enagagement ads — target your message, offer an invitation to be a fan to the right users and you can build a pretty significant fan base in very little time. You can also gather fans using any of your other advertising efforts, presuming your message initiates a conversation.
They key however is how these two tactics — advertising and conversation — work together. Attracting fans is easy. Keeping them, activating them, mobilizing them presents more of a challenge. At my agency, we’ve been working on developing an approach that will maximize Facebook’s potential by combining paid advertising with conversation strategy. Here are some things we’ve learned.
No one is looking to fan a brand
Let’s start with what should be obvious: very few people on Facebook are looking to fan a brand. Those of us in marketing and advertising may search for brands, but the typical user has little or no interest. Granted you can find exceptions like Coca Cola; but if you’re a bank or a detergent, forget about it. However, if a user sees an ad for a brand they do know and love, guess what? Chances are pretty good they’ll hit that “become a fan” button. Save yourself both time and wishful thinking and run some ads.
Fans rarely visit fan pages
The numbers pretty well prove this. Ninety percent of fans never go to a brand’s fan page. They engage via their news feed. This has all kinds of ramifications, but the most obvious is that you may want to put less effort into dressing up your page and more thinking into the conversation strategy that drives ongoing conversation and interaction. More on that in a moment.
Don’t narrow your targeting just because you can
Thanks to Facebook’s laser targeting, most advertisers slice and dice to the degree that they connect with thousands rather than millions. On any given day 55 million American men visit Facebook. And yes you can reach only those who live in Boston, go to college, take public transportation and buy lottery tickets. But you’ll end up with 2000 of them. Instead, start with the assumption that you may have prospective customers among those who did not include every relevant tag in their profiles.
Experiment with your creative
Amazing as it may sound, most agencies that buy ads on Facebook for their clients just buy the space and hardly think about the blurb or call to action at all. Facebook ends up writing it for them. In fact if you send Facebook a few options in advance they’ll actually test them for you and tell you which would work. Seems obvious, but according to Facebook itself, few take advantage of the service. Hint: if you want a fan, dispense with the video or pop-up window and just invite someone to fan you.
Your conversation strategy matters more than all of the above
Of course none of the above matters if you don’t have a plan for what to do with (and for) those fans. Facebook will even teach you. At Mullen, we’re starting to practice a version of what Facebook recommends everyone do on a monthly basis: gather your marketing team and map out product, advertising and promotion plans for the month. Set priorities and determine a compatible conversation strategy that avoids excess promotion and instead creates a not-to-intrusive balance of the following: questions that will stimulate reaction; content (video, images, entertainment) that will be both useful and welcome; and finally offers or incentives that can be tracked.
How many of each? Start with five from each category and then let Facebook’s new metrics for impressions and engagement, along with other measurements like comments, likes, and especially churn, determine whether you have the right mix. You’ll know pretty quickly.
Given that the average fan page sends out something only once every 16 days, and that a glance at most pages show nothing but brand posts and little fan interaction, it appears that few marketers have figured this out.
More revealing is this tidbit from Kevin Colleran, Facebook’s sixth employee and one of the company’s business development leaders: the above message – targeting + creative + conversation strategy = the most effective social media marketing – is easily understood by brand managers but less so by agencies that continue to work in silos.
It turns out that traditional ad agencies or media only agencies are often clueless when it comes to conversation strategy. PR agencies have little idea how to maximize a creative message. And neither one may understand best how to apply CRM tactics to measure acquisition and retention and develop social life cycle strategies. Yet it takes all of this working together to be effective.
It’s only a matter of time before everyone you want to connect with is on Facebook. You may want to get better at finding them, attracting them and engaging with them. Why not start today?
By now you’ve seen, read about and possibly shared with others the viral hit of the week: Coca Cola’s Happiness Machine. In fact, you’ve probably already got requests from clients asking for something like that for their brand, too.
And who wouldn’t want one? The video got over a million views on YouTube in fewer than 10 days. Far more when you consider it’s been embedded in hundreds if not thousands of blogs. Jump all the way to page 48 of Google’s search results when you plug in “Coca Cola Happiness Machine” and it’s still there: stories, articles, video. In fact when this was written Google delivered nearly 1.5 million search results for the aforementioned phrase.
Of course doing something this visible with little or no money behind it is easier said than done. For starters you need great content. The Coke video comes close, but it’s not as if it’s an original idea. It simply takes Burger King’s Freak out from a couple of years ago and turns it inside out.
It helps that the story line is amusing and upbeat. After all in an economy like this one a message of hope (and free stuff) will always trump despair. But the real trick to success? Become a brand that’s loved. You could make a similar video or deliver the same story line for a less admired brand and you would not see the numbers generated by Happiness Machine.
If you need any more convincing, look at the buzz around Apple’s tablet, or whatever it’s called, which we’ll know in less than 24 hours. Thousands of fans have blogged about it, imagined what it will be, worked themselves into a frenzy in anticipation.
Or consider Zappos (a client of ours). People write love stories about the brand, share them, pass them around.
I like Coke’s video. But I worry that too many brands will once again attempt to replicate the tactic instead of changing their behavior, making a great product, giving more than they take. The one lesson every marketer should take away from Coca Cola isn’t that they figured out how to make a viral video. It’s this: look at everything you do and ask whether it will make your community of users and prospects believe you care enough about them for them to care about you. That’s what Coke has really done.
What are you doing to make sure that your brand’s loved?
I’m pleased to announce my latest venture, SeeMyOp.com. It’s intended to be the first social network site that lets members share their surgical procedures live with friends and followers, both on SeeMyOp.com as well as on a user’s other networks thanks to an API that will enable users to stream live video from surgical scopes and instruments over Twitter and Facebook.
In addition, a simple interface will also tweet all vital signs during an operation while planned connections to Foursquare and Blippy will inform a patient’s community of his hospital location along with the costs of all procedures.
I think you’ll agree this is the next big thing, not only in social networking and community building, but in health care as well.
SeeMyOp oozes benefits. For starters, it’s the logical next step for social networks. Think about it. As we all collect friends, fans and followers it’s inevitable that they’ll want to know as much about our health as they do about our thoughts, whereabouts and spending habits. And as more and more aging baby boomers embrace the social web, what’s likely to be the most common shared activity? That’s right, medical procedures. Everything from the basic to the life threatening.
Secondly, SeeMyOp.com taps right into the same networks we already use, uniting them in a way that’s useful, informative, and conversational. With Foursquare we let everyone know where we are. With Blippy, we share, if not brag about our recent purchases. With Facebook we update our status and share images of our lives. And with Twitter we tweet about just about anything. SeeMyOp ties them all together in the ultimate personal revelation: the chance to see what’s really going on inside us.
SeeMyOp.com will be the ultimate social sensory experience. In addition to video and vitals, the platform will automatically upload still photographs from any procedure at pre-determined intervals chosen by the patient. Images will be available on Flickr, Facebook and accessible via a new iPhone app also under development.
Even more importantly, SeeMyOp could become an incredibly valuable resource when it comes to health care. It will familiarize patients with procedures, allow them to learn from friends’ experiences, and provide them with comparative cost information.
It could even help with tracking the success rates for different procedures by both hospital and specialist as its installation base grows and more users embrace the new technology.
SeeMyOp is still in the early phases of development, getting ready to raise capital, as we proceed with product development. But I wanted to share it first with my own community of friends and readers.
I look forward to making the platform available to users and the medical community in the not too distant future and in the meantime welcome all of your comments, questions and feedback.
What do you think? Is this the best social networking idea yet or what?
Finally, if you like this post and others you see here, please hit the share button and pass it around. Or click on the RSS button in the upper right and subscribe. I’ll try and make it worth your while.
It’s starting to look like no one wants to sit and watch anymore. Not even at the theatre. At two recent American Repertory Theatre productions, going on now in Cambridge, and Brookline, MA, patrons are part of the performance. In A Donkey Show, a musical riff on Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream, the audience mingles with performers and even shimmies with bare breasted actors.
In another production, Sleep No More, an actively involved audience meanders through the sinister settings of a four-story theatrical installation, taking in the story of Macbeth in a completely novel way. Wandering through forests and bedrooms, preferably in comfortable shoes, an audience member can choose how and when to proceed. Not unlike a video game narrative.
As you might expect, this approach to theatrical production is attracting a new audience. One that’s younger and more interested in the experience that takes place throughout the entire venue, not just what’s happening on the stage. While there is no shortage of critics – “intellectually barren” is one Donkey Show review that appears on ART’s website – the shows are sold out and being extended. Even more interesting is that numerous people go to the performances more than once; some have even been attending weekly.
In the case of A Donkey Show, a production that’s successfully brayed through London and New York, you could argue that it’s nothing more than disco masquerading as theatre. But if you listen to director Diane Paulus, there’s both story and a context. The latter informed by those blurry days of Studio 54, which was, arguably, a theatrical experience in and of itself.
Since I can’t help but look at everything in pop culture from the perspective of a marketer, this story interests me less because it’s a different kind of production and more because it’s further evidence that the trends regarding the actively involved audience that we’re seeing in other media – video games, social media, websites, augmented reality, interactive TV – are beginning to appear everywhere.
Even iPhone apps have moved beyond the grip of one’s hands, instead calling for greater and greater physical interaction. Case in point is Untravel Media’s Murder on Beacon Hill. Using geocoded videos to take you back to Boston in 1849, the app turns you into an active sleuth attempting to solve the murder of the prominent Brahmin Dr. George Parkman.
My last post argued that consumers are ready to become creators if we simply invite them to. These examples suggest they’re also ready to become part of the story in other ways: as cast members in a live performance, not necessarily seeking the glory and visibility of American Idol, but willing and anxious to play the role of extras.
What does any of this mean for brands and marketers? Do we invent new ways to tap into this willingness and enthusiasm? Do we encourage it? Are there advantages in terms of awareness and loyalty if we do?
I think maybe yes. What do you think?
We used to watch TV. Now we make the videos. We used to read the content. Now we produce it. We used to look at the pictures. Now we take them, upload them and distribute them. We have evolved from spectators to creators.
OK, not all of us, but according to Forrester’s recently updated Social Technographics Ladder, a full 24 percent of all people who went online in 2009 performed one or more of these activities. Forrester calls them the Creators.
And while there are many more people labeled conversationalists (a new category for recognizing people who regularly update their status), joiners and spectators, I think that the 24 percent is the most interesting number. For starters it’s a full 14 percent higher than a year ago. Secondly, it’s 24 percent of the number of people who go online; without a doubt that universe is quite a bit larger than it was just a year earlier. So the actual number of people creating content grew even more than 14 percent.
Why does this matter? For the simple reason that it’s an opportunity for brands and marketers everywhere. Here’s an example. Budweiser produces a spot and it ends up on YouTube. Out of nowhere, one person comes along and creates her own tribute. Just for fun. Just because she wants to. Nice to be a brand with that’s loved.
But in another case, HP runs a campaign and discovers (or plans for) a similar phenomenon, except that in this case hundreds of people come along to create content. Why? Because HP invited them to. Granted the company offered up prize money. But that’s not always a requirement. Consider Art of the Trench. Burberry puts up a website with fashionable images of people wearing trench coats and simply invites anyone with a digital camera and internet access to add to the portfolio. And so it grows.
There are more examples that prove not just willingness but downright enthusiasm. TJX Corporations’s YouTube caroling page got people to sing their favorite carols with very little convincing. Lonely Planet TV regularly receives videos from amateur content creators as they travel the world.
A few months ago I started The Next Great Generation, a community blog for Gen Y to share its thoughts on everything from life and work to brands and technology. So far nearly 100 writers have volunteered to write, edit and manage the blog in return for an opportunity to develop their voice, build their personal reputation, and be part of a community. Granted some were already “creators,” but for many, this was their first foray into content creation.
It strikes me that any brand, charity or organization can build a community of people who will photograph, compose, and produce content. They’ll shoot instructional videos on how they use your product, create parodies or interpretations of your last TV campaign, write stories, post recipes, and take photographs. The evidence is everywhere. From the equivalent of 130,000 full length feature films uploaded to YouTube every week, to the growing list of crowdsourcing startups confident there’s a business model in user generated content.
In Here Comes Everybody Clay Shirky suggests we need to unlearn the lesson that getting paid is the primary motivation for people to make an effort and do any serious work. Instead he reminds us that people don’t simply want to consume media, they want to produce it, shouting “Look what I made,” in the process.
Granted not every brand needs community created content. But is that the point? If consumers want to create it, if they’re willing to generate it, if it further induces them to become a highly effective medium as they pass that content around, don’t you want them creating it? It’s one more way to listen, engage, inspire, build and mobilize your community.
Want content for your brand? Want a community of contributors who’ll spread the content around? All you have to do is invite them and make them feel appreciated for their efforts. What are you waiting for?
Photo by: chibart
Ladder by: Forrester
Thanks to Jason Falls for the inspiration for this post.