The potential for consumer engagement within social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn etc., tends to split opinion: successful marketing has either become a matter of “likes” and “followers”, or everything that can be measured beyond the realm of social media. No matter your stance, what remains is that existing and – perhaps more importantly – potential customers flock to social networks in large numbers.
One way to bring perspective to this new level of consumer engagement that social networks provide, is to perceive these consumers from the viewpoint of how political branding has developed within the last 20 years.
Since the 1990s and especially Philip Gould’s seminal book, The Unfinished Revolution, the importance of being a political brand has increased for politicians in the West. This movement has partly been fueled by politicians learning from how companies have successfully branded themselves in increasingly competitive markets through time. However, besides increased political awareness and social responsibility, the insights from strategy and promotion in the political sphere haven’t moved significantly in the other direction.
Gould’s key learning from his analysis of The Labour Party in Great Britian is that politicians should ignore the voters that most definitely will and will not vote for them, and instead target their campaigns towards the large group of voters who through campaigning can be convinced into voting for them.
If Gould is right, then the level of consumer engagement that social networks constitute provides a key marker for marketers to steer by, as the people who “like” or “follow” brands show the level of engagement necessary for continued persuasion. Social networks are cheap and contain great potential for marketers, but for now they are merely a new advertising platform and not the consumers themselves. To the point, brand disciplines shouldn’t be perceived as a criterion for success, but valuable means to an end.
Pop sociologist, Malcolm Gladwell, recently wrote an essay in The New Yorker on social media and social activism. Inspired by network theory as usual he thoroughly argues for distinguishing between social media infused activism and “offline/real” activism. Accordingly, Gladwell states: “Social networks are effective at increasing participation—by lessening the level of motivation that participation requires”, which – if Gladwell’s analysis is valid – should have marketing and social media practitioners contemplating their future usage of social media.
To elaborate, it’s interesting that people might be participating because they “like” a brand on Facebook, “follow” a ditto on Twitter, or “check in” through Foursquare, but this should be interpreted based on the fact that the level of motivation necessary to participate is equally lowered. To the point, social media might have changed online behavior for good, but companies and agencies need to have KPIs that are more tangible than clicks, “likes”, “followers” etc., when they plan and follow up on their social media campaigns.
Eventually, it’s all about converting awareness into purchases, i.e. if your brand achieves immense awareness in social networks, but cannot convert this – and doesn’t have tangible ways to measure the conversion – then the money is probably used better elsewhere.
Consequently, social media hasn’t changed the level of customer engagement that a purchase requires, but it has added a new level to that customer engagement. It is imperative that marketers and sales people have this in mind.
Recent article in Wired Magazine claims the web is dead. I am not sure the Web is really dead (or dying) but I believe that the way we find and access information is changing.
The article claims closed networks like Itunes and Facebook is changing how we use the Internet. Plus the need to capitalize of the Internet has moved focus away from the Web to alternative Internet outlets.
Writing off the web just because alternative information networks has sprung up may be taking the analysis too far but it it does serve as an important reminder how the Internet has changed in a short time and how it will continue to change in the future.
It also helps to understand why social media has grown as much as it has in such a short time. If it wasn’t for new way of connecting like Facebook social media would not have been the same. I like to call it the personalization of the web. And just as our life outside the Internet, our communication needs takes on a different degrees of personalization which the Web has finally caught up to.
Itunes, Twitter and Facebook are the current hot topics just like Netscape, Second life and Geocities were before them. It’s not so much about death as it s iabout constant development and renewal of the Web.
Last week Facebook held a major conference f8 announcing the death of Facebook Connect and the birth of its replacement Open Graph API and a universal Like button (A Like button integrated on sites outside Facebook). Many see the new initiatives as part of Facebook’s real break out moment plus the fact they have reached a size close to Google and Yahoo and they are profitable. From a marketing perspective this once again shows us that Facebook is of great importance to marketers and companies need to take it seriously and also find out how Facebook best fit into their marketing and communication strategy.
Of what came out of the f8 conference I am really interested in the universal Like button. I find a lot of inspiration from my friends and would love an easy way for them to tell me what they find interesting on the Internet. For a company I think the value of the Like feature can be amazing as it makes it
much easier to have advocates help spread the good word about your products and get the valuable earned attention from you customers. I think there is an opportunity for early adopters as people will find it fun to try but I think the value will be there later too as the Facebook user gets used to the information and understands the value.
Above I have attached an example from Levis where they have integrated the Like concept into their own site. I will call this step two as a site like that needs to generate a critical mass before it becomes valuable but it’s a good example of how the social aspect is moving from Facebook and into sites.
In the category of ‘Social Gaming’, Sony PlayStation did not command the same reputation as its competitors. Sony Playstation thus tasked VerticPortals with the mission of promoting Singstar online as a game that encourages social interaction amongst its players. We leveraged the Facebook Connect application to empower users to organize parties within their peer group in an environment where they already felt very comfortable. Singstar is the hero that acts as the catalyst driving the communal engagement. Depending on whether users were seasoned veterans at the microphone, or complete amateurs, the site experience was personalized to help everyone make the most of the party atmosphere and, most importantly, used the integration of an established social network to effectively brand the social aspects of the game. Go try out the site for you self.
We are helping one of our favorite organizations get more awareness and hopefully win a grant from Sam’s Club. The Facebook application we have developed put Accion into the heart of each Facebook users account. The application we have developed to Accion asks the user to donate their profile picture for a day which is done automatically and leaves a post on the wall the tells more about the good cause. The campaign takes the most personal part of your profile and turns it into a good cause. Help us help Accion and go to the below address to change your profile picture:
About ACCION USA
At ACCION USA, we’re committed to bringing affordable microfinance solutions to small business owners who need them. We’re an organization with a nationwide reach that has helped thousands of small business owners grow and thrive. A recognized leader in U.S. microfinance, we help small business owners use microloans to build their businesses. ACCION USA is part of the U.S. ACCION Network, the largest domestic microlending network, with over $272 million lent since inception in 1991.
It’s been difficult to avoid Lady Gaga the last year. She has become a worldwide hit – even my 2 year old son likes Gaga and wants to watch her on Youtube. Gaga is mostly known for her music but what I think is impressive is her ability to market herself. Instead of leaving the her marketing up to her record company she has literally taken control of her own marketing channel, especially the social marketing channel. Currently she has 2.8 million Twitter followers, 5.2 million fans on Facebook and 110 million views on Youtube.
What is impressive is that she has quickly been able to capitalize on the audience first and foremost by selling a huge amount of records. She has gone further with her brand and expanded it by going into collaboration with Mac Viva Glam and producing a lipstick, a line of headphones with Monster/ beast by Dr. Dre, and she has become the creative director for Polaroid.
The lessons from her work are good examples of a previous post about building channels. She has built a Gaga channel and she keeps feeding info through the channel, rather than building a new channel for every new project. This has made it easy for her to focus her dialogue and feed her marketing messages into the channel. I know most companies can’t create the global hype somebody like Gaga can create, but many companies have just as many devoted fans as Gaga in terms of their loyal customers and can build an audience.
As dialogue moves online between companies and customers and back between customers and companies, knowing who you are actually talking to becomes less transparent. I think this is a problem both for companies and consumers, and undermines the value of a growing online dialogue.
What we recommend to our clients is to have a transparent policy in covering all online interactions out of and into the company. A good example is Coca-Cola’s 10 Principles for Online Spokespeople:
1. Be Certified in the Social Media Certification Program.
2. Follow the Code of Business Conduct and all other Company policies.
3. Be mindful that you are representing the Company.
4. Fully disclose your affiliation with the Company.
5. Keep records.
6. When in doubt, do not post.
7. Give credit where credit is due and don’t violate others’ rights.
8. Be responsible to your work.
9. Remember that your local posts can have global significance.
10. Know that the Internet is permanent.
What this illustrates is that even a large global company like Coca-Cola can implement easy-to-understand and remember policies, which in 10 points make all employees part of the company voice. I really like that they only allow comments with full disclosure of company affiliation. It’s wrong not to do so and I think in most cases people quickly discover “under-cover” representatives.
I recommend to consumers to do the same, as it will encourage a fair dialogue and, if you are afraid of saying and using your own name, it is most likely better not to say anything at all. There are exceptions and I will finish off this post with a link to a story about a women who with a fake Facebook account caught her husband cheating.
The latest Nielsen study shows that more and more seniors 65 or older are online and they are spending more time online in the U.S. The study does not give reasons why this is happening but I think it’s a just another example of how the Internet has gone mainstream. It’s becoming more and more difficult to live without using the Internet and the Internet is becoming more accessible and easy to use. People who turn seniors has also in many cases already use the Internet and computers for many years as they are no longer a generation that grew up without computers.
From November 2004 to 2009 there has been an 55% increase in active users totaling 17.5 million. They are however still only 10% of the total amount of U.S. users. Their user pattern is very normal including checking email, online maps, weather, paying bills and reading news. They are using the Internet as a normal extension of their daily live.
What I found most interesting is Facebook as number third most visited site and Youtube as the forth most visited site. It’s interesting because it shows that once they are online they embrace new services that are unique to the Internet. It also shows how good services like Facebook and Youtube are designed as they can easily be used by people from of all ages. The lesson for marketers is that functionality helps capture audience and that there is a growing mature audience on the Internet to speak to.
For the first time in a long time 2009 has shown weakness in Google’s world dominance as the preferred search provider. There are new ways people find information they are looking for and this will only expand in 2010.
First off, Microsoft finally put a real effort into search with the launch of Bing and they have been able to take market share from Google. Besides a huge marketing campaign, one of the things that has impressed me is the focus on new services that goes beyond what Google offers. Bing has especially been better at integrating social media into search results.
However, web 1.0 conventional search offerings from Google and Bing will see less relevance as search results will be more integrated into a more relevant context. If you are shopping online you can be automatically informed about better deals. If you are writing about a specific subject, the way you write the text will be able make relevant searches link directly to your material. The key is much deeper integration with what you are doing compared to using a search box; also, an automatic push of information based on real-time behavior.
For companies that are trying to get heard and trying to attract customers to their sites, this is both good and bad. The bad part is this will increase complexity as it’s no longer just a battle for the top spot in Google rankings. The good part is it will open up new, and hopefully improved, ways to reach customers with more opportunities to communicate with your audience.