Big Brands and Social Media

Traditional media no longer produces „predictable“ results and sometimes completely fails to activate certain target audiences at all. Hence brands are increasingly adopting social media tactics and moving into the social media space. This is no news. But for the big brands social is still very much a test lab. There are many marketing Euros ready to be spend on new ways to engage the target audience, but there are (yet) not many proven ways to spend these Euros effectively.

Related to this, two blog posts by Tom Smith caught my attention in the last couple of days:

Tom first wrote a post about why big brands struggle with social media (marketing):

1. Social Media is often viewed as just another marketing channel

2. It does not fit into current structures

3. Communities and content are global

4. Social media needs a long term approach

5. No guaranteed results

6. The metrics are new

The blogpost caused a long discussion about big brands in social media, causing Tom to write an update called „why we all benefit from big brand being in social media„:

This was around the idea that big brands shouldn’t be active in social media, as the presence of big business will destroy the consumer driven spirit and purity of what the social revolution stands for.

Big brand involvement for some feels like a sellout. However, now that social media is mass market, I strongly believe that this viewpoint misses the big picture. I believe that we all benefit as consumers from big brands being in social media.

1. Social media drives complete transparency

2. Social media drives quality product

3. Social media can be a great customer service channel

4. Social Media creates products that we want

5. You control the relationship

6. Big brands keep our access free

7. Big brands have interesting stories to tell

8. Users drive the content and conversation

Good food for thought, even though I think the example given for the customer service channel is a bit far fetched – I wouldn’t consider a twitter dialogue good service… But hey, some might like that.

Failures and opportunities in social media marketing

On Cnet is news about a new study by Gartner with the catching headline of a 50% failure rate:

75 percent of Fortune 1000 companies are eager to get involved in social-networking initiatives for marketing or customer relations purposes, but 50 percent of those campaigns will be classified as failures

The main problem is (oh wonder) the differing expectations about what will happen during those marketing efforts:

The quirkiest and most addictive campaigns often provide little value for the company and turn out to be fads, whereas marketing efforts on the Web often don’t go over as well with the public.

In addition, the report points out that online usage during the purchasing process of all products and services will increase:

Gartner’s research shows that by 2012 fully half of all purchases will have some online component. That could mean searching for product reviews, reading about a new product on a blog, or comparing prices even if the purchase is ultimately made in a store.

So the need to figure out win-win situations for brands and the community are ever more important.

And furthermore, a „heads up“ for online marketers for the financially difficult times ahead:

Businesses will turn to the Web to stay in touch with consumers during a difficult financial climate. “This is going to be a lifeline,” he said. “Your spirit of customers is probably the only thing you have.”

Stop campaining, start committing

Interesting presentation of Paul Isaakson on modern brand building.

The essence can be laid out in the two contraries:

Campaining = marketing for short term gains.
Committing = creating an evolving collection of coherent brand ideas and experiences over time.

Modern Brand Building

View SlideShare presentation or Upload your own. (tags: deepspace space150)

Just one sentence struck me as a bit strange:

Campaining = changing your core brand message to fit what you think people need or want to hear today so that they buy your product or service

Campaigns don’t always change core brand messages, do they? I surprised by that assumption…

New „State of the Blogosphere, 2008“

It seems to me like it’s been a long time since the last state of the blogosphere analysis of technorati. I think the last one must have been early 2007.

In the new publication, they offer much more insight than they used to. They conducted a survey amongst bloggers:

For the first time, we surveyed bloggers directly about the role of blogging in their lives, the tools, time, and resources used to produce their blogs, and how blogging has impacted them personally, professionally, and financially. Our bloggers were generous with their thoughts and insights.

The whole publication is split into 5 daily segments, but I look particularly forward to day 5, when they seem to publish information about brands entering the blogosphere. Here is a breakdown of the 5 segments:

    Day 1: Who Are the Bloggers?
    Day 2: The What And Why of Blogging
    Day 3: The How of Blogging
    Day 4: Blogging For Profit
    Day 5: Brands Enter The Blogosphere

Chrysler listens, Starbucks wants ideas.

There seems to be a concurrent trend. Two companies just announced new projects / plattforms on which they want to listen to consumers, engage them, discuss product development with them.

Starbucks launched the website „My Starbucks Idea“ on which they aks users to provide Starbucks with their ideas:

You know better than anyone else what you want from Starbucks. So tell us. What’s your Starbucks Idea? Revolutionary or simple—we want to hear it. Share your ideas, tell us what you think of other people’s ideas and join the discussion. We’re here, and we’re ready to make ideas happen. Let’s get started.

As you would expect, you can post ideas, vote on other’s ideas, discuss ideas, etc. In addition, there is a blog called „ideas in action“ that covers the project. At the moment, some sources are rather cynical about the project, because people mostly just ask about free drinks, fre Wi-Fi, etc. I am curious to see if there will be some really good ideas with added value resulting from this approach.

Chrysler, on the other hand, will launch a „customer advisory board“ of up to 5.000 consumers chosen of those who will apply through the website to take part. Once they can access the forum, they can submit ideas, get a sneak peak at videos, etc. It will be interesting to see if they can capture the right target audience, to quote autoblog:

However, we’re a little unsure if the tactic will provide Chrysler with what it needs to shape the future of its products and services, considering that the only people likely to sign up are partisan pistonheads who are already married to the Mopar camp or slighted customers looking for a place to vent.

For some companies, this change in dealing with the (online) target group has resulted in successes, as Ad Age writes about the Dell case study:

This sort of online listening post worked for Dell, whose IdeaStorm website resulted in a few concrete product developments and, in turn, helped to turn some of the computer-maker’s fiercest critics. One of them, Jeff Jarvis, went from a state of high dudgeon on his blog to praise the company in BusinessWeek.

In my opinion these approaches should probably work fine, as long as there is added value for both sides. If the consumer ideas and suggestions are crap, useless, unreal or simply silly, the companies might soon stop asking consumers in this fashion. It would then be much easier to go back to the old fashioned model of focus group research, where the noise to signal ratio is much better.

On the other hand, there should be some real improvements/products/ideas coming out of these approaches, making the whole outcome visible to the participating audience, showing them that their little contribution did infact change the way these companies go to market (even if the resulting outcomes were not your own idea, you would appreciate the effort made by the company).

Otherwise we’ll start having similar symptons as you have in German elections nowadays. You feel like your vote is too small to make a difference – and heck, no matter what people vote for, it doesn’t feel like things change much anyway. So why bother.