Posts Tagged ‘Public Relations’

I’ve always been a fan of Hootsuite. I’ve been touting them as the best Twitter client while everyone else was clamoring over seesmic and tweetdeck. Well folks, this is why:

Hootsuite upgraded to HTML 5 not too long ago, an impressive move on it’s own. Today, they astound their users yet again with another update, this time focusing on improving the quality of content through the institution of additional filter systems, along with a new Social CRM features.

The filter system is incredibly easy to use, and allows us to further refine the content that floods our streams every day. For power users and professional social media folk, like myself, following 5000 people is a daunting task. Tools like this allow users search within their pre-established columns and tabs, either by Klout Score (Influence) or by keyword.

This functionality has been lacking from twitter and 3rd party clients. I’m shocked it took so long for someone to do this the right way, but I’m not in the least bit surprised it was Hootsuite.

Add to that the additional “Insights” that appear in a new tab within the pop-up profile boxes, integrations with “Zendesk for customer service, and you’ve got the makings of a twitter app/client to destroy all others as the premier package for personal and professional use.

I’m not sure how many of you took the survey (using User Voice, an awesome crowdsourcing tool if you haven’t seen it). I did, and I’m glad to see that a lot of the user feedback and ideas are incorporated into this evolving product. H00t H00t.

This also just happens to be a brilliant way for Hootsuite to build buzz just prior to the imminent Paid Premium Service launch.

Here are the basics, excerpted from the press release.

Filter by Influence

Drill down into your network by filtering columns by influence score. Sorting by Klout’s algorithmically-produced score allows you to learn which followers and contacts enjoy the widest reach. Ideal for quickly identifying campaign candidates or response priority.

Filter by Keyword

Too many messages to sort through? No problem. Filter your columns on-the-fly by keyword. Type in your desired word to remove the extraneous updates and focus on what’s on your mind. Ideal for tracking topics and prospecting for clients.

Follower Insights

Get to know your network with the knowledge behind the “Insights” tab . Learn where your contacts Hang-out online including publicly available links to social profiles, a collection of images, even occupations and title — all in one view

Hoot to Zendesk Support

Where does social networking end and tech support begin? It doesn’t matter since Twitter updates can now become track-able tickets directly in the popular help desk app, Zendesk . This integration helps streamline your customer service and ensure quality responses.

Organization View

Since HootSuite released Team Collaboration tools, many users have added extensive networks. Now managing your colleagues is easier thanks to a new view which shows your contacts on each network, along with a simple way to add more team members.

To get started, click the Owl, choose Settings, then My Organizations to tune-up your teams.

From enterprises to start-ups, HootSuite is pleased to help businesses and organizations reach out to spread messages, monitor conversations and track results.

As you may know, we’re excited about releasing paid plans in the coming weeks. Keep in mind, HootSuite will remain free for an estimated 95% of users based on current usage patterns. Meanwhile, premium users will enjoy access to extra features, high limits and prioritized support.

We’ll release details in the coming weeks but to preview, the paid plans will offer:

* Unlimited social networks
* Unlimited RSS feeds
* Team members on social networks
* Advanced analytics & reports
* Expedited support

This is my first article in a series of posts that will focus on applying social psychology to social media marketing. Little did I know it at the time, but spending 4 semesters in a social perceptions and behaviors lab in college DID come in useful! (I know, I was shocked too). I’m going to start with the Overjustification Effect

Overjustification Effect, simply put, is a description of what happens when someone offers an external incentive for a behavior already found to be intrinsically rewarding.

Lesson One: Overjustification Effect & Cognitive Evaluation Theory (CET):

Overjustification, or the undermining effect, occurs when an act that is initially driven by intrinsic motivation loses its behavioral grip as it is replaced by an additional, extrinsic motivator.

Take the example of a young child in grade school – his grades are slipping. The parents immediately recall the hyperbolous discourse surrounding positive reinforcement and tell their child, “Son, for every A you get in school, we’ll give you a dollar.”

Seems like a good deal for everyone involved right? The parents successfully motivate their child who, consequently, strives to achieve better results through the remainder of that rigorous second grade curriculum.

But what if the child already liked school – and thus was already motivated to succeed?

Sounds crazy, I know. But what if…? Well, social psychology would tell us that if the child initially enjoyed learning on its own merit, the subsequent external monetary reward would, while boosting performance in the short-term, also act to devalue the initial motivating factor – the child’s innate affinity for academia.

Now, I ‘m not going to protest the concept of positive reinforcement (surely, it beats corporal punishment) and I certainly can’t argue with years of successful marketing that tells us these types of external rewards (often in the form of deceptive or pseudo-monetary coupons, rebates, points, free samples, contest entries…etc) can influence behavior. I will, however, assert that any impact these endeavors have will be short term, and, when used within the social media landscape, are antithetical to the inherent functionality and opportunity afforded by these social platforms and the brand-consumer interactions they facilitate.

Case in point, Fan Woody. I’ve spoken out against this campaign before, so I won’t go into detail here, except as it illustrates my point and typifies an industry-wide failing. That is to say, TGI Friday’s created a fictional character (also an adversative notion when dealing with social media – which generally serves to augment the human-esque qualities in a brand, as opposed to extending its shadowy anonymity, seemingly embodied in the creation of fictitious characters like Woody), who proclaimed, “Become my fan and get a free burger!”

These sorts of brands propositions can yield a large influx of new fans – short-term, albeit deceptive & superficial, success. These new fans are not brand advocates. They are not invested in the organization. They signed up to get free shit.

I don’t think I need to ramble and rant about quality vs quantity here, but I will (I’ll keep it short, don’t worry).

When advising brands on how to manage a twitter account, the question of ROI always comes up, and it’s intricately linked to the management strategy, specifically, how you decide with whom you should follow and engage. The concern often regards numbers – “But I can only talk to X amount of people a day,” “There are a million people mentioning my brand, how do I determine which ones I should follow?” “How many followers should we aim to have at the end of the campaign?”

This is where I scoff pretentiously and say, you would rather have 1000 followers that are excited to interact with you and actively advocate for your brand, than have 10,000 followers who you garnered by giving away a free vacation to someone who used your hashtag. [Again, not trying to say these types of promotions don’t have their place – they do, and it’s usually when launching an account and should be designed to raise awareness. But that’s all – and that’s not usually necessary for big – household name – brands.]

So what about when you’re not launching a campaign or raising awareness for a new social media presence? What about the preexisting fans and followers – the ones who decided to interact with a brand on social platforms because they actually like the brand – the products, the philosophy, what it stands for? The ones social media is really all about.

Well, all that goes out the window when extrinsic drivers usurp those, valuable, authentic, sincere, innate motivators. A consumer can relate to a producer based on that organization’s brand, not overtly obvious tactics designed to influence purchasing behaviors. The consumers that relate to your brand are the ones that will advocate for you and are therefore the people to whom your efforts should cater, at least insofar as that you don’t abuse their patronage or dismiss their value in light of the appealing and alluring mega-growth (read: meaningless numbers) factor.

Based on the overjustification principal, I would go so far as to say that superficial external rewarding hinders the true potential that social media offers to brands. By actively devaluing the intrinsic motivation that drives consumers to fan or follow (or otherwise engage and interact with) brands (and their content) in the first place, there is a conscious sacrifice of quality for the sake of quantity. Artificial, manufactured growth via fast and easy methods in lieu of the organic growth achieved by brand evangelists who can, and do, influence their peers and legitimately impact consumer behaviors.

The idea of rewarding and incenting behavior probably predates any formal study marketing. However, in my opinion, gimmicky rewards have become so commonplace in social media marketing, too often are brands relying on them as long term strategies instead of for what they actually are, namely, conversation starters.

If I am going to follow a brand on twitter or fan one on Facebook, 9 times out of 10 it’s because I am already familiar with the brand and wish to augment my relationship with that brand by adding a social dimension. The benefits of such an enhanced association can include customer loyalty & CRM programs that may be partially comprised of para-monetary rewards. But when brands offer up nonsocial incentives, like TGI Friday’s now infamous Fan Woody campaign, as the basis for the interaction, yes – there is an instant and tangible ROI – but they lose out on what social platforms do best – connect brand lovers – active, consumers evangelists, with the brands they love and feel connected to.

So I beseech the marketing community – enough with the gimmicks. If you want real results, focus on enhancing the users experience with your brand, offer utility and content that allows the consumer to get the most out of their relationship with you, programs that have something to do with why these individuals are real life fans of your brand to being with.

This is what I’ve gleaned from my personal, professional, and academic experiences. But what about you? Do your experiences as a marketer speak differently? Do your experiences as a consumer reflect what I’ve discussed here?

A version of this post, written a couple of weeks ago, can also be found on the Shamable Blog, Here.

It seems like every day I see another group of posts populating my news feeds and Twitter stream touting an easy to implement social media strategy, a social media mold, readily adapted to your brand or business, or a list of social media MUSTS, things that every company needs to know about and act on – regardless of what exactly your goals or business model might be, the most recent example being Mashable’s “3 Things You Need to Know About Social Media Strategy” (pardon the run on).

Not too long ago, I wrote such posts and sometimes I’ll still retweet them, if only because within their laziness-enabling premise, there are, occasionally, bits of truth and relevancy. But that cold reality of the matter is that these cookie cutter social media plans and strategies, these molds that can be made to fit any organization, are crap. Why? Because for the most part, they simply state the obvious, repurpose other people’s content, and are designed for clueless executives desperate to jump on the bandwagon or their underlings looking to make a good impression – both of whom know next to nothing about the social space and the nature of dynamic content.

For example, lets look at this Mashable post. The article opens by explaining,

“Companies large and small are rushing to understand and get involved in social media. But most of the agencies and consultants who are being paid to establish social media campaigns for corporations are afraid to tell their clients three things they don’t want to hear.”

She goes on to list and elaborate upon these 3 topics:

  1. Everyone must work together
  2. Top Management Must Be On Board and
  3. Don’t Expect Overnight Success

I’m sorry, but I have to be blunt here when I say “DUH!” When are these 3 postulates NOT true in the business world? Should you ever expect overnight success? Does anything good ever come out of NOT working together? And don’t get me started on the involvement of top management.

I’m not trying to call out B.L. Ochman; in fact, I am a huge fan of hers and the What’s Next Blog. I do, however, feel an obligation toward my job and protecting the reputation of my profession. Posts like these feel lazy and dumbed down. Truisms they are, but they have nothing to do with social media, and framing them in that context makes it seem like anyone can do what we do, which is certainly not the case.

I’ve grown to despise these posts because the foster laziness and ignorance, they enable procrastination and poor tactics, and mostly, because they tarnish our burgeoning industry, instead of validating it.

Case in point: I recently spent several weeks assembling a comprehensive short and long-term social media and digital strategy for a client. I surveyed the landscape – what has the brand done until now, where have they succeeded, where have they failed, and what can be improved. I looked to align their existing brand objectives with social media objectives and further specified how those objectives might be reached differently as they take advantage of each social platform’s unique offerings. I audited their competitive set and looked for areas where these competitors were doing well – indicating the brand’s need to catch up – and where the competitors were failing – indicating an opportunity for them.

I looked at trends and predictions. Which brands are best-in-class and how could we emulate them, improve on their models, and innovate and lead? I did my due diligence and amassed tomes of research – what are their target audience’s most common existing behaviors on social networks? What type of engagement does their audience want from these brands and how could they provide it?

After weeks of intense research, meetings, writing and revision, I flew across the country and presented a 57-page strategy and action plan to the client, the first in a day full of nonstop meetings. Not once did I mention that “Top management must be on board,” or that we “shouldn’t expect instant success” – had I done so would have almost certainly damaged my credibility in front of an audience of established and experienced executives.

For what it’s worth, they loved it. The client was happy, thus, my bosses were happy. I thought to myself, with a big smile “Great, mission accomplished.”

But that smile was quick to fade as I realized that my weeks of work and research weren’t nearly enough. I spent the rest of the day listening and learning.  Competitive analysis, reports and reviews of the last 2 years worth of marketing, advertising, and public relations efforts.  There was talk of focus groups and the precise ROI of spending on individual efforts on different media and campaigns.

By the end of the day, I had realized something that I had known intuitively for a long time but was reluctant to acknowledge – social media does not exist in isolation. Nothing does in marketing. Everything is tied together in an intricate web of objectives, metrics, communities, budgets, messaging, and brand images. My 57-presentation was amazing, yes, but it was just the tip of the iceberg. I could have spent another month – and probably will – figuring out how to tie-in my 57-page tactical outline with the rest of the organization’s plans.

UPDATE: Since then, my presentation has led to an action plan, identifying and delegating individual tasks & responsibilities – in order to take my strategic vision into the more realistic world of actionable and executable possibility. Overarching themes and long term objectives were boiled down into a time-line of assignments and iterations of platform-specific mini-objectives, prioritized based on ease of implementation, production costs, time frames, and urgency. This has not been easy, and I’ve yet to find a post outlining a quick and simple methodology to reach this stage of strategic planning, let alone, finding any mention of this process in the “5 Social Media Strategy Musts” types of posts I’ve seen.

The reason these one-size-fits-all “social media stratagems” are bullsh*t and will never work and the reason most enterprise 2.0 consultants fail to actually back up their talk and improve a brand’s efforts to be social and become dynamic, engaging content producers, is that it takes a LOT of time and effort to understand the inner workings of a brand, especially a big business. These lists are fodder for inept and executives too lazy to expend the time and effort necessary to understand and learn about the social evolution of businesses and dynamic nature of today’s content. They are easy to write and even easier to pass off as legitimate plans.

For such endeavors to actually have merit and potential for the brand, they must be customized to the business from their inception, built to align with the companies overall objectives, and most importantly – COMPLIMENT – NOT SUPPLEMENT – existing marketing efforts. There are no MUSTS, no absolutes – what’s right for one brand may be disastrous for another. Social protocols and norms evolve so rapidly that these lists, for whatever value they may have when they’re written, become obsolete before they’d ever have any actual impact. So people, please stop relying on cookie cutter approaches because you are too lazy to devise your own. Stop trying to force your business into a mold that will only impose limits and hinder the true potential new media actually offers.

I’m writing this post – not to crap on Mashable or B.L. Ochman, but because I hold them to a high standard. People look to them, relying on these influencers and industry leaders, for valid, sound, advice. This is an example of parties that hold a clear opportunity and authority to further our industry – and flaking on their responsibility to do so. As such, I would be remiss if I let that happen without calling them out for it. I’m not even saying that I’m any better, but we need to rally, as an industry and as a community, to create more valuable content and do away with lazy “filler” products. We can do better folks.

Thank you and good day!

I am a Social Media Manager & Emerging Media Strategist based in NYC (though I’ve come to prefer Social Media Monkey). You can find me on Twitter as Aerocles and on my blog, the Legends of Aerocles.

Guest Post by Jess Greco. Similar Version found in her column at the PR Breakfast Club (PRBC).

Jess Greco

As I get ready to leave the job that I’m currently at and embark on a new and incredibly exciting opportunity, I’ve decided to do a little bit of reflection at the suggestion of David, one of my closest friends and social media mentors. When I took a position as an “intern” at the small NJ agency that I worked at during my senior year of college, I had no idea how much I would learn.  Since it was my responsibility to teach the rest of the company about it, I had no choice but to throw myself head-first into the world of social media.  It’s a good thing I ended up becoming a shameless Twitter addict who reads Mashable in its entirety, every morning (not that these things alone make someone a social media fanatic, but you know where I’m coming from).  As I think about all my experiences since then, I realize how many lessons I’ve learned since my love affair with social media began.  I can say with confidence that these lessons have allowed me to become a better professional overall.

So here they are, some of the most valuable social media lessons I’ve learned (and as obvious as some of them might be for you, believe me, they’re not for other people):

Social Media Takes Time and Effort

For those of you who really understand social media, this one is a big DUH.  Unfortunately, I’ve encountered far too many people who think social media is a quick fix, especially because it’s so simple to use.  And I’m not even just talking about clients who don’t understand how it works and therefore end up making your life hell.  I mean all sorts of professionals who have ventured into the space hoping to enhance their personal brand and businesses. If you think that your time is far too valuable to dedicate some of it towards actively participating in social media and interacting with fellow industry thought-leaders, then you might as well not even try.  Having your assistant update your status and ignoring the people who @ reply you makes me question why you’re even using Twitter at all (and the same goes for any other platform).  If you decide that you’re interested in embracing social media, make sure that you realize the investment it takes to be successful- or be prepared to fail.

There Is No Such Thing As a Social Media “Expert”

Whenever a new industry springs up that looks like it has the potential to be great, it’s inevitable that there will be a rush of people who jump on the bandwagon in hopes of becoming a big name in the business.  Social media, because of its overwhelming trendiness, has produced far too many of these people.  As a young person who was just starting to learn about this world, I was tricked by more people than I care to admit- and I’m sure I wasn’t the only one.  I now know to take these “expert” claims with a grain of salt.  I also understand the importance of really getting to know a person’s work before making them someone I look up to for advice and new ideas.

Social Media Needs to Be Customized

When I first started using social media for my clients, I unsuccessfully tried to use the same program for every one.  After some experimentation, I realized that each product or service benefited from different things.  Blogger outreach proved to be really successful in creating buzz for one client, while it totally fell flat for another.  It’s very simple when you think about it- if every company or person is different, shouldn’t their strategy be too?  Unfortunately for those looking for something fast and easy, social media is not a cookie cutter.

Social Media Can Get You a Job

Networking through social media is the greatest thing since Jersey Shore (OK, so social media came first, but still).  Social media is like a 24/7 networking event- you will always be able to find people in your industry to talk to and get help from.  It also allows you to showcase your resume and experience and show people the way that you think (through LinkedIn, a blog/website, etc.).  I was fortunate enough to get my last job, as well as the one I’ll be starting next week, through people who got to know me through Twitter.  I love telling that to people who think Twitter is completely useless.  A cohesive online personal brand can do wonders.

Knowing Social Media Can Get You Far

It’s difficult to realize this, because if you’re anything like me, you live in a bubble with people who live and breathe it.  However, many companies out there understand the value of social media but just don’t know how to use it.  If you’re a person that DOES, you could be a huge asset to one of those companies.  Make it your job to read industry blogs and websites, experiment with it, and talk about it with other people.  Believe me, it sets you apart in job interviews.  You could be one of those hip, young kids that an old company hires to make themselves modern 😉

Social Media Can Make You Some Great Friends

This is my cheesy way of signing off.  But it’s completely true.  Some of the people that I’ve met through social media have become the people that I go to on a daily basis for laughs, advice, and a place to vent.  And most of this was completely by accident, so keep yourself open to it.

I’m sure that I’ll continue to learn more social media lessons throughout my career.  What lessons have you learned?

So…By now we’ve all seen or heard about Burger King’s New “Shower Cam” Microsite. If you haven’t yet, well, check it out, but not at work.

My first instinct was, a simple, “wow, I can’t believe they did this” reaction. Followed by a “wow, this is getting some incredible buzz, brilliant!”

That’s problem with transitioning from PR to Advertising – two internal, often conflicting, perspectives on these types of stunts.

So, in order to reconcile these to ideologies, I often pose questions to myself, to gauge the success of such endeavors. For example:

BK Shower Cam

What purpose did it serve?

Does this site aim to generate buzz? If so, has it been positive or negative? Or does that not matter?

Was the site designed to drive traffic to stores, and with it sales? If so, did it succeed?

How did the campaign affect public perception of the brand? Is the stunt consistent with the brand’s previous messaging?

I’m sure perception of the site will differ based on gender, so I can only speak from a guy’s point of view, but I can clearly understand why men and women alike would consider this to be a tasteless & misogynistic ploy that in no way relates to the brand.

Yes, Burger King is known for their controversial stunts, like when they offered free burgers to Facebook fans who unfriended people, aka the Whopper Sacrifice. But this, IMHO, crosses the line as it alienates 50% of the population (women).

Furthermore, as a branding strategist, I have to ask, yes, guys (and some girls too) love watching women take showers – with or without bikinis on – and I’m sure plenty would love to win a date with the Shower Babe – what the fuck does it have to do with burgers? I see absolutely no connect to the brand’s core goal of increasing store traffic & selling food, thus reducing this site to a cheap, desperate stunt, predicated on the exploitation of women and sex. So why stop there BK, why not dive headfirst and have her go bikiniless – that certainly would have generated even more of the same buzz, and clearly you’re not afraid of backlash and/or employee zero women with any clout or influence on decisions. And no, I won’t take “well, this was launched in Europe, so you have to consider the cultural divide” bullshit. That doesn’t fly when you launch a website internationally viewable  – regardless of the “.co.uk” in the URL.

So, back to my questions. I’m still at a loss as to what purpose this site serves, other than to create buzz and incite some feminist groups.

Yes it generated a ton of buzz – but around what? This isn’t a new product launch. There’s no breaking news or promotions affiliated with the shower babe.

Are there any deals available through this site not available elsewhere? Not that I know of…but correct me if I’m wrong.

As for the public perception of the brand – I’m not a frequent patron of the chain, but if anything, this distasteful maneuver would discourage me from partaking in any whopper related foodstuffs in the future.

Adage’s coverage of the stunt included this tasty little quote:

Sarah Power, marketing director U.K. and Eire for Burger King, said in a statement: “Our shower-cam gives hungry Brits the chance to watch the BK Shower Girl singing in the shower every day to help them work up an appetite for our fantastic new breakfast range.”

Um…so you’re an idiot? That’s all I took out of that statement.

Maybe I’m overreacting here – But I really don’t see the point of the site, other than incurring some modest hype and with it, backlash. I don’t foresee any positive impact on store traffic or sales – making it an ROI fail.

It doesn’t promote or achieve anything that couldn’t be done without begging for the negative press.

If the objective was to create semi-pornographic that has absolutely no place in the brand’s larger messaging and digital strategy, well then I suppose they’ve succeeded, but perhaps they are unaware of billion or so other websites that have showcase ACTUAL pornography.

So again, what added value does this site offer? It’s not innovative content or entertainment, it’s doesn’t drive sales, and it doesn’t inform. If you can think of any please let me know.

Here are some thoughts from my twitter friends on the issue. As usual, please weigh in; I’d love to hear your thoughts and counterarguments.

A little while ago, I wrote about Tweeconomics. Seems I’m not the only one under the impression that social media has pervaded almost every outward facing facet of modern business. The ROI debate – “Is there?” “Isn’t there?” “Does it matter?” “Do different rules apply?” “How do we adapt our ROI paradigm?” “Is it even possible to calculate?” – has been going on for centuries. OK, maybe not CENTURIES – but it certainly feels like it’s been going on for a while, and with no end in sight. I can’t argue for the validity of this video, and I’m still not convinced of EVERYthing conveyed in it, but for the most part – I love it. What do you think?

 

In this Age of Infinite Market Research – That Results From The Limitless Demographics, Data, & Consumer Behavior Pulled from Facebook, That of Instantaneous Customer Service & Corporate Feedback Demanded On Twitter – Many, Myself Included, Have Come to Advocate the Growing Need to Custom Tailor Marketing Tactics, Advertising Strategies, and the Like, to Increasingly Niche Audiences & Interest Groups – Microtargeting to the Highest Possible Degree – As the Way to Best Utilize the Insane Amount of Emerging Media at our Disposal.

One Brand Can Build A Bland, Uniform, Ad Template – Yet – When That Ad Reaches My Eyes – It Will Be Significantly Different Than The Ad Served To My Neighbors, Coworkers, Family & Friends. The Message Suits My Desires, My Behaviors, My Media of Choice – That’s Where we are.

Yet, there are times when big brands should NOT follow this paradigm – times when they should blatantly disregard a consumer advocacy group’s pleas. Case in point:

Today, BrandWeek Reported “AFA Calls for Gap Boycott

The story reads as follows:

The American Family Association is calling on consumers to boycott Gap Inc. and its brands, which include Gap, Old Navy and Banana Republic, this holiday season. The Christian organization alleges that the retailer’s ads censor the word “Christmas.”

The boycott, according to the AFA, is in response to Gap’s holiday advertising and in-store promotions over the years, which have stayed away from recognizing any specific religion. The AFA—which had boycotted other retailers like Sears and Target in the past for their holiday ads—claims the San Francisco-based Gap has “received thousands of consumer requests to recognize Christmas.” But Gap has continued with its neutral standpoint.

“The Gap is censoring the word Christmas, pure and simple. Yet the company wants all the people who celebrate Christmas to do their shopping at its stores? Until Gap proves it recognizes Christmas by using it in their newspaper, radio, television advertising or in-store signage, the boycott will be promoted,” the AFA said in a statement.

The boycott is running from Nov. 1 through Christmas Day, and the AFA is urging consumers to sign a Gap pledge on its site. Gap was not available for comment at press time.

The ads in question this year are part of Gap’s “Cheer Factory” campaign, via Crispin Porter + Bogusky. TV ads feature a group of male and female cheerleaders donning Gap apparel and calling out the different holidays that are celebrated this season (Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanza). There is also a viral piece, which allows consumers to create personalized holiday cards at Cheerfactory.com. The site, like the TV ad, takes a religion-neutral approach and offers cheers such as “Happy Whateveryouwannakah” and “Mo’ Mistletoe.”

This is a developing story and will be updated soon.

This is just ridiculous. I’m not a huge fan of the brand(s) in question, but they can’t cater their messaging to accommodate everyone specific tastes. If they mention Christmas, then they also have to include Hanukkah and Kwanzaa right? And what about those Pagans celebrating the Winter Solstice? Don’t the deserve recognition too? And the Atheists and Agnostics who are participating in the Seasonal Gift Giving Spirit but without any religious motivation to do so – should the ads celebrate their beliefs too?

And if Gap did do all this – they’d just end up with some other self-righteous organization breathing down their necks for recognizing the concept of religion at all. Sorry but the AFA are a bunch of idiots and while I don’t care for Gap, Old Navy, or Banana Republic – I REALLY Hope they don’t cave. Doing so would set such a bad precedent – every brand will be flooded by complaints (as if they aren’t already) to the point that next year’s thanksgiving ads will end up being directed to the Australian-American Jedi Knight Association or the AAJKA. Ri.di.cu.lous. Ridiculous.

What do you think? How Should They React, If They Respond At All? Can Brands Really Be Expected To Simultaneously Cater To Multiple, Potentially Conflicting, Ideologies? Should They Continue Their TV Spots as Planned & But Tailor Facebook Ads To Reflect The Religious Views Noted In The Consumer’s Profile?

First off, here’s one video and two ads that I think are amazing:

Secondly, Obama Campaign Aside (Thanks Ken), I Have Some Advice For Reluctant, Hesitant, Ignorant, Brands: & The Rest Of The Universe (Marketers Take Note)

Dear Universe: Email Marketing Is DEAD. D-E-A-D DEAD. Eaten By Worms & Resorbed Into The Internet From Whence It Came. Accept It!!!!

When’s the last time you received an email from a store and that actually motivated you to get off your ass and go to the outlet or even spend money on their website. Social Media has slain the Monster of Direct Email Marketing. Not That It Doesn’t Have It’s Spammy Counterparts – Auto-DMs, Facebook Messages From Branded Fan Pages…etc.

Here’s how it’s going to work – You Exist. Online. As Long As I’m AWARE of where you exist (which is another matter altogether), rest assured, if i want to be updated on your company news, I’ll opt it by subscribing to your twitter feed, read your blog, or fan you on Facebook. And then I’ll visit you when I decide. Not the other way around. End Of Story. Disagree with me all you want, it won’t make you any righter.  And if it’s not clear that this is the future you’re resisting, just give it a few months.

Brands that don’t embrace Social Media as a way to reach their goals (no, you don’t have to give up) will fail. The purpose of, and results once generated by, email marketing, can still be accomplished – Except now through this new and scary interface call the interwebs. Traditional BROADCAST Advertising still has it’s place. But Email just isn’t one of those. In My Mind, and I’m sure I’m not the only one who thinks this way –  An Email from McDonald or Starbucks or  The Gap (I haven’t thankfully, I’m just arbitrarily choosing widely recognized brands for argument’s sake) is equivolent to the spam I receive about Acai Berry Weight Loss, Penis Enlargement Pills, And Cheap Watches – Garbage.

And I’m being nicer than I should – I’m 24, I’ve seen successful email marketing. But try emailing a 15 year old & they’ll laugh at you. That’s not how people engage brands anymore. Truth. Statistics be damned.

On a less frustrated note, here are some awesome reads you should definitely check out:

Times’ David Pogue blurs journalism lines

Death by Social Media

Social Media Marketing Strategy

Six Reasons Companies Are Still Scared of Social Media

Three Top Ways to Damage Your Brand With Social Media

Firing housekeepers creates PR mess for Hyatt

Have A Fantastical Weekend

I Can’t Tell You How Excited I Am To See Google Sidewiki’s Potential Actualized. Unfortunately, As Marketers Have Done With Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, (MySpace – Remember Her?) And Every Other Facet of “The Social Web,” Sidewiki provides yet another means for those who just don’t ‘get it’ to exploit the system and barrage us with broadcast, branded, messaging.

Until now, this usurpation of online communities and the manipulation of our fundamental human desire to generate content and share information has been limited to custom-tailored (if we’re lucky) invasions of specific platforms or desperate attempts at creating their own.

Convo 1

Convo 1

Sidewiki, has, without a doubt, an enormous potential – one to utterly destroy any limitations or barriers on the “information sharing” currently allowed by the internet. We’re looking at the possible information exchange of exponential proportions. Unfortunately, I have a sneaking suspicion that this will be the tool that unlocks the whole of the internet to the pervasive, abusive tactics of irresponsible marketers.You know the type – the ones who build facebook pages that collect dust and twitter accounts that auto-follow and auto-DM promotional messaging.

I sincerely hope that Google has developed, within it’s algorithm, protection from this parasitism but I fear that these individuals, for all their irresponsibility, have one talent, namely, circumventing those protocols. Take a look at this video – What stops me from using sidewiki to just hop from site to page to blog, highlighting portions of text and promising readers further explanation, only to lead them elsewhere – a deceptive practice that seems to be aligned today’s spammy zeitgeist.

What do you think? Are you more excited for the evolution of the social web potentially facilitated by Sidewiki? Are you confident that Google has taken the necessary precautions to keep spammers from hijacking this tool  and isn’t about to provide unlimited access to anyone who wants to litter your website digital post-it notes, maliciously intended, or otherwise?

If this is web 3.0 – I’m scared.

UPDATE: 9/24/09 – Check Out These Two Other Awesome Posts On The Topic:

Google Sidewiki: Danger (By Jeff Jarvis On Buzz Machine)

Google SideWiki Extorts Google Network Participation (By Gab Goldenberg on Search Engine Journal)

Fear of Google’s Sidewiki… (By Justin & Jesse on Extreme Discovery)

Convo 2

Facebook Stunts: Only Half The Battle. The Superficial Half.

Facebook is free media, great. Brands want to be there, they want fans and followers. Good, especially considering that Half of Social Media Users Connect With Brands.

But “how” to do this is the question Publicists, Digital Strategists, Marketers, and Advertisers have been asking themselves. And while no one tactic has been perfected, there is one guideline to follow when engaging (yes, I hate that word too, but unfortunately there are times when it’s appropriate and its use, unavoidable).

Longevity. Dedication. Commitment. Whatever you want to call it. Don’t just start a conversation, don’t just jump in when you feel like it. Don’t assume that your presence on a platform will automatically attract consumers. Initiating a relationship is only the first step. Rewarding the consumers who participate in that relationship; acknowledging those ‘loyals’ – fostering and growing that relationship, turning fans and followers into brand advocates – that’s where the greatest potential lies.

Having fans or followers is a great ego boost for a brand but it only OPENS the line of communication. What you do next, how you capitalize on that following, is what will make or break your social media initiative.

Take TGI Friday’s new “Fan Woody” Campaign. They want followers, for obvious reasons. So what do they do? They give something away. I mean, who doesn’t like free shit? I know I do, to the point where I’d friend Woody even though I’m not a particularly big fan of the brand (no pun intended there).

So yes, they’ll probably reach their goal of 500,000 fans by the end of September (not such a lofty goal for a nationally recognized brand, but I guess it pays to set the bar low).

But swag is easy. It’s the cheap way of getting followers. Effective? Duh. Would I advocate it, of course, it gets the job done. But it does nothing for the brand in the long term. The big question is, how will TGI Friday’s capitalize on this new audience? I don’t know about you, but I’m quite curious to see what their next move will be.

Stunts are great, but what comes next?

IMHO, effectiveness and distinctiveness in the social realm means catering, not just to our fondness of swag, but to our desire to create and produce. What do I mean?

Step one: Build a base – as exemplified by countless brands (chick-fil-a & others) give something away – get their attention.

Step two: Give this new audience the opportunity to contribute by offering them a vehicle or outlet for user-generated content. Whereas promotions say “we appreciate you because you give us money,” soliciting user-generated content – something like “Design an appetizer to be featured on our menu & we’ll have our fans vote for the favorite submission” – would say, “We value your input and creativity and we want you to help make our brand better.”

Ultimately, this is what consumers want. A free burger every now and then is cool but that won’t do shit for establishing a relationship with your existing or potential patrons. Consumers, especially young consumers, want input and control over your brand. A scary notion, but one that brands must accommodate if they want to appeal to the newest generation of consumers.
What do you think? What comes after “The Stunt?

(Thanks to Aaron Levy for helping inspire this post)

While You’re Here, Check Out These Other Interesting Posts/Articles:

Clear and Present Danger of Social Media for Ad Agencies

How Social Media Does Hostile Takeovers: Facebook vs. Twitter

Social Media / 10 Brands Doing it Right

Twitter expands rules to allow advertising

Twitter Gives Spam Apps a Thumbs Down, Ads a “Maybe”

Top 5 Web Trends of 2009: Internet of Things

Have a Great Weekend!