Archive for the ‘new media’ Tag

Whiteboard Videos in the Crosshairs

Walk the halls of any marketing department and you’re bound to hear someone planning a whiteboard video project. The success of UPS’ advertising campaign has spurred imitators at every turn. If asked to produce such a project, how do you respond? For me, I gather up all the wooden stakes and silver bullets I can find – it’s time to put these requests in the crosshairs

What appears simple in the UPS television commercials is anything but simple. What made these spots work? They were surprising, the operative word being were, past tense. It’s clear when a technique has peaked, just watch for the growing number of parodies. The UPS spots are short, not a 20 minute marketing promotion. The ads make one simple point rather than a bullet list of complex messages best covered in a written white paper. And finally the talent brings just the right combination of presentation and artistic skills to make the commercials interesting.

When one of these project requests crossed my desk, I met with the client and listened, nodded at the appropriate moments, and made all the motions as if taking detailed notes. The marketing prime was using whiteboards as the centerpiece for a series of interactive, small-group meetings. It’s a wonderful meeting format for those participating in person at one of the events. But creating a “whiteboard video” to promote the event series wasn’t going to work. I promised the client I would use some whiteboard techniques, but the promo spot would employ other techniques as well. The production team at SAS included graphic and animation support from Tim Cherry and post production editing was handled by Kevin Alexander. In the end, the client was happy with the results and is using the program to promote the event series.

There are times when a whiteboard video is a good way to approach a project. Our team at SAS has done many such projects. Most are for internal use rather than external marketing. Here are a few things to keep in mind about such projects.

1) Whiteboard or Smart Board – There is a difference. A whiteboard is just that, a flat drawing surface. A smart board offers the advantage of interactivity and the use of computer-generated content. This is one way to create animation which on-camera talent can interact.

2) Pre-Produced Content – With a smart board, content can be pre-produced. It can be graphic animation as in some of the UPS commercials, PowerPoint charts can be presented, or software can be shown and interacted with. Pre-planning content elements minimizes the need for talent to draw upon their inner artist – they can remain focused on the content.

3) Hire an Artist – When a client insists on creating “one of those clever whiteboard videos,” start looking for a graphics professional. Use the search terms: videoscribing or whiteboard animation. The animation does not need to be done on-camera, a voice over can work just as well. Animation can also be pushed to a smart board for the on-camera talent to interact.

4) All Things in Moderation – If one or two coffees, why not eight or ten? As in the example produced for SAS, a little whiteboard animation goes a long way. It takes a very clever production team to make the technique work over an extended project. A better approach is to use it sparingly and build out a program using other complementary techniques.

5) Bang for the Buck – If you use a professional artist for the project, consider making use of the animation separate from the original project. A shortened form of the animation could be used to promote the full-length program. The graphic sequences could be made into short clips that when pulled into PowerPoint can enhance other presentations while strengthening message continuity.

When asked about producing a whiteboard program, take ownership of the project. As a media professional you’re the one most qualified to make the decisions that will delight your client. You can save the wooden crosses and silver bullets for vampires and werewolves.

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5 Tips for the Dreaded Corporate History Video

The request often brings shivers to any producer assigned the corporate history project. But these projects can be fun to work on and a great opportunity for creative expression. The “SAS Corporate Timeline: A History of the Analytics Leader” covers important company highlights in an entertaining way. Produced by Todd Johnson with animation done by Jeff McFall and the graphic and multimedia team at SAS, the program follows five solid design principles.

1) Keep it Short – In the age of on-line video keep the program short. That means prioritizing the most important information to go into the program. For organizations with a short history that might not be too much of a problem, but for organizations that have been around awhile it can be a challenge. Suggestion: When more information needs to be presented, propose a secondary project and build out a more complete timeline in multimedia format. Create a web deliverable to allow users to dig as deep as they like into the organization’s history. Develop a spin off project in print format that can be offered as a PDF download. Your client will appreciate the suggestions and it demonstrates the added value you bring to the project.

2) Select Interesting Content – This is fraught with as much political posturing and agendas as anything that goes on in the UN General Assembly. This is where having one client is so important. These projects will never please everyone, so be sure to please at least one client. The content should lend itself to development of interesting visuals. Text can be used in interesting ways to deliver specific messages while compelling visuals deliver the backstory. Suggestion: This format is ideal for creating multiple versions (i.e. new clients, additional projects, multiple billings!). For those parts of an organization that feel their content/message did not receive enough attention, sell them their own version!

3) Build New – Organizations with a long history are likely to have a storeroom of old photos, films, documents, awards… the list goes on and on. All of this stuff means something to someone. As the producer, it’s important to maintain creative control of the presentation and use, or not use, these materials. Nothing will drag down a timeline project faster than visual discontinuity. Without explanation they can be confusing or meaningless. You might be able to weave them into a background montage, but primary visuals should be constructed new. Suggestion: Historical assets can help bring to life web-based infographics and publication material where written information can detail their relevance.

4) MOS or Narrated – Why not both? Here is another opportunity to add value and build a stronger client relationship. Most clients requesting these projects will have a narrative in mind. However, in most cases these programs find their greatest value in environments where sound won’t work, such as at a trade show, within a demo center, or on a display wall. Build the program so the visuals can stand alone; accompanied by an optional mix track. Create a separate version with a narrative track for situations that are more presentation than environmental. Suggestion: A narrative track should not just drive text visuals. Allow any narrative to supplement the visual elements and add an additional layer of information.

5) Update/Change Flexibility – If an organization is successful the timeline project will need updates. If additional client departments want a modified version, that’s a change request – same with foreign language translations. A year or two after release there will be new history and most likely changes to the corporate message. The changes might be subtle, but changing any video project requires work. Changes need to be planned for ahead of time. Build the project in layers so selected elements can be more easily changed. And archive, archive, archive. Keep everything, label it well, and file it so future updates can be made simple and seamless. Suggestion: If the organization is global, text and language changes are likely requests resulting from a successful project. (Especially true if you market the program to others within the company.) If properly constructed, changes to these layers can be easily accommodated. Less obvious are changes to background imagery. Build into the original presentation the ethnic, gender, and geographic profile that best represents the company as a global organization.

For the corporate producer or the independent, these projects can provide visibility and showcase your abilities. They can be the springboard to additional projects and future opportunity.

News & Information in the Era of New Media

News, and the business of news, has changed.  Advances in technology, in parallel with changes affecting the business of broadcasting, have had a profound effect on how consumers receive news and information.  The June meeting of the Central Carolina Chapter of MCA-I explored these themes with a behind-the-scenes tour of WRAL and a look at how news and information is managed across multiple channels, technology platforms, and made available 24 hours a day.

Companies like Capital Broadcasting (parent company of WRAL) have long had multiple divisions and more than one way to reach an audience.  Station owners often had television and radio properties that ran as separate businesses.  Fast forward to the era of new media, and those lines have blurred.  The Internet and web-based media have given consumers new choices in how and when they receive information.  Accelerating this trend is the mobile web, with information available anytime and from almost anywhere.  To survive in this new environment, broadcasters like WRAL have made significant investments in on-line, web-based channels.  In today’s 24-hour information environment, content must be available from more than just static websites ‑ consumers also demand access from their choice of mobile platforms.

The changes affecting broadcast news are clearly visible when visiting the WRAL newsroom and touring the facility.  At every turn, traditional broadcast teams sit and work alongside the new media team.  Now undergoing a massive digital facility upgrade, WRAL is constructing a new master control room and streamlining the process of asset exchange between the TV and new media teams.

In the news room, news gathering and reporting producers sit side-by-side with their counterparts on the .Com side.  WRAL has 30 content producers assigned to the new media team.  Having both broadcast and new media channels available, breaking news is never embargoed.  Once verified, the station has the option of delivering the news through its website, on Facebook, or by Twitter.  “Our broadcast and new media teams work together in the newsroom every day,” said John Conway, Creative Services Director at WRAL.Com.  “We’ve created an environment for cooperation and sharing where WRAL-TV does the first line reporting and news gathering, which will then be used by the WRAL.Com Web Content Producers.”

From its website, WRAL.Com delivers over 40 hours of live video each day.  The website provides access to over 45,000 video clips in its archive and delivers over 60,000 video views per day.  For advertisers, WRAL.Com offers a highly targeted marketing opportunity.  Over 70% of the website users are within the local viewing area, putting ads in front of people who shop locally.  Traffic to the website peaked on the day of last presidential inauguration.  WRAL.Com supported up to 3,000 simultaneous connections and delivered over 890,000 video views.  That’s a lot of web traffic!

Thanks to the team at WRAL-TV and WRAL.Com for a fascinating inside look at how news and information is managed in the era of new media.  Great meeting!

Social Media Meets Main Street

On Friday after Thanksgiving, Black Friday, stores open early and shoppers stay late.  For those not wanting to fight the crowds, Cyber Monday shoppers go online in search of bargains.  Now, enter a new retail holiday tradition.  The inaugural Small Business Saturday, organized by American Express, encouraged holiday shoppers to support small, independently owned local businesses.  In this, the season of miracles, a new tradition is born.

Small businesses fight year around for a share of consumer spending.  This is never truer than at the holidays.  Local merchants in the village of Southampton, NY have turned to social media to share some holiday cheer and remind area residents why they should shop locally.  On Facebook, Shop Southampton, NY, promotes shopping events, sales, and the village’s picturesque setting.  Looking for other ways to promote local business, a group of merchants helped with production of a promotional video featuring local kids dressed as elves frolicking through the village and its quaint shops.  Posted to YouTube, the video has been well received by area residents.

Here’s hoping your holidays are bright and as cheerful as that of the Southampton Elves.  Click through to YouTube and share the magic of where social media meets main street.

 

The Buzz on Viral Video

Working at a high technology company often requires me to provide very specific, technically-detailed answers.  This is particularly true when a technologist wants information about what they consider the soft field of marketing.  It’s important to answer in their language in order to get your point across.

In a recent meeting about an upcoming marketing campaign, several people asked me how to go about creating a viral video.  We talked about this for awhile but I sensed those in the meeting were looking for more.  Later, back in my office I thought about the elements of a successful viral video.  I thought of the 4 Ps of Marketing and then offered the team a formula for creating viral videos.  My suggestion was:  (.60Product + .10Price) + .10Placement + .20Promotion = Opportunity.

There are all kinds of viral videos, but for purposes of brevity this post looks only at the creation of viral video for B2B and B2C companies.

Product ‑ Delving into the formula, 60% of the effort in creating a viral video should go into creating the Product.  That is the content as well as the production.  It’s critical to keep in mind that a viral video does more than deliver a singular message, it represents the company brand.  There are many creative ways to create viral content, but not all fit well within a brand framework.  Common themes for viral video content often include: humor, surprise, interactivity, and of course sex.

  • Humor:  Everyone enjoys a good laugh and comedy is a frequent component of many successful viral videos.  Of course humor is very subjective and requires a deft touch when used within a corporate brand strategy.  The Mac vs. PC ads went viral because of the passion Mac users have for their computers and the clever use of humor to drive home the message.  Including Brazilian model and actress Gisele Bündchen added to the effectiveness of the spot promoting iMovie capabilities on the Mac.
  • Surprise:  The wow-factor that makes viewers want to share a video with friends and colleagues.  In the interest of fair play, Microsoft scored on the viral video charts with their fake Greatest Slide Stunt Ever video developed for Microsoft Germany.  Who cares if the stunt was fake?  That’s not the point… it’s all about the buzz.
  • Interactivity:  Many sites offer users the ability to dynamically insert pictures or names into an animated presentation for sharing with others ‑ turning themselves into virtual brand ambassadors.  Think Jib-Jab and the famous Elf Yourself campaign.  Office Max’s 2008 holiday promotion proved amazingly popular and was the viral hit of winter 2008.
  • Sex:  It sells, but won’t work for all organizations.  The Carl’s Jr. ads featuring a scantily clad Paris Hilton washing cars while devouring a burger created a lot of buzz, drove million+ web views, and the scorn of many.  What it did for burger sales, I have no idea.

Price ‑ Coupled with Product is the element of Price.  Developing outstanding creative content most often comes with an associated cost.  Producing a viral video may involve an outside creative agency; will require crew, equipment, and other below-the-line costs; and could involve celebrity talent.  A forewarning, in discussing viral video, someone is sure to mention a video created in 10 minutes, without a budget, and using low end equipment.  They’re out there, usually involving animal or pet tricks, cute kids, or a “thank goodness it’s not me” video.  The question you must answer is, would such a video reflect well on the company brand?  In most cases the answer is no.  As the viral video market has matured, you can point to a growing number of successful viral videos that both deliver impact and support brand attributes.

  • Creative Concept:  Viral videos can be conceived internally, or may require hiring an outside agency.  The key is the big idea, something perceived as remarkable and that communicates your message.  Dove’s Self Esteem campaign is one of the most successful web-based viral campaigns.  Web video, combined with a comprehensive website, provides thought-provoking, confidence-building programs and messages that embrace all definitions of beauty.  For Dove, it’s not a product pitch, it’s about brand association.
  • Production Expenses:  Some believe that web video should have a decidedly low-cost look – inaccurately often referred to as a YouTube video.  My suggestion is to push back with reference to more traditional media.  A client would never permit their “official” product brochure to be written by a brilliant technologist from R&D, illustrated by someone’s kid known for drawing nice pictures, and printed on the copier down the hall.  The product brochure is viewed as a key sales tool, and production quality reflects on the product as well as the company brand.  The same holds true for a viral marketing vehicle.  Keep in mind the old adage, “Good, fast, or cheap – pick any two.”  How much time, effort, and money did T-Mobile spend in driving 20M+ web views of their highly choreographed dance number shot at Liverpool Street Station?
  • Celebrity Talent:  A viral video does not require celebrity talent, it’s a tactical decision.  But people are fascinated by celebrities.  There are countless websites devoted to following every aspect of a celebrity’s life and which will embed these videos and help extend the audience.  The cost of using a celebrity can be a major expense item, often beyond available budget.  And to prove that celebrities never go away, much as would like many of them to fade away, advertisers have turned to wrestling icon Rick Flair to WOOO state lottery players with jackpots of mega millions.

OK, it’s entertainment time.  The hottest viral campaign currently running is the Old Spice ads featuring a shirtless Isaiah Mustafa showing off his six pack abs.  The campaign is an excellent example of strong product and illustrates the issues of price as a component in delivering a viral video campaign.

 
Millions of views and major brand buzz

Placement – Viral videos appear in many places on the web.  Each media channel has unique attributes and publishing requirements.  The critical element of placement is less about the channel than it is about how you describe (tag) your video.  Tagging information is the metadata that search engines and viewers use to locate your video.

  • Title & Description:  Your video title and description should be both descriptive and engaging.  Review carefully the visible word count in the description field provided by each media channel.  Then limit the description to the visible information field.  Anything accessible only from the <More Info> section of the description will seldom be seen.
  • Tagging:  Add tags… lots of relevant tags.  The more keywords used to describe your video, the more likely your video will appear within search results and be found.
  • Single Posting:  If the video is part of a series of presentations, each should be posted to a single page with its own title, description, and tagging information.
  • Embedded Links:  These enable other content authors to link directly to your video.  The best example is the use of embed code from YouTube.  (As I did above in posting the Old Spice video.)  Many of the views of your video will be driven by blog posts, included in emails, circulated via Twitter, and on and on.

Promotion – Videos posted to the web with compelling title, interesting descriptions, and rich metadata tags have a head start in the battle for eyeballs.  Promotion takes work and is not an overnight process.  It involves multiple elements and communication tactics.

  • Thumbnail:  The major media channels all show a visual from within the video, along with the title and description.  Unfortunately, each media channel handles this in different and unique ways.  It’s well worth the investment in time to understand the unique way each video sharing site determines the thumbnail image deployed with your video.
  • Channels:  Of course there is YouTube…  and there are other channels as well, Google Video, Yahoo Video, Facebook Video, specific industry websites, and of course your company’s own website.  Publish to as many sites as are relevant and that you can support with follow-up communication.
  • Social Networking:  Create communities of interest for your content and share regularly.  As you befriend more people ask them to invite others to subscribe as well.  Reach out to bloggers and others of influence and allow them to help spread the news.  Send them the embed link along with some unique information (previously unpublished) and you may gain access to an audience you might otherwise not reach.  Promote your video project and keep the video front and center in as many communication opportunities as possible: blog, Tweet, post, comment, email, advertise… above all stay engaged.
  • Bubble Up Ratings: Videos that create a buzz (comments, ratings, views) will move to the top of the search listing.  Ask for comments and respond to those comments.  These actions not only drive views, but move your video higher in the results list.

So that’s my formula for a successful viral video.
(.60Product + .10Price) + .10Placement + .20Promotion = Opportunity.
I would like to hear your thoughts and comments.  What’s been your experience?  Comments welcome.

For more ideas check out the post Make Me a Viral Video and Super-Size It!

Twittering Away

To tweet or not to tweet ‑ dats d Q: Whether ’tis nobler to twitter away… and be all my tweets remembered.  With apologies to the “Bard of Avon,” I read with interest one of this year’s many yearend lists.  The Global Language Monitor has announced that Twitter was the top word of 2009 in its annual global survey of the English language.  “In a year dominated by world-shaking political events, a pandemic, the after effects of a financial tsunami and the death of a revered pop icon, the word Twitter stands above all the other words,” said Paul JJ Payack, President of The Global Language Monitor.  Enjoy the list.

Top Words of 2009
1.  Twitter
2.  Obama
3.  H1N1
4.  Stimulus
5.  Vampire
6.  2.0  (my take on Web 2.0)
7.  Deficit
8.  Hadron
9.  Healthcare
10.  Transparency
11.  Outrage
12.  Bonus
13.  Unemployed
14.  Foreclosure
15.  Cartel 

Top Phrases of 2009
1.  King of Pop
2.  Obama-mania
3.  Climate Change
4.  Swine Flu
5.  Too Large to Fail
6.  Cloud Computing
7.  Public Option
8.  Jai Ho!
9.  Mayan Calendar
10.  God Particle

No “R” in Social Media

Even without use of spell checker, I know there isn’t an “R” in social media. But, Marketing Communications professionals need to understand the return, and how they will evaluate the return, on investments in social media.

Measuring ROI for social media is part of the job. Social media is about more than just engagement and awareness. While social media is at the top of the sales funnel, there are still many ways to track and evaluate the return on investment. The process should begin with an agreement on how the organization will define the “R” in ROI – is it awareness, leads, conversions, sales? Evaluation of social media is less about what can be done than what should be done. Identify the evaluation criteria, and then secure agreement with sales enablement and business executives on how social media will be evaluated. At this point in our understanding of social media, the criteria will be different from other activities such as advertising, trade shows, or speaking engagements. But, establish some criteria and process for assessing the payoff on investments in social media.

Many organizations use applications such as Google Analytics or SAS® Customer Intelligence to monitor web traffic and gain valuable business insights. For organizations without such capabilities, there are still many ways to track and measure the business value of social media. Regardless of the channel, a strong call to action can drive traffic back to where engagement can be turned into leads and sales. In some cases it might be a unique 800 number, hotlink, promotional code, or email address that delivers prospects to where tracking and conversions can be done – a call center or company website. These simple techniques, some would call them old school, have long proven effective. Regardless of whether the engagement begins on a syndicated blog, Facebook, or Twitter, prospects can be engaged in a way that can provide meaningful information.

Things can get murky when it comes to “soft metrics,” such as measuring views on YouTube, comments on blogs, brand mentions, or tweets. Activity that happens beyond an organization’s website is more difficult to quantify. An agreement on how these will be evaluated is important. Construct strategies that help drive traffic into an environment where you have more sophisticated capabilities to engage and convert online actions into sales. For example, a video posted to YouTube can include a unique URL providing content that supplements the video. Hits to the web page can the tracked and offers for items such as white papers can be converted to sales leads.

One company engaging prospects in a new way is Best Buy, the world’s largest electronic retailer. A team of 500 employees, working at local stores and at the company headquarters, will soon (July 19) begin searching Twitter posts to find people seeking information about the products they sell. The “Twelpforce” will be part of the customer-service team according to Chief Marketing Officer, Barry Judge. “The old paradigm is you open your doors and hope someone comes in. In the new world, you can go out and find people that are talking about technology and what they are interested in buying, and be generous with your knowledge. And hopefully if you’re generous and knowledgeable, people will come in and buy.” In a tough environment for electronic retailers, Best Buy is fighting for every customer.

Measurement of traditional and new media strategies does not have to be so very different. The critical issue is coming to agreement on how social media will be evaluated. It’s not about measuring everything that you can, what’s more important is measuring what you should.

Don’t Forget Traditional Media

Social media, new media, rich media, interactive channels… Open any marketing publication (OK, visit their website, read a blog post in your feed reader, etc) and it’s easy to come away with the impression that all communication messaging has moved to the net-based world. It’s true that companies are continuing to shift an increasing percentage of ad dollars away from newspapers, radio, magazines, yellow pages, direct mail and even TV to interactive channels. But, don’t lose sight of the role for traditional media in any marketing communication campaign.

Last year Starbucks faced a new challenger when McDonalds took on the coffee giant with expansion of their line of McCafe premium beverages. Despite a drop in sales because of the economic downturn, Starbucks ramped up a $28M advertising campaign. It began its first concerted branding campaign with a series of newspaper ads. The campaign made the Starbucks’ case for its prices, including health care for its employees, relationships with coffee farmers, and its dedication to sustainability. Starbucks CMO, Terry Devenport, addressed the print strategy in an interview with Advertising Age Magazine. “One of the things [we did] was to find a way to get our stories out there in a way that both our existing customers would recognize and that would speak to the employees and partners and give them a sense of pride, and that’s clearly happened. We’re exceedingly pleased with it to date. We’ve had a huge return on that investment.”

Starbucks Morning Joe2In addition to the traditional print campaign, Starbucks began running one-time TV ads in high-profile shows such as “Saturday Night Live,” or quick hits on news networks such as CNN, which then drive traffic online. Furthering their traditional media presence, last week Starbucks announced a title sponsorship of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” A natural partnership, Mr. Davenport said, it will include occasional references to the chain’s environmental activism or efforts in volunteerism.

150px-Smirnoff.svg[1]Radio can play an important part in promotional campaigns as well. When Smirnoff, the makers of America’s most popular vodka, made plans to introduce its first line of ready-to-drink products in the United States, radio played a key role in creating a high level of buzz. Unique radio and on-site promotions included on-air DJ product-tasting parties, bar and club events, and customer testimonials. The success of the initial campaign triggered an immediate nationwide rollout of Smirnoff Ice. The campaign generated sales of 300% above projections in test markets, resulting in one of the most successful new spirit introductions in the United States.

And let’s not forget traditional broadcast television. This year’s Super Bowl provided a big score for online video giant Hulu. In a last minute decision, company CEO Jason Kilar bought a spot during the fourth quarter of what proved to be the most-watched Super Bowl in history with an average U.S. audience of 98.7 million viewers, and the second-most-watched U.S. television program of any kind. The promotional strategy worked. According to Kilar, Hulu’s Super Bowl ad was directly responsible for increasing the online video portal’s business by 49%.

Hulu Super Bowl Ad Scores Big

The battle for the minds and wallets of consumers will continue to be waged on many fronts. Spending for online media will continue to increase as a percentage of overall promotional spending. As communicators we’re largely leading that charge. But, let’s never lose sight of the impact traditional media can have within the context of a well planned promotional campaign.

Branding is for Big Companies… Right?

Branding is a topic we associate with organizations often referred to as an enterprise.  It’s one of those sophisticated marketing strategies used only by big companies.  Right?  Wrong.  Branding is equally important for small organizations.  It’s my belief that branding is even more important for small businesses than for the large enterprise.

Branding is all about increasing a product or service’s perceived value to the customer and thereby increase brand equity.  For a large business, the brand becomes a complex issue with brand valuation tracked as a critical business asset.  For a small organization the perception of a business can be more important – determining whether one stays in business or goes out of business.

Large companies occasionally suffer enormous blows to their brand image.  A case in point is Union Carbide.  The Bhopal India chemical disaster in 1984 was a tremendous blow to the company’s reputation as well as to their bottom line.  However, the company retained enough value to be acquired by Dow Chemical Company in 2001.  Compare that with the fact the only one third of small business ever turn a profit.  Statistics show that half of all newly started small businesses fail within the first four years.

For a small business to succeed, it must offer something that truly differentiates the business from its competitors.  Barry’s Café in Raleigh, North Carolina is such a business.  The business had operated in the red for two years when a community emergency redefined the business in the minds of local people.  This short video tells the story of a truly remarkable business.

Barry Doyle’s nonprofit Feed the Firefighters Foundation, has served some 35,000 meals.  The efforts have earned Barry’s Café the 2008 Best of Raleigh Award in the Restaurant Category by the U.S. Local Business Association (USLBA).  The owner set out to do something good for his community.  In the process he established his business as a local landmark; clearly differentiated from the competition.  Barry may not think of his efforts as brand building, but the success of his business, and the foundation, make a strong case for the critical importance of brand recognition for small business.

Social Network Marketing – It Ain’t Your Granddad’s Relationship Selling

My mom is 85 and does not have Facebook page, doesn’t tweet, in fact she does not have a computer.  But, she has taught me everything I need to know about the value of social networks to an integrated marketing communications program.

 Even though the cost is a penny of two more, my mom fills up her car at the same service station every week.  She knows the owner and rewards the relationship with her business.  People and businesses do the same.  If everything is equal (price, quality, etc.) or nearly equal, we do business with those whom we have a connection.

 With social networking taking center stage in any discussion of relationship selling, we’ve entered a new era of marketing through social media.  But how effective is it?  I was in an online chat about social networks and someone mentioned a 2008 Forrester Report citing that less than half of survey respondents indicated Forums, Online Communities, and Social Networks as being an information source impacting the decision making process.  Does that mean the buzz about social network marketing is just that, buzz and nothing more?

 In taking a look at the report I come to a different conclusion.  With a title only an unabashed academic could love, The Social Technographics® Of Business Buyers, a key finding reports that four of the top six influencers on technology purchase decisions involve people-to-people contact.  Social network marketing is about building those inter-personal relationships.

 Here’s the list:

  • Peers and colleagues – 84%
  • Vendor, industry and trade Web sites – 69%
  • Your direct vendor salesperson – 69%
  • Technology or business magazines – 66%
  • Consultants, VARs and SIs – 65%
  • Industry trade shows or conferences (in person) – 59%
  • Forums, online communities and social networks – 45%
  • Industry analyst firms – 45%
  • E-mail or electronic newsletters – 41%
  • Web events or virtual trade shows – 40%
  • Interactive media: podcasts, video, online demos – 30%
  • Blogs – 24%

 Dell Computers is the now well known business case example of integrating social media within a marketing program.  Following a much publicized customer service problem, Dell embraced social media by launching a community site, numerous blogs, multiple Twitter IDs, and a Facebook account.  In a public statement, Dell has acknowledged they’ve earned $1M in revenue from the use of Twitter alerts.  At Dell, the use of social network marketing is a central element of their integrated marketing campaign.

 And take a look at one of the latest promotional campaigns launched by McDonald’s to build brand association.  The video shot at London’s Piccadilly Circus is moving up the ad charts that track viral videos.  Does it sell burgers?  Not directly.  But building positive brand awareness through viral social networking will certainly move the brand scorecard in a positive direction.

Social networking provides capabilities for people to discover new ways of connecting with each other.  Social network marketing offers B2B and B2C marketers the opportunity to establish those same connections.  As I’ve learned from my mom, we buy from people we like.