How To: Kill A Brand With Social Media

Posted on May 14, 2009. Filed under: Facebook, Marketing, Social Media, twitter | Tags: , , , , , |

Brand_AxeSocial Media is the new darling of many brands, the silver bullet that will fix all ills. While some brands have made major in roads in discovering a new method of expanding their ability to reach their customers and potential customers some have quite obviously become so over enamoured with Social Media that they have forgotten the basics of managing a brand.

Lack of Alignment

While most Twitter users are aware of the amazing job that Frank Eliason has done for ComCast on Twitter, acting as a one person rescue squad for their customer service issues, the rest of the brand has not aligned with this new way of doing business. A quick search on google for customer service at ComCast continues to result in many more horror stories than it does in success stories. Why? Because having one or two people creating a good impression on one platform is not enough. If there is no brand alignment behind the philosophy of listening and responding then all of the Social Media efforts in the world will not turn a brand around.

A search on Facebook brings equally crushing results, of the first ten (page one), one is fairly obscurely related to ComCast, Six are Anti-ComCast groups, One is a fan page for ComCast technology, one is a fan page for ComCast Interactive Capital and one appears to be a group for past employees.

Twitter is Not Social Media

As popular as Twitter is, it still only has a 5% penetration, being on Twitter, even if you do it well is not a Social Media Strategy. Twitter is at best a small part of an overarching strategy that includes not only the tool set, comprising tools like Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, YouTube etc but also the internal education and alignment that ensures these tools are part of a much broader “Social” focus within the organization.

Brands like Zappo’s aren’t good at things like Twitter and Facebook because they have some awesome marketing department working 24/7 to provide thrilling content. They are good at Social Media because their stated aim is to be the best service company in the world, they just happen to sell clothing and footwear. When you start with a socially focused goal like that, it’s hard not to be a success in Social Media.

Which brands do you think have focused too much on the platform and not enough on the philosophy?

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Blogging for Small Businesses

Posted on November 5, 2008. Filed under: Business, Marketing, Social Media | Tags: , , , , , , , |

20px|Windows Live Logo Windows Live Writer


As part of my work as a Marketing Communications consultant I am often asked about the usefulness of a company blog for a small/medium sized business.  The questions usually center around the cost in terms of resources, the subject matter and the frequency of posting.  Many small / Mid-sized companies dismiss the idea of a blog as being a burden that has no return on investment for the company or at least too little to be worth the effort.

The 3 W’s

So what is the answer?  As with any form of communication, the company must ask itself “Why, What, Who?”. Why are we going to engage in this particular format? What are we hoping to achieve? Who will be our authors & audience?

These are important questions to ask, and answer, before embarking on any form of marketing communication and in particular on a company blog.  Typical answers might be:

  • Why – because we need another channel of communication, we want to be seen as a voice or even THE voice in our industry, to build credibility with our customers and prospects
  • What – Increase sales leads, increase traffic to our website, increase awareness, improve our company profile
  • Who – In-house marketing team, In-house Subject Matter experts, Outsourced writers: Prospects, Customers, Market Researchers, Journalists, Competitors

Having answered these questions and created a sense of why, what & who there comes the more detailed work of gathering subject matter, authors and deciding on a publication guide. 

Giving your company a voice

Deciding on the company voice in advance is crucial.  Does it fit with the rest of your communication? Does it fit with your audience?  If the majority of your current communication is very formal in style, should you suddenly produce a blog that has a very laid back tone? Probably not.  However, it is important to remember that readers of online material have different expectations than those consuming printed materials. They expect the points to come across quicker, in smaller bites and for the entire post to be scanable so that they can pick out what they want to read.

Frequency is usually the biggest challenge for most small / mid-sized companies.  Some companies set themselves up for failure by trying to commit to a target that they simply cannot meet given the resources that they have available.  Saying that you will have two posts a day 5 days a week, and assigning one person who has other duties is a recipe for disaster.  A more realistic schedule for companies is two – three times a week.  Less than this and readers will lose interest, trying to achieve more than this without dedicated resources is extremely difficult to maintain in the long term.

What to write

A good approach to adopt is to develop a schedule around the posts so that if you are posting three times a week, say, Monday, Wednesday, Friday you always publish the same type of information on those days.  This makes it easier for your readers to adopt and easier for your writers to produce.  A schedule might look like this:

  • Monday – Opinion editorial by CEO on previous weeks Industry News
  • Wednesday – Solution focus – Companies that have solved problems in your Industry
  • Friday – Round up of the Industry news from that week

The Opinion piece can either be written by the CEO themselves or more likely ghostwritten and then approved.  The solution focus should not become a “pitch” for your companies services, nor should you use it to detail your solutions being implemented – save that for your case studies and other marketing pieces.  Use this section to provide information from your strategic partners and customers.  Explain what you are doing, get them to contribute, if appropriate get them to guest author pieces for you.

Spread the word

As with anything else that you produce you want to get the word out that you have a blog.  Firstly, link to it from your company website.  Make sure that you inform your existing customers.  Add the link in your company emails.  As you develop your voice, contribute to other company blogs in the comments.  Don’t use these as an opportunity to promote your blog, but rather to develop your voice and authority in the industry.

If written and promoted properly a company blog can add a new and useful dimension to developing your company’s image both with existing customers and prospects.

Do you have a company blog? What lessons have you learned about creating and maintaining it?

 Image via Wikipedia
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Twitters New Hatchlings

Posted on October 28, 2008. Filed under: Business, Social Media, Technology | Tags: , , , , |

As an avid Twitter user I was extremely thankful to see the release of Twhirl the application that let me post to Twitter without being logged into the website, then I found TweetDeck, to which I am addicted, mainly because it allows me to create interest groups in columns and read the Tweets I want to read, while still allowing me to keep an eye on the general stream of Tweets.

It seems that there is not a week that goes by without the release of a new Twitter application.  I am currently writing a series of articles about some that are still in Alpha development and some that are now released and are targeting the Enterprise market.   Only today I came across two new ones: Flockup and Phweet.  Some of the applications offer new functionality, some offer a very limited functionality or target only one part of the Twitter data set. Qwitter for example simply notifies you of when someone unfollows you and sends you an email of who and after which tweet they unfollowed you, of course there is some doubt about the correlation of those two events but nonetheless its somewhat interesting data.  Brian Solis maintains what is arguably the most comprehensive list of Twitter applications available.

With an estimated 3 million users Twitter is still a long way behind the giants of social media like Facebook, but like Facebook it has spawned an industry of its own in the application development world.  As I mentioned some of the applications are aimed more at the individual user, they provide an element of fun, or extend the functionality of the original site.

Others are now venturing into the corporate user space.  I wrote an article this week for Mashable on a new tool called Tweeple Twak that is currently in development.  It is going to provide corporate users with the type of metrics that they can’t easily generate on their own using Twitter.  Yet others, like the application provided by Visible Technologies, the Seattle based Brand management company, allow large organizations like Dell & Microsoft to monitor social media platforms for conversations, blogs, micro-blogs and even videos that mention their brand or products.

The Twitter data set is limited in its exploitation only by the imagination of the developers producing applications that utilize it.  I have no doubt we will continue to see the birth of new Twitter hatchlings in the coming months and I would certainly expect that they will start to enter the consciousness of mainstream marketers who will in turn promote the development of newer applications once they understand what can be achieved with the data. 

Given that we are seeing a reported down turn in the global economy and the scepticsm with which Social Media is still viewed by traditional marketers, you have to wonder at the future of these applications.  Twitter itself has yet to figure out its own monetization path, it may just be that its hatchlings work out the path to monetization before Twitter does.

Know of a Twitter based application that is making money for its developers?  Share it here.

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Don’t Cage Twitter

Posted on October 21, 2008. Filed under: Business, Marketing, Observations, Social Media | Tags: , , , , , , , , |

Talking Web 2.0                                

There are endless posts that cover the taxonomy of Web 1.0 and Web 2.0.  Most of these are technical or at least technology based.  They describe the use of API’s, codesets, javascript, browser apps, cloud computing, user generated content and on and on.  About halfway through that last sentence your average marketer had already either fallen asleep, zoned out or was thinking about their next branding statement.  In other words it really doesn’t mean anything to them.

Of course all the “right” people are using the expression Web 2.0, so it becomes a case of the Emperor’s New Clothes.  The CEO wants to make sure everyone knows he is aware of the latest trends and so he turns to his marketing team and tells them to implement a Web 2.0 strategy to make sure they stay ahead of their competitors.

At Innotech in Austin last week, Scott Ballantyne (VP & General Manager, Personal Systems Group, Hewlett Packard) very succinctly summed up what that statement means in real terms.  “Telling someone to go do something Web 2.0 is like telling someone to go and pick the winning lottery numbers”.  I have to agree with him.

I stood with a group of marketers and business development folks at Innotech and watched while they tuned out during a conversation about using Twitter.  Two of them openly admitted that although they had heard of it they had no idea what it was or how to use it.  Innotech is a technology based conference and the marketing piece was the “e-marketing” summit!

It Isn’t About Technology

Today I read a release from a company that is looking for partner companies to “test its new beta platform for facilitating consumer engagement on Twitter. The technology allows brands to build and manage Twitter updates across multiple accounts and integrate Twitter activity into overall marketing campaigns“.

If ever a statement was made that showed a lack of understanding of the paradigm shift that is Web 2.0 then this is it.  This statement reveals that to traditional marketers Twitter and tools like it are simply another messaging channel that can be exploited by brands to raise awareness, send brand messaging, and pitch products to the Twittering masses.

Don’t get me wrong, I understand the pressure that some marketers are under, with reduced budgets, to gain a foothold and take advantage of this “Web 2.0”.  But the method of closing the gap between what they are doing now and what they could achieve isn’t to throw a big tool at it, open multiple Twitter accounts and Tweet your product or brand up.

Web 2.0 isnt about technology at all.  It isn’t about Twitter or blogs or FriendFeed or whatever the next thing that comes down the pipeline. Web 2.0 has simply broadened the scope of customer behavior and allowed marketers to not only put a glass to the wall, but get an invite into the room and listen to the conversation.

Customers have always commented on products & services to friends and family members.  Now the circle of people that they comment to has broadened. In the past focus groups were the method that marketers used to get in on that conversation, feedback forms on websites, email address, phone lines they have all served the same purpose.  Web 2.0 hasn’t changed that.  Marketing is still about developing a relationship with the customer, brand awareness is still a challenge, Web 2.0 doesn’t make it easier, it isn’t the silver bullet. Twitter is not the social media tool you are looking for.

Creating multiple identities and “pretending” to have conversations through a tool that ensures communication meets an overarching strategic messaging paradigm (or if you prefer to insert your own corporate phrase please do so), will not build a relationship either with key influencers or general users, both of whom are a lot more aware than that. 

Some Are Doing It Well

I am not saying that Twitter isnt the place for corporate America to be, in fact just the opposite.  There are organizations that are using it very well.  Zappos is a great example, Dell, GM and JetBlue are others.  Its the manner in which these companies use the tool that differentiates them.  Some users are a little freaked out to find that one of these companies is following them.  Usually its a response to a particular post made by the user that triggers it.  The companies set up monitors to ensure that anytime someone mentions their brand they are aware of it.  There are a lot of different tools that can be used for this, from Google Alerts to the Twitter search.  The point is they aren’t using Twitter or other Social Media tools to push a particular service or product they are using it to engage.  Michael Dell has a presence on Facebook, about once every two weeks he makes a post about a new Dell product or service, people respond. Dell admits it has around 30 staff members involved in their Social Media engagement this is the cost of doing it properly. HP reached out to 31 bloggers earlier this year and built a campaign called 31 days of Dragon (google it, you will still find plenty of references to it).

When I say built a campaign what they did was give one $5000 laptop to each of the 31 bloggers and told them to give it away.  That was it, no guidance, no rules, just run a competition give the computer away.  HP saw an 85% increase in shipped units following that competition and it cost them only the laptops.  No fancy tools used, no “fake” blog or Twitter accounts.  That is marketing in Web 2.0.

Thanks to JackLeblond for the Twitter in a Cage graphic

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