Social Media Week – What a Rush!

Wow … what an amazing, busy week it’s been so far at Social Media Week Toronto (#smwto). I’ve been attending a lot of events, spread across the city, and thus have not had much time to write.

There have been numerous intriguing discussions and debates, covering a wide range of topics related to social media. How will the group buying phenomenon evolve? How are mobile and social changing retail? What are some great case studies of companies that are effectively engaging with customers? What trends should we watch out for in 2011?

There is, however, one overarching topic that has permeated throughout the week – social media ROI.  How can a company’s social media efforts be measured in an effective and reliable manner, demonstrating the true value of allocating time, money and other applicable resources?

I intend to share my thoughts on social media ROI, as well as other other topics discussed at Social Media Week, in the weeks to come.  And now, off to my next event …

Celebrating Social Media Week!

This week, several cities across the globe are hosting Social Media Week. Social Media Week is week-long series of events and seminars that facilitate conversation and learning about opportunities, issues and trends in social media.

I am very excited about the opportunity to attend a number of events in Toronto – and I will be participating in some online seminars as well. I am going to endeavor to provide periodic updates, through this blog, on what I’ve been hearing and learning at Social Media Week.

There are several things I’m hoping to get out of Social Media Week:

  1. Direct insights from people “in the know” on effective social media strategies. I’d really love to hear some case studies, and learn what the results were – qualitative and quantitative.
  2. Thoughts and examples of social media initiatives that have been effectively integrated with traditional marketing.
  3. Insights on where this is all going. What trends can we expect in the short and long-term?
  4. Connections!  I’d love to meet others who share a passion for all things social.

In addition to Toronto, Social Media Week events are also being hosted in New York, San Francisco, Rome, Paris, São Paulo, London, Hong Kong and Istanbul. Not located in either city? Not a problem!  A number of events are being streamed on livestream.

Don’t Put a Shoe in Your Mouth

The strong and immediate backlash to today’s tweet by fashion designer Kenneth Cole, attempting to leverage conversations about the pro-democracy uprising in Egypt to promote the brand’s new spring collection, serves as another example of the power of social media – and how brands *must* participate in a sensitive and sensible manner.

It goes without saying that the was completely insensitive and ill-advised. If you missed it, here is the tweet, which Kenneth Cole himself has taken responsibility for:

“Millions are in uproar in #Cairo. Rumor is they heard our new spring collection is now available online at http://bit.ly/KCairo -KC”

A couple of hours later the tweet was deleted, an apologetic one was sent, and the following apology was posted on Kenneth Cole’s Facebook fan page:

“I apologize to everyone who was offended by my insensitive tweet about the situation in Egypt. I’ve dedicated my life to raising awareness about serious social issues, and in hindsight my attempt at humor regarding a nation liberating themselves against oppression was poorly timed and absolutely inappropriate.” – Kenneth Cole, Chairman and Chief Creative Officer”

Will this fiasco have a negative impact on the Kenneth Cole brand? I doubt it.  Overall the brand has a very solid reputation, and Kenneth Cole is a known philanthropist – on both corporate and personal fronts. Further, the apologetic response was open, very human in tone, and immediate.  Kenneth Cole made a dumb mistake and admitted it.

That said, it’s important to remember – in a world connected by social media, news of a brand’s missteps can reach an awful lot of ears very, very quickly, with potentially damaging consequences. People who represent a company, whether through social media or otherwise, must do so in a responsible and ethical manner – at all levels.

If they don’t, they will be held accountable.

Observations on the Old Spice Campaign

Old Spice’s “Old Spice Man” campaign may just be a precursor of advertising and brand engagement efforts we can expect to see in coming years. The campaign, orchestrated by Wieden+Kennedy, started off with a TV commercial in the winter which garnered attention from notable bloggers and celebrities, and received numerous views on YouTube.

On Tuesday, the Old Spice Man became a social media sensation, with videos uploaded to YouTube featuring the character responding to people’s comments and questions from Twitter, Facebook and other Internet sources. A few of the videos were filmed in advance, featuring Old Spice Man’s responses to comments on the original commercial, however the majority were filmed on the fly – sometimes within thirty minutes of someone submitting a comment or question.

Approximately 180 videos were created over two days. At last count, Old Spice’s Twitter following had increased to over 70,000, and most of the videos were downloaded over 100,000 times. There were also a couple of hundred news articles on the initiative, and no doubt numerous mentions in other media. It has been an amazing viral marketing campaign.

There are many things worth mentioning about this effort, here are a few that come to mind:

  • Mass and digital media can work beautifully together. Old Spice firmly established the character in the TV spot, there was already a strong degree of familiarity prior to the social media blitz.
  • Blogger and celebrity outreach planted some of the seeds for the viral nature of this campaign. It was smart to create videos mentioning influential bloggers and celebrities who were already fans of the TV spot – no doubt they became bigger fans, and again let their networks know about it.
  • The videos were FUNNY and ADDICTIVE. Viewers, myself included, were compelled spread the word, sharing with their friends and followers.
  • Old Spice Man is a very likable character, one that people are easily able to gain an affinity for.
  • A handsome guy with sex appeal. Women have an influence in 80% of all purchasing decisions, including men’s grooming products. Many men aspire to be like him. Enough said.

I’m curious to see what Old Spice’s next steps will be, given the large following that has been garnered. How are they going to continue to engage the social media community they have built?

Another question on ponder, do people like the Old Spice brand or just the campaign itself?

I’m also interested in the processes and metrics that are in place to evaluate success. Will there be a sales lift? A measured increase in brand affinity?

Lots of questions asked, and some valuable insights already gained. What are your thoughts?

Robbie’s Home on Howe – Experiential Marketing and Social Media

Experiential marketing enables customers to engage and interact with brands, products and services, allowing for personal experiences that aid purchasing decisions. Max Lenderman, Director of OuterActive at agency Crispin Porter + Bogusky, mentioned in his best-selling book “Brand New World” that experiential marketing is often used in India, a country in which few families own TVs, and that it is poised to become more prominent on a global basis over the coming years. I agree.

Recently, at an event hosted by the BC Chapter of the American Marketing Association, furniture retailer Urban Barn, in conjunction with ad agency and design firm Spring Advertising, PR firm Elevator Communications, and retail consultancy DIG360 presented details of an innovative experiential marketing and social media initiative.

Faced with the prospect of a significant drop in sales at their Howe St location during the Vancouver 2010 Olympics, due to street closures and excessive Olympic crowds, they transformed their retail store into an interactive experience. The store became a fully functioning home, inhabited 24/7, by Robbie, the store manager. People had an opportunity to walk through and experience “Robbie’s Home on Howe”, while also enjoying Olympic events on several TVs that were set up.

To support the initiative, a microsite was created, and advertising was placed on the store front as well as inside. Awareness was in part generated via social media, notably via Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. At the end of each day, Robbie recorded a video diary.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_w42iKtNXwE]

The initiative was also promoted at Urban Barn’s 38 stores across Canada.

Urban Barn did not set a specific sales objective to measure ROI. I believe doing so would have been quite difficult, particularly given the unique nature and circumstance. However, qualitatively speaking, it does seem that “Robbie’s Home on Howe” was an effective brand building exercise. Urban Barn tracked over 2000 people going through on a daily basis, and even had to hire a bouncer to control crowds. The store became a destination.

“We set out to attach Urban Barn’s name to something memorable and unexpected and without a doubt this was achieved,” states Brianna Doolittle, Senior Marketing Coordinator at Urban Barn. “Over the course of 17 days we were able to touch thousands of people with an experience that will stick with them, and we feel confident that next time they need some furniture or accessories for their home they will think of Urban Barn.”

Urban Barn’s effort also received significant PR coverage, both locally and nationally through mainstream press, as well as through social media.

I believe we are truly at new frontier in marketing and advertising, and it is great to see companies like Urban Barn that are willing to take a risk and experiment. Urban Barn has remained active with the connections created with customers through social media, and they are currently working with their partner agencies on follow-up strategies.

I look forward to seeing what they do next!

The Costs of Social Media

Last Wednesday I attended the F5 Expo, a business conference on changing technologies in the online space, including social media, search marketing and mobile marketing. Malcolm Gladwell, the noted author and columnist for The New Yorker magazine, was the conference’s keynote speaker.

The audience, not surprisingly, had a strong contingent of people who are active with social media. Perhaps it’s also not surprising that the audience seemed only lukewarm to Gladwells’ keynote, which touched on some of the costs associated with social media. To learn more about Gladwell’s thoughts on social media, here is a recent interview published in the Globe & Mail.

Before I go on, I want to state that I have benefited immensely from social media. I am very active in several different online communities, at times spending a couple of hours a day interacting on them. Through my involvement, I have met some amazing people, many of whom I have been fortunate to meet in person and become friends with. I have also been connected to countless others whom I value and have learned from.

That said, I agree Gladwell, and I think it is possible that many people don’t fully realize the costs associated with social media. Online connections, “friends” or “followers”, are missing a distinct human element, an element that I believe can only been attained through face-to-face interaction. Social media is great at enabling breadth to be achieved across a social network, however it is far more difficult to achieve depth in the resulting relationships – unless subsequent in-person connections are made.

In his keynote, Gladwell stated that in the 1980s, 10% of Americans did not have a close friend they could confide in on personal matters. That number has now climbed to 25%, which I believe is quite startling. Is social media to blame? No. But is it a factor in this? I think it might be. Stop for a second and consider the time and investment it requires to truly build a deep relationship. Now consider the number of people many are connected to on social networks.

Dunbar’s number is a theoretical limit to the number of social relationships one can maintain, the number is commonly believed to be 150. Given this, I find it hard to believe that many people aren’t being stretched by their extensive online networks, stretched in a manner that takes time away from building closer relationships and making them matter. People may have more friends than ever before, but at what cost? Strong relationships take time to develop.

There is another question that needs to be considered. In many ways, social media enables people to become more productive. One such example is the quick and easy formation of groups.  However, has it made people less productive in other ways? It seems to me that there is a lot of content clutter on social media, in particular Facebook and Twitter. In fact, I am very guilty of creating some of it.  Do people really care when I check into a cafe using Foursquare, and then post it on Facebook and Twitter?  Online friends who I have met in person, or at least built a strong connection with, might. Others, who account for the vast majority of my connections? Probably not.

Social media represents an opportunity for people to procrastinate, waiting or the next tweet or Facebook status update, taking away from time that could perhaps be better spent creating or adding value elsewhere.

Now, again I need to reiterate, I love social media. It has made a huge difference in my life, and my career direction has changed as a result. However I think it is important consider the costs associated with the social media revolution. For anyone who is interested, I recently wrote a blog post containing tips on how to better manage time spent on social media.

Bucky’s Buzz #2 – How to respond to negative social media PR

Marketing thoughts and insights to help you stay ahead of the game.


Bucky’s Buzz #1 – Three ways to build customer rapport using social media

Marketing thoughts and insights to help you stay ahead of the game.


Social Media Time Management

(how to regain my sanity)

I have a problem. I love marketing and I love social media, and I am very excited about the rapid change and innovation that is occurring as marketers join consumers in conversation about their products, services, brands and companies.

Every day, through my multiple online profiles, I am connecting with new people – some very bright minds – and I am learning new things.

However, as the number of people I am connected with increases, and as I discover new tools to try, widgets to download, and articles to read, I find myself to be increasingly starved for time. Time to invest back into the social media communities I participate in, hopefully providing value to others, and time spent in the offline world (is there such a thing anymore?). Time also, to focus on writing for this blog – although admittedly I was quite distracted by the Winter Olympics in February.

Here are some tactics I intend to try, to better manage my time spent on social media.

1. Focus on quality, not quantity of connections

Dunbar’s number is a theoretical cognitive limit to the number of social relationships one can maintain.  There is no precise value, but many people approximate it to be 150. I imagine most people in social media are well beyond that, and I am quite certain that I am.

I have a strong presence on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, and I am fortunate to have met many of the people I have connected with. However, I don’t feel I have devoted enough time towards truly nurturing and growing my relationships, and I believe that many have the potential to flourish – online and offline. Moving forward, I intend to focus more on building the relationships that I already have. How? By interacting, joining conversations, and helping others when possible. For example, on Twitter I now have a separate list for friends and I will make every effort to focus on it.

2. Become selective with social media communities and tools

Being active in social media and staying on top of the game doesn’t mean that one needs to use all available tools, or participate in an inordinate number of communities. I used to run a social group using ning, however I found that it was too much for me to handle so I abandoned it – the value generated didn’t warrant the effort required. I also had an account on Delicious to share articles that I enjoyed reading, but again I didn’t find it worthwhile to maintain. Instead, I now send out a couple of tweets a day with links to articles I believe others might find to be of interest. Where possible, I also aggregate my status updates, using Twitter to feed into Facebook, LinkedIn and other sites.

4. Spend more time, less often

Truly becoming involved with social media, and understanding the changes and impact on marketing, requires both time and effort. It’s cliché, but one gets out what one puts in. That said, personally I have found that I am signing into social media platforms too frequently, in intervals that are too short – checking Twitter to review the feed, or commenting on a friend’s updated status on Facebook. It’s very tempting to stay connected and find out the latest news. However, I have found my habits to be disruptive to other tasks I’m working on.

As such, I intend to sign in a little less often, but spend more time online when I do sign in.  I am going to take the time to read blog posts, craft replies and hopefully write my own. With regards to Twitter, I have set up lists that make it easier for me to catch up on the latest news. I will also be make more use of timed tweets, to help build my own personal online presence.

These are just a few of my planned social media time management tactics. Do you use any that you have found to be successful?  Please feel free to share!

Key Considerations for Launching a Social Media Strategy

More and more companies are embracing digital and social media as an opportunity to engage and deepen relationships with customers, augmenting or even replacing traditional marketing strategies. A recent example, rather move forward with a traditional Super Bowl TV spot, Pepsi launched the Pepsi Refresh Project. Through the $20 million crowdsourcing initiative, which will no doubt be a marketing case study, people are enticed to submit and vote on ideas that will have a positive impact on society. The best ideas will receive grants ranging from $5,000 to $250,000 each.

Pepsi is just one many companies endeavoring to be more innovative in an increasingly fragmented media landscape. Such innovation is now a necessity, as brands strive to break through and achieve relevancy in the mindset of modern consumers. However, before going full on in digital and social media, there are some very important questions companies must ask themselves.

1. Is the strategy aligned with the brand and overall marketing plan?

 

An interactive social media strategy should be created and executed in proper alignment with the overall brand strategy. Keeping in mind that social media is based on two-way dialogue, companies must ensure that the brand identity is upheld and in each and every interaction. Like any medium, desired messaging must be consistent with other components of the marketing plan.  Social media should not be a standalone strategy, where possible companies should consider integrating it with other mediums.  For example, a print ad could drive people to a Facebook fan page, with a proper incentive that consumers find to be of value.

2. How will the social media efforts be measured?

 

As with any marketing strategy, metrics are important. While it is always valuable to determine ROI on a given campaign, social media measurement should be considered a bit differently. Effective social media engagement strategies rely on word-of-mouth.  As such, companies need to monitor the conversation that is occurring. What is being discussed? What is their share of the conversation, for a particular market segment? How often is their product and/or service being recommended?

The 4Ps have evolved into the 4Cs – content, connections, community and conversations.

Here is an overview of online buzz generated from this year’s Super Bowl commercials, courtesy of Mashable.

3. Are the necessary resources available to execute?

 

Companies need to consider whether they have the knowledge and skills necessary to properly execute a social media strategy, either internally or with partner agencies. Social media is much, much more than possessing an understanding of Facebook and Twitter – companies that rely on that as a basis for “expertise” are only setting themselves up for failure.  As a side note, in May 2009 a search of Twitter profiles revealed that there are 4,487 self-proclaimed social media experts. As of December 2009, there were 15,740. This represents a three and a half fold increase, within just six months! Yikes! Drawing a parallel, I’ve been skiing most of my life, so I suppose I should be trying out for the World Cup circuit right now, shouldn’t I?

Of course, there are many top social media pros who stand out from the crowd, I am fortunate to know some of them. In building resources to execute social media program, an understanding of both social media and marketing fundamentals is important.

What are your thoughts? What should companies consider when developing a social media strategy?