CBS Breaks Social Media Trust

Ok, I admit it: I watched Big Brother tonight and enjoyed it.  They had these people crawl through this caramel sludge and then dig stuff out of this gigantic mound of popcorn.  It was great.

They also have borrowed a page out of another reality show’s handbook by placing a “saboteur” in the house.  This adds a new wrinkle to the show but it also facilitates a great opportunity for social media interaction.  And CBS is taking full advantage of this.  Their website is fully integrated with Twitter, MySpace and Facebook allowing viewers to submit ideas for the saboteur.  Sounds fun, right?

The only problem is that they took a little too much advantage of the situation and squeezed two tweets out of me when I was only expecting one.  I definitely submitted the top tweet (yes, my idea for the saboteur was to clog the toilet – that would be great TV!).  But I didn’t submit the bottom, or first one.

CBS, is this really worth it?  Is it really worth compromising the trust of your viewers for an extra mention Twitter.

I say it isn’t.


A Photo Contest That Works

It seems like at some point, in every social media brainstorming session I have ever been a part of, the idea of a consumer photo contest comes up.  Rarely is it an idea that actually makes sense.

Domino’s Pizza has recently launched a contest asking consumers to take photos of… their pizzas?  Yes.  It seems a little weird, but I think it might actually work.

Why?  A few reasons:

  1. People like to take photos of food – myself included.  Next time you’re on Twitter, keep an eye out for how many TwitPics have something to do with food.
  2. The contest is integrated with the messaging objective – The smart element that Domino’s added into this contest is that the low-resolution photos and bad lighting of the photos is embraced and enhances the promotion.  Domino’s wanted to appeal to consumer appetites by showing them how delicious their REAL pizzas look.
  3. Realistic prizes – sure Domino’s could have offered more than $500 bucks for a prize, but then that might actually influence fewer consumers to participate.  Consumers are more cynical than ever and if the prizes are too good, I believe that it actually stimulate LESS participation.  It’s counter-intuitive, but think about it.
  4. It influences a sale – If you want to participate, you gotta buy a pizza!  Online social media is great, but it’s all about influencing the offline activity.

Here’s the video and the website.

GPS-based Social Networking Needs Brands to Survive

Ted Wright of Fizz (a word-of-mouth marketing agency) questions all of this buzz about GPS based social networking.  His asks “WGAF” (Who Gives a F*ck).  He might be right.  Does anyone really care of you’re at Walgreen’s?  Probably not.

But just like anything else, isn’t all about content?  If you’re doing something interesting, fun or relevant to your network, wouldn’t they want to know about it?  And isn’t it more interesting if you’re posting a photo or restaurant review and using the GPS app as the vehicle?  That’s not that much different than Twitter or status updates on Twitter.

GPS social networking is a polarizing topic because it bleeds over into other networks where friends or followers haven’t opted in.  In other words, if we’re friends on Facebook, you have approved me as a contact, but you can’t optimize the level of interaction we have.  You can either turn me on or off.  You may be interested in an occasional status update or photo of my dog, but you’re probably not interested in when I take my dog to the vet.

Ted predicts, “GPS social networking will be the Second Life of 2010.”  I tend to agree with him unless one thing happens: Gowalla and Foursquare crack the code on working with brands.  Brands (and mainstream ones, at that) hold the key to making these apps relevant to the mainstream consumer by way of offering value to the user and the listener.  Wouldn’t Foursquare be more fun if check-ins unlocked offers, coupons and special deals to the people who check-in at a certain location and to the people who read that check-in?  As it stands now, very few brands are involved with either platform.  Yes, a few bars and coffee shops out there are offering deals to their “Mayor” but that excludes 99.999% of the population.  Furthermore, no one cares if their friend is getting a deal – they care if THEY’RE getting a deal.

Where will all of this go?  I agree with Ted – Foursquare and Gowalla probably won’t figure out how to work with brands and start to lose relevancy later this year and even more so in 2011.  Then Google will figure it all out and be one step closer to ruling the world.

What is YOUR definition of Social Media?

I had an interesting conversation today.  The question posed to me was, “What is the definition of Social Media?”

Good question.

I probably think of social media in the same way you do.  Something along the lines of “the sharing of real thoughts, ideas and questions questions via online platforms like blogs, Twitter and Facebook.”  The executive that I was talking to considered all word-of-mouth to be part of social media.  Their point was, “consumers are talking, that’s social isn’t it?”

Yup, it sure is.  So IS word-of-mouth social media?  Or is social media word of mouth.

In my opinion, yes and yes.

In this age, for either to be effective they need to work together.  There are so many conversations happening online that if your word-of-mouth isn’t making it’s way into the social media space, it’s probably not working.  And if your online social media initiative isn’t jumping over to the real world, it’s probably not resulting in sales.

WOM/social media, it’s one and the same to me.

And by the way, it’s also a good idea to make sure everyone on your team is aligned to all of the buzz words everyone is throwing around the office.

Southwest Strikes Back

I don’t know the whole story, but apparently, Kevin Smith (you might know him as Silent Bob) was booted off of a Southwest flight last night because he was too fat for one seat and didn’t purchase two.  He immediately took to Twitter to demonstrate his frustration to all 1.6 million of his followers by telling @southwestair to “go fuck themselves.”

Who knows what’s trued and what’s screenplay worthy.   Honestly, I don’t really even care.  But what I do care about is  a belligerent b-list celeb who wants to make a scene and try to take a brand down with him.  Southwest’s Twitter team immediately responded to the issue via a public tweet and “@reply” to Kevin Smith.  That’s how I learned of the whole thing.

But how should Southwest handled the situation?  They were really screwed either way:

  • If they publicly respond, then they show consumers and followers of each side that they are connected, listening and working on a solution.  BUT, they also bring more exposure to the situation and start take on more of a defensive stance.
  • They might have responded via direct message, but Kevin Smith wasn’t following them back.
  • They also followed up with a well-written blog post explaining the situation to anyone who is interested.

It’s was quite the conundrum, but I think Southwest handled it just about as well as they could have.  What’s to learn here?

  • Respond fast, but be confident in your policies – although Southwest came across as a little desperate in their initial tweets responding to the problem, they resolved all of that in the blog post.
  • Put customer service first and it usually works out – anyone who reads both sides of the story can’t fault Southwest for their willingness to make the situation right.  In almost every example, they apologized and asked for an opportunity to make it right.
  • Apologize for the experience, not the policy – Southwest worded it perfectly when they said sorry for the experience.  If they would have cowered and said sorry for deeming him too fat for one seat, then a huge firestorm would have erupted.

Thoughts on Corporate Social Media Guidelines

I had the pleasure of drafting our employee social media guidelines today.  Fortunately, there are already quite a few resources available and written better than I ever could have.

Here are some of the best ones I found in my research:

PR Squared shares 10Corporate Social Media Guidelines

The Greteman Group shares their Social Media Guidelines for their agency

Both are great resources and every company, agency or non-profit should use these examples as a starter for drafting their own set of guidelines.

Consumer Sharing and Participation Higher than Even I Expected

Here’s a good piece from emarketer that reveals some interesting statistics about on how consumers pass along brand information on and offline.

The percentage of people who claim to help a friend make a purchasing decision didn’t surprise me.  In fact, I might have thought it would be higher – and that’s saying something considering how much I believe in the power of word-of-mouth marketing.  But I was really surprised on these stats

  • One out of five people contribute to a forum
  • One out of five people attend offline events with people of a similar interest – Like a Tweetup.
  • 40% of people actively share information they find online

Just more reason to find your influencers, build a relationship with them and empower them to spread the word.

The emarketer piece also has some information on which age demos are more active in sharing information.

Thoughts on Crush It!


Crush It, originally uploaded by seanmccann.

Let me preface this by saying I’m a big Gary Vaynerchuk fan. I find him to be inspiring, motivating and insightful. I also want to say that this is not meant to be a big slam on his book.

So, I’ll start with who SHOULD buy his book:

  • People who are new to social media: if you are just now learning about the power of social media and how to put it to work for you, this book is a great primer.
  • If you are thinking about going into business for yourself and/or if you want to make money off of blogging, then this is a great book for you.

The people who would be better off reading something else are:

  • Social media experts: if you have a job in social media, you’re going to find this to be really boring.
  • If you already understand the power of Twitter, Facebook and all of the other platforms out there, no need to read this.

But, I will say that you should always take any chance you get to see Gary speak or meet him in person. The guy gets it and really does work his ass off for everything he gets.

Hardee’s Successfully Integrates Mass and Social Media

Many try, few succeed. I’m talking about successfully integrating mass media with social media. But it looks like Hardee’s might have found the sweet spot with their new “Name Our Holes” campaign.

Hardee's Viral Website

Many of you probably know that Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr are basically the same company, but just called different names in different markets.  I happen to live in a Carl’s Jr market, so I heard about this campaign from my friend Tim, who just happens to be the guy conducting the “consumer research” in the videos.

The whole thing works because it includes all of the necessary mass and social media elements

  1. The videos are edgy, funny and memorable.
  2. The TV spots encourage the consumer to get involved and contribute the the fun they’re seeing on TV at the website.
  3. The website does more than just repeat what consumers already saw online.  It offers up a few extra “too edgy for TV” spots so that they can be spread around the web.
  4. The website allows consumers to participate at various levels of engagement. If you want to record a webcam video, you can. If you’re not that kind of person, you can do a write-in. And if you just want to watch and vote, you can do that too.  Too many campaigns rely on getting super-engaged consumers to participate. The reality is that they’re aren’t too many of those out there.
  5. The website facilitates sharing. They make it easy to embed links, post them on Facebook or Tweet them.
  6. Then they figure out how to make even the lesser engaged consumers feel like they’re a part of the process by emailing them a custom video featuring their content!  I’m not the type of person who records webcam stuff, but I did submit a name for their holes and found it to be pretty cool to see my name on their commercial.
  7. Most importantly, the whole campaign stimulates on and offline word-of-mouth.  Yes, it’s cool for consumers to spread the videos around using social media platforms.  But it’s even cooler when consumers talk about and recommend the brand because they came up with a funny name.  Plus, Hardee’s really wins because they don’t even need to use the silly, sexual innuendo names.
  8. The campaign will continue to live when the TV commercials are long gone because Hardee’s gave consumers permission to call they whatever they want.  A great example of  letting consumer take control of the brand.

Name Our Holes - Consumer Submissions

Nice work, Hardee’s. Really nice work.  And I gotta say that my friend Tim’s great role as the  straightman makes the videos even funnier.

Do You Have a Twitter Filter?

We had an interesting conversation about managing a brand’s Twitter account.  Some of the questions that came up:

  • What SHOULD and SHOULD NOT be posted on Twitter?
  • How often should a brand be posting on Twitter?
  • How important is conversation?

My conclusion was that every brand needs a Twitter filter.  A Twitter filter is a list of subjects and guidelines that allows anyone and everyone within the organization to understand exactly what to post/plug/mention/discuss on Twitter.

Here are a few things I would recommend considering when writing your Twitter Filter:

  • What is the “sweet spot” for the number of Tweets per day? 5-10? 0-20?
  • What are some of the subjects that your followers REALLY care about?  What percentage of your tweets do you want to be on these subjects?
  • How can your brand’s attitude and essence best be communicated in 140 characters?
  • What is your @reply policy? If your Twitter account is as big as Whole Foods, are you going to publicly respond to every question?
  • What time of day is the best to reach your consumers?
  • What are the chances that this tweet will elicit a response or be re-tweeted?  If it’s low, is it worth sharing?
  • Of course, you could also list everything that SHOULD NOT be discussed/posted on Twitter, but it seems like that would be a lengthy list for any brand.

By the way, in my opinion, a lot of people should put their personal Twitter account through some of these same filters.  Just sayin’.

I’m sure there is more to add to this list, so what would you add?