Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Carz I - Can Ford Make the Fiesta Cool?

One of the car sites called it “the ultimate social media experiment.” Basically, it’s giving 100 lucky people the opportunity to take a six-month long test drive. The car won’t be available in the US until 2010, so 100 German-built cars are being used for in the Fiesta Movement campaign.

According to Ad Age, about 4,000 people applied online to take part in the program. The cars weren’t scheduled to be delivered until the first week in May, but the happy recipients are already blogging, Twittering, posting videos to YouTube—in other words, doing exactly what Ford wants them to do!
The home page of the Fiesta Movement site is a live feed of photos, Tweets, blog posts, whatever! It’s fun, and the users provide a spirit totally absent from the typical corporate site. Each “agent” has his or her own page to display all their content. There’s also a page for monthly “missions” starting in May. Road rallys, other events? It will be worth watching what they do to keep the interest up and the buzz alive! Of course, there are opportunities to share any/all of this content and a registration page if you want to be kept informed (lead generation, anyone?).

It will also be interesting to see what Ford does in 2010 when the Fiesta is introduced in the US. Will they have a large, traditional TV advertising campaign? Or will they continue to feed off the social media foundation they are laying?

The auto brands that aren’t busy just surviving are doing interesting things to reach people in more direct, personal ways. They have long known how to generate and nurture sales leads through the conversion cycle. They are learning how to generate leads in social media. I’m willing to bet that the ROI on the social media investment (cars included) would compare favorably with that of traditional mass media advertising. Ford won’t tell, but time will. If we see more social media campaigns as the focal point of marketing strategy, we’ll know it’s not only working but that it’s cost effective.

The message seems to be getting around the industry—more to come!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Charting the Evolution of Social Media Marketing

I’m indebted to Tom Martin for his morning Tweet with the link to Jerimiah Owyang’s article on the future of the social web. I’m working on my final summary for the social media class, and this article and the chart it includes really hit the mark. My own odyssey over this semester has highlighted how badly we need to understand the strategy aspects of social media marketing and how hard it is to do in the midst of constant change in the media themselves and how customers use them.

According to Owyang’s analysis we are now in the era of social functionality, moving into social colonization. I see as especially relevant his comment on consumers in the era of social context—that consumers will opt in to share information in return for relevance. I’m reminded of my exhortation last week to “Ask Them!

He identifies five contexts:
• The community
• Location
• Social
• Behavioral
• Preferences.

Note that consumers control all of these contexts, from the communities with which they affiliate to the information they choose to reveal to marketers (in return for value). Many behaviors can be observed online and mined for their implications. Marketers will have to continue to do that until they can make direct, personal connections with customers and potential customers and engage in dialog with them.

At that point “Ask Them!” still seems to be the most accurate and straightforward way of finding out what customers really want—and that may usher in the era of social commerce!

Friday, April 24, 2009

Have You Created Your Google Profile?

Google announced the profile product earlier this week. I tried it, and was interested in how it worked.

What you do is type “me” in the Google search box and a profile page for you comes up. If that creeps you out, then when you see they know quite a bit about you, you may be doubly creeped. However, when I looked carefully I realized the things they knew came from other Google sites (Blogger and YouTube in my case). I added my website, not hosted by Google.

Once you set up a profile, the link shows at the bottom of the first search page when someone searches for your name.

The two things that happened to my profile were specific to my situation. I am cursed with two first names, and the only way to get that into most forms is to run them together. Consequently, I’m visible on the web under both versions of my name. Not good, if I were counting on the visibility. On that note, however, it looks to me as if Google is indexing a lot more profiles that I have scattered all over the web than they used to, but that may be just my imagination. I count on my Google Alert and haven’t Googled myself for a long time.

The second thing is also unique to my own situation, which I happily describe as “semi retired.” I do still teach, so I put that in. The way they put it together sort of made it look as if Harvard had set up a satellite campus on Cape Cod, which would be very convenient for me, but isn’t likely to happen!
So I changed where put Harvard, into previous employer, and the display works better, although it’s not the way I would prefer it.

I couldn’t find a way to link to my Twitter home page, so I just put that in the bio section. I didn’t bother with contacts but it looks as if you can send this to contacts from your Gmail account. I know all of mine would love that!

My assessment is that this works; it’s not clear that it adds much for someone who already has more visibility than she needs. If you’re working on online visibility, or if there’s something (or someone) that confusing about what is readily available for you online, it may be useful.

I wonder if you’re on your corporate network, if the “me” search will in effect create a corporate page; I rather doubt it. I can’t see any way to purposefully create a corporate page (a la Facebook), but if you’re more cleaver than I you might be able to game their system.

This isn’t the answer for people who want to effortlessly transfer their profile from one network to another. Does it have any potential to be linked with Open Social down the road? The two look very different to me, but—in time—who knows?

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Are Behavioral Segmentation and Self-Segmentation the Same?

Last week an Ad Age article with the headline “The Death of Consumer Segmentation?” caught my eye. I consider segmentation a fundamental tenant of marketing, just as catchy headlines are a tenant of journalism. Anway, I read with interest. I’ve been part of some of those really big segmentation studies he talks about as well as many smaller ones. All produced value in an earlier era. In my opinion, their day has past.

Michael Fassnacht’s three key points were:

1. Static consumer segments have little value in a rapidly-changing environment
2. Consumers are never part of just one segment
3. By controlling the communications they receive, consumers have control over marketing activities.

The key take-away: big segmentation studies are out; consumer self-segmentation is in. He also uses an interesting term, “enabled self-segmentation;” I’m unclear whether he meant that to be synonymous with “self-identification,” which he refers to in the preceding paragraph. He ends with a section on how marketers can enable consumer self-segmentation, which is reasonable but I didn’t think went far enough.

I looked at Fassnacht’s own blog and found a couple of interesting posts. I’d recommend his reflections on the election (Binary Thinking, November 9, 2008) in which he rightly states that human beings are not one or the other in a given situation, they are highly nuanced. I looked further and found a recent post describing "micro analytics," which I though was important. The key steps, developed by Huayin Wang, are:

1. Treat UGC as the raw gold of data information. Find the right methodology to score the individual UGC pieces by relevance and relationship to each other. This kind of quantitative exercise will enable one to decipher patterns within the large universe of UGC, either on Flickr, YouTube, on blogs, etc.
2. Identify the right UGC content clusters to understand marketing opportunities. This will enable one to isolate potential opinion leaders within a certain content grouping as well as unveil unleveraged perception spaces for a particular brand.
3. Build a persuasion platform that uses the different attributes of each UGC element for an interactive program, all based on the principles of behavioral targeting.
4. Analyze the modified UGC landscape after a sufficient period of time to understand if the interactive marketing program has created any positive impact for the brand.

Wonder how many companies are doing something like that--not many I'll bet! It makes wonderful sense, and it's also based on the analysis approach used in the really big old marketing segmentation studies. It just uses behavioral data, not survey data--a huge step forward.

The situation is, as I see it, that the marketer can use this approach--self-segmentation uncovered by micro analytics--for analysis of content data collected from across the web, provided by unidentified subjects, similar to anonymous visitors on a website. Yes, you could link a Facebook behavior to a member (a person becomes a fan of a brand page, for example), but would it be worth the effort? I sincerely doubt it!

But there's an even simpler solution that few companies (except publisher sites with an array of newsletters) seem to be practicing. ASK THEM! In other situations, I've called that expanded permissioning. Ask registrants what they really want to get from you and how often. That would let them self-identify, at least to the extent you offer options/segments that are relevant to them.

Then take the next step. You might not be offering exactly what they want--chances are good that you are not. How do you ask them or analyze their activity on your site to find out what else they are looking for? The answer is--you set up ways to Listen--in ways I've talked about before!

That sets up a virtuous cycle in which the marketer first asks then uses analytics for deeper understanding. Time-consuming expensive traditional marketing research need not apply!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Content--Online and Offline

My interest in local news sites is well established. They seem to be the vibrant part of the news scene at present. In this context Walter Brooks of eCape pointed me toward a current article in Vanity Fair. It profiles Arthur Ochs Sulzberger Jr. and chronicles his tenure as publisher at the New York Times. That alone is interesting and particularly relevant on the day the NYT released its quarterly earnings. The latter part of the article gets back to their lead-in—that a “doomsday clock” is ticking for the traditional newspaper industry and has a number of interesting strategic insights. They say:

American journalism is in a period of terror. The invention of the Internet has caused a fundamental shift not just in the platform for information—screen as opposed to paper—but in the way people seek information . . . Those who grew up using the Internet, which now includes a full generation of Americans, are expert browsers. It’s not that they have short attention spans. If anything, many of them are more sophisticated and better informed than their parents. They are certainly more independent. Instead of absorbing the news and opinion packaged expertly by professional journalists, they search out only the information they want, and are less and less likely to devote themselves to one primary site, in part because it is less efficient, and in part because not doing so is liberating. The Internet has disaggregated the news.

The article points out that it isn’t just a matter of putting traditional news online. They quote Tom Rosenstiel, director of the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism (page 6, Internet version) as saying that newspapers can’t consider all platforms as being equal. They must make strategic choices of platform and exploit the technology of each platform. That applies to all Internet publishers, not just newspapers, and it appears that many do not yet understand how profound that statement is.

The New Digital Content Marketing from Bob Collins on Vimeo

Reading the article—and I’d encourage you to read all 8 pages, not just my brief quotes—I was struck by the similarity of theme in a video by Bob Collins of SHIFT Communications. The video is also long for an Internet video; it runs about 6 minutes. I think once you start it you will be captivated by the message of the expert commentary he has aggregated here.

Is it true that electronic content is the only content valued by many people, especially the Internet generations? That’s a scary thought to many businesses, especially traditional media.

But I think there’s another step for all of us. It’s not enough to simply make our content electronic. We have to make it visible. We have to distribute it (or announcements that it exists) widely around the net. Is that what inbound marketing is all about?

Friday, April 17, 2009

Facebook Grows Up and Twitter Grows Large

We all know that Facebook has been growing rapidly, reaching 200 million global users earlier this month. It gave itself and the whole Internet community an interesting celebratory present by setting up Facebook for Good.It also made itself a celebratory video with an interesting heat map of the distribution of Facebook users. Note the high level of activity in the US on the east and west coasts and in urban centers around the globe.

Facebook has long had a cause app. If you take a look you quickly realize that Facebook is not a good place to raise money, although a lot of people clearly have good intentions. We all know, however, that it’s a place to reach out—if you do it right.

So Facebook set up a special page. In its own words:

we've partnered with 16 charity/advocacy groups who are making the world a better place. When you purchase one of these gifts, 90-95% of the cost will go to that organization to support its efforts.

On this page you can also share your stories about how Facebook has helped you to give back. I particularly liked the posting from Sri Lanka.

This is a different approach to charitable works than the Ashton Kutcher/CNN Twitter challenge. If you missed that one yesterday, the first to reach 1 million Twitter followers would donate 10,000 mosquito nets to world malaria day. Kutcher edged out CNN by only a couple of thousand followers (see his celebration party). It made for a fun day of live television and got CNN (as well as Kutcher, obviously) lots of new Twitter followers, including me. Why don’t you comment on Anderson Cooper’s blog (he seems to be the one who spend the most time promoting the challenge) and ask CNN to make its donation anyway—as several of us already have done.

That’s what Web 2.0 is all about. Intrusive advertising is out. Doing well by doing good is in!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Celebrating Income Tax Day

Ok, I’m being sarcastic; it’s nothing to celebrate—at least it wasn’t for me this year! But it is one of the certainties of life, and it’s interesting to see how firms in the industry are handling it.

I’ve written about Intuit before, so I retained a couple of articles from Peppers and Rogers 1 to 1 Weekly newsletter (not archived on their website as far as I can tell) over the past few months. In November 2008 they wrote about Intuit’s dissatisfaction with the rate of abandonment on their website. Their existing metrics gave no information about why visitors abandoned before they purchased. However, Intuit had a more basic problem, chronicled in the newsletter on February 09, 2009. When Brad Smith took over as CEO in 2006 he realized he didn’t understand the product line and that employees didn’t either. I love what he did:

So Smith put himself in the shoes of the customer and visited a retail store that sells Quickbooks. He stood in front of the shelves for 17 minutes and still chose the wrong version from the dozens offered. How would he ever know how to improve the product if he couldn't grasp how it was supposed to work?
Smith decided to bring in a small business owner and Quickbooks customer to spend a day in his shoes experiencing his pains with the product. The customer, a bike shop owner, volunteered and handed over all his invoices and paperwork to Smith and his team, who then holed themselves up for a day in a boardroom trying to figure out Casey's typical interaction with their product. The outcome was confusing and cumbersome. "At the end of eight hours and close to tears, our leadership team was very clear about what we needed to do," Smith says. (1 to 1 Weekly, 02/09/2009)

Solutions included simplifying the product line. The most sweeping solutions involved a “Quickbooks Challenge” based on the experience above for all new employees and throwing out a lot of the policies in the contact center that made it difficult to resolve customer problems. The most significant action appears to have been a program called True North that focuses on improving customer experience.

Bruce Tempkin recently wrote about the True North program on his customer experience blog with a link to a post on Net Promoter (measuring satisfaction by a single measure of likelihood of recommending the product). Bruce’s posts on a presentation by Brad Smith and the one that includes Net Promoter are highly informative. So is one by a Canadian blogger who got Intuit to admit that they made some mistakes in implementation. They keep working at it, however, and they seem to be getting a lot of things right. According to Tempkin, Brad Smith said in his presentation that 81% of sales are directly attributable to word of mouth. That represents both careful attention to the voice of their customers and really good metrics to be able to say that with assurance!

So it’s tax day; what are they doing with Turbo Tax. They have active customer support and a vibrant community of customers helping other customers. At least I’d call it “vibrant;” over 30 thousand questions on Schedule C for Personal Business (whatever that is!) looks vibrant to me!

On a broader scale, Intuit has employees Tweeting about a variety of topics. Take a look at their page on Twitter for a thoughtful approach to corporate strategy there. They are promoting the basic Intuit community; Intuit Labs, where they are getting customer input into product development; the new Intuit initiative in India; and other strategic corporate initiatives. Each one seems to be drawing its own group of followers, some small but all focused on a particular issue. Good job!

What I don’t see is a Twitter stream for tax preparers. Think about it; taxes are seasonal (thank goodness!). Who wants to follow that all year, as opposed to the Quick Books products, which businesses use for daily operations? The community on the site seems to work for users of Turbo Tax at tax time; I’ll bet it’s pretty quiet the rest of the year. The Twitter streams are ongoing conversations that provide important feedback to Intuit on specific products and issues.

That’s strategic use of social media!

Happy tax day!!

Monday, April 13, 2009

What Are Older People Doing on Twitter?

Last week when I wrote (again) about older women on Facebook, Ailsa Leadbetter was kind enough to point out that comScore had new data about the age of Twitter users—thanks, Ailsa! In the meantime Marketing Charts was kind enough to do an article and chart on the subject, so I’m good to go.

Note that this post is titled “older people,” not “older women.” I can’t find any data. Twitter has a stats page on their blog, but they seem to be focusing on traffic data, not any kind of audience profile. I did find an app that guesses gender from Tweet contents, but I’m interested in data, not silly apps.

Again, I’m left to hypothesize. Here’s what I think is going on:

1.Twitter has taken the business (broadly defined: remember all the Congresspeople Twittering during President Obama’s speech?) world by storm. The data from HubSpot confirm that. It’s mostly web/desktop applications that are used for Twittering. There’s a good representation of mobile, but almost no fun stuff with pictures!

2.Many of the business Twitterers are male; a majority? I really don’t know, but somehow I guess “yes” by a small margin.

3.It doesn’t make much difference anyway. The Tweet stream is full of business messages of all kinds; gender is not relevant there.

Still, I’m curious. The comScore data comes from their panel, for which they have gender, so I hope we’ll see gender data at some point. The age data is certainly interesting.

Business/professional use of Twitter undoubtedly accounts for some of what we see in the age data. In my reply to Ailsa’s comment, I said that I probably gave less emphasis than I should have to the greater amount of time available to older people to try new technologies. That argument, however, applies better to the 55+ women on Facebook than it does to the most active, 45-54, age group on Twitter.

What should give us all pause is the comment from the comScore analyst quoted in the Marketing Charts article:

[comScore blogger Sarah] Radwanick concluded that current assumptions about who might use a technology first might need to be reconsidered. “Not only teenagers and college students can be counted among the technologically inclined,” she said. “With those age 25 and older representing a much bigger segment of the population than the under 25 crowd, it might help explain why Twitter has expanded its reach so broadly so quickly over the past few months.”

Marketers take note! The nature of the technology early adopter may be changing before our very eyes!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Where Does Social Media Fit?

I joined the Pro Marketer group on Linked In several weeks ago at the suggestion of a colleague. I’ve enjoyed following it and answering some questions. One has recurred several times, and I thought I’d give it a more detailed response. The generic question is “where does social media fit into my marketing/communications plan?”

Long ago I wrote a brief document about corporate planning being a hierarchy and posted it for my students. It’s woefully out of date, so this updates it for the social media age.

Somewhat parenthetically, I find that a surprising (disturbing?) number of young marketers don’t know how to put together a formal marketing plan. On the same page you’ll find a generic outline. On the direct marketing page you’ll find a (free) chapter on planning direct marketing programs. It too massively predates the Internet, but the process hasn’t changed, and if you want an extended example, please take a look.

View a full-sized copy here.

The concept of a hierarchy has made sense to colleagues who are experts in strategic planning. They are working at the top two levels and haven’t thought much about what goes on when you get to the “annual” level. Program planning has rarely been addressed in a comprehensive manner. There are sites and books on marketing planning and some of them are good. Others are just trying to sell their software, so beware. I believe in the kind of outline shown on my site for overall guidance. I don’t really believe in templates. A template tends to give you a cookie-cutter result. Just follow a basic outline and do the hard work of thinking strategically, whether you are at the annual or the program level(s).

While the concept of the hierarchy seems to make sense, it’s not unreasonable to look at this graphic and shout “planning paralysis!!!” I disagree. I’d suggest that the strategic marketing plan (a multiyear document) and the annual marketing plan need to be written documents. The strategic marketing plan is a written document that needs to be reviewed/updated annually because it provides guidance across a broad group of people and activities. The annual marketing plan needs to be put in writing because it is generally going to be your budget request.

Below that, get creative. Renay Picard, who gave a great guest lecture in my social media class last night, crystallized my thinking on that subject. We agreed that each social media channel in the mix (bottom level of the hierarchy) needs its own plan. She uses a spreadsheet; I use a table. Whichever way you choose to do it, some sort of timeline with responsibilities assigned gets the program across to the multiple parties involved.

Go back up to the program level. A program plan doesn’t have to be a massive document--probably shouldn’t be, given how little your colleagues would prefer to read. I often use a creative brief. There are examples on the web. This one gets most of the elements well, but I’d have to add a section for a media plan. That’s the point. Take a good basic approach, think about what you need to do, and develop a way to communicate objectives and tasks (that should remind you of advertising planning/budgeting) to the people who are going to be working with you.

Don’t forget to update it as you go along. Things will change, evolve, new opportunities will emerge. That’s the beauty of the social media space!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

What are Older Women Doing on Facebook?

The initial headline in February about the increasing activity of older women on Facebook caught my attention. At first glance, it surprised me, as it apparently did many of the other “social media experts.” In fact, looking at some of the blog entries in February, some commenters actually seemed to doubt the accuracy of the data.

Monday there was new data from Hitwise via Marketing Charts that confirmed the trend, which is at least continuing if not accelerating. Younger users are visiting Facebook less frequently; older are visiting it more. The growth is in the 35 and over age groups, with the 55 and over growing fastest. The press release also points out that while the traffic to MySpace is slowing, it still had the highest average time spent in February—an important metric—with 29 minutes and 38 seconds. That is a slight decline for MySpace over 1 year ago.

Since I’m a member of the older demographic, I feel uniquely qualified to comment on the reasons for the trend on Facebook. I’ve been looking around since the February data came out, and I have a couple of solid hypothesis.

First, I should say that I’m not typical. I’m on the social networks because it’s what I do for a living. You learn by participating in this environment. Period. While my reason for being there is not typical, the results are. I’m in touch with former students all over the world; I’d have lost track of them without the social nets. I’m also in touch with younger friends and family members with whom I would rarely communicate in any other channel, including email. Point is, my reasons for being there aren’t typical, but the results I get from being there are.

I should also say that I believe the trend continues to be powered by women, although older men are clearly venturing onto social networks also.

So here are my two hypothesis:

1. Some women join Facebook and other social networks to keep up with young relatives and friends. I wouldn’t even be surprised if this was an “early adopter” reason.
2. The “early majority” adopters are hearing about sites like Facebook and deciding to try it for themselves. I’d love to know how many actually are invited by existing members; my guess is that a lot just invite themselves in order to try it out. When they do, they find that people they know are there. This must be ok!

In my early days on Facebook, the “People You May Know” were generally my former students, their friends, and my daughter’s friends—mostly 30-somethings. Now that has changed. Often it’s now people in my “older demographic.” And they tend to be women; women have historically been the communicators for their households.

This is another “the world is changing and marketers need to pay attention” moment. I saw a study by a site called Vibrant Nation, which is interesting itself. They coach their “older demographic” on why and how to participate. When I left I found a pop-under inviting me to sign up for their email newsletter. It’s a well-done site and does indeed look vibrant! What I went for was the results of a recent study. While it’s worth downloading, here are the essential findings:

KEY FINDINGS - The Vibrant Nation Woman: Networked and Wired
The study of 1,000 Boomer women with household income greater than $75,000 showed:
• The personal networks of women 50+ are large and growing.
• They are in personal contact with at least 46 people each month.
• 65% share information online with others in their network.
• They are comfortable relying on referrals from strangers online if the source is knowledgeable/experienced. They rely on references on websites like (70%), (54%) and Tripadvisor (27%).

Need I point out that this is a very desirable target audience for many marketers?

Here’s a quote from CNN that pretty much sums it up:

"All of a sudden it seems the world is waking up to what we already know," says Carol Orsborn, a senior strategist for VibrantNation. "Women at midlife and beyond are early adopters [of technology], competitive with their kids, and in many cases, they are beating out their kids."

Don’t stereotype us older chicks! Personally, I’m off to charge up my portable electronics and hit the road!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Another CPC Launches New Product Online

One point of yesterday’s post was corporations doing well by doing good. A recent article in Ad Age (subscription required) highlights another example that takes a more controlled, corporate-focused tack, but still engages in cause marketing.

Johnson’s® adult body care line is not new, but apparently they have reformulated the line with aromatherapy and maybe other elements. So perhaps it’s a relaunch, but it’s definitely starting in social media. After the social media program is established they’ll support it with print and digital advertising (no TV mentioned); that may be more for the baby products contest (more below) than for the adult skin care line. The hub of the program is a MySpace page, chosen for its entertainment and beauty issues value.

Ashanti is the spokesperson for the campaign. She launched the “cause parties" with a party to benefit the Boys and Girls Club of Harlem, with which Ashanti has a personal relationship. The idea of the cause parties is to allow women to host parties in support of a cause of their choice with Johnson’s® providing body care products. Johnson’s® made a $10,000 donation to Ashanti’s chosen cause to get the campaign started, and there was a lot of buzz in the online beauty and music world so that part worked.

In fact, the nature and content of the buzz supports their choice of spokesperson and strategy. Ashanti seems to be a permanent resident of MySpace, and the comments on beauty blog postings I read were all about the party, the dresses, the celebs. I didn’t see a thing about Johnson’s® body products, but I suspect they were pleased with the attention given to the initial party.

They have reached out to bloggers associated with Mom Central to promote the program. A second party is already scheduled. Latoicha Givens, the author of Luxe Tips, will give a party in Atlanta on April 19 to raise money for CARE’s Women Empowerment Initiative. There’s obviously cross-promotion between the beauty blog and the body care product line. Johnson’s®, Ms. Givens’ blog, and CARE will all benefit. A win-win-win!

In fact, the campaign seems to be quite woman-friendly. According to Ad Age the “program looks to let women who may be out of work remain active by volunteering for causes important to them and enable working women to help out charities whose coffers have been depleted by the recession.”

The campaign is not without detractors. One of the commenters on the Ad Age article said, “Great brands like Johnson & Johnson shouldn't be climbing on borrowed-interest bandwagons so obviously insincerely. It makes products women have always trusted to most--J&J Baby Stuff [a separate program on YouTube happening simultaneously]--seem shallow and suspect.” I’d peg that as another “just doesn’t get it,” whether we’re talking about moms entering videos of their babies in a contest or women hosting parties to benefit causes they care about. What’s not to like?

It seems to me that Johnson’s® has it right. According to Rich Hildebrandt, group product director-new ventures for Johnson’s® , ”the goal of both programs is to deepen engagement rather than reach a maximum number of people.” He wouldn’t say how much they are spending, but it has to be less (probably a lot less!) than a traditional television launch. And the body care program has the halo effect of women they have identified as influential bloggers and of the meaningful causes they support.

Their alternative was intrusive, expensive mass media advertising. I like their choice. What do you think?

Monday, April 6, 2009

Boone's Army is on the March!

I’ve written about the Pickens Plan before. Although having $58 million to spend on creating and energizing a community doesn’t hurt, it doesn’t guarantee being smart. I watch on a daily basis, and what I see is consistent effort, good community management, and considerable activity taking place within the community. All is indicative of a well-conceived, well-managed effort. Seems to me Boone Pickens is getting his money’s worth, although I’m sure he would say that the real proof will be getting elements of his plan put into action.

To continue the push, Wednesday through Friday of last week there was a Virtual March on Washington—the first thing just like it that I’ve seen. Once again, it was well organized and flawlessly executed. He explains much of what’s going on in this video. According to the website today 4,558,010 people took part. That sort of participation doesn’t take place by accident!

People who are members of the plan--”Boone’s Army” he calls them—were informed multiple times about the coming event. Members can set preferences for frequency of content, and if I investigated the timing carefully I’m sure I’d find that they were timed so every member with email contact got at least one message. Most of us got several.

Each day, Wednesday through Friday, members of the Army got a message—from Boone himself, of course—urging participation. Each day had a different theme to encourage repeat participation. When you clicked through to the site, you found it well organized to support the march.

What impressed me most was the message page. It had the usual prepared message, but this one was easy to edit, unlike others I’ve used. Most impressive of all was the list of recipients. Along with the usual suspects, it included “Your U.S. Senators” and “Your U.S. House Representative.” The contact info in step 2 is optional, but my guess is that they have congressional district in their database for virtually all members (they’ve worked hard on that also). They could personalize correctly whether the sender choose to include contact information or not (and apparently some of our elected representatives do require it in order to receive email messages). This application was powered by Capitol Advantage. Turns out that’s the publisher of print Congressional directories, and they now have an email personalization product. Cool! Especially since it works!! The acknowledgment message contained the names of my senators and representatives to prove that it did.

Once again, Boone Pickens and the generals of his Army (whoever those generals may be; I still can’t find out) seem to have done it all right. They built up interest, motivated people to participate, and gave the appropriate autonotification. I expect the website to be updated in a day or two with a follow-up on the march, doubtlessly accompanied by another video from Boone.

I keep recommending the Pickens Plan as a best practices site for non-profits. None of the ones I know have $58 million to spend, but the truth is that a lot of that went for television to jump start the Plan in the initial stages. The online portion can be copied by all but the very smallest non-profits; they’ll just have to be satisfied with building participants more slowly.

What can corporate marketers take away from this? Good management of social media programs for one thing. My sense is that Boone Pickens has no interest in seeing any of his money wasted. Beyond that, in a new media age, corporations should think about being a participant themselves. You can see several corporate partners on the site. Owens Corning was one of the early supporters—an obvious tie-in with their energy-saving product lines.

This is the age of the soft sell—not the hard sell or the intrusive ad. Non-profits do good. Corporations can do well by supporting carefully-chosen non-profits.

Three stakeholders win—the non-profits, the corporations, and society as a whole!

Friday, April 3, 2009

Reputation Monitoring or Brand Management?

In another effort to tie some issues together for my social media students, I’ve just prepared a presentation on Reputation Monitoring and Management. I’m not a PR specialist, but it seems to be an important topic to include in a social media course. In the process of putting this presentation together and focusing primarily on Web 2.0, I learned some things and formed some opinions.

When I began, I had a vague idea that the lines between PR and marketing were blurring. That perspective strengthened as I worked through the story line of this presentation. It seems clear that both disciplines use the same tools, especially for monitoring (listening). They both have responsibilities for managing. Does it make sense to say that the responsibilities of marketing lie in the area of brand management and the responsibilities of PR lie in the area of reputation management? It seems so to me.

Another clear theme that emerged is the large—and growing—effort required to monitor the diverse and ever-growing channels of communication. Just one example is that a year ago, not many of us paid much attention to Twitter. It has grown rapidly as a significant channel with business uses and implications. Even I have TweetBeeps set up for myself and for the organization I work with.

In my recent posts on metrics I recommended using behavioral metrics from the platforms themselves in the absence of integrated metrics solutions. I started on reputation management from the same perspective. I quickly realized, however, that the issue is different. As much as we look forward to metrics that integrate social platforms, metrics are by definition aggregations. Monitoring requires assessing individual communications; aggregations are relevant in the same way.

The more I thought about it and the more I looked, the more I began to see a process. The basic idea was confirmed by students who are engaged in monitoring. It’s possible to monitor one or two channels that have relatively low volume in what’s essentially a manual fashion. That could include RSS feeds and filters, but what it implies is a labor-intensive effort to deal with (respond, etc.) to relevant communications and to understand the strategic implications of the stream of communications. As the number of channels and the volume of communications grow, it becomes an impossible task.

The graphic represents a series of steps that make sense for learning and growth in social media channels. The presentation has details on tools available at each step, some examples and an interesting case history of NPR’s transformation to digital PR. The tools are just a representative sample of the many tools available. The issue is a strategic approach to reputation monitoring, not emphasis on the tools themselves.

I liked the metaphor of the ostrich with its head in the sand as the ending. What is being said in the communications ecosystem is being said. We can’t change it. We can, however, listen, deal with issues that arise, and establish relationships with our customers and affinity groups.

Two questions:
1.Can we afford not to do RMM?
2.How can we do it in the most cost- and strategically-effective way?

Your thoughts?