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Monday Morning Quarterback

This was the first year in many that I didn’t attend or host a Super Bowl party. It was nice to actually sit and watch the game and more importantly, the commercials. I’m not here to review the ads on content, but I am going to call out the companies and their agencies for missing what I think is a huge opportunity. I feel like if you are going to spend the money on a Super Bowl ad you should take every advantage to get the most out of it especially after the commercial has aired. In this case I’m talking about integrating the ad with a social media campaign.

Two ads, GoDaddy.com and HomeAway.com, did point you to their Web sites to see more videos which was a great idea, but I didn’t see any ads that pointed to Facebook or YouTube or even a Web 2.0 microsite to extend the ad. Homeaway.com does have a way to get to the Facebook and Twitter accounts, but they are almost hidden on the site. Of course these are both Web based companies, so I expect something online from them both. If I missed one, please correct me in comments.

The commercial I probably enjoyed the most was the Kia Sorento ad where the toys were out on the town. It was a clever ad that got a lot of positive feedback. At the end of the commercial the URL of the corporate site came on the screen. If you go to the site, you will see a picture of the Sorento with the characters in it, but that was it. I did a search on YouTube and found Kia’s page, but it just had the ad and 2 teaser ads. Next I went to Facebook where they have a page for the Sorento that has the commercial and a virtual gift there, but nothing else.

So now I’m going to play a little Monday Morning Quarterback and give you a glimpse of what could have been done differently. While shooting all the video needed for the commercial, why not shoot a little extra to create “Behind the Scene” bios of each character. Have a little fun and bring even more personality to these toys we all connect with one way or another. Put these videos up on YouTube and add that URL to the end of the commercial. They could even take it one step further by adding bios and information to the Facebook page and again adding the URL to the commercial. Maybe make it a fun “Wanted” campaign for the toys out on the town and on the loose.

I seriously thought that up in about 20 minutes, so it can’t be rocket science. Why is going the extra step not happening with these large companies? Is it fear of showing personality or is the agency not bringing the ideas to the table. Both concern me. It’s your turn, if you were in charge of a Super Bowl commercial what would you do?

By the way, Kia, if you are listening, I’m for hire ;-)

Foursquare is Not Child’s Play

foursquare_logo_girlI’m willing to admit that it took me awhile to really take a look at foursquare mainly because it was limited to big cities and since I spend most of my time in Frederick I didn’t see much worth in it. When it opened up and didn’t force you into the closest location, I decided to give it a try. I know it annoys a lot of people seeing the Tweets about where you are and if you just became Mayor of that establishment, but after using it for awhile I do see a lot of value for small businesses.

Here is the scoop if you are not familiar with foursquare. As a user of foursquare, you check-in at your current location via your smartphone loaded with the foursquare application. Based on GPS, foursquare will try to pinpoint your current location. Once you check in, you earn points, get suggestions of things to do at that establishment, and find other friends and locations nearby. Did you catch the part about suggestions of things to do? File that away for a minute. You collect points and based on the number of times you have checked in, with those points you earn badges and become Mayor of locations. In the process, you can choose to tell your Twitter and/or Facebook friends where you just checked in.

Sounds like just another annoying waste of time, right? Not so fast. I think there is a definite opportunity for businesses, mainly retail and restaurants, with foursquare and future location-based and mobile social networks. As I mentioned above, there is the ability to create to do items for a location. What this means is as my friends on foursquare visit a place they can put a note of something to try, eat or do while at that location. They can also recommend something nearby your current location. The thinking being, if my friend tried it and recommends it, I will give it a try. This is providing word-of-mouth on the spot and in real time.

I don’t personally announce my location on Twitter with every check-in for privacy reasons, but I like to check in to see if anyone has a recommendation for me to check out. It gives me the option to try something different or explore a new location. I also find it interesting that when my friends or I do tweet a location, it often begins a conversation on Twitter. It promotes companies without them know it or being involved. I’ve learned about places I haven’t visited before, but are now on my to do list. Pretty powerful stuff.

One last feature that should be of interest to small business. Businesses are beginning to offer a special offer through foursquare, whether it be something free with purchase or a discount, to users of foursquare that frequent the business. Offers can be used to reward a foursquare user on a certain number of visits or for being Mayor of that business. By showing your phone to the server or at the register, you can prove your status and receive the offer.

Rewarding loyalty is something that businesses have known for a long time and this is just one more way to reward those that offer repeat business. Also because it is a game too, don’t be surprised when a little friendly competition breaks out to be the Mayor of your establishment. Don’t believe me, read this article or this one for how foursquare is being used by other companies.

So what do you think? Is foursquare just a game or something in which business should pay attention?

Lost in the Clouds

Today was a bad day for social networks, both Twitter and Facebook were victims of denial of service attacks which caused them to not be available or act inconsistent throughout the day. Quite honestly, you get what you pay for with these services since they are free. Unlike when you host your Web site, you have no technical support to call and expect things to be fixed. You are at their mercy. You just have to ride it out and wait for if and when they come back online. It’s frustrating, but I’m going to use this instance to provide you with a cautionary tale.

No, this is not me all of a sudden becoming anti social media, this is a lesson to not turn over complete ownership of your company, brand, and intellectual property to sites that could disappear tomorrow leaving you high and dry. I’ve read posts by other people that think Facebook fan pages could replace Web sites for your business or more recently could serve as your social media newsroom. What happens when these sites go down or worse close up in the middle of the night with no warning? Where does your content go? I’ll tell you: Up into the cloud, never to be seen again.

The area of social media where this concerns me the most is people using free blog services. Yes they are free and easy to set up, no argument there, but what happens if they go away? All your time and effort completely gone. The comments left by people and the community that you create are hard to replicate. If someone can’t find your blog one day, what will they think? Will they look for you elsewhere or give up? This is especially troubling if you don’t have your own domain name associated with your blog. While paying for a hosted blog isn’t a 100% guarantee either, there are back-ups and the hosting company has a lot more to lose when they have paying customers than a free service. Also your domain can be moved to a new hosting company and you can be found again after the move.

Again, this is not to scare you, just a wake-up call to get you thinking if you are making the correct decisions for your business with regards to social media. These tools do not replace your other marketing efforts, it is suppose to expand them and bring you in front of your audience where they already spend their time. You need things like Web sites and hosted blogs to act as your hubs.

OK, I have spoken my peace. What do you think?

Why I Like Tweetups

Image courtesy of Melanie Spring

Image courtesy of Melanie Spring

Earlier this week, I attended a Tweetup and while talking about it on Twitter, I got some emails and direct messages from people asking what it was. I thought I would do this post to give you an overview of why I like them so much. There are more structured Tweetups and others are more informal and unstructured. Mashable does a great job of giving you information on how to host a more structured Tweetup, so I’m going to focus less on the how to and more on the why you should attend a Tweetup.

While the 140 character limit on Twitter can be good for many reasons, it can also be limiting in trying to have a deeper discussion with one or more people. By attending a Tweetup, you get to have deeper conversations with multiple people without losing the thread. These conversations are not always work related, but more personal conversations allow you to connect with people differently online and off. You may see an article about a topic that someone you met is interested in and you can tweet it to them.

Personally, I am not a big fan of networking events. I admit that I get a bit nervous at the thought of walking up and meeting people that I know nothing about. I worry about what to say with regards to small talk or introductions. Tweetups help me because I tend to know a little bit about the people I am meeting before I walk in the door. If there is an attendee list, I try to check out their profiles and Twitter streams ahead of time if I don’t already follow them. To be able to recognize people via their user name and avatar also help me to have an immediate level of comfort. You feel like you are meeting a penpal for the first time and you immediately have something in common to talk about.

Another thing to keep in mind is you do not have to be involved in the design, IT or social media field to attend a Tweetup. The more, the merrier. If you are up for meeting interesting people that like to share information and ideas, then you should attend a Tweetup. The conversations do not always revolve around Twitter and social media. At one local Tweetup we actually all brought our kids and talked a lot about being working parents and swapping funny kid stories. Conversations will vary, but you can’t discount the relationships you will be building at the event that will continue to foster through interactions on Twitter.

From a marketing standpoint, I would encourage any retailer, restaurant owner or someone with an office conducive to hanging out and mingling to host a Tweetup. Bring people to experience your venue and even products and services. There are always many discussion of location before, during and after a Tweetup so many people on Twitter will see the feedback from the attendees. I don’t have to explain the power of positive Word of Mouth, do I?

The connections you make at Tweetups can lead to many things, but it will for sure make your experience on Twitter more fulfilling and fun. What do you like about Tweetups?

Sometimes it is Good to Break the Rules

Yeah, you can read everywhere about what you should and should not do using social media tools, such as Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. While there may be some guidelines and basic etiquette, I think that the great thing about this evolving industry is the opportunity to completely break the rules. Sure, some marketing folks will want to call it “thinking outside the box”, but I prefer “breaking the rules”.  I’m not talking about breaking laws or rules that would adversely affect another person or organization, I’m talking about looking for a new way to utilize the social media tools that are available to you.

Let’s look at some of the great rule breakers throughout business history.

  • People thought Walt Disney was crazy when he bought up swamp land in Central Florida and now Disney World is a favorite vacation destination.
  • People didn’t believe Bill Gates when he said that every home would have a Personal Computer in it and now we can’t imagine life without computers.
  • Marc Andreessen had a vision to bring images to the Internet and created a browser that changed how we see and share information.
  • Blendtec and Gary Vaynerchuk both embraced the power of video on the Internet and increased their revenue in industries that were not known for doing business online.

When you do break a rule and try something different you have to be prepared for the naysayers. These are the people that have taken it upon themselves to define what they think the rules are right now and aren’t comfortable with a challenge to their rules. You have to be confident and sure of yourself. You need to do what is right for you and your audience. Pick the tools you want, use them how you want to use them and be passionate about what you do. That’s not to say your plan may not have the results you were hoping for, but you took a chance and challenged the system. If your idea does work according to your plan and has outstanding results, you will find those naysayers patting you on the back and being your biggest fan.

As I have been working on my planning for 2009 which I encourage everyone to do, I’m trying to figure out how I can break the rules to provide better information and services to you, my clients and those who don’t know who I am right now. I have some ideas that I’m not quite ready to share but plan to in the first quarter of 2009. When planning and brainstorming, do not throw away the ideas because no one else has done it. Embrace it and build upon that idea.

What are you going to do to break the rules in 2009? Let’s make a deal here to try and challenge the rules and support each other in those challenges.

Fireside Chat 2.0

So, when I started writing up notes for this post it was going to be about how Barack Obama used social media so effectively during his campaign and whether or not he would continue using it to reach out to the country now that he has been elected. Just a few hours after I wrote up my initial outline, I saw a this. Yes, it is a Web site and blog to keep the country informed about the transition that is taking place. Needless to say, this changed the direction of this post.

There was another president in our history that decided to reach out to the nation in turmoil in a way very different from those that came before him. Between 1933 and 1944, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt used the radio to address the nation. These 30 Fireside Chats were extremely popular and well received by listeners. They often had larger amount of listeners than the popular radio programs of the times. President Roosevelt discussed several topics during these addresses including the bank crisis, his new deal program, national security and national defense. I don’t know about you, but these seem like pretty pertinent topics for today as well.

Why do I bring up the Fireside chat? I think that now is the time for Fireside chat 2.0. I know, enough with the 2.0, but my point is that Obama’s campaign embraced social media so well during the campaign that it makes sense to keep using it as a means to reach out to the country in these uncertain times. A large portion of his supporters are best engaged online and through social media. Video and podcast updates to keep in touch with the nation in addition to traditional media will stay in the spirit of his campaign, “Change”.

Now, my point here is not to be political. There are many sites out there for that. My point is that there is more than one way to reach your target market and it is in your best interest to determine how to reach them at each part of your sales cycle. You may find that using the same set of tools throughout the sales cycle is most effective, but I would be willing to bet that the message has to change at each step. Also, you may have more than one demographic or psychographic to target within your market, so you need to determine if you can retool your messages to be used across multiple tools whether more traditional or newer social media, such as a presentation you did at a seminar can be repurposed into an online video or podcast.

Now I want you to get up and go look at the marketing materials you already have and start thinking about how you can repurpose them to be used with the social media tools that your target audience use.

Pizza Hut’s Facebook App

Finally an application on Facebook to get excited about. OK, so there are a lot of great apps on Facebook, but let’s face it, if you can be interacting with friends or playing games and order a stuffed crust pizza without leaving the platform, that is pretty cool. Download this app here.

This is a company that knows its target market and where that market spends its time. Pizza Huts in college towns everywhere are rejoicing at the ease at which students can now satisfy their late night munchies.

While there have been some complaints about the functionality of the app and how it does notify your friends when you order, this is a very innovative first attempt to connect to your audience as well as make money using social media. Someone had to be the pioneer and take all the scrutiny, but it seems like Pizza Hut is listening and responding to the feedback.

I see this a catalyst for companies to join the fray of offering real goods in a virtual setting. One feature I like about Facebook, is that it lets me know when one of my friends birthdays is coming up. I think it would be great if instead of sending them a piece of flair, I could send them real flowers, candy, or gift cards all from the convenience of Facebook. As this medium evolves, it will be interesting to see which forward-thinking companies will take advantage and in return win big.