In yet another example of how President Obama is pioneering the use of social media in politics, the White House has announced that the President will be answering questions in a live online town hall meeting tomorrow (Thursday, March 26, 2009). You can submit questions here and vote on the ones you would like to hear answered. Like him or not (I like him), you have to admit that he is continuing to use social media as a tool for transparency and participation.
Part of using social media to its fullest extent is not only sharing information, but using it as a tool to listen and respond. To create dialogues, not simply monologue and rants. This is what President Obama does time and again using online tools. Not to bring up an old rivalry, but Arizona Senator John McCain could learn a thing or two from his example. He’s received press and commendation for his use of Twitter, particularly after being mocked for not knowing how to use a computer during the campaign. But, he’s not using Twitter in the best possible way. He’s using it to rant and promote his agenda, but he’s not using it to listen and respond. Twitter is supposed to make users accessible. He ignores replies and doesn’t ever respond. This truly isn’t partisan criticism; I think he would actually benefit from taking my advice. His agenda and overall brand image would be much better served by allowing the type of openness and transparency social media expects and deserves.
The cover article of the current Fast Company highlights Chris Hughes, cofounder of Facebook and architect of Obama’s use of social media on the campaign trail. In so many ways, Barack Obama is President because of what Hughes did for him during the election. It’s so refreshing to see them continuing to utilize social media now that Obama is in office.
People are always asking me what I do at Blabbermouth, and – to be honest – I’m not great at answering that question yet. Blabbermouth is not even a few months old, and I haven’t figured out the best way to tell my story. Yet.
I came to the Ragan Social Media conference in Las Vegas to learn some more tactics to use in getting out the word about my clients. But, thanks to Blend Tec VP of Marketing George Wright, the best thing I learned today has me closer to answering the “What do you do?” question.
Surely, most of you are familiar with Wright’s Will it Blend campaign, which has become one of the most viral marketing efforts in history. With a budget of $50, Wright created a campaign that has seen a 700% increase in sales of the Blend Tec consumer product.
Will it Blend was born like many great marketing ideas, by paying attention to what makes the brand unique. Blend Tec CEO Tom Dickson is diligent about testing his products. Regularly, he would take a 2×2 board to one of his blenders to make sure it was strong enough. Wright really wanted to watch his boss shove a board into a blender, and the light bulb went on over his head. If he wanted to watch that bad, surely others would too. It was an idea that was compelling and reinforced what made their products great.
The idea had been right there all along, with the sawdust all over the floor, but it took Wright’s vision to realize it. George Wright says, if you are looking for your next big marketing idea, ask yourself, “What’s the sawdust on my floor?”
That’s what I do at Blabbermouth. I help my clients figure out what their sawdust is, and then create ways for their consumers to tell others about it.
On another note, Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos, gave a very inspirational opening keynote speech. In Hsieh’s opinion, there is no such thing as social media – it’s simply about creating a great culture and amazing customer service. The rest will follow. If I hadn’t just started Blabbermouth, I’d definitely be trying to get a job at Zappos right now. And, if I got hired, I most certainly wouldn’t accept the $2000 he offers new hires to quit!
While state budget cuts pose a major challenge to Arizona State University President Michael Crow’s vision for the New American University, ASU continues to find ways to innovate and work toward building a stronger community. One way in particular demonstrates a keen understanding of using the power of consumer participation to drive communication efforts and – ultimately – shape the scope and direction of an organization. ASU recently launched its Community Connect Web site to pool the minds and resources of its students, alumni, and community partners.
The site describes itself as “new pathways to information about programs and partnerships and services connected with ASU. And we designed the site to function as a tool for individuals to use to meet their objectives. The result is a link-based site, with very little rhetoric and a lot of choices. We hope this allows users to find what they want efficiently.”
This is a very cool example of how the internet and social media change, not only the ways we receive information, but how we share information, and most importantly collaborate with others we may not otherwise meet. I’m excited to watch the progress of ASU’s Community Connect Web site and see what it leads to for the university and the community.
The second in my growing list of things that bug me on Facebook:
When you are labeling a picture of yourself and your mother, the correct caption is NEVER “Mom and I.” That’s bad grammar that was incorrectly jammed in your brain as a child. Subtract your mother from the equation, and it’s just a picture of you. Would you label it simply “I” if mom weren’t there? Of course not, you’d say “Me.” The picture of you and mom should be “Mom and me.” The exception is, “Mom and I went to the Eiffel Tower.” Again, subtract Mom. “I went to the Eiffel Tower.” See, it’s easy.
Okay. There, I’ve said it. I feel better, and I do have to say… That was a really nice picture of you and your mom at the Eiffel Tower.
Is there a Facebook Pet Peeve you’d like to get off your chest? Vent in the comments below.
Have you wondered what generates authentic, quality, off-line Word of Mouth? Here’s an experience that happened to me that highlights what a company can do to encourage customer evangelism.
After a recent kitchen remodel, I was in the market for a high quality coffeemaker. I became obsessed with the $4000 touch-of-a-button espresso perfection machines, but could never justify that kind of expense on a coffee maker. Nevertheless, I would go into Williams-Sonoma and stare at them longingly on a regular basis.
About 6 months ago, when I made my regular visit to stalk kitchen appliances, I ran into a former client and her friend. When I explained my desperate longing for high quality brew, the two of them turned into a professional coffeemaker sales force. “No. That is not what you want,” my former client declared. “This is what you want…”
My Nespresso Le Cube
They escorted me to a different section of the store and introduced me to the Nespresso Le Cube. Instantly, I was turned off, being a coffee snob. Nespresso uses coffee in pods, which I was convinced was going to be merely sugary, syrupy flavored nonsense. They objected. Nespresso sells only high quality, ground espresso beans vacuum-sealed in pods for freshness and convenience, they declared. They flagged an official salesman, who allowed me to brew my own cup. Moments later, I was drinking a near perfect pull of espresso with a glorious crema on top. My former client and her friend watched me make my purchase (for a few hundred, rather than a few thousand dollars), and even followed up with me the next day to make sure I was still satisfied with my selection.
These two women don’t work for Nespresso; they are loyalists and evangelists (as I have also become). But, what makes them so devoted to selling this product if they don’t receive any incentives or compensation? Is quality alone enough to generate sustained Word of Mouth like this? Quality is definitely a good start, but let’s take a closer look at how Nespresso engages their loyalists to encourage such a following.
Exclusivity. When you purchase a Nespresso machine and espresso pods, you don’t become a “customer,” but a member of a club. The exclusivity is not gimmicky, because they follow through with opportunity and a modicum of prestige. Placing a phone order from Nespresso feels more like making arrangements with a concierge at a 4 star hotel. They also have boutiques in various cities that offer club members VIP perks, including tastings, but they don’t have one in Phoenix so I can’t give any first-hand details.
Customer Collaboration. Yesterday I received an e-mail survey from Nespresso that basically asked what kind of company I wanted them to be and how I would like to be treated as a customer. The company consults their consumers on everything from product design, to which advertisements to air, to which limited edition roasts should become permanent. By giving customers a voice in the product, Nespresso also gives them a vested interest in its success.
Promote Quality. I have yet to see Nespresso offer me a “deal.” They never downgrade their brand image by offering sale prices. They do, however, offer promotions featuring limited edition products. I might buy coffee when I don’t need any simply because I’m given the opportunity for a unique experience (I might pay a little extra too).
Tools to Blab. This is actually an area where Nespresso has a lot more opportunities to take advantage. They do have a decent Facebook fan page with some resources including online video, polls, and promotions. They have user-participation contests and more, but not enough focused on helping consumers evangelize the products. For example, there’s a ton of Twitter chatter about Nespresso, but the company itself has no presence. Their Web site has no feature to “tell-a-friend” that I could find, and, in fact, the site is really clunky and difficult to use; it’s hard to find a page that I would want to share. The desire to share is there, and if Nespresso helps it along a little more, I think we may see world coffee domination.
Nespresso’s Word of Mouth success starts with a great quality product, but they have also built a business model that encourages their members to Blab. What could your company or your clients do to encourage similar experiences like the one I had to purchase my Nespresso Le Cube? What else could Nespresso do to build on the Blab?
Yesterday was the day after the Super Bowl, a national holiday in advertising when agencies nationwide (who have never made and will never make a Super Bowl ad) self-promote their expertise of TV’s most expensive commercials. This year, ad space sold for up to $3 million for a 30 second spot and NBC broke the all-time total ad revenue record with $206 million.
So, “Creative Directors” and “Strategy Gurus” go on morning shows and post blogs to tell us which ads will succeed and why (usually with lame football puns, like “Who scored the big touchdown?” or “Which ad fumbled?”). Of course, no one agrees on anything, and interest dissipates the next day – long before any definitive results and metrics can be acquired.
The folks at Park & Co, however, are taking a different angle this year. They’re looking specifically at how these ads extend their reach through the use of Word of Mouth, in particular social media, and they kindly included me on their panel of judges. It’s practically impossible for an ad agency to resist jumping on the Super Bandwagon, but I’m glad they chose to take a different look at the ads. I hope that they will revisit it later when they can compare the rankings with the results.
You can read all of the results released today on the Park & Co blog, but I wanted to expand on a couple of my comments here and look at why it isn’t the production costs or the big names or tremendous talent that necessarily drive the conversation.
First off, from a Word of Mouth perspective, the most talked about clip of the Super Bowl was only shown to Comcast viewers in the Tucson market, with their “accidental” 30 seconds of porn shown after the Cardinals’ final touchdown. I mention this, not only because it’s REALLY funny, but also because after several social media disasters, Comcast has recently been trying to use online media to improve its image and manage crises. It will be interesting to watch @comcastcares to see how they manage (or don’t manage) “Wiener-gate 2009.”
There are two brands that really caught my eye for their WOM potential. The first is Go Daddy. First, let me say that I’m no fan of the misogyny in their ads and I understand why people take offense (but, I am a fan of their service. Very reliable and amazing customer service). But as far as the ads’ strategy, they accomplish what other brands strive to do, using incredibly low production value: bad script, lame sets, and horrific acting. Go Daddy hints at risqué and then directs viewers to their Web site to see unrated content. Now, we’ve been teased with the possibility of seeing Danica Patrick drop the towel. So what? A lot of ads try to drive viewers to a Web site, right? Well, this time people may actually do it, and – the BIG difference – their Web site is their store. People are virtually walking into their stores to see much less than you’d see while watching football in Tucson.
For a completely different reason, I also thought the Hyundai spot titled Contract was incredibly compelling. The ad appeals directly to the uncertainty many feel in this unstable economy. It says that if you were to finance or lease a Hyundai and “if you lose your income in the next year, you can return it with no impact on your credit.” This is a bold offer for a desperate time. Sales are down; some aren’t buying because they’ve lost their jobs, but others are just being cautious because they don’t know what the future holds. Hyundai is appealing to the latter to come in and make a purchase in spite of the uncertainty by reducing the risk. I don’t know about you, but if I know people who need a new car and are in that situation, I will instantly recall this ad and tell them about Hyundai’s offer. I only wish Hyundai had done something to amplify the Word of Mouth potential, give us some tools to more easily pass on their message. But, the ad itself is very WOM-worthy. (I also think Denny’s pulled off a similar success by – shockingly – offering a free Grand Slam to everyone in America today. Now, they have to make sure their food and service make people want to come back and pay for it next time).
Having said all of that, I still think that creating and airing a Super Bowl ad is a giant waste of money. Even Hyundai and Go Daddy – as effective as I think those ads were – could have pulled off a lot more with a lot less, and pass those savings on to their consumers or sponsor a corporate retreat with AIG. What do you think? Does any ad justify the Super Bowl price tag? And, which do you think will generate the most long-term, effective Word of Mouth this year?
Okay, I can admit it: I enjoy Facebook. I like keeping tabs on people without having to keep in touch with them. I like seeing pictures of people I went to high school with. I even like reading and writing status updates. And, I love playing Scrabble and Word Challenge.
But, there are some things about Facebook that absolutely drive me crazy! I’ll rant about them here, periodically, when I just can’t take it anymore.
So, without further delay, Facebook Pet Peeve # 1:
If you have time to get on Facebook and update your status to let everyone know how busy you are, then you aren’t that busy. You know the status I’m talking about. It’s not “is working hard today” or “has a lot on my plate,” it’s “will never finish these 3 reports and overdue projects.” Of course you’re never going to finish them, you’re always on Facebook telling people how busy you are!
Okay, that’s my first Facebook rant.
Surely, I’m not alone here. What are your Facebook pet peeves?