Future Implications

ImageAs time progresses, new innovations are constantly being introduced.  Just look at where Sony has brought the PlayStation from its introduction less than 20 years ago.  Recently unveiled is the new PS4, already being heralded as the “next big thing.”  Thankfully, I’m not that into gaming – otherwise I’d have to get myself ready financially to shell out for the new iteration that will probably come out in a year and a half.

The same can be said, in my opinion, of social media.  To think that the now ubiquitous Facebook started less than 10 years ago, and newcomers on the social media scene Pinterest, Instagram and Google+ are quickly gaining momentum, popularity and more importantly users, shows how dynamic the social media landscape truly is.

In my opinion, these changes are a result of both technological innovations, as well as overall human behavior.  Changes in technology, such as the introduction of the micro-blogging site Twitter, have enabled users to post life and news updates, albeit a brief 140 characters, Imageshare photos and connect with friends, family and coworkers.   Other technological advances such as the smart phone, have placed these social networks in the hands of society and have given the world at large 24/7 access to anything and everything they could possibly imagine.  Having such an immediate connection to content has led to an overall change in the human psyche here in America, especially among our nation’s youth.  The need for immediate satisfaction and human connection in a virtual capacity has changed the way marketers and brands need to approach their current and future social media strategies.

Knowing that with the changes in the social media realm comes more of a dialogue between the brands and customers should help guide the overall social media strategy.  It will not be enough to just post content and allow consumers to either make their own assumptions or just consume the information.  Unlike more traditional advertising, such as radio, which is more of a one directional information flow, social media and the changes that it has already brought require brand managers to constantly be aware of the conversation taking place online regarding its social media content.  In some instances, it will be necessary for the company to jump in and participate in the conversation as well, whether it is to answer questions or provide damage control.  Just this past week, Papa John’s Twitter handle faced an issue that serves as a perfect example of how the immediacy of social networking can be beneficial in spreading content quickly, but horrible if that content is being shared for all of the wrong reasons. 

Image

In an attempt to be culturally relative, Papa John’s asked NHL fans who they thought would win the Stanley Cup – the Bruins or the Penguins.  This seems all well and good, but unfortunately the Penguins lost to the Bruins the round before and were no longer in the playoffs.  This post remained on the company’s Twitter with no response for close to 5 hours until a new post corrected the mistake.  Unfortunately, that was after the gaffe was picked up by major news outlets and sporting websites across the country.

The implications of the ever-changing social media landscape are numerous, but our Papa John’s example shows how important social media monitoring can be in such a 24/7 information age.  Had managers been on top of their social media efforts, they may have noticed the hundreds of retweets and comments directed back from this post and seen why many in the country were cracking jokes at their expense.  It is important for social media managers to constantly review their social media strategy to make sure they their approach will allow for immediate dialogue with consumers, plans in place for crisis communications, and make sure that the strategy being executed is delivering the results they are looking for.

Viral Marketing Initiatives

 

Image

What makes a marketing program go viral, and what exactly is a viral campaign?  According to Wilson, “viral marketing describes any strategy that encourages individuals to pass on a marketing message to others, creating the potential for exponential growth in the message’s exposure and influence.”  Aside from the obvious, that a campaign or one-off needs to exist online, there are a number of characteristics and best practices that can help assure a successful marketing effort.  In this blog post, I’ll address my opinion on my top five characteristics, including examples of each that you just might recognize.

Relevant

During the 2013 Superbowl power outage, Oreo jumped upon the mass-hysteria (okay, maybe that was just the Superbowl party I was at) and posted a now well-known image with the tagline “you can still dunk in the dark.” ImageA perfect example of being relevant at the time where a majority of the United State population was watching this particular sporting event and technical issues, Wired magazine writer Angela Watercutter commented that the reason for this ad’s viral success was its “combination of speed and cultural relevance” that “propelled it to the forefront.”  By some estimations, there were over 15,000 retweets and just as many likes on the Oreo Facebook page – which leads me into the next characteristic of a successful viral marketing campaign, the ease of shareability.

Easily Shared

To help achieve viral success, where the message is passed from person to person on various social networks, the content that marketers put into the public needs to be easily shared.  Put another way, according to Wilson, viral marketing “provides for effortless transfer to others.”  Social networks such as Facebook and Twitter are perfect platforms for such social sharing, as content can be shared amongst users’ circles through retweets and sharing in a users’ own status or onto their pages.  By placing viral content on mediums that allow for the message to quickly spread (BTW, be sure to comment and link back to my blog so that my content can go viral!), marketers can be sure that they are taking the right steps to ensure success.

Memorable Content

A sign of a successful marketing campaign is that both during the height of the campaign’s popularity, as well as many months, and even years, after, the content is still easily remembered.  By “making your message memorable,” content will stay within top of mind amongst a specific audience.  The more that people recognize and remember your message, the more likely that the prior characteristic, being easily shared, will actually take place – consumers will be more likely to share your content if it is something that stands out and is memorable, rather than just. another. ad.

Target Audience

As with any marketing campaign, a viral marketing initiative will only go forth and multiply online if it reaches its intended audience.  Brands spend millions of dollars each year on market research and analysis to determine the company’s target market for their products, so making sure that the content is geared to those who would appreciate it, share it and find it memorable is essential.  As a LOSTIE, or for the uninitiated, a fan of the TV show LOST, the show’s creative team took content that rabid fans devoured each week and placed content online to keep viewers satisfied during the show’s hiatuses.  A program with secrets and mysteries, the viral campaign “The Lost Experience” allowed users to uncover clues and hidden videos and websites tied to the show to help them understand and hypothesis about the path the show was taking.

Content that was uncovered through “The Lost Experience” appeared in future seasons, somewhat foreshadowing details of the show that would later be unveiled.  This online content was quickly shared amongst LOST fan pages, social networking sites, and kept the conversation about the show going over the summer when no new episodes were airing.  A blog written about this Alternative Reality Game, or ARG, highlights this as a prime example of a viral success, as it “targeted influentials” who were apt to share the content that was discovered.   Said another way, viral campaigns should “tell your story to an interested market.”

Similar Themes

Within “The Lost Experience,” the concept of similar themes ran rampant.  Storylines, websites, phone numbers and content appeared both online as well as in more traditional advertising mediums, such as TV commercials and billboards.  A book, Bad Twin, even made its way into the market, tying in aspects of the show with “The Lost Experience.”  By providing content that all ties back together, despite seemingly unrelated materials, the fifth requirement for successful viral marketing was evident in “The Lost Experience.”  By having content blend together across multiple postings, the aforementioned characteristics can more easily happen and result in a successful viral campaign.

Differentiation – Today’s Automotive Industry

Men, suits and old money looking on as the Detroit economy suffers and crumbles around them.

Does this sound like the executives in charge of the automotive industry?  For some, I’m sure it does.  Social media, however, is changing how the automotive industry presents itself and how it is viewed by the U.S. consumer.

Take Kia and Hyundai – two Asian motor vehicle brands with headquarters and manufacturing facilities located domestically in the States.  To put it another way, we have two foreign companies with strong American ties.  Upon first glance at their corporate websites, there are no dedicated links or subpages highlighting the firms’ various social media platforms.  However, what both companies have are small hyperlinked logos for their Facebook, Twitter and YouTube accounts.  Unless a social-media savvy consumer knew what to look for, these small areas of real estate on the brands website can be easily overlooked.

While both companies have the ultimate end goal of increasing car sales, securing repeat business from a loyal customer base, and maintaining top of mind awareness, each take a varied approach with regards to what one would find on their networks.

Kia Facebook fans, who number just under 32,000, will find the opportunity to use specialized hashtags to earn points and redeem them for prizes.  Hyundai Facebook friends (all 649,000 of them) can upload their college football fan images to win the opportunity to star in a college football advertising campaign.  While both approaches are on opposite ends of the spectrum in terms of content development and usage, both utilize social campaigns to foster a strong sense of loyalty and rabid fandom for the brand.   By having potential customers show their involvement on social media accounts, a lateral sharing of the brands name can be started among social groups.

Twitter, on the other hand, is utilized in a completely different way for each of these firms.  Kia’s corporate tweets are primarily used to highlight their partnerships with the NBA, as well as reuse already-created content from other marketing initiatives such as videos and advertisements.  Hyundai’s Twitter feed is filled with press releases and more business-related stories.

Just from an outside perspective, it’s somewhat obvious to see that both brands Facebook accounts target a similar demographic, while their Twitter accounts push content to individuals with vastly different concerns and areas of interest.  In both cases, the social media strategy helps to achieve their desired strategic goals.  Now – what’s so social about their YouTube pages?

Kia has created extremely creative ads that get people talking:

Hyundai got people talking too, but in a different way with a socially integrated advertising campaign, “Hyundai Uncensored.”

“Hyundai ‘Uncensored’ was born out of the insight that consumers are most influenced by other consumers, so we captured totally organic conversations from people inside our cars and packaged them into an integrated campaign.”  These videos can be seen on the brand’s YouTube account.

In terms of incorporating social media into their advertising, to me, Hyundai takes the cake.  Featuring real people in their YouTube videos and broadcast advertising campaigns helps to deliver that social element, and the genuine responses and reactions of drivers, can help people picture them in the same position.  It got me – #2011HyundaiElantraOwner.

The Evolution of Online Communities

Remember Geocities?  The what now seems so long ago precursor to today’s blogs, Facebook, Twitter, Google+ was ahead of its time, it seems, by close to a decade.

According to an article in The American Prospect, GeoCities began as a simple start-up in the mid 1990s, and by 1998, it was the third most visited website.  The site allowed for users to create communities around various common interests – whether cooking, sports, or bad 1990s TV shows.   In fact, I just found out that my favorite, the Green Ranger, is now an MMA fighter.  Somehow, I’m not surprised.  Social media communities have grown from these neon-colored websites to the numerous SM platforms that are prevalent today.  Through the power of social media, users can find like-minded friends, family or colleagues – even complete strangers – and unite through a common thread.

This blog unites those in Southern New Hampshire University’s MKT555 course, trivia fanatics, social media junkies and those involved in higher ed, more specifically admission.  Through the back and forth discussion that can occur through social media, communities can develop quickly, and strengthen with the buy-in of those in the virtual community.  That discussion, however, does not need to be by text or writing.  Images can be shared through Pinterest.  Video clips can be shared through YouTube.  For those in the higher ed community, let’s take a look at how these viral communities which were born in GeoCities have evolved into some of the communities being unveiled on Facebook.

It was a few weeks before graduating high school. Boston College was one of the first colleges which had access to Facebook.  Correction.  The Facebook.  While I had a MySpace at the time, Facebook seemed so much cooler – after all, it was ONLY college students on the website.  Thanks to SM, I was able to meet some people I’d be living with later that year.  In fact,  we started a Cheverus Hall group on Facebook that close to a hundred students joined before Freshman move-in.  Thanks to the power of social media, the residents became a community before they stepped foot on campus.  There was no need to have the ice breaking activities, since I knew the guys on my hall, some of the girls who lived upstairs, and my RA, a few days after getting my housing assignment.

Facebook has seen the growth in communities, and has done something to help – just this year Facbeook has unveiled “Groups for Schools,” which, like Facebook’s origins, requires one to have a .edu email address to join.  The website .eduGuru recently conducted an analysis of Facebook and higher ed.  As you can see, universities and colleges that utilize groups or pages for specific classes (i.e. Class of 2016) help to foster the creation of viral communities.  Incoming college students are able to make that initial connection by introducing themselves to others – move than 1/3 of them choose to discuss their major, a factor that harkens back to the days of GeoCities and sites for individuals with common interests.  Thanks to SM, and now with Groups for Schools, incoming college students will be able to take part in the evolving SM landscape in higher ed.

Thanks to social media’s immediacy of contact, its ease of use, its ability to link people of different backgrounds, demographics and who are separated by distance, viral communities online will continue to thrive and grow.  Just take a look at where we’ve come in just 15 years.  GeoCities is gone, and you’re reading this blog on WordPress.  Imagine if you were trying to read this with flashing lights and neon green text pulsing in your face.  I’d say we’ve moved in the right direction.

Stump! Goes Social

“We’re Beating You.”

That sounds like a GREAT name for a trivia team.  Of course, you have the usual team names loaded with innuendos, which always get a laugh, and then you have the teams who set out to make your life miserable.  “Irish Wristwatch.”  Try saying that over a microphone and across a noisy bar without stumbling over the words.   Ahh…the life of a trivia jockey.

I started playing Stump! Trivia back in 2009 at the Lazy Dog Sports Bar in my hometown of Lynn with a bunch of my friends.  Having competed on the Academic Bowl teams in middle and high school, and being a lover of trivia, being able to compete for prizes every week had me hooked.  Then it clicked – why play every week and have the chance of not winning, when I could play, AND get paid to do it?!  I’ve been a trivia jockey for Stump! for almost a year, and I haven’t looked back.

Stump! Trivia, a small business that started as the brainchild of Bob Carney and run out of his home, has grown from a single bar in Brighton, MA, to hundreds in over a dozen states.  In the beginning, it grew from a website and word of mouth, and with the growth of social media, there are new challenges and risks with bringing the brand into the social media realm.   The least of which was creating a SM plan from nothing.

One of the bigger obstacles that the company faced was how to expand its dual target market – bars AND bar patrons.   Stump! Trivia has a Facebook page and Twitter account, but the challenge in targeting the appropriate market while balancing out the possible risk of focusing too much on one aspect of its business is something that the company needs to be aware of.

Through its social media accounts, the company can promote its business to prospective bars who do not yet use Stump! for their trivia nights, as well as to potential trivia teams, informing them that there will be a game later that day.  If you were to look at the social media platforms that Stump! is on, you’ll see a wide variety of content.  From pictures of bars during games, to photos of the winning teams, to the daily question of the day, SM helps to drive interest, interaction and engagement with the brand both online as well as in person at the hosting establishments.  There are benefits to following the brand on SM as well for players – the question of the day is a question that will be asked later that night during that day’s event.  If you’re a fan or follower of Stump! Trivia, then you already have a leg up on the competition.

Another risk that taking Stump! Trivia social is built into the nature of the business.  There are over one hundred and fifty trivia jockeys nationwide who host trivia for the company, and each is expected to play a part in their SM efforts.  Getting buy-in from the part-time employees, who may only work a few hours a week, can be difficult, especially when there may not be any direct physical contact between hosts and Stump! Trivia’s full time employees.  While they’re based here in Boston, there are hosts in California and in Alaska, who may only see other people from Stump! once or twice a year.  The risk in not having direct oversight of individual trivia jockey’s SM efforts can be a gamble for the company.  It can be impossible to force jockeys to post on Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, blog, or take part in other platforms, but the company is taking steps to make sure this won’t be a problem – from including jockey’s SM accounts on the Stump! website to including the need to be proficient in and enjoy SM in job postings for new gigs across the country.

This is just the first blog entry geared towards life as a jockey.  You see something different every week, and it’s always a fun time.  Be sure to join me Tuesday’s from 9-11pm at Tavern in the Square in Salem, MA, and from 8-10pm at the Great American Tavern in North Reading, MA.

“Once again, my name is Brendan and I am your Stump! Trivia jockey – thank you all for playing and congrats to tonight’s winning teams!  If you’re drinking, please don’t drive – have a designated driver.  And as always, be sure to tip your servers and bartenders well since they do a lot for you.  Have a great weekend, and we’ll see you back here next week for more Stump! Trivia…”

Staying Linked In – Right From Your Smartphone

Despite being headquartered in the US, LinkedIn has offices around the globe, including Amsterdam, Hong Kong, London, Mumbai, Perth, Singapore and Tokyo.  Starting off as a traditional website, LinkedIn has grown, much like other social media platforms, into a network users can access from their computers or from their smart phones.

This new trend, which has spread from the US to other international markets, in the growth in mobile technology is something that LinkedIn has embraced with open arms. LinkedIn has a smart phone app that is offered on many smartphone platforms.  According to the LinkedIn website, “as of December 31, 2011, mobile page views account for more than 15 percent of total unique member visits to LinkedIn.”  In fact, mobile page views increased 400% year to year in 2011.

The mobile social media LinkedIn application helps drive products to businesses, but not how you might think – stay with me for a second!  For HR professionals, or hiring managers in organizations, the product they are searching for or using SM for is a potential employee.  While they aren’t going out and purchasing a good or service in the normal sense, employers are able to search out the best product for their need – the perfect candidate.

While one group of LinkedIn users are hiring managers and employees, other heavy users of the SM platform, and their mobile app, are business owners or sales professionals.  In fact, LinkedIn has a great video, which shows how these individuals can use the network to help with generating new leads:

In addition to building up a network for an individual, LinkedIn allows for companies to create pages for their own brand.  Users can access these pages from the mobile application, as well as from LinkedIn’s main website.

Millions of people have download the mobile application for their iPhone, Android, Blackberry or iPad.  Aside from the number of downloads of the application across all the different platforms, which is hard to track down, LinkedIn can gauge its success from the number of page views which take place from a mobile device (that 15% I mentioned earlier), as well as the new innovations and updates to the mobile applications.

On the iPhone, the LinkedIn application allows for users to congratulate others on new positions or promotions, and on the iPad app, users can sync their Outlook calendar with LinkedIn – allowing the LinkedIn information of those they are meeting with to show up in their calendars.  In addition to these new aspects to the LinkedIn mobile app, according to Tony Bradley, the LinkedIn app makes maneuvering the network easier, and still allows users to access all the aspects of the platform that they need to.

I’m sure we’re only a few updates away from a Skype/LinkedIn partnership that will allow for interviews – maybe right from your smartphone.

The State of Social Media – Higher Ed

College admission offices as a whole have been, in my opinion, quick to pick up on growing trends.  As the saying goes, “follow the customers.”  If you’re a car dealership and you know your customers are going online to research vehicles, and less are coming across your ads in the newspaper, it’s not a huge jump to realize you need to spend more advertising dollars online rather than in print.  I used to work in advertising for a radio station – I saw it on a daily basis.

With college admission, more and more students are researching schools, interacting with admission counselors, and processing through the admission process digitally.  Dwindling are the days of the 1000 page Peterson’s College Guide, as everything you can get from the book is immediately available online.  Paper applications are still being used, but students are now able, and encouraged, to complete their applications online.

Virtually every college and university has a presence on Social Media.  It seems that institutions are listening intensely to Noel-Levitz, a leading higher education consulting firm.  They found that 74% of prospective students believe that colleges and universities should have some type of presence on a Social Media platform.  Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, while the most common networks for students, are not the only outlets for institutions of higher education.  As I mentioned before – follow your customers.  According to a Noel-Levitz study, 27% of students who have a Facebook have visited a college or university’s Facebook page, and 80% of students have a Facebook.  A smaller population, although growing, is found on Twitter – 9% of students have a Twitter handle, and 19% of those students follow the tweets of the colleges on their radar.  With such a large population already on Social Media, and the trends pushing students to the web, schools are jumping on the Social Media bandwagon to help recruit students.

Here’s a few schools that I think have done a great job with embracing SM:

Southern New Hampshire University

Over the last few weeks, students at SNHU have seen “EVOLUTION” posters on community boards and on sidewalks.  In mid April, a united on-campus Facebook presence was unveiled, which allows students to go to one page, to get information from all sides of the main campus – from admission to athletics to student life.  Having one account that helps to consolidate the dozens of pages that existed previously only helps to serve both current and prospective students.

Loyola College in Maryland

Loyola does a great job connecting with alumni, current students and prospective students on their Facebook account.  They encourage their fans to use their Loyola cover photos on their Timelines, and incorporate photos (including Instagram photos), Twitter screen shots, videos and polls to get their fans engaged and involved.

North Carolina State University

NC State, a rival ACC school (Go BC!), has developed their own internal page which serves as an aggregator for their own twitter handle as well as tweets which include the school that others have published.  Not only is it an easy way to keep up with the school’s SM account, but for those who may be Twitter novices, they include Twitter resources for those looking to learn more.