Tuesday, February 9, 2010

How big is your footprint?

I hope you all had a great Superbowl holiday weekend. I know mine was a little bit crazy, what with all the fun being had.  Somehow, in between the Friday night warm-up celebrations, the Saturday, day-before preparations and the pre, during and post game partying on Sunday, I managed to keep an eye on something that a lot of business and marketing experts were watching with keen interest.  I'm talking about the social media impact on the business of the Superbowl this year. 

For those of you who watched the game, but watched the commercials more closely, you probably noticed a distinct lack of Pepsi commercials.  That's because Pepsi chose to use their time and money in an all-out social media camapign instead of blowing a few million on a couple of 30-second spots.

Here is a quick review of Pepsi's efforts from the Miami News Times website.  The article also takes a look at all the other social media aspects surrounding Superbowl 44.  Click on the link to read the entire article.

"The MVP award in social media should go to Pepsi because the beverage giant chose not to spend $2.8 million on a 30-second spot. Instead, the company created the Pepsi Refresh Project, which will donate hundreds of thousands of dollars to individuals, small and large companies, and organizations with great ideas -- all based on crowdsourcing from its website and Facebook. People will probably be talking about Pepsi's "Refresh Everything" long after other ads are forgotten; never mind that Doritos bring football fans back from the dead, Google wants you to find the love of your life using its search engine, and Tim Tebow doesn't want you to have an abortion."

The Footprint:

Granted, this is really the first year something like this has been tried.  And it's way too early to determine the success, or failure, or Pepsi's plan.  But that's not really the point of this entry.

While the Pepsi campaign is innovative, even controversial even, it speaks to something that small businesses and non-profits handling their own social media have to concern themselves with; their social media footprint.

In today's post-Gore, energy-efficient, green world we live in, we're all familiar with our own energy footprint.  It involves some high math triginometry and physics, combined with a voodoo ritual and a pot of boiled hair of newt to figure out what our energy footprint is, I believe.  On the plus side, figuring out your social media footprint is pretty simple to understand.  Another happy note is that, while a large energy footprint is bad, a large social media footprint is good.  Really good.

In short, your social media footprint is a direct reflection of two things; the number of platforms your campaign is using, and the number of people responding to your efforts over a given period of time.  The first part is really easy to understand.  The second one takes a little more imagination, but it's still not as hard to determine than how many carbon units you use on a daily basis.

The Platforms:

When you're putting together your social media campaign, you have to look at the various platforms available to your organization.  This isn't new.  We've talked about this before in previous entries.  Social media doesn't live in a vacuum.  Its very purpose for being is to enhance interaction.  If you're only using one platform, say, Facebook, you are seriously limiting your interaction possibilities.  But if you start to connect Facebook, to YouTube, Digg, LinkedIn, FindIt, Meetup, etc., now you're reach, your footprint, if you will, is significantly increased. 

Think of it like starting a fire.  Not a forest fire, or a housefire, that would be arson, and illegal.  If you live in or near any kind of agricultural communities, you know that every year farmers and ranchers and land management departments start controlled fires to burn off excess weeds and grasses.  They often need to burn off hundreds or thousands of acres at a time. 

When they do this, do they take a torch to the middle of the field and walk away?  I suppose they could, and maybe, if they're lucky, the fire will grow, if its fueled by wind and fuel.  But there's also a good chance the single fire will die out, smothered by the vast undergrowth, unaided by friendly breezes.  Plus, a single, unmonitored fire can just as quickly grow out of control and cause major damage.  Neither scenario is positive. 

Instead, they start several small fires, knowing which way the wind is blowing, accounting for the thickness of the undergrowth in certain areas and make a plan to have these several small fires eventually combine to grow into one, large, controlled fire.  Your social media campaign is like that controlled fire.  Your research tells you where the heavy undergrowth is that might need some extra effort.  It also tells you which way the winds are blowing so that you can effectively plan your various platform campaigns to eventually connect, creating one, overall large campaign.

Take a look at the Pepsi campaign.  They are everywhere.  Facebook, websites, blogs, podcasts, videos, etc.  It's also interactive, not only alowing, but requesting feedback and input from, well, everyone, actually.  The Pepsi campaign is being carried out on a number of different fronts, or platforms, but their overall goal and message is essentially the same on each one.  The various platforms may sound that message out to different groups in different ways, but ultimately, all of the divergent individuals that find the campaign on the different sites, end up being funnelled to a singular location.  Pepsi's footprint is huge, and yes, some of that can be attributed to a costly and focused television ad campaign, but their social media efforts alone are vast.

Pepsi also uses that footprint wisely in a combined way.  They funnel all these different people to a singular location for a singular purpose.  One of the biggest mistakes I see small businesses and non-profits make is that they get scattered.  Too often they try to carry out multiple tasks with multiple messages over multiple platforms.  This gets confusing to potential customers and shareholders.  And this diminishes your overall footprint.  You can have 12 different platforms in use, but if they don't all work together towards a singular goal, with a singular message, then you really have 12 small footprints instead of one big one. 

Reach and Time:

This is where the second part of your footprint analysis comes into play.  Exactly WHO are you reaching with your efforts and over what kind of time frame are you reaching them? 

Taking a look at the Pepsi campaign again, there is a specific time limit involved with their efforts.  This is tried and true marketing 101.  Create a sense of urgency, something a time limit does.  Not every social media campaign you start has to have a time limit.  Sometimes, you'll just want to be out there, interacting, listening, learning from your potential customers and other shareholders.  But what we're talking about here is a specific, full blown campaign.  The kind that creates buzz and gets people's attention. 

to do this, your footprint has to be large, hence the various platforms and singular message and funnelling to a specific location.  The first part of this equation is reaching a large number of people.  If you're using various platforms, most likely, you'll meet this goal fairly quickly.  The second part is getting these people to understand your message and goal, and getting them to respond.  If you're just out on a lot of platforms, people are seeing you, but not reacting or responding, then your footprint is still not as big as you want it to be.

Here are some ways to increase the size of your social media footprint in a cost-effective way and without spending hours upon hours managing your campaign:

1.  Use various platforms

2.  Open dialogue with potential customers and shareholders

3.  Listen, and actively participate in conversations on your various platforms

4.  Have a singular mission or goal with a singular message

5.  Funnel the people you're reaching to a singular location 

6.  Create a sense of urgency - The time limit method works well for doing this.

7.  Support your campaign with low-cost advertising - Pepsi is using a high cost alternative with television, but you can be just as effective with google ads, online ads and even radio or print ads, which are both proven ways to advertise without spending a lot of money.

8.  Give the people you're reaching out to a reason to participate - Pepsi is asking for respondents to share their ideas, with the hope that some of those ideas will result in financial gain for those involved as well as helping planet Earth.  Your campaign doesn't have to be nearly as grand, but giving an incentive to respond is helpful and in some cases, necessary.

9.  Do some research to make sure your campaign is hitting the areas or reaching the hard to get shareholders.  In others words, set more fires where the undergrowth is thickest.  You're goal should be to bring in new customers or donors.  Simply talking to those already familiar with your organization won't do that.  You have to reach out to those who your other efforts might have already missed.

10.  Make it about the goal, not the product.  In other words, your campaign should be about something, not just about getting people to buy your product or use your service.  The idea here is to get people exposed to you.  They need to become familiar with your organization.  By simply getting them involved with something your organization is involved with, they'll become familiar with you and what you can offer them.  When they DO respond to your social media efforts, they'll take time to look around your website, talk to others about what you do and learn what they can about your organization.  This kind of effort does pay off.  But if you try to sell them something the first time they are funneled to your site through a social media campaign, you're going to lose them for good, making your efforts a waste of time.

If you do these ten things, your footprint will grow.  It will become less like a bunch of little efforts and footprints and congeals into a single, giant footprint.  This is the goal and it's reachable.  And remember, a giant social media footprint is a good thing.  Now if you can just do this without increasing your energy footprint, everyone will be happy.

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