Wednesday, February 3, 2010

In your face, marketing!

I just love punctuation.  I have a love-love relationship with the comma.  I invite it over for holiday dinners, we get drunk together on St. Patrick's Day and every year I receive lovely flowers from comma on Valentine's Day.  So, you can imagine how pleased I was with myself at the title of this entry. 

It COULD have been, "In your face marketing!" which denotes some kind of guerilla-type campaign featuring flash-mobs and live performances; crazy, in your face kind of stuff.  But instead, the comma makes all the difference.  Instead it's a chest-thumping, fist-pumping exclamation of victory...of some sort.

You see, It seems I've been in a kind of death-struggle with marketers over the real value of social media for small businesses and non-profits.  I keep saying it's a valuable tool that can help raise an organizations' profile and lead to major success.  Marketers say it's a niche strategy, useful only for specific kinds of businesses and only as part of modest efforts.

Certainly, social media, by itself, isn't a guarantee of success.  It has to be used with intelligence and dedication and in partnership with a larger, overall plan.  The best social media campaigns utilize effective public relations, toss in some community outreach and, in some cases a focused advertising blitz. 

But back to the point of the entry; which is my celebration over the marketing "geniuses" in the continuing salvo of the social media skirmish.  Because, in case you haven't noticed, social media is quickly becoming the "GO TO" platform for companies, large and small, when it comes to reaching audiences.

Need examples?  There are literally tons and tons out there.  But for today's purposes, let's take a look at a couple of American institutions that are seemingly being overtaken by social media. 

Superbowl Shuffle:

For those of you not sports-inclined, there's a big game coming up.  It's called the Superbowl.  It's a football game.  It is also considered in many circles a virtual American holiday. 

For years one of the most enjoyable aspects of the "big game" were the advertisements.  Companies shelled out millions and millions of dollars for a mere 30 seconds of time to do something creative, something that would stick out in consumers' minds.  God forbid you were out grabbing wings or another can of Coors.  You might have otherwise missed the funniest, and best, moment of the entire game.  (I'm a Bronco fan, so for many Superbowls, the advertisements were the only thing that made me smile, remember 55-10?  I do). 

Superbowl advertisements even created a kind of cottage industry.  Sites sprang up on the internet judging the ads.  Talk shows, tv shows, all kinds of pundits made a living off of rating, judging and evaluating Superbowl ads. 

Now fast forward to 2010.  Suddenly companies are starting to take a long, hard look at how they spend their money.  Instead of spending millions to reach a select set of viewers for 30-seconds.  They're investing their time and money into social media campaigns designed around the Superbowl.  These campaigns will likely reach a significantly larger audience than the ads that run during the game.

One of the Superbowl's largest advertisers, Budweiser has made the leap into Superbowl social media with their campaign this year.  Here's a quick look.  For the entire article, click on the link.

Budweiser Urges Fans to Vote for Super Bowl Ad Via Facebook

This Super Bowl, it truly does seem that the name of the game when it comes to advertising is social media. For example, Budweiser recently launched a campaign on Facebook asking fans to choose which commercial will air during the big game.

According to AdAge, Budweiser is this year’s biggest advertiser — privy to five minutes of air time. The beer company launched its social media campaign on Friday, and already thousands of people are taking part. The idea, essentially, is to infiltrate every level of Facebook (Facebook). First, you might see the targeted ad for the campaign in your newsstream (see the photo above). If you are so inclined to vote, you must first become a fan of the beer:

The Superbowl even has its own hashtag on Twitter and Flickr. Click on the link for the entire article from "Mashable.com".

Super Bowl XLIV Gets an Official Hashtag: #SB44

This year the NFL wants you to “Tag the Super Bowl #SB44″ so that it can collect and aggregate tweets and Flickr photos from fans around the world.

The NFL is highlighting the user-tagged Super Bowl content on its new Tag the Super Bowl site, which offers a visually stimulating and unfiltered interactive view of tweets and images that football fans are sharing on Twitter (Twitter) and Flickr (Flickr) with the #SB44 hashtag.

But for real, honest to goodness impact of social media on Superbowl advertisers, one need only look as far as Pepsi.  The cola giant has pulled its traditional ad time this year in favor of a social-media only campaign, built around the Superbowl and its cola product.  The following article from MyBankTracker.com, outlines the goals and strategy of the campaign.  Here is a short excerpt, for the entire article, click on the link.

For Pepsi Super Bowl Commercials, Social Media to Replace Traditional Marketing  

This Sunday, when many advertisers are paying millions for 20 second spots to air during the big game, one brand will be conspicuously absent. Pepsi has decided this year to forgo the traditional marketing methods, and instead try their luck with the growing popularity of social media.

The Pepsi Refresh Project:
The campaign, called the Pepsi Refresh Project, revolves around an interactive web community where users can apply for a grant for a project that will make a difference in their communities, as well as vote on others applications. Pepsi has made $20 million available for the projects, money that they normally would have spent on TV spots during the Super Bowl.
Growing Influence of Social Media
It isn’t surprising that companies like Pepsi are starting to utilize social media for their major marketing campaigns. While events like the Super Bowl draw about 42% of US TV homes, over 85% use social media, according to a McCann media study. Domino’s “Pizza Turnaround” campaign show videos of customers who had complaints about their pizza changing their minds after giving it a second try, and their website claims to show all comments, good or bad.
The ability of social media to open up a conversation between the company and the consumer is a very valuable marketing tool, and as the networks become more widespread, there is a larger goldmine of information for marketers to access.
Social media is projected to grow at an annual rate of 34% according to Forrester Research group.

There are a ton of other examples of social media being used to expand coverage, promote events and individuals and highlight services and products during the Superbowl frenzy in Miami this year.  Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Chad "Ocho-cinco" Johnson, has created his own online tv station, OCNN, on Facebook, dedicated specifically to all things football and Superbowl.  He has been working the event like a regular member of the media, asking questions, watching practices,  interacting with fans across the country. 

Fans, players, reporters, the team ballboys, everybody, has been twittering, Facebooking, blogging, using Skype for interviews, podcasting, vlogging, using every sort of social media tool imaginable to report on the comings and goings of the Superbowl. 

So, tell me again, how social media isn't business friendly?

National Signing Day:

Once again, a major sporting activity shows us the power of social media.  Reporters around the country have been getting news from high school seniors in the form of Twitters, Facebook announcements, videos, etc., stating their choice for where they want to go to college. 

Obviously, this is just another example of journalism being changed by social media.  It has changed the way they gather news as well as how they disseminate information.  If you've ever watched the NFL draft, you know that they're getting twitter reports constantly from their men on the draft floor and in the team "war" rooms. 

This is just a sports example, but this kind of operating procedure has extended to nearly all facets of news coverage.  Why couldn't you, as a small business owner or non-profit, do something similar with your events?  Or why not assist the media in their coverage of large community gatherings such as parades, holiday events or things like A Taste of Colorado or People's Fair.

You can twitter what is happening as they are happening.  Maybe the local news stations won't be clamoring to catch your updates, but your loyal clientele probably will be.  And how knows, they might be good enough, with enough useful and interesting content that the news stations WILL take notice.

What this means to you:

Unfortunately, most of us can't afford an advertising blitz, focused or otherwise.  At least not on television.  However, there are some more affordable types of advertising that many small businesses and non-profits don't take advantage of.  Radio advertising, online advertising and billboard advertising are much more cost-effective ways to reach audiences and can help boost a social media campaign immensly.

Take a look at what the major companies are doing with social media.  See how they're building campaigns around it and how they're using the social mdia tools to make a big splash in a big pond.  You can emulate some, even many of the same things they're doing, just on a smaller scale and with a smaller budget.  Pushing for interaction with your customers, or potentials shareholders, providing fun and useful content and relating to your audience are basic, simple methods that makes social media so effective.  These large companies are doing the same thing, only they're pumping millions of dollars into their efforts.

You probably don't have the same recognition as Pepsi, Budweiser or a major university.  But you DO have the same tools they do, and the same opportunity to reach the same audiences.  There's nothing written in stone that says just because they toss more money at their campaigns and have more staff working on it, you can't use social media tools just as effectively and with similar success to make a name for your organization.

It's not the money or the tools, it's how you use them.  Something marketers seem to have forgotten. 

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