Well done Coca-Cola.

March 31, 2009

A tweet by SocialNetworkTV led me to this article in the AJC on Coca-Cola’s Facebook Page. According to the article Coca-Cola’s Facebook page has 3,336,512 fans, second only to President Obama’s at 5,998,526 and Coca-Cola had nothing to do with it.

Nothing.

It was started by Dusty Sorg an LA based actor. He was disappointed by the quality of other fan sites an wanted other fans of Coke to “show some respect for this beautiful product.” It grew so quickly that it raised one of Facebook’s internal flags as a a page that either needed to be shut down or taken over by the brand to prevent spamming.

So far this story isn’t that surprising. Huge multinational conglomerate’s flagship product has huge Facebook presence, saw that coming. It’s surprising that the site was started by a fan, not by the company but nothing so far is “news”.

What really grabbed me was Coca-Cola’s response to the situation. Michael Donnelly, Coca-Cola director of worldwide interactive marketing contacted Sorg about the site knowing that Facebook wanted it shut or control to be shifted to Coca-Cola. Mr Donnelly proposed a solution where Facebook were satisfied that Coca-Cola were involved in the page but the page continued as it had started, as a fan page.

Coca-Cola wanted to make sure the page could continue to exist without the company intruding on fans.

“It’s a fan club,” Donnelly said. “We don’t necessarily think a fan club should be owned by the company but rather more by the fans.”

WHAT! I suspect a few short years ago and another company would have taken those 3.3M fans and leveraged them to death to sell more product. Coca-Cola’s response, let them be what they are, fans. Coca-Cola appears to get a part of the socia media landscape, find and support your fans. I wrote about building a fan base a month or so ago and drew parallels with the bands growing their fan base city by city, gig by gig.

Coca-Cola knows that fans infect people and turn them into fans. It looks like Coca-Cola is happy to take a supporting role in that process.

You can’t get there from here.

I read an interesting post over the weekend entitled “2009 Social Media Optimization: Back to Basics?” on aimclearblog.com. It was a synopsis of the key points presented at Search Engine Strategies New York 09 by the various speakers.

Part of what Dave Snyder talked about grabbed my attention.

“The biggest problem … in social media is that it’s mostly approached from a high level. “Cookie cutter process people” are delving into social media in the wrong way. Don’t keep using the same social media tactics client to client, platform to platform, expecting similar results.”

The use of social media is not a one stop process for reaching customers. Many business procedures from time and motion studies a hundred years ago to Motorola’s Six Sigma methodology in the 80’s have all followed the same principles. If you measure ABC you will gain a result X that will inform you how to improve ABC so you achieve X+. To put it another way there is a defined path from current to improved efficiencies.

Most shifts in marketing have also followed this path. If you increase the eyeballs then a CTR  of A will lead to B new potential customers who will convert at C rate to capture X new customers. Change any one of these and you affect the output of the equation. Simple math.

Social media is a lot more fluid, what works for one producer-consumer relationship does not mean it will work for all producer-consumer relationships. At Knetwit we discovered that there were very few student forums and blogs but lots of Facebook traffic. However most of the commentary about students was blog based. So, to reach students we concentrated on Facebook, to interact with those commentating about students we identified pertinent blogs to commentate on.

One of the frustrations of convincing an organization to adopt a social media presence is the lack of a defined path from A to B. It’s hard to define what that presence wil look like. Part of the fun of using social media is the discovery of where your customers hang out and what they talk about behind your back.

Thankfully there is no huge cost barrier to involvement in social media, just a time and discipline barrier. It takes time to discover the best paths to interact with your customers. It takes time to create the message that resonates with them most and discipline to keep doing it regularly.

I’ve said before, my favorite quote about social media comes from Lord Leverhulme of Unilever fame. In 1922 he said to the graduating class at Liverpool University.

““The conduct of successful business…merely consists in doing things in a very simple way, doing them regularly and never neglecting to do them.”

This is social media, do it simply, do it often and never neglect to do it.

I’ve just finished reading “Enlightened Entrepreneurs” about business ethics in Victorian Britain. It details the lives of 10 pillars of Victorian industry and their effect on the social fabric of their workers’ lives. George Cadbury (of chocolate fame) and Sir Titus Salt both ended up building model villages (Bournville and Saltaire respectively) for their workers and instigated health and education care for them and their families decades before the British government did.

Of all of these “enlightened” business moguls, I have a soft spot for William Hesketh Lever or Lord Leverhulme as he became. His company, Lever Brothers is still a powerhouse in the modern world economy. You’ll know it as Unilever. A soft spot because my grandfather worked for them his entire career and Lord Leverhulme, when asked what his occupation was, always answered “Grocer”.

In 1922 Lord Leverhulme was speaking at the graduation of Liverpool University students on the secrets of success in business.

“The conduct of successful business…merely consists in doing things in a very simple way, doing them regularly and never neglecting to do them.”

Ian Bradley, Enlightened Entrepreneurs, Lion Publishing 2007.

It strikes me that this is as relevent today as it was 80 years ago and that it’s a great description of how to adopt social networking into business.

BTW you already know how to do it.

Yesterday I wrote about why Social Media marketing is still experimental. BL Ochman pointed out that fear of litigation is hampering adoption of social media as a channel for reaching new customers.

All businesses already use social networking.

There’s a grand irony at work here. All businesses are currently using social networking to reach new customers. They are using it without interference from the legal department and giving employees autonomy to interact with potential customers.

This is exactly how a sales department operates. The most succesful sales people are those who are deeply ingrained in the community into which they are selling. In fact one of the most compelling reasons to hire a sales person is because of their network, the relationships they already have in place.

Businesses already understand the power of social networking and have procedures in place to promote and control it. Maybe adoption is just a case of moving the procedures and attitudes already in place for sales to all departments in the organization.

What business wouldn’t want to increase their salesforce?

Great post on adage.com by B.L. Ochman titled “Social Media Playtime is Over.” B.L. explores why social media marketing seems to be stuck in “experimental” mode.

“Three-quarters of those surveyed who knew their budgets said they allowed for $100,000 or less for social media tools over a 12-month period, according to the report, written by Forrester analyst Jeremiah K. Owyang. And they are not integrating social media into their overall marketing strategy. Instead, they are “experimenting” with isolated tactics and hoping that they will take the place of long-term strategy.”

To me this sounded eerily familiar to the rise of another new channel about 15 years ago. Anyone remember “The Internet”? Obviously there are major differences between the paradigm shift of the internet and social media. However they are similar in their magnitude and disruption to established business practices.

The internet decimated the business models of several industries especially media and music. Where it did not fundamentally affect how product was delivered, it did affect how consumers discovered information and interacted with producers.

Talk with your customers not at them.

Social media is broader based shift. It affects how all producers relate to all consumers not just how product is sold. Social media allows you to talk with your customers not at them. B.L. Ochman makes a great point replying to a question of mine which asked why companies were scared to explore new avenues for reaching consumers.

“Philip – companies are afraid of social media for several reasons: lawyers run the show rather than CMOs, and, since they are not permitted to experiment in a meaningful way, they don’t learn the long-term benefits. It’ll change eventually. But of course by then there will be new tools available for them to be afraid of. :>)

BL OCHMAN | NEW YORK, NY”
The fear of litigation and being “off message” is so powerful that it inhibits experimentation and entrepreneurship. I wonder which group is more detrimental to the flow of the free market? The government in a communist state or the lawyers in a capitalist one?
The other reason companies are scared is that social media demands participation in communtity. This means that companies loose control of their message and how they are perceived in the market. Companies are very wary of loosing control and I think the prospect of true, bi-directional conversation between them and their customers may point out some truths they’d prefer to keep hidden.

Hitting the target.

March 12, 2009

Following up with a question posed by @TomMartin re Terry Starbucker post “Hitting the value targets in social media” regarding the movement of a message through social networking.

“If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my 3+ years using Social Media, it’s this:

When it comes to being read and relevant, it’s all about value.

Of course, “value” means something different to every person looking for it.  And some “value targets” are easier to hit than others.

But if there’s a pattern to be found here, it’s this:  before you can hit your bullseye with consistency, you have to throw a lot of darts.

Social networking message target

Social networking message target

@TomMartin asked how do you know when you can move segments.

“I like your progression. Two questions for you. First, have you ever marked a “timeline” for how long of an investment folks have to make from first ring to bullseye?

And second, how do you know when you have permission to move from one ring to the next?”

Firstly I think you lay out all of your message for all segments and let the public find their own way. Working at the pace of the consumer allows freedom for users to adopt your message at will rather than when told. Also, writing the messaging in one project allows for coherency and flow that may get lost trying to pace it for each segment.

If the message is already out there, like train tracks, allowing consumers to discover it at their own pace, the permission question is somewhat moot. However it would be useful to know where on the track most consumers are so a pace of adoption may be measured. By monitoring, blogs, tweets and searches a pattern should emerge which will indicate where the bulk of consumers are on their journey. Knowing where the consumers are guides how you respond to their blogs and tweets allowing you to enhance and elongate the message cycle.

My post “Know your market. Know your customer” on March 5th discussed how social media could be used to extend the reach of marketing or PR campaign. I thought I’d run through a possible scenario to extend the news cycle using social media.

Lets take as a start the Wired magazine article on the Coker Tire unicycle, from henceforth known as the “ouch”.

1. Article published in Wired

2. Coker writes about it in it’s blog, Facebook page and tweets using Twitter. They make sure to include a link to the article in both posts.

3. Coker adds a link to the article and, separately the YouTube video on it’s “news/media/bragging page”.

4. Coker comments on the online version of the article “yeah, it’s a behemoth, that’s why there’s a brake.”

5. Using Perspctv, technorati and other search engines Coker tracks any other blogs or Twitter posts commenting on the article. If any other posts pop up Coker comments on the posts. “Most people don’t get more than 5 ft, that guy did really well”.

6. Having identified the movers and shakers in the “giant unicycle” market Coker sends an email, with link, to each of them.

News cycle elongated.

This presumes that Coker have already identified how the “giant unicycle” market works, who are the main influencers and has taken the time to build relationship with them and the community.

It’s an extra few minutes a day to  track your online presence and prod it accordingly.