By now, we’re learning and embodying the laws, principles, and goodwill necessary to establish communities and the social and contextual ties that bind us. Our participation and contributions to these networks capture micro moments in time that string together and create a salient macro reality.
Establishing a Syndication Network
Contemporaneously, we must realize that there are those consumers and influencers who prefer the reception of the full firehose of social objects and for that reason, we are obliged to build aggregated activity streams that funnel and publish our breadth of social objects in one data flow.
This doesn’t change our existing or unfolding program for determining how, what, and where we produce media; it simply challenges us to extend presence and reach.
Don’t Cross the Streams
Yes, it sounds very complicated, but it’s not really. My only intention for calling this out is that I have mistakenly not checked my syndication and aggregation feeds and sources to ensure that the potential for overlapping was implausible. So, I learned the hard way and made the necessary changes based on the feedback from customers across multiple communities.
One last note on this topic… I’m sure many of you are pondering how we define which communities and networks can benefit from our content, media and other forms of social objects.
Primarily, The Conversation Prism will serve as your central source for revelation and direction. And, we’ll go through this process in detail shortly. In summary, what it purports is that through listening (searching keywords in the networks it introduces) you can identify the specific communities where your participation is expected, warranted, or advantageous.
At the very least, we can assume that we would benefit from connecting Facebook, Twitter, blogs, Flickr, YouTube, and possibly Tumblr (or their equivalents).
Destination Unknown: Defining the Journey through Your Experience
At the moment however, we’re investing in the promotion of our brand presence across multiple networks in addition to our archaic home base for our corporate brand — better known as our Website. Instead of focusing attention on modernizing, adapting, and socially upgrading our site, we’re deliberately sending people away from it.
I can’t walk into any store or service organization without the bombardment of signs and messages that read, “Follow us on Twitter” or “Join our Facebook Fanpage or Group…”
In a report published on ClickZ in July 20091, Bill McCloskey in partnership with StrongMail, observed the email marketing campaigns of top brands and how they integrated social presences into the fold. The data he analyzed revealed that top brands were reviving email campaigns with the inclusion of links to social profiles, specifically Facebook, Twitter and also MySpace.
So instead of sending customers to a centralized hub, brands are routinely circulating customers, prospects and authorities everywhere but a central hub. In one view, this doesn’t necessarily define a complete experiential path or call to action. On the other hand, it also modernizes the brand and demonstrates that they are attempting to “get it” simply by maintaining and promoting presences within these popular networks.
In the ClickZ article, McCloskey reported that top brands such as Nike, Intel, The Gap, Pepsi, Sony, HP, Home Depot, Lane Bryant, Circuit City, Saks Fifth Avenue, Polo Ralph Lauren, Lands’ End, and J.C. Penney included Social Media within email marketing messages. Since 2007, the number of email campaigns that contained links to Facebook and Twitter dramatically increased, becoming the two most prominent links integrated in all email marketing initiatives in 2009. For example, in 2008 McCloskey tracked 215 campaigns with a Twitter link and 729 programs promoting Facebook. In 2008, the number grew by 1,081% to 2,540 campaigns spotlighting Twitter profiles and 1,635% to 12,650 featuring Facebook. Midway through 2009, the numbers are progressively growing, but still astonishing nonetheless. As of June, the number of campaigns that included a link to the branded Twitter account grew to 41,399 and 41,052 for Facebook. The report was published partially through July 2009 and by the 27th of the month, McCloskey noted 9,063 campaigns including Facebook links and 10,277 email initiatives with links to branded Twitter accounts.
Not only are these numbers off the charts in terms of year over year growth, companies referring email recipients to Twitter profiles surpassed Facebook pages — yet both continued to grow remarkably. More importantly, companies were proactively bridging the gap between traditional and new media, helping people effectively traverse from the inbox to social networks.
In another study released in July 2009, Burson-Marsteller2 also validated that brands were opting for the promotion of Twitter over Facebook and corporate blogs. In fact, the numbers documented in a study of Fortune 100 companies showed that 54% of companies maintained a presence on Twitter (with only 29% on Facebook. 32% of those reviewed published a corporate blog. In aggregate, the numbers painted a picture of opportunity. 21% of those companies studied relied on one channel (Twitter, Facebook, or blogs), 22% were active on two channels, 17% maintained presences across all three, and a surprising 40% of Fortune 100 companies had yet to embrace any of the three. Although, I would argue that many maintained a corporate presence of some sort on LinkedIn that aren’t accounted for in the study.
As an interesting aside, Burson-Marsteller found that of the Fortune 100 companies using Twitter, the top usage scenarios included company news, customer service, marketing promotions and employee recruitment.
In all, these numbers will only continue to landslide, sending legions of unaccustomed, naïve, and potentially inexperienced people essentially alone and without navigation to these foreign networks without strategic escorts or translators. Of course, many e-mail recipients will appreciate the inclusion of these links as they’re already active users and participants in Facebook and/or Twitter. But without a plan that successfully and strategically unites and defines the brand message, value and story, companies are taking an incredible leap of faith.
While yes, part of our job is to propagate social presences and build communities where people are connecting online, it is also our responsibility and mission to cohesively market ourselves, provide exceptional service, establish goodwill, engender loyalty, and empower advocacy, united under one brand. Hence, we need a fixed destination to serve as the brand HQ to also incite and capture activity. We need purpose. We need a hub that’s consistent with the experience consumers expect inside and outside our mission control.
In particular, and definitely in an extreme example, Skittles experimented with the crowdsourcing of its corporate homepage by alternating the landing page between the company’s Facebook fanpage, Twitter search results for the company name, and also Wikipedia. Eventually the site organized the landing page by settling on Facebook as part of its “Friends” page and Twitter search as representative of the “Chatter” page. The site wasn’t completely out of their hands however; Skittles maintained a centralized corporate presence in the upper corner of the site, allowing visitors to connect through to traditional Web pages dedicated to products, media, and other corporate information.
The industry reacted differently to this ambitious move by Skittles. At the very least, it sparked conversations in Facebook, Twitter and the blogosphere. The new official Web presence earned notoriety directly within the venues it was hoping to influence and catalyze and therefore it achieved its goals, at least initially. However, there are so many additional avenues to pursue and also spotlight in order to truly lead, organize, and steer online dialogue. The true risk in this example is whether the company can maintain its desired positioning and messages and the further propagation of them.
Earlier, we highlighted Social Media dashboards for the Chevy Volt and Anheuser Busch. These serve as encapsulated encounters designed to share social objects and promote interaction within an individual’s network of relevance. We also reviewed MyStarbucks and Dell’s Ideastorm, which are destinations architected to foster participation and engender ideas and contributions.
Social Media agency Crayon created LivinginHD.com for Panasonic to help consumers share tips, tricks and answers with those seeking them to improve the consumer HD imaging, video, and TV experience. The site featured ideas, learning centers, and also content, feedback, answers and also videos from imaging, video, and TV professionals. For example, Greg Harper, “The Answerman” would “unconfuse,” educate, and inspire viewers through videos addressing a wide variety of HD-related topics including what to look for when buying an HD product, how to set up the gear, and how to get the most out of each High Definition product.
RIM launched MyBlackBerry.com to connect BlackBerry users to one another, serving as a place for sharing opinions, tips and tricks and to find out what’s new from BlackBerry. RIM’s intention was to also corral feedback, making it easier for BlackBerry users to have a say. For example, what did they really think about a particular application? What tip did they find that they wish to share with the world? Also, the site personalized each member’s experience based on their device, providing only relevant information for them to view, process, and share.
Outdoor Line: http://www.theoutdoorline.com/
The Outdoor Line is a hunting and fishing radio talk show on 710 AM ESPN Seattle. As expected, people can listen to 710 AM live from the website, check out the programming schedules, and listen to podcasts of previous Outdoor Line shows. But beyond the radio show, this site truly engages with its audience of fishing and hunting enthusiasts. Each of the radio personalities has his own blog, Twitter feed, and Facebook page — and each is featured prominently on the main page. The site also encourages fans to upload their own videos from a recent fishing or hunting trip.
TwoOfUs.org is an online resource and community for couples, sponsored by the National Healthy Marriage Resource Center (NHMRC). Not limited to married couples, the site offers specific resources for people in each stage of their relationship — dating, engaged, married, and parents — and broaches topics such as first-date conversations, recession-proofing a relationship, and emotional cheating. The site features content (articles, blogs, Q&A) from TwoOfUs.org relationship experts, but then also opens up to enable community discussion and participation. For example, members communicate (and quite openly) in discussion boards, as well as submit, read, comment on, and rate each other’s blog posts. Members even upload photos — anything from self-portraits to wedding photos and family shots. And there’s a mix of audio and video uploads from TwoOfUs and the community alike. In short, the site offers a healthy mix of official and user-generated content all geared toward self-expression, self-help, and healing.