Category Archives: Tech Trends and Analysis

My Analysis on Social Media and Technological Trends

Snickers Understands the Opportunity in Search

Snickers used search engines to target customers who were making misspellings during search. This cost-effective campaign reached over 500,000 people in 2 days.

How did it work? As explained on a Google article, “Each time someone misspelled a word, they were given a tailored message to “Grab yourself a Snikkers” as “Yu cant spel properlie wen hungrie.” Clicking the ad brought the customer to YoureNotYouWhenYoureHungry.com.

This is the most brilliant example of search engine marketing I’ve seen in quite a while. And the lessons here extend beyond search engine marketing to search generally, and understanding audience and opportunity. What makes this campaign so great?

Integration across mediums – Integrated Marketing is not new, but this is clever integration of an offline campaign that many of us already know to the online world: Snickers’ “You’re Not You When You’re Hungry.” You’ve probably seen the “diva” commercials of someone being hungry and acting moody, then returning to themselves after being given a Snickers. With that familiarity, I know what Snickers is referring to when the campaign ad comes up in search.

Seizing Opportunity– This year, a big trend has been ‘real-time marketing‘ on Twitter. We saw it with Oreo and Audi in the Super Bowl when the lights went out.This week, we saw it with the birth of the royal baby. What is real-time marketing other than taking advantage of an OPPORTUNITY to reach out to an audience and connect with them on a common event or cultural experience? Of course, this type of strategy has been around for ages. Find someone when they’re in need of your product and they’re more likely to buy. But this is a particularly clever way of engaging an audience in that situation and frame of mind.

The search campaign here comes off as an almost secret finding for the searcher, like a treasure hunt they didn’t know they were a part of. There you are browsing for something – like business -, you make a misspelling, are probably frustrated by it, and out of left field comes this funny little find. Hence, an OPPORTUNITY for the target audience to interact with Snickers is created. Who wouldn’t chuckle at someone joking that “Yu cant spel properlie wen hungrie.” at a time like this? It feels like the ad was targeted specifically to you. That’s what I mean when I mention the ‘situation’ and ‘frame of mind’ below.

The video below quickly gives a sense of how Snickers identified an opportunity to target an audience (in this case, young adults who are likely bored, hungry for a snack, and appreciate creativity and humor from a brand), and used search as a creative way of connecting. Though I’m not sure what level of competition they had for the misspelled words, I imagine it wasn’t too great when compared to trying to bid on real spellings for a targeted keyword.

Understanding search behavior – Snickers identified common misspellings of key words. As the video claims, people ‘make spelling mistakes when they’re hungry.’ Though I don’t know about the research on that, I can say that people make spelling mistakes all the time in search. And aren’t we all always hungry for a snack, particularly something sweet?

Meeting Your target demographic on their turf – Snickers targets their audience WHERE their audience is, in the situation and frame of mind that makes them ready to purchase. Let me explain. Who eats Snickers? Well, just about everybody (though I’m a Charleston Chew guy myself). But the campaign uses an odd sense of humor to appeal to younger folks and that busy lifestyle we all experience that makes quick snacks like candy bars an easy option. The video indicates the real target is the bored person at work who is stuck at a computer. And what office doesn’t have a vending machine nearby, or a convenient store around the corner? We’ve seen this sort of targeting in other chocolate bar ads, a la “Gimmie a break” indicating the snack as a quick escape from the drudgery of everyday life.

The resulting experience for the searcher? I didn’t mean to show up at this misspelled search result but, behold, I’m not here alone… Snickers is here too, they’ve made this mistake, and they understand WHY I’m here.

Bringing this all together, I love this example because it shows how one brand cleverly reached an audience on a small budget using something we often talk about, search engines, but don’t always quite realize their full potential.

This is a great example I plan to show in my class to emphasize the importance of search engines, and how they can be used to target audiences (I introduce targeting via search in Writing Across Platforms). I’m sure it will spark discussion and some creativity!

Bizarre Chipotle Twitter Behavior and Social Media Brand Identity

chipotle_twitter_adventurrito

Current Events and Social Media

What were those Chipotle Tweets all about? – That’s the question some are asking after a series of bizarre Tweets by the restaurant chain. In a boldly titled article, “How to alienate your Twitter followers: Chipotle staged hack falls flat,” Hayley Tsukayama indicates that Chipotle was trying to ride the tide of other brands that found surprising success (i.e., increases in followers – if #s = success on social media) after being hacked. According to the article, a spokesperson for Chipotle claimed the Tweets were related to a treasure hunt promo the company was working on. To see some of the Tweets, check out this post by BuzzFeed jokingly titled “Either Chipotle doesn’t know how to use Twitter, or they know exactly how to use Twitter” in reference to the 3700 RTs the brand received.

What was the true motive for the Tweets? We’ll never know. The larger question is, was it good for Chipotle? I’m not as critical of Chipotle here as others may be. Clearly, awareness of Chipotle’s treasure hunt promo is lacking and cross-media tie in was ineffective. The “stunt,” executed differently, could have worked very well as part of the promo. To me, the question here is one of social media identity.

What seems to bother people here is that Chipotle acted in a way inconsistent with its brand identity, specifically its social media identity. Chiptole comes across as lighthearted and a little strange (there are talking pigs and chickens on their website) – but it was acting a bit erratic on Twitter.

Let’s keep in mind that those following your brand on Twitter are not going to be aware of what you’re doing in other spaces unless you clearly tell them. Seeing as that can be a difficult thing to do (our attention span is short and we’re not always listening when the Tweets go out) a separate Twitter account for the promo may have been another option. Though this option carries with it some serious limitations, it presents a great opportunity to explore how social media identity is tied up into this.

Remember, your identity is wrapped up in your social profile. And your identity is what others think you are. Your Twitter followers expect you to behave in a way that is consistent with how they perceive your Twitter identity. That is why building that identity – playful, serious, etc., is at the core of the success of a social account. It is easier to create a separate identity (separate Twitter account) that can behave differently than it is to acclimate existing Twitter acquaintances to an aberration or long-term change in personality.  Consider your interactions with others every day. If your good friend who was mild-mannered and easy-going suddenly became the life of the party, you’d wonder if something was wrong. You might say, “I like the old Sally.” It is not to say you don’t like having a friend who is the life of the party. But that role is something you associate with a different friend (personality). It is always much easier to introduce people to someone new than a new you. In this instance, Chipotle could have remained consistent with their existing account.

Of course, why have to try and bring followers to a new account when you’ve done the hard work of building your existing followers? And that is a serious limitation to this alternative and a very good reason why you may not want to build a separate account in a situation like this.

Separate account or no, cryptic and erratic may not be the best way to go on social. At any rate, it gives us a great opportunity to think about social media, identity, audience expectations, and that ever-growing need to stand out in our attention economy.

Experimentation and bravery are needed. And I applaud Chipotle for that. You can’t know until you try. Is the whole thing quite strange? Yes. Is it going to have any real negative impact on the brand? I doubt it. (next week I’ll have a post about another brand who did a great job of doing something different and having great success!)

What do you think about the Chipotle Twitter situation? Is it an inconsistent social media identity that has people talking about this , or is it something else?

Web Roundup: Content Marketing: Does it matter?, Big Data and Politics (7/12/13)

coffee

Happy Friday! Here are some great articles from around the web that caught my attention this week.

For the politics and social media lovers:

  • Election 2016: How Big Data + Social Data Will Determine the Next President – A must read for an interesting perspective on the future of social data and micro-targeting! I find big data and predictive analytics both fascinating and scary. It seems things have shifted. It used to be campaigns took their cues from business tactics. With the costs of presidential campaigns skyrocketing, it seems the tables have turned. This article discusses the innovations of 2008 and 2012 and what they may mean for the 2016 election.

But the big theme this week is something I’ve talked a lot about on this blog content marketing:

  • Gary Schirr asks “Is content marketing the NEW new thing?” with some thought-provoking Google trend graphs showing the exponential growth in search volume for “content marketing” versus other popular marketing trends. As the data shows, there is no question – content marketing is as popular a term as ever.
  • Mark Schaefer proclaims “Why Content Marketing is a ‘do-over’ for social media – arguing that content marketing offers a new and exciting opportunity for online marketing in response to what Mark sees as a failure of social media marketing. The upside, according to Mark, is that content marketing represents a maturation of the field. To me, the failure is the ‘out-the-box’ approach to social media, or as Mark describes it: checking it off the list. Still, it is interesting to hear someone call social media marketing a failure. I’d say the failure sounds more like a failure of social media marketers.
  • And Robert Wynne offers the “real story” of content marketing – where he examines whether content marketing is something new or a buzzword for something that’s been with us for a long time.

Have a great weekend!

– Cheers, Matt

Say hello to Conversation Advertising: Like a post, buy a Facebook gift

kids-talking

Today, Facebook introduced me to a whole new level of impulse shopping. This move may be more telling than the gift recommendation seems. I believe it is a new type of time-targeted micro advertising. Or, Conversation Advertising.

Let me explain.

This morning I clicked “like” on a filmmaker friend’s post on Facebook who was celebrating positive feedback he’d received on a submission of some of his work to a competition. The following appeared (identities and content hidden).

facebook-like-post-gift

Have you experienced this? Facebook wants to convert my happiness for him into a transaction. Of course I didn’t think this gesture warranted a gift. Is this a guilt play? Would my expression of gratitude mean more if I spent a little money to show it?

In a world of instant gratification and impulse shopping where checkout candy bar purchases and mobile shopping is big bucks, it appears Facebook is hoping to parlay an interpersonal exchange into a monetary one.

Let’s think about this in a different context:

Imagine you are talking with a friend on Skype and you tell your friend that you’re thirsty. How would you feel if suddenly a voice interrupted and said, “Why not go get a Coke from the fridge? It sure is refreshing on a warm spring day!” or a text ad that popped up on my computer screen or mobile and said “Stop by 7-11 on your way home from work and get a Slurpee”

That’s essentially what’s happening here. And maybe it’s time we the audience begin paying up for all this free we’ve been getting for years from services like Facebook and Skype. That’s why I believe what we’re seeing on Facebook may be a sign of things to come. What I’m calling Conversation Advertising.

The use of text or speech recognition to deliver micro-targeted advertising that seeks to take advantage of strategic moments in human interaction to suggest small purchases of products and services to meet immediate needs.

Like so many effective ads, this type of ad helps in a time of need.

In a way, this is happening already on Gmail when Google reads our emails and targets us with ads. The important difference here – and what makes the Facebook suggestions as a result of my minor interaction with a friend special – is a time-targeted ad. Here’s what I mean:

In my previous use of Facebook, I have “liked” a page and soon seen a new page suggestion or ad on the right-hand side. This usually happens in time, after I’ve browsed around a bit from page to page. (Note: I’m trying to emulate this on my Facebook page to see if it occurs immediately, as I thought I remembered it doing that sometimes, but I don’t seem to be able to replicate. Perhaps this happens elsewhere on the web?)

In Gmail, when I send an email or get an email, I see an ad on the right related to some topic in the email.

Both are still somewhat passive. They’re off to the side. In Gmail, we have a human interaction ad going on – but I wouldn’t say it is a conversation ad. This is because the ad doesn’t take advantage of a strategic moment in my interaction where a product or service may offer a solution to a problem I’m facing or need I have.

We are seeing more and more “personalized” ads – such as RFID Mini Cooper billboards and presidential campaigns micro-targeting us by using predictive analytics of the likelihood that our hobbies and purchasing habits predict our voting patterns.

But none of these are quite conversation ads.

Is the idea intrusive? Yes. Annoying? Very likely. Worrisome? Certainly. Will people “go for it?” As a citizen, I honestly hope not. But as a lover of technology, I find the prospect fascinating.

Furthermore, we may not have a choice. Nothing is free. We are the audience. Whether this type of advertising can really succeed will of course depend on how it is done. People do want conversations – they don’t like to be advertised to. Is there a way to make this form of advertising less intrusive, less one-way? I’m sure that there is. Just as there are a million annoying ads out there, there are those that we readily invite into our lives. If done right, this may be another avenue. If not, it could backfire enormously. If the ad helps me in a time of need, I may just welcome it.

Are there legal challenges to be had? Yes. Can they be overcome? Three words: Terms of Service (yes, I am oversimplifying a bit, but I sincerely believe these can be readily overcome).

Another major issue and turnoff is privacy. There again, while this may seem an overly invasive advertising method, keep in mind that we are readily giving away so much information about ourselves on sites like Facebook. We know Gmail is monitoring our emails. We know Facebook is reading not only what we like, but what we post and share. We know, though we may not want to admit it, that cookies are tracking us across the web and collecting every piece of info about us as possible. So really, is it much of a leap? We are more and more accustomed to this type of intrusiveness and seldom blink at it.

While Facebook’s move to suggest I buy a friend a gift is a bit clumsy (does it help me? Not really – No offense to my friend, but in no way would I consider buying him an impersonal gift because he heard positive feedback), I believe it does signify the beginning of something we should expect to see more and more as technology advances and individuals continue to live a digitally-tracked lifestyle. Like it or not, I believe we are witnessing the development of conversation advertising. What shape or form it takes and whether it becomes useful or not in the eyes of the consumer will depend on many things: such as how it develops and is used, whether it is truly helpful to the consumer, legal issues, and how the public reacts to it.

What do you think? How would you feel about this type of conversation advertising? What is your reaction to the Facebook “gift suggestion” discussed above, if you’ve experienced it? Where does my idea need improving? What am I missing? I’d love to chat about it.

Cheers!

– Matt

More on Facebook: Related Posts

I’ve been talking a bit lately about how “uncool” Facebook is becoming among young adults.

The recent move by Facebook to charge us to email someone we are not friends with through the service.

photo (top) CC Burning Image (bottom) CC Marco Trezza Photography

Pay-Per Networking: Facebook Now Charging You to Contact Non-Friends

It appears Facebook has followed through with rumors and reports that the social networking service may begin charging to contact celebrities and “non-friends.”

That day, it seems, is here. A student of mine just dropped by my office to let me know the news. I tested it, and it is true for me as well.

Try it. Find someone you’re not friends with on Facebook and see about messaging them.

Here’s what I found when I tried to Message someone I’m not friends with on Facebook:

facebook_pay-to-message
I can see charing to contact celebrities, but people I don’t know? Facebook, seriously? Several weeks ago I blogged about how Facebook is losing its grab with young adults. This may leave Facebook holding on by a pinky. My student’s exact words when she told me about this were “Facebook is dead.” There again, perhaps people won’t use this service and so its impact is negligible. But the turn off is real.

Now there are ways around this, and people will get creative. The most basic is the “other” inbox that you can send these messages to. Privacy settings indicate that you can modify what comes to your normal inbox and your “other’ inbox. Admittedly quick poking around did not indicate a clear fix for this.

Facebook’s help page also indicates that if you receive messages you don’t want, you can filter them to your other inbox. This may also mean that marketing messages and spam will soon be coming to our Facebook inboxes, a la our email addresses.

What do you think? What does this mean for Facebook? Has social networking lost its innocence? 

As the teenager goes, so goes Facebook.. so goes the social media professor?

FB_logo

Back in January I posted the below Tweet.

My Communication & New Media class was talking about the boom and bust of Web 1.0, Web 2.0, and the “cool hunt” – the tendency of young folks to jump from one trend to the next. (Yes, of course MySpace came up. Interestingly, students this semester hadn’t heard of Friendster).

I have asked the same question every semester since 2008-2009, when I began teaching new media as a grad student at Washington State University. “What is the most popular social network?” The answer has always been Facebook.

This semester the answer was clear. Facebook is on the way out.

Is there a shift coming to social media?

A great article posted to CNET last week titled “Why teens are tiring of Facebook” offers an in depth look as to the social networking giant’s troubles. Many of those same troubles were echoed by my students. They can be summed up in this Tweet I posted to a question I got from @richelecole to my original Tweet as to what was in:

In other words, Facebook:

  • Lacks exclusivity – “Everyone” is on Facebook – and yes, that means Mom, Dad, and the grandparents. There could be nothing less cool.
  • Is too cumbersome – Facebook, the social network that built itself on being sleeker and less chaotic than Myspace, is too complicated for the fast-paced on the go lifestyle. It takes too much time to maintain and participate in. Students said they just didn’t have time for all Facebook demanded of them. Twitter is quick and easy. Instagram is too, and the bonus is – pictures!

It seems my students aren’t the only ones thinking about unfriending Facebook.

As social media professors, are we always part of the cool hunt as well?

In a way. Trying to keep up with changing trends while balancing the many other responsibilities of being a professor may feel sometimes like an unwinnable race. That’s why it is so important that we keep our focus on what truly matters. Teaching students to think.

The tools will change. New trends will emerge. The fundamentals are much less fickle.

I think of them as:

  1. Monitoring: Strategies for identifying, cultivating, monitoring, and analyzing information on the social/real-time web.
  2. Metrics: Strategies for setting goals and what to measure on social media. And measuring them.
  3. Optimization: Strategic use of optimization strategies to maximize potential exposure to communication content online.
  4. Engagement: Strategies for targeting and engaging potential publics online.

When we teach new media, we should always keep in mind that the tool we’re teaching may be gone tomorrow.

It isn’t the tool so much that counts, as understanding the underlying concepts and strategies – the Why. If students learn only two things in my classes they should be: Be Adaptable (apply what you’ve learned to new situations). Be Lifelong Learners. These are platform agnostic skillsets.

Is a shift coming to social media and what does that mean for educators? As an educator, how do you stay current with changing trends in the classroom? What do you emphasize to your students?  Do you disagree with my approach? I would love to hear your thoughts and discuss this important topic further. Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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Cheers!

– Matt

image creds: Facebook logo. This version hosted by MarcoPako Flickr page.