I think advertising is going crazy at the moment over SMO using guerrilla tactics, fancy viral videos, flash games, and a multitude of other fickle engagement strategies to get people talking or thinking about their brand online. There is a false perception, I believe, that if you can get a lot of people to view something, that automatically translates to success. But how is it successful? It’s not that difficult to get people interested in something – I watch funny youtube videos all the time.
However I think that frequently, advertisers do not understand the difference between interest and action. You can release a viral video and get 100,000 people to be interested in it, but few may act on it – or even know that it is associated with a particular brand. Shifted Pixels raised some important questions in a recent blog post on what brands should consider before employing a social media agency.
What is the point of advertising? TO SELL. Pure and simple – at the end of the day, it is to sell, and getting the attention of consumers momentarily in the social media space is of low commercial value to a brand. Social media optimisation should not be viewed as a short term strategy that is campaign based. Doing this often just creates a shark fin on a graph – Momentary interest which can grow exponentially, but then you suffer a huge drop in interest (which is also exponential) which makes you a blip in the highly contested world of the internet.
Andrew Chen wrote a great article using Metcalf’s Law to understand how applications grow exponentially on social networks and the danger of the corollary: Eflactem’s law. Andrew argues that growth and retention relies on perceived value by users, and as you lose users, the value of your network decreases exponentially.
Creating value takes time. If you are using Twitter, build a following of hundreds by posting great content every day. Answer people’s questions and engage with your ‘friends’. SMO is about bringing your brand down to the personal level. Brands should no longer be anonymous – it’s an incredibly powerful marketing tool to have a representative of your company having conversations with consumers – like Matt Cutts from Google. Even though Google is enormous, Matt’s blog brings it down to the personal level.
Google is my friend!
Get your staff blogging and spreading the brand essence! Don’t be an advertiser, be a friend. If someone says something negative about your brand online, approach them and appologise – offer them a discount, or give them something free.
If you are using facebook – have a group which offers users discounts, promotions, and content which is updated frequently. Invite key members to try new products and make them feel like they are connected to the brand in a meaningful way. Update your blog’s content daily and network with bloggers relevant to the space you are in – Create a 2 way dialogue that is actually meaningful.
Nielson suggests we are now bombarded with around 3000 messages per day which has resulted in lower cut through and responsiveness from consumers due to an information overload. Worse still, only 7% of television advertisements can be differentiated from the rest, meaning advertising is becoming less relevant, more generic and is yielding lower returns on investment.
The human brain does not have the capacity to interpret this much information which results in what Georg Simmel called the ‘blasé attitude’. The basic premise is that the human brain interprets the world via a process of differentiation and modern society is now so complex that we are seeing ‘an intensification of nervous stimulation’. The blasé attitude is a response to this – the reason we don’t talk to the people sitting next to us on the bus. It’s not that we stop perceiving the things around us, it’s merely blunting the discrimination because we don’t have the capacity to comprehend it all.
Don’t do some stupid gimmicky campaign which no one will remember in one weeks time – sure, you may get 50,000 views and the client will be happy, but this won’t translate to any revenue for the company.
SMO is about building your brand into conversations over time and we need to move away from viewing it as a quick win. Listen to your customers – Using buzz metrics, Nike realised one of the keywords that kept coming up was ‘sweat shops’ so they focused on campaigns to respond to this. SMO is very broad, but ultimately it comes down to creating high value for consumers. You’ve just got to work out what constitutes ‘value’ to you target audience.
My interest in social media from an advertising perspective begun about 3 years ago when I was working in cafe’s as a barista. The success of a cafe relies heavily on positive word of mouth, and the way to create positive WOM is to ensure great service, good food, and top notch coffee.
It seems strange, but I have learned more about social media optimisation from working in a cafe and engaging with cafe culture than I have reading articles, books and talking with advertising people. The key is to differentiate yourself by being the best – to be remarkable as Seth Godin might say. Then, there is a natural talkability. People will argue online and offline whether you are better than another cafe, and they will champion you to all their friends.
The reason cafe’s are a great example from an SMO perspective is that everyone has their favourite one. Where to get the best coffee is often debated and everyone loves to find a new great place to try out. It is a topic many Australian’s like to talk about and this can be seen with the explosion of PR articles in traditional print. Suddenly everyone is talking about the importance of freshly roasted coffee, and what goes in to making the perfect espresso.
If you own a cafe, be an active participant in the coffee world – an active member in coffee forums, coffee related blogs, CRM programs etc. Get involved in coffee competitions, write articles for print, post ‘how to’ videos on youtube for making the perfect coffee, and network as much as you can. Doing this influences the opinion leaders – the coffee nerds – the people who drink double ristretto’s – the people whose friends all ask them where they should be getting their coffee.
I have seen cafe’s invite coffee geeks to their cafe ‘after hours’ for coffee tasting sessions, to talk about their espresso machines, and check out new beans from around the world. These people then talk about you online, to their friends, and their friends talk to their friends.
If you own a wine cellar, get the wine enthusiasts in for wine tasting sessions and make them feel special. Give them special member cards and watch as your sales jump. Perhaps give away free bottles of wine to these members and ask them to write a review on your blog. Because the same is true for wine enthusiasts – their friends all ask them where to buy a great cheap wine, and they will recommend you – in fact they will care about you which is a difficult thing to achieve – to make people care.
Strategies like these connect the opinion leaders deeply with your brand who then champion it to others. Over time this builds your reputation and equates to sales which are sustainable and consistent.
The coffee world is fantastic at this and this is where I have seen the best strategy. For cafe’s, advertising isn’t about fancy tv commercials or radio. It’s about making sure that everyday, the regulars get an amazing coffee, the cafe remembers their name, and they get a bit of love and feel special. It’s consistent dedication to quality and this is far more effective than any short term campaign. Doing this is also a retention initiative, and we all know that retention is easier than acquisition.
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