Archive for the ‘ social media ’ Category

Super Bowl Spots Get Social

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|Originally posted on PRevolution on Feb. 8, 2011


What were your favorite Super Bowl ads? Mine were Coke’s Border Friends and Chrysler’s Imported from Detroit, but that’s just my personal taste. The more important question is what spots will we still remember in six months or a year? And how much can social media help a commercial hit that elusive sweet spot?
In other words, who’s this year’s Old Spice Man? Yes, most people forget that last year’s social media sensation actually started as a Super Bowl spot. And although it wouldn’t have grown without social media, it would have been much harder to get the ball rolling without an enormous jump start on Super Sunday. As a friend of mine (and one of the hosts of this blog) once said, “integrated campaigns rarely suck.”

Big Game, Huge Stakes
There really is no other way to match the Super Bowl’s audience, (111 million people), or its price tag ($3 million for 30 seconds). All eyes really are on its commercials. At least for a day. After that, they can simply fade away. And with more than 60 spots in play, it’s best to think of these ads as very expensive seeds that need plenty of nurturing to keep their buzz alive.

Often, the plan is to simply keep running them. Buy more time, keep them in front of viewers, and rely on the power of repetition to bring the message home. After all, unless you’re dealing with Apple’s legendary 1984 ad, you won’t get enough bang for your bucks by only running your spot once. And frankly, that ad ran plenty of times. Apple just didn’t have to pay for it. You see, that ad was really one of the first viral videos, re-run in TV stories, in people’s minds, and online more times than we can accurately count. In fact, just one of the many YouTube versions has more than 6 million hits.

Building Buzz
There are now many other ways to go viral, or at least get social. One of the oldest is sending your spot to TV stations and hoping to get some early momentum from their coverage. But now, spots are released directly to the public on dedicated websites, Facebook pages, and YouTube channels. That’s how Volkswagen got 13 million views for Little Darth Vader before the Super Bowl ever began. There’s even a cottage industry for building campaigns around ads that have supposedly been banned. Like all strategies, some are better conceived and executed than others, but they certainly showcase the importance of nurturing – before and after the game – these very expensive communication seeds.

And that brings us back to the Old Spice Guy. Wieden+Kennedy spent plenty of time and money creating the original ad, then brought it to life with an integrated campaign that still has a strong presence on Facebook and YouTube. Then they kicked off this year’s version of the campaign with an interactive contest that let a “super fan” reveal the new ad online ahead of time – an interesting twist, because they didn’t end up buying time in the game.

I realize there are concerns about conversion rate and ROI, but I think Old Spice is a winner from one simple perspective. Before last year’s game, few people knew Old Spice even sold a men’s body wash. Now it seems everybody does. On the other hand, how many people remember that last year’s other Super Bowl star, Betty White, was eating a Snickers bar? Old Spice succeeded by directing the conversation to their product, rather than letting the conversation go wherever it wanted (that Betty White is such a good sport). Old Spice built their own, virtually unknown, brand, while Snickers sat on the sidelines and let us build up Betty’s.

This Year’s Buzz
So, what about this year? I’m certainly intrigued by Old Spice’s approach, but wonder if it’s just the end game from last year’s campaign. I’m also very interested in the way the NFL and Foursquare partnered during the game, but think it’s just a nice way to build basic awareness for Foursquare. The Groupon vs. LivingSocial battle should be fascinating to watch, since it looks like both will have to defend their ads in the social space after people called each of them offensive. I was frankly underwhelmed by Audi’s attempt to incorporate a Twitter hashtag into its very funny Kenny G ad . It felt like they just grabbed onto the next cool tool, without really applying a strong strategy. On the other hand, I’m very excited by the way Best Buy is asking its Facebook fans to pick a different version of What’s a Bieber? to use at the next big event, the Academy Awards.

Better yet, that’s just the start. Since social networks stretch the Super Bowl ad season out so much, I’m sure we’ll see many other strategies play out over the next few days, or even weeks. After all, Old Spice didn’t make its personalized videos until July. So, there’s still plenty of time for brands to build their buzz, or drop like duds. That’s the fun – and the pressure – of playing in this Super Bowl.

Look Before You Tweet. Lessons From a Hockey Player

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Do you know Dan Ellis?  You should.  He’s a hockey player who’s trouble on Twitter can teach the rest of us some important lessons about social media and the importance of understanding your audience.

More than a sports story

Ellis is a goaltender for the Tampa Bay Lightning, whose tweets have been much discussed in the sports world, but they should be just as interesting to folks who care about communication strategy.

It all started when he tweeted about the way the NHL’s labor agreement holds a large part of players’ salaries in escrow.  It’s a complicated issue that was guaranteed to come across poorly in 140 characters.  And it did.

I didn’t take long before he was called a whiny millionaire.  And as word spread online, he quickly became the new poster child for ungrateful athletes who shouldn’t complain when they’re getting paid to play a kids’ game.  DanEllisProblems even became one of Twitter’s trending topics.

The ensuing tweetathon set off passionate debates about the NHL’s labor situation, the fairness of the escrow deal, athletes as ingrates, transparency in online communication, and cyberbullying.  All are worth discussing, but I’d like to focus on something that’s simple and universal, the importance of understanding your audience.

Should have know better

I realize celebrities get ridiculous amounts of positive feedback from their starry-eyed fans, but those fans have no interest in hearing about players’ money woes.  Never have, never will.  I’ve been covering sports for more than 25 years, and fans almost always side with owners against players, and mock any player who thinks he should be getting paid more – no matter how reasonable the concern, no matter how well it’s explained.

I often talk about The Golden Rule of Communication – that the most important part of any message is the receiver – and in this case, the reaction of these receivers was remarkably predictable.  In fact, Ellis’ audience was not only guaranteed to disagree with his statements, it was highly likely to mock him, argue with him, and trash his reputation.

So, why didn’t he see it coming?  How could he tweet “Kind of bored today … what can I stir the pot about today?” without realizing the consequences?  Either he was totally disarmed by the positive echo chamber of athlete-fan communications, or he wasn’t properly trained.  Probably both.

Tools are not strategy

Ellis was actually  considered a pioneer among jocks on Twitter.  He had 12,000 followers, and was known for open interaction with his fans.  But knowing how to tweet is far different than knowing what to tweet – or why.  Just ask any company that’s trusted its social media to a cool kid who seems to know what he’s doing.  Or ask Kevin Love, who had his own brush with Twitter immortality when he tweeted about Timberwolves coach Kevin McHale getting fired – before the team announced the move.  It became a cautionary tale for athletes in all sports, and drove Love off Twitter altogether.  The same scenario – the cautionary tale and the exit from Twitter – is playing out with Ellis.

Like many businesses, most teams are run by people who don’t quite understand social media.  They realize there are opportunities available on these new channels, but they’re concerned about the impact of open communication.  As a result, they provide little , if any, social media training for their athletes.  Agents also see the potential of social media, so they’re also encouraging their players to “get social,” but since they’re also new to the game, most of the training still comes from college friends and personal experience.

Send everybody to training camp

Players get plenty of media training, because teams realize their public comments are key components of their brand.  Why not include social media? Those comments are just as public, and just as important.  I got great reaction at the Social Media Breakfast when I said that “in TV we treat all microphones like they’re open, and I do the same thing with Twitter.”  At the very least, teams should use that rule.

Social networks provide plenty of wonderful opportunities for players and teams to interact with their fans, but like all businesses, they must remember that information going out over these informal channels is just as official as anything else going out under their brand name.  At least that’s how the audience is likely to see it.  So, while transparency is a wonderful goal, it should always be balanced with common sense.  We shouldn’t expect companies to air their dirty laundry, reveal key business strategies, or badmouth competitors online – unless it fits into some kind of well-thought strategy.  We shouldn’t expect it from teams or athletes, either.

What else can we learn from athletes’ experiences in social media, and what business experiences are similar? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

The Golden Rule Of Communication

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Every once in a while, a tweet really gets my attention, proving that 140 characters really can convey a complex message.  That’s what happened when a friend retweeted this gem from Fred Cuellar:  “There is Always An Audience, Even If You Don’t See Them.”  So true, because without an audience, there is no communication.  And those 11 words work nicely with my own Golden Rule of Communication, that the most important part of any message is the receiver.

I work in a world where audience is everything.  TV ratings determine how my work is judged, and how much CBS gets paid.  But I believe focusing on audience is the key to success in all kinds of communication – and beyond that, I believe the communication model reaches far beyond the standard definition.

Many channels of communication

Like most writers, I spend a lot of time analyzing other writers’ messages, and over time, I’ve come to realize that just about everything falls under the broad umbrella of the communication model.  Sales, marketing, customer relations, coaching, teaching, managing people, running a website – even raising children – all require effective communication.

I’ve also noticed that the common bond between most successful people – whether they are coaches, politicians, salesmen or marketers – is that they are excellent communicators.  Their styles may differ, but they all understand how to connect with their audience – whether it’s one person or a million.  And I believe their secret is audience awareness.

Trump’s trouble

Still, some of the best make mistakes.  I’m sure Donald Trump is furious about this week’s episode of Celebrity Apprentice.  In fact, I bet he’s mad enough to fire somebody.

The show featured country star Trace Adkins and two emerging singers in a clear attempt to attract country music fans.  But the strategy failed, because the show ran against the Academy of Country Music Awards on CBS.  How could this happen?  An opportunity was lost, and a smart strategy was ruined, because somebody forgot about the audience in the middle of their planning process.

Audience awareness

Don’t worry, though, I’m not suggesting style over substance.  Far from it.  I’m simply suggesting that the best style, strategy and substance will all be wasted if you lose sight of your audience.  Create your strategy, choose your channel, and craft your message, but always remember the receiver.

For example, if you’re designing a website, prioritize the user experience, even if that means dialing back some of the bells and whistles.  On the other hand, if being on the leading edge of technology is your ultimate message, those bells and whistles may be the best way to convey it.  In other words, always look at your message through the eyes of the audience – throughout the process – because what the user understands on their end is what defines how much of your intended message actually gets through.

Learning from Zappos

This is very similar to the ICEE theory of Twitter, a popular concept created by Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh. He says all Tweets should either Inspire, Connect, Educate or Entertain, which resonates for me, because it’s so similar to my own ideas about writing for TV.  For years, I’ve taught writers that they should use all of their writing and video production techniques to inform, interest and entertain our viewers.  Each theory is simple, focuses on the audience, and can be easily applied to other communication platforms.

In fact, Hsieh’s success showcases this communications cross-over. He’s successful in e-commerce because of an easy-to-use website, and customer-friendly policies.  In other words, his success is audience-based.  So, it’s no surprise that he’s also good at social media, and just about everything else.  He’s simply a great communicator, who realizes that focusing on the audience works across the spectrum.

Born communicators

In reality, most of us do this instinctively.  Even as kids, we knew which parent to ask for something special, when to ask for it, and how to word it.  As adults, we realize some people respond better to a phone call, others to an e-mail.

Yes, it’s just common sense, but that’s really what communication is, isn’t it? You’re simply creating a message to get past any interference and connect with the audience.  So, if you anticipate the interference, and adjust to avoid it, your results will be even more successful.

What do you think?  Do these theories apply to your business?  Or are there times when audience should be secondary to your point?  I’m always interested in my audience, so please let me know what you think.