The race to a million likes on facebook or a 100K followers on twitter. Is that what leveraging social media is about? Companies seem to have taken their first steps in going social, by setting up a facebook page or a twitter account.

You know how they talk about Dell having garnered millions of dollars of business by giving away exclusive offers on twitter. If you consider giving away freebees in return for business as a success parameter, its been done ever since business existed. Replicating that success on a different platform by following this age old strategy can hardly be deemed as a successful use of the platform.

Social Media was intended to connect consumers with consumers. With the intrusion of brands, in an otherwise human world, the best case situation is that consumers now treat the brand as one of them.

Lets not assume that I think being human is not a great move by a brand. It is, but it still doesn't leverage the true power of social media.

If you as a brand want to do that, you need to architect a conversation around your brand, so the consumers are still talking to other consumers, but now they are talking about your brand. More difficult of course, but if done right, you unlock some serious potential.

What are your thoughts on architecting a conversation around a brand. Do you know of anyone successful in achieving that?
 
 

To take your first steps in the Social Media Marketing World there is just one question you need to ask yourself

Are you willing to trade Control for Influence?

If you can let go of the need to control all communication to your consumer, of the need to define your product and believe that its not you who knows best, but actually your consumer. If you can give up a little control and place it in the hands of your consumer, if you can give them the power to decide, will the Wisdom of Crowds prevail or Chaos Reign?

It depends on how you organise your consumers world and effectively yours. Simply placing a feedback box, will never organise it well enough for your firm. It just won't cut ice with the product team. Random feedback is never taken seriously enough to implement.

On the other hand if you did what Dell has done and created an Idea Storm. Would anyone within the firm be able to say NO to 30000 votes?

The old school was a Dictatorship, where the company unilaterally decides whats good for itself and the people.

The Dell school is a Democracy, truly by the people and for the people. Which do you prefer?

 
 

Lets cut the fluff and get straight to the point - Brand redefinition is certainly a significant possibility, considering that marketers are no longer the only people capable of creating communication which reach the masses.

The more difficult question is when can it be termed as dangerous.

The way I see it, ultimately a brand exists in the mind of its consumers. Different segments take away different experiences from your brand and your brand could mean something unique to each of them. It could be positive or negative, but on the whole it is probably different from what you intended.

Social media only amplifies this existing opinion & brings it to light, so in that sense it is free market research.

With social media a crazy fan could end up portraying your brand in a different light. Similarly an angry consumer can really create havoc especially if his post appears on the first page of google.

The key task of a brand manager is to understand when to interfere and when to let your consumers ride you.

It is more than advisable to have a sense of humour as a brand at this stage, learn to laugh at yourself if the social media adventures of your consumers are not blatantly malilcious.

"There is no such thing as bad PR" still applies in the above case.

Of course, when consumers lash out online, you probably don't have a choice but to step in and address the issue to the best of your ability. Resolving issues publicly is better if you are confident that you can actually resolve the issue, otherwise try to take the conversation offline.

What do you think? Should you interfere in the social media adventures of your consumers or should you lie back and let them shout

 
 

I see so many marketers having nightmares about social media and its open coversation mode. Some fear it for the detrimental effect that it can have on their brand and others because they want to leverage Facebook, Orkut, Youtube, Twitter to get the whole world talking about their brand, but have no clue where to start.

Fear it if you must, but if you would like to leverage social media, then remember that a great social media plan will require traditional media. Just depending on social media might get you nowhere once the novelty effect of this world wears away. Eventually this will become an element of the media mix and will coexist with passive advertising.

The interactive nature of the internet and the mobile no doubt require a change in mindset of the tradional marketer, but it in no way should they be seen as a substitute for traditional media and one way conversation.

One way conversation is instrumental in reaching a lot of people and creating awareness about your brand, while social media helps you build a bond with your consumers.

This connect was erstwhile created using ground level consumer connect programs and BTL activities. This no doubt had a huge cost per contact, but the quality of contact left a huge impression on the consumer.

The same huge impression can now be left with Social media at a cost that is more than pocket friendly. So don't fear it but don't depend on it either to take your brand to stardom. Other media still exists and will continue to exist for sometime at least.

 
 

Well, I have been meaning to write about the Firefox Download Day and their grand record. One brand which used Social Media Marketing and an existing community to generate buzz like never before. Of course the Guinness Record helped too.

Guinness and Buzz Marketing
A Guinness World Record is an established buzz marketing strategy for a brand and it isn't like Firefox is doing a first. Typical record strategies include building the world's "largest" something and examples of these records can be seen here. The problem with these strategies is they involve a few of the company employees and the buzz generated is through a mention in a few news columns. These record attempts do not really involve the consumers of these brands.

Firefox & Its Guinness Record
Firefox could have also attempted a record like the World's fastest browser to generate buzz, but that would have meant the same problem. A few company emplyees are involved and happy with the coverage in a few news columns.

Firefox instead chose a strategy which was inclusive. It hyped the Download Day with its current community and gave them the badges which they can plonk on blogs to in turn spread the word. The guiness record was a function of how well the existing community sells the idea to the rest of the world. It was upto the community to spread word about D Day and this strategy paid off by integrating a viral marketing component to the classical buzz marketing approach.

To read more on the definitions of Buzz Marketing and Viral Marketing, please read this earlier post Want consumers to talk? Viral is in!!

What can Startups learn?
Now Firefox has a huge community of users, but there is also some take away for startups who have just a few 1000 users. What can you do to engage your community and make them spread the message about your product/website. I don't think your startup should be happy just acquiring users, when what you really need is an army of salesmen. How can you actually convert your existing community into salesmen?

Jennifer Leggio has a great post on the steps Firefox undertook to spread the message. The key take away is that Firefox relied on their community, involved them and empowered them to be salesmen.There is no single formula to replicate this but startups have no choice but to keep trying.

Appending relevant portions of Jennifer's post below to make it a convenient read

How did Firefox actually reach Out?
Spread Firefox
The Firefox community portal started out as the original gathering point for community members. Mozilla created a specific Download Day theme for the site where users could get badges to put on blogs as well as “pledge” to download the software on Download Day. Mozilla received 1.7 million pledges and the affiliate button distribution brought 43 million views to the site.

Facebook
The Firefox Facebook fan page has near 115K members. “We seeded the community with links of articles and other information that pointed to the Download Day site,” Kim said. Mozilla took a very similar approach with social networking sites Bebo and Mixi (Japan).

Twitter
Kim says that while Mozilla Firefox’s Twitter page was set up in 2007 it grew tremendously (now with close to 5K followers) and was a great complement to its other efforts. “We’re incredibly happy with the level of activity and response we received from our Twitter followers,” he said.

YouTube
Mozilla produced a series of feature overview videos that were narrated by some of the designers who worked on Firefox 3. From viewing the YouTube comments and ratings it does not appear that the videos gained much traction, however it was a low-cost alternative to doing traditional video advertising.

Mozilla Parties
Mozilla Party Central, a bit of a mashup of Google Maps and Upcoming, is where the company shares news about its launch parties and also gives users the tools to promote and host their own parties. As of last count there have been near 850 parties worldwide, attended by more than 6K people. Mozilla will receive its official Guinness World Record certificate at a party in London this Wednesday.

Mozilla also put energy into traditional public relations efforts, heading on press tour throughout the U.S., Europe, China and Japan. While this was successful as well, Kim says that its Mozilla’s community that truly helped drive Download Day success.

P.S - Firefox could take this bold approach of asking its users to set a record, because there was no record registered in this category before. So irrespective of how many downloads, Firefox and more importantly its community would have always emerged a winner.

Did you catch Firefox on D Day?