Passive is So Passe: The Case for Active Social Media Engagement

Posted on December 30, 2009 by 8 Comments

Matt Whiting, Senior Account Executive, WE Studio D

Two-way trafficWith the year rapidly winding down, now seems like just as good a time as any to spend more than 140 characters to make some more general observations about a major shift we will see in 2010. I’m not going to promise any sort of brilliance here, but instead, will simply offer some ideas on the present and future of social media and corporate communications. (For a detailed look back at 2009 digital marketing trends, check out Kevin’s post on that subject.)

Since I first began jotting down a few thoughts related to this post, the ubiquity of Facebook has not only surfaced in many conversations with friends and family over the holiday break, the social networking site has been putting up some gigantic numbers. The fact that Facebook now accounts for 5 percent of all time that people spend online is a staggering statistic. (For more on that comScore stat, check out this Mashable post.) Further, according to Hitwise, Facebook snagged the #1 spot for most visited site on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. (For more on that feat, check out this ReadWriteWeb post.) While it’s command of the social real estate has been expanding significantly virtually since its inception, it’s only just now that companies are paying serious attention to social media investments.

Pepsi’s much discussed decision to pull all money from Super Bowl TV spots to focus on other opportunities (notably web) served as a huge wake-up call to many that the era of one-way communications is (nearly) dead. (For more on this announcement, see the WSJ’s piece.) It’s interesting to see Pepsi’s decision especially as Coca-Cola has received much praise for its “new media” or internet presence (notably, the ATL purveyors of sugar water have been rated as the number one company that gets social media according to Big Money’s list of “companies that make social media work”). Innovative experiments on Facebook, such as Coke’s Facial Profiler has generated a lot of buzz as it is a unique concept that genuinely interests people. (For more on the facial recognition experiment, check out Mashable’s post.)

In 2010, we will see much more emphasis on engagement. Numbers and all we’ve been seeing show the audience is definitely now there on Facebook. The ball is in the courts of corporate communicators to figure out how to get people take notice of what they have to say and most importantly, give them a reason to care. With Facebook ads (such as those for Mafia Wars) as well as ever-present notifications (that your friend has just found a pig on Farmville) getting more annoying and thus causing people to further tune out the sidebar and meaningless updates, companies will reorganize their tactics appropriately.

Having a relationship with a brand online needs to be much more than just the process of becoming a “fan” on Facebook and then (in most cases) never hearing from the company again. Companies will need to actually give a reason for their customers to want to interact with them and ultimately advocate on their behalf. Companies will spend many resources trying to be a part of daily routines. Advertising will not be the answer (research shows people ignore ads), traditional PR will not be the answer (research shows people don’t wholly trust companies), instead, creating integrated, expansive experiences (like Coca-Cola’s facial profile, among others) will be key.

Image by InertiaCreeps

Facebook Rules as Hot Digital Trend for Today’s Teens

Posted on October 12, 2009 by Comments Off

Erik Bergman, Senior Editor, WE Studio D

Facebook logoToday’s teens are outgrowing social media tools the way they outgrow jeans.

They are relentless in acquiring the tools they need and quick to abandon them when they no longer suit their purpose. I say that based on the activities of my younger daughter who just entered high school. She was thinking back and counting some other things besides middle school that she has graduated from recently. Her nostalgia shows the relentless march of digital communications. She could match up each grade with a different online tool:

“6th grade was e-mail,

7th grade was AIM,

8th grade was MySpace,

9th grade is Facebook.”

I would add that 6th grade was about bugging Mom and Dad for a cell phone, 7th grade was about bugging us for unlimited text messaging, 8th grade was about bugging us for a digital camera and 9th grade was about bugging us for a laptop — until she bought one last week with her babysitting money.

Her 15th birthday sleepover brought a deluge of digital images to her Facebook account. She has so many digital photos on our family PC that we need either A) a vast culling of the herd or B) an extra hard drive or C) both.

The unexpected bonus in her daily Facebook use is that it links her not just to her peers (as e-mail, texting and AIM did), but to friends and relatives of all ages and several countries. The community-building aspect of Facebook creates positive connections for her and brings into our house stories that parents and teens can share openly.

The newest trends aren’t the only in things among high schoolers. MTV, one of those old media outlets that I outgrew decades ago, is hot stuff for my teen. Not for music videos — that’s what YouTube is for — but for reality and game shows. To which I say ugh, thus creating a generation gap.

What will the 10th, 11th and 12th grades bring to the class of 2013 as technology marches on? I can see only about one year or one device into the future with any clarity. First on the wish list: a Web-connected Smartphone … with a Facebook app.

As long as it’s not body piercing and tattoos, bring it on.

An Analog Kid in a Digital World

Posted on September 29, 2009 by Comments Off

Luigi Serio, Senior Editor, WE Studio D

Old CD playerAs a simple guy who’s left my 20s, err, 30s, I find myself among those, some much older than me, for whom adopting certain new technologies or jumping head first into the social networking pool can be daunting, of little or no interest, or seemingly too time-consuming to understand and pursue.

And to hear myself say this is somewhat surprising, considering, for instance, that I was nearly the first in my college dorm to own a CD player (sometime around 1984, for those looking for a chuckle). Those days, I gave up a lot, considering how little I had, to have great-sounding music — the best that technology could offer and that I could afford. I was passionate about it and proud that I could show off such technology toys to my dorm mates, geeky and academically minded types who appreciated the pursuit of such things.

I know that if I’m going to be a member in good standing of WE Studio D, I need to get on the ball and recapture some of my past fervor. So here I go, building my digital savvy bit by bit, just as I did my audio gear — it might takes years, but that’s OK.

The path so far (and thanks to those who’ve pushed and motivated me – you know who you are):

During my recent parental leave, I become hooked on “1 vs 100” on Xbox LIVE, playing it sometimes for hours once the house fell quiet. Explore online gaming – check!

I started a blog featuring my daughter but didn’t take it anywhere near where it could go. That’s a charitable way of saying I made a couple entries and then let it wither on the vine. Reinvigorate my baby blog – on the to-do list! (Hey, nobody’s perfect.)

Because “1 vs 100” was in beta while I was playing it, it wasn’t flawless. One night I couldn’t log in, so I hopped over to Twitter to learn what was happening. Ah, instant information from lots of knowledgeable folks, including a Microsoft “1 vs. 100” representative! I tweeted my dismay over the game being down and went to bed. Start becoming a Twitter guy – check!

My wife beat me in the race to become a member of Facebook, but I am on finally and doing my best to find the time to contribute and better connect with friends I’ve lost touch with. Become part of the social networking world – check!

Image by Elsie esq.

Is Facebook Damaging Your Family Values?

Posted on August 13, 2009 by Comments Off

Tammy McKnight, Account Executive, WE Studio D

As Facebook usage continues to spread rapidly, permeating all ages, all types of workers and even my own technologically inept household, I question whether this movement is opening the lines of communication for my family or narrowing our ability to communicate effectively. Now don’t get me wrong: I’m an addict. Most evenings, with children tucked into their beds and fast asleep, the three adults in my household can be found huddled around our respective computers. My husband, well-known in our circle as computer illiterate, sits beside me on the couch with our family laptop, interrupting me at frequent intervals to ask computer-related navigation questions and chuckling at the brilliance of his own musings. Meanwhile I’m on my work laptop, with fifteen applications running at once, Facebook in the background and the occasional pings of new messages; and you’ll find our roommate upstairs on his PC, mercilessly whacking people left and right as he rules his Mafia empire.

Everyone finds the fulfillment of their own particular needs on Facebook. My husband likes to use it to connect to his own capricious family without actually speaking to them, I use it to stay in touch with my friends while not sacrificing the little time I am able to spend at home, and our roommate uses it primarily to play Mafia Wars and plague his friends with the results of endless quizzes. In addition, we send instant messages to each other and have found that it makes an excellent intercom system, saving us precious minutes and calories otherwise expended walking up and down the stairs.

The current state of my household reminds me of a particular episode of the British sitcom The IT Crowd, in which the three colleagues – Jen, Ross and Roy – discover “Friendface” and sit around typing to each other while in the same room, with Jen exclaiming, “I love this. I feel so social.”

Similarly, I love to feel social without actually engaging in verbal communication. I know my predilections, and while the desire to lock myself in a dark room and have little to no face-to-face contact is a constant siren, I have yet to give in completely. My husband manages to self-limit his time on Facebook, and has yet to neglect his family. Our roommate is by nature a strange recluse, so I don’t see how the non-verbal communication revolution will cause irreparable damage to him. My children are, as of yet, too little to embrace social media, but I predict it won’t be long before they too are huddled over computers, and therein lies my fear: Will the 2- and 5-year-olds of today be tomorrow’s Jen, Ross and Roy?

Last week my colleague Michele Nachum wrote a piece on this blog titled “Social Networking in Jerusalem.” Her post helps dispel my fear of a Facebook-dependant society narrowing the lines of family communication. For example, she explains how (and why) her teenage stepdaughter “friended” her on Facebook, essentially providing Michele and her husband with an exclusive invitation to view her online life (a rarity for teenagers, I’m thinking). So perhaps Facebook is another step in technical evolution – similar to the television revolution of the 1940’s – that we must adapt to suit our own family dynamics and values.

The use of Facebook has not detrimentally affected my family responsibilities, my work ethic, or my social life (such as it is). As with any addiction, while I see the potential for neglect or abuse, by accepting and defying my own natural solitary tendencies, Facebook has allowed me – a working mom who juggles the stresses of maintaining a full-time job and raising children – to stay in touch with friends without too much effort. And perhaps by limiting this non-verbal form of communication to Facebook only, I can continue to be reclusive, if only via that one medium.

Facebook Public Posting — Welcome to YOU the Brand

Posted on June 26, 2009 by Comments Off

Jennifer Houston, Senior Vice President

It’s interesting to watch the chatter around Facebook’s decision to turn postings public (by default – you can actually change the settings if you don’t want your wild weekend be public). While I understand the passion around the decision, it has an element of the “duh” factor for me. Facebook is merely fast following a trend that has been building since we began to engage in message boards eons ago: in this post-digital era, we’re just on and YOU are a brand.

Me? A brand? I’m not talking Corn Flakes or Jaguar. I’m talking about the brand that is YOU. Every single piece of content we create (and, by the way, everything is content) – whether podcast, Flickr pic, tweet or (gasp) Facebook postings – all accrue to your brand. Come on, if you’re telling your friends what era of music or hostess you are, you have to be at least a little interested in sharing.

Things to live by for the brand that is you (taken liberally from what we have always practiced with public brands):

  • We’re just on. Not sometimes. Not at work or away from work. Just on. Be a good steward of that brand as it follows you (digitally) everywhere.
  • Invest in your brand. And be authentic, credible, transparent and honest. Or your brand will lose all credibility. See the above point.
  • We’re human. If you do experience a brand stumble, own it. Engage with those you have offended. Be transparent.
  • Be your brand in your own style. Don’t choose platforms that don’t authentically suit you. Create content about things you know. Posers lose credibility.
  • Give before you get. Add value in your interactions. Give someone a reason to want to engage with you.

Check out our Influence Manifesto to see how we’re evolving our craft at Waggener Edstrom.

Welcome to the Age of Video Game Enlightenment

Posted on June 24, 2009 by Comments Off

Shaan Khan, Writing Coordinator

Welcome to the age of video game enlightenment

I once was a basement-dwelling troglodyte but now I’m a social butterfly — the age of video game enlightenment is upon us.

It’s true — the enlightenment part anyway. Video games and the consoles on which they are played are no longer just providing fun to lonely white males living in their mother’s basements, but are creating an entirely new channel for communication and online social interaction for elite, sexy (sometimes), cultural trendsetters.

How so? To start with, Sony’s and Microsoft’s current generation systems both allow users to download games, watch movies and TV shows, view photos, listen to music, and Sony’s can even browse the web. But that’s only scratching the surface.

Sony is busy with a number of social interaction ideas including the start of a new game genre called Play, Create, Share, which I’ll discuss more in my next post. Their biggest (and riskiest) social initiative, however, is PlayStation Home. A free-to-use virtual world for the PlayStation 3, Home is a place where gamers can interact, buy virtual stuff and enter alternate worlds created by game developers. It’s also a huge marketing tool, offering a means for game and non-game businesses (Red Bull, for example) alike to add content that improves the gaming experience and exposes their brand to a highly focused demographic.

So far 4 million have tried it out, and the average user spends 55 minutes per session — a pretty impressive figure.

Microsoft is getting into it as well — no virtual worlds, but they recently announced at E3 that Facebook and Twitter are coming to Xbox Live. That means 20 million online Xbox gamers can suddenly pop out of a game to tweet how they just rammed their Warthog into a pair of enemy snipers before popping right back in again. (That might sound perverse, but it’s totally SFW, I promise.)

Less dramatic than Sony’s strategy, but possibly more important as it integrates two popular services with one very popular gaming platform, essentially bringing one sizeable and very clearly defined demographic into the realm of new media and PR communication. Wedbush Morgan analyst Michael Pachter goes as far as to say “that Microsoft’s announcement was ‘far and away the most important one of [E3].’”(Joystiq)

Considering how much the industry has grown in just the past two years, isn’t it time we start looking at how gamers communicate, how consoles facilitate this communication, and maybe even how they may have opened a new can of communication worms for us to play around with? I’d say it’s worth checking out.

In future posts I plan to touch upon some of the trends in social gaming on consoles, so stay tuned.

Return on Influence

Posted on June 6, 2009 by Comments Off

Jennifer Houston, Senior Vice President

Cross-posted at PRWeek Insider

At last week’s D: All Things Digital conference, a big piece of news was a significant cash infusion from Digital Sky Technologies to Facebook. $200 million… Even in a down market, investors are flocking to Facebook.

But it makes sense; Facebook has over 200 million users, dominates its market, and sets today’s standard for social networking — people are hooked.

But, given that they haven’t even turned their first buck yet, why invest in Facebook? Because, most simply, it’s a powerful influence platform.

Facebook has created a convenient way to build and nurture personal connections, coupled with a measureable digital footprint. Because of this, we can now measure content resonance, engagement and reach — and these indicators “dimensionalize” the interconnectedness of content, audience and the distribution mechanism. These digital, social tools give us insight into how, where, what and with whom these nodes of influence connect and drive behavior. We can actually measure our Return on Influence.

Merriam-Webster defines influence as: the act or power of producing an effect without apparent exertion of force or direct exercise of command. Today, most influence channels are always on, direct, audience-centric, audience-driven platforms that touch many parts of most people’s lives.

Influence isn’t about having the best “thing;” it’s about reaching the right people, with an engagement that delivers value, offering your audience a meaningful connection to your brand. Having great content isn’t enough if you don’t have, don’t know or don’t understand the audience(s) you want to reach and how they want to engage with you.

True influence is the art of communications in action. It requires a deep understanding of nuance, building authentic relationships and commitment to trust. The great news is, we can take those skills and now measure that impact unlike ever before. That’s my kind of investment!

If You Care About Your Job in Marketing and PR, Read This Post

Posted on June 5, 2009 by Comments Off

Tac Anderson, Digital Consulting Director

Social Media Marketing Madness

I know there are still some social media hold outs among you. Of course, if you are a holdout you probably aren’t reading this. Let’s try this again.

We all know some social media holdouts. I’m not talking about your grandma. I’m talking about in the field of marketing and PR. Forward this blog to them. I’d like to talk to them for a minute.

Hi. Your friend who cares about your future as a marketing and PR professional is worried about you. Unless you’re retiring in a few years you need to wake up. (And seriously does anyone really think they’re ever going to retire?)

You’re asking yourself: What is the big deal about social media? Why do people think that anyone cares enough about what they have to say that they start blogging or twittering?  If you don’t know, you are obviously not involved.

I often refer to myself as a phenomenologist. Phenomenology is a type of research, that comes from the field of anthropology. It requires the researcher to experience that which they are studying as a complete participant, not as an outside observer.

If you really want to understand what all the hype is, get involved. At least try it out. Start reading blogs. Start your own blog, you can even keep it private until you get comfortable. At least start an account on Twitter (come on, you know you’re curious).

There is a whole new level of collaboration and innovation that is happening on the web, and if you’re not involved, you are missing it. Even if you’re reading blogs and watching what’s happening, you won’t be getting the full advantage the social web has to offer.

And I promise you that if want to even have a chance at any type of job security coming out of this economy, you had better at least understand the tools. Would you hire someone who couldn’t use word processing software really well? Personally I wouldn’t hire someone who couldn’t use social media really well.

Yes, social media is overhyped.  No Facebook is not all it’s cracked up to be. Twitter is cool, but not THAT cool (OK, maybe it is).  But collectively the power of all of these new mediums and platforms combined is revolutionizing the way that people communicate and collaborate.

The businesses that “get it” will have a significant advantage. This is was a case of first mover advantage. Now it’s a case of self preservation. If you play the “wait and see” game any longer, it will be too late. And just for the record, no you do not have to be an expert, just proficient.

How can you figure out if this is the right thing for you and your company or what is the best way to implement it? Become a phenomenologist.

Facebook Pages — You Can Do It, But Should You?

Posted on April 13, 2009 by Comments Off

Sarah Warrick, Account Director

If you run a simple search for “Facebook + marketing” you’ll get hundreds of results from third party vendors — solutions, tips, tricks and “guaranteed to work” promises. But earlier this year Facebook itself stepped up with the creation of Facebook Marketing Solutions, which provides case studies, videos and FAQ that make setting up a page a very real and achievable action.

waggener-edstrom-we-studio-d-facebook-pages-you-can-do-it-but-should-youEase of use aside, what must be remembered and practiced is that at the end of the day, success is all about compelling content. Sure, you can create a poll or clever quiz and have thousands of fans, but what are you solving for and how will it build brand loyalty? What will you do to motivate customers to buy your product and come back to your page? To achieve this level of audience commitment, the same offline communication rules apply. You need to know your audience, have a compelling narrative and be committed to the long haul. As we frequently say around here at WE Studio D, social media is a marathon, not a sprint.

As social media platforms become more popular, and easier to build on, it is important to keep the following in mind:

  • Who is your audience? This is crucial when it comes to social media because the nuances of audience segmentation are far more niche when targeting an end-audience directly. With the opportunity to go direct-to-audience also comes the need for extra research and due diligence.
  • What business problem will your social media tactics solve?
  • Is social media the right tactic to solve those problems?
  • After the initial launch, what will you do to sustain (and ideally increase) the fans? Are you looking to build an ongoing relationship, or simply drive a one-off action? If the latter, social media isn’t the right tactic.
  • What/who is your online voice? And is the voice behind the brand communicated openly and transparently?
  • How will this integrate with the rest of your PR/marketing efforts, and does it match your company’s priorities?

It’s possible that Facebook itself is the best case study for the above. It knows it has an audience of marketers and business owners who are interested in directly reaching their own audiences. It is frequently posting new case studies and having two-way dialog with fans. And as to matching business priorities, by making the creation of a page so achievable for everyone from big companies to small business marketers, it is bound to create more revenue streams and remain one of the most popular destinations on the web.

Facebook Redesigns Business Pages

Posted on February 19, 2009 by Comments Off

Interesting move by Facebook to launch a redesign geared for businesses that use the platform for promotional purposes. According to the InsideFacebook blog:

… updates to the design of Pages should make Pages more dynamic and viral, and a more powerful overall product for brand managers, artists, celebrities, and small business owners. Increased distribution in the News Feed should provide great incentive to Page owners to update their Pages regularly and drive more traffic to their Pages through ads.

This is definitely another move to make Facebook a more complete communications platform for organizations, not just people. Some benefits:

1. Immediate relationships

2. Low investment to set up and manage

3. Familiar user interface that trumps a lot of corporate customer sites in terms of ease-of-use

4. Lots of nodes of related interest (fan pages and groups) with which you can engage to drive traffic

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