Category Archives: 2013 – Post 1

You are what you drink… Monster vs Pepsi

monster vs pepsi

As energy drinks have changed the way we think about soft drinks, they have also changed the way beverage advertising and social media is done.  It is interesting to compare the two different approaches from the new school of soft drinks, Monster Energy to the tried and true traditional, Pepsi.  Both are represented on all of the major social media websites, however each uses the outlet for a different purpose as they target a different audience and choose to spend their advertising money in totally different ways.

Approach:

Pepsi uses social media in much the same way as they use their website, as a way to get more eyes on their advertisements.  Although they have Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube, they only promote the first two.

Pepsi.com website

Flipping Through Pepsi’s social media pages feels much like flipping through the pages of a magazine.  Post after post are just traditional product advertising.

pepsi facebookpepsi twitter

Going to the Monster Energy webpage you get a totally different feel.  If you didn’t know what Monster Energy is, you wont find out here.  The webpage is not made to promote the drink, but the lifestyle.  On the front page they give links to all of their social media websites not once, but twice.

Monster homepage

Just like Pepsi, they do a good job of keeping the same branding and feel of the webpage across their social media outlets.  However; Monster continues their promotion of the lifestyle as opposed to their product.  Monster may be spending big bucks on print advertising just like Pepsi, but it doesn’t show, they consistently show off the money they are spending to sponsor events, extreme athletes and party girls.

Monster Facebook Monster Twitter

Numbers:

Even though Monster certainly promotes itself as the cool kid on the block, their numbers don’t necessarily back them up.  Pepsi still dominates on followers, likes, talked abouts, and views even with less posts.

pepsi vs monster

Who Wins?

The question of who wins is tough to answer, Pepsi makes more net income in one quarter than monster made in sales all last year, but that also means Pepsi should have a much larger budget and following.  Also as the “next generation” of soft drink drinkers grow up, will they still want to look at magazine adds, or guys doing backflips on bicycles?  If Pepsi wants to keep their advantage they may have to change the way the talk to the world through social media.

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DEERE vs. CAT: who will win the “likes” of ‘merica??!?

Hey TMMBA’ers, Andrew here… I was originally going to post about the marketing channels in use by Grumpy Cat and Colonel Meow, but sadly the Colonel passed away tragically on January 30th. You can read about that here: http://www.buzzfeed.com/chelseamarshall/in-memoriam-of-colonel-meow

So I chose John Deere and Caterpillar instead. Why you ask? Because I’m a little boy at heart and TRUCKS ARE REEEEEEALLLY REALLLLY RAD, OK?

JOHN DEERE

I started out my adventure by stumbling upon this little article about John Deere, the Original Content Marketer: http://marketingland.com/is-john-deere-the-original-content-marketer-2-49138. In it, it describes how John Deere started a magazine called The Furrow in “hopes of being a resource for their customers.” Here’s another which covers the topic: article: https://todaymade.com/blog/history-of-content-marketing/

After that, my expectations were sky high for John Deere. Unlike CAT (see below) finding John Deere’s landing page and corporate statement about social media or content is very hard, but finding evidence for how it uses social media is not: http://www.marketingpilgrim.com/2011/11/john-deere-uses-social-media-to-feed-the-hungry.html

  1. Twitter (68k followers): Multiple Twitter accounts. @JohnDeere, @JDCLASSIC, @JohnDeereJobs, etc. and they have TONS of handles. Looks like they encourage certain employees to have twitter accounts. And John Deere Argentina. ¡Seguinos! Very fun, videos (even at the expense of Deere). Charity (lots of focus on charity golf)
  2. Facebook (2.1m likes): Much more focus on product than on Twitter. Stories about “’merica” and heartland farmers. Compared to Twitter, JD doesn’t seem to spend as much time on Facebook shenanigans.
  3. Instagram (11k followers): Like Facebook only more sepia toned.
  4. Google+: No visible or consistent presence on Google+
  5. YouTube (30,957): Not only is there a central John Deere YouTube channel, there is one for each country. Broken down between Agriculture, Construction, Forestry and Expos, Deere really pushes it’s product to the forefront.
  6. LinkedIn (109,300 followers): Less frequently updated than CAT. Less focused on employment. Highlighting it’s placement in Employer lists and highlighting some executives.

CATERPILLAR

Caterpillar has some tough shoes to fill. I started by finding a social media website http://www.caterpillar.com/en/news/social-media.html (which was really easy to find, +1 for CAT) and participates in Facebook (241,665 likes), Twitter, YouTube (18,577 subscribers), Google+ (1.6M views) and LinkedIn (174,353 followers).

Caterpillar seems to focus its content on the different channels even though there are articles shared across the board.

  1. LinkedIn: Leans on “rags to riches, American Dreams” story. The first article on LinkedIn is about Bill Naumann, “From Machinist Apprentice to Chairman of the Board”. Heavy emphasis on “Shaping America” and Employment.
  2. Google+: Heavy emphasis on Sustainability and the word “Global” is much more prominent in the marketing.
  3. Facebook: A little more “fun” (some memes) but overall focus on company messaging, and again Sustainability
  4. Twitter: Similar to Facebook, frequent posts. Bright and colorful, mostly cool pictures of trucks. Cross posting with NBC (“Are you watching @NBCDreamBuilder right now? Look for the Cat machines! #DreamBuilders). Cross posting with YouTube.
  5. YouTube: YouTube seems to be ground zero for CAT. It’s a place where there is high visibility to Expos, Safety, Sustainability and corporate videos.

CONCLUSION:

Both CAT and Deere seem to care about social media and focus exclusively on a few channels. I’d argue that it seems that Deere feels like it’s their “duty” to carry on the mantle. Deere’s emphasis and focus on Twitter is really stand out. It’s confident and playful, and the interaction by the company employees and fans keeps it relevant and fun. The content strategy on Twitter seems to rely heavily on outside or user generated content.

CAT is trying to sell the image of a more adult and professional company, one that relies very heavily on the “hard-working American” aesthetic, and it comes across in their entire web presence. CAT, appropriately, had a MUCH larger tie in to LinkedIn, focusing heavily on the company’s core values, personal stories, and highlighting the best from its posts on Facebook and the like.

What surprised me the most was that both have an extremely strong connection to YouTube, which I guess isn’t surprising now that I think about the product and the ways that YouTube extends itself into the expo space, even with very expensive contribution and farming equipment.

Also interesting was the lack of interest in Facebook. It seems more like a formality to both companies than a pure investment.

I only had a few hours to play around in this space with either, but in the end, Deere’s concentration on Twitter and YouTube kept me reading. It was actually fun, and it seems like they have fun with their brand and are not sticklers for their “fans” taking it and running with it. That they have a lot of devoted fans (even those that create memes) says a lot for the power of their brand and their social media presence. I spent about 30 minutes wandering through Deere’s Twitter page which ultimately also connected me into the Instagram page (and then on to Facebook).

My take aways were that both companies seem to care about their social media and content presence, but really focus on Twitter, YouTube and LinkedIn. It’s way more than an exercise for Deere, it seems like it is a broad commitment to their community (which these days includes a heavy social media aspect). CAT seems to devote time and effort to YouTube and LinkedIn, so I think they are very focused on channels that provide them with value. Both update frequently. With different emphasis on Twitter and LinkedIn depending on the company. Facebook and Google+ seem to be almost afterthoughts.

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Followerwonk

Followerwonk analytic is much easier tool  as you only need to enter the user profile name and hit “Do it”.  Analytic report will provide the data from HearingZen twitter account as indicated below.  A company could use the data to set strategy to effectively make advertisement to a focus on  particular location, gender and age at the particular time of day.  The user to user dependency could also be analyzed to generate more sales leads from such data.

However, it is still not clear to me how these general data can be used more intelligently even though analytic tool provide these general info. How does firm creates a strategy or decisions based on these data. To make advantage of these data, more in depth statistical analysis and trends to link relevant data to other series data and somehow link the trends to business relevant information.

  • Geographic location of users

TwitterFollowerMap

  • Active user hours

ActiveHours

  • Social Authority scores of users HearingZen follows: Social Authority is our rating of a user’s influence and engagement on Twitter. It ranges from 1 to 100, where higher scores indicate a person with greater influential activity.
  • Inferred gender of users HearingZen follows
  • Follower counts of users HearingZen follows: We’ve analyzed users HearingZen follows and assembled this chart to show you the number of people who follow those users. This is a useful way to pinpoint those users with the most followers (and therefore clout).
  • Account ages of users HearingZen follows
  • Recencies of tweets of users HearingZen follows: If a person hasn’t tweeted recently, then their account may be dormant. These data are based on the date that Followerwonk last checked the user, so the dates may not be entirely precise, but they should give you a good idea of who is tweeting more recently than others. Protected accounts are excluded from this analysis.
  • Total tweets of users HearingZen follows
    If a user has a low total tweet count, they may not be a “real” user. Perhaps they tried Twitter and gave it up? On the other hand, those with a very large number of tweets might be avoided (they could be spammers, overwrought, or just too verbose!)
  • Retweets as a percent of timelines of users HearingZen follows
    Retweets are an excellent measure of engagement. The more someone retweets, the more he is consuming other peoples tweets. That’s generally a good thing (because it means they are more likely to RT you). Here, we breakdown this audience by the amount that they retweet (as a percentage of their timeline).

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Filed under 2013 - Post 1, Analytics

Synapse Innovation

 

Synapse was rated as third place for best place to work for in Seattle Business Magazine in large company segment.

Company bio: http://www.synapse.com/about

Company innovation: http://www.synapse.com/wall-of-cool

Fun stuff: animated development process video clip

Simply put, Synapse is a company that makes cool stuff. Whether it’s building a best-of-breed GPS sport watch with Nike and TomTom, creating new AirFloss technology with Philips’ Sonicare, or designing field-ready DNA analysis devices, Synapse is always building something brilliant. Aside from their thrilling work, Synapse’s employees—including inventors, designers, engineers, technologists and strategists—are rewarded with full medical coverage for themselves and their dependents, a 4 percent match on employee 401(k)s and company-sponsored health savings accounts. Those benefits, combined with a sparkling, newly remodeled downtown office complete with rock-climbing wall and foosball table, place Synapse amongst our top three large companies in 2012.

Looking at Synapse facebook and twitter, they are still working on social media fan base at about 500 leads on Face book and Twitter. Would be nice for these cool product to be introduced in social media more actively from this local Seattle company to get their presence more known. Synapse seem to be active on Startup community in Seattle.  We may see their presence in UW business competition and technology innovation events.   Their product innovation seems to be all over the map but that makes it kind of interesting to keep eye on to see what they come up with.

https://www.facebook.com/synapseproductdevelopment

https://twitter.com/synapse

 

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Filed under 2013 - Post 1, Social Media Strategy for Companies

One size fits all? Not for Brooks!

Image“One size fits all” maybe a formula about anything but certainly not about Brooks Sports, a local Bothell company. I think they better than anyone else understand that customers come not only in different sizes but their interests and needs vary, and therefore Brooks uses the best media tools such as Votigo Platform in reaching their diverse customer base and customizing their marketing campaigns through Facebook and other social media channels. Particularly, I want to mention Social Conversation Manager that allows scheduling and post updates, photos and links to Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn from your Votigo dashboard, and it recently integrated with Goodle+. Votigo social marketing includes the following steps: pre-cultivate your audience, build a great promotion, seed the message and follow through. The tool also allows you to measure effectiveness of your marketing or sales campaign and repeat it, if successful.

We all can get irritated by advertisement spam, and yet at the same time we spend substantial time shopping online or in the store. I am one of these folks, like most of the Brooks customers, who adhere to active lifestyle, technology-savvy and who value the time. When a store delivers information that I need at the right time in the right setting and via the right channel, I embrace it and I will share it with my friends. Rather than asking a sales person, I like to hear from other people how they like new running shoes before investing my time going into the store and taking my own risk in trying them. I can find these discussions on Facebook,  Brooks blog page and many other pages that are certainly not just about the shoes. In fact, we all enjoy reading about the runs and events, watching photos and sharing our emotions. The problem is not lack of information. It is the opposite: too much information and too many channels that deliver it. The challenge for retailer is delivering the right information to the right potential buyer. The challenge for the buyer is to filter the right information through all the media noise and fish out the right choice with the minimal effort.

When it comes to Brooks Running, I think there are beating all their competitors in regards to social media providing the best brand reach and quality of service. The way they interact with customers makes us feel special, and when Brooks listens back from us using social media channels, it helps the company in staying on top with their product development. Social media is where we share what we like or do not like with our friends and friends’ friends and just complete strangers. When done right, the social media delivers marketing in a noninvasive way, provides potential buyers with a great set of options and learning tools. When we like it, we naturally become free marketers for the company that treats us individually and with respect.

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Eddie Bauer: lessons on Facebook and Twitter

Eddie Bauer has just over 8,000 twitter followers but over 130,000 likes on Facebook with 2,700 people talking about it.
Why the large difference? My guess is that its related to the content, Eddie Bauer’s tweets are 99% Facebook links. They seem to just be using twitter to push Facebook content. In short they are doing it wrong. On the other hand their Facebook page looks great.
On Facebook every post is generating user comments and likes. They are posting four to five times per day. Almost every post includes a picture which makes for a visually interesting page. Eddie Bauer is also sharing and asking questions to create dialog between users on their page.
A post from today was “What adventure did you tackle this weekend in ten words or less? Bonus points for epic locations or gripping stories…” It garnered 11 responses in about 30 minutes some with photos.
Their twitter page however is just intros to Facebook links and looks rather dead. Most of their posts have no further activity, about a third have a single re-tweet and I only saw two that had an actual reply form anyone.

https://www.facebook.com/EddieBauer

https://twitter.com/eddiebauer

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Reeling in fans with Big Fish Games

When all of your games are on mobile devices and Facebook you had better have a large social network presence. Thankfully, Big Fish Games has been aggressive with reaching out to customers and fans to keep them engaged with the latest news, as well as promoting the gaming lifestyle in general.

BFG Facebook

One place that Big Fish Games really has developed a good social presence is Facebook. Instead of customers voicing complaints or issues on a very public forum the company Facebook page actually has a direct link for Customer Support. This solves a few issues. Those that are looking for support have easy access, plus it cleans up the page for discussions on the latest games and other gaming news. Another positive feature of the Facebook page is direct links to the company’s Twitter and Pinterest accounts.

Big Fish’s presence on Twitter only has 18,750+ followers, which is not a huge following when compared to the 212,000+ “likes” on Facebook. However, The Twitter account seems to have regular updates, and focus more on industry news instead of highlighting specific Big Fish Games products. This helps appeal to a broader user group, and it may help the Twitter account gain followers by providing more generalized information. Don’t be fooled by all of the general information. If you post something positive about Big Fish Games, chances are you’ll get a retweet or comment. Overall Big Fish Games Twitter account is a good example of how a company can interact with fans and further support not just for a company, but also the entire industry.

The one place where Big Fish Games is a clear leader is with the Company Blog and Discussion forums on their website. The Social Media Manager, Conor Murphy, has posted 378 blog posts since September 2008. That is about 7 posts per month, and that is just from one contributor! Recently, a friend of mine, Lauren, started posting blog posts, providing a female’s gamers prospective to the blog. While the majority of gamers are still men, having a female perspective is good for addressing the growing market of female gamers.

Big Fish Games is a great example of how with a little work, a company can have great success with connecting with fans on Social Media.

Mark McDonald

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Differentiated responses in a homogenous social media world.

Any company can setup a Facebook page or create a Twitter account to connect with customers.  But how do companies change their social media strategy to stay unique and differentiate themselves?  This article on FastCompany describes a few of the ways, but what REI did was really cool.

http://www.fastcompany.com/3004369/how-rei-put-bow-social-marketing-and-wowed-customers

REI has taken a very interesting approach here by translating their obsession with customer service to the digital world.  During the last holiday season, REI raised the bar on responding to Twitter posts by responding with personalized video responses to customer questions within one hour.  Not only did this surprise the customers, it created a buzz that drew even more traffic and attention to REI.  It will be very interesting to see how companies continue to alter their social media strategies in similar ways to differentiate themselves.

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Question: Who is more popular on Twitter than Paul Allen?

Answer: @itsjudytime

(#43 most followed on Twitter in Seattle)

Judy has managed to gather almost 100,000 followers on Twitter by selling makeup products branded as “natural.” Her social media strategy reflects her “natural” message, including a Youtube video series shot like reality TV.

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new word of mouth

House Calls Etc

http://www.yelp.com/biz/house-calls-etc-seattle

House Calls Etc is a handyman service that I used when I moved into my new place.  I found them on yelp and chose them because of the reviews.  Another thing that influenced my decision was their website and some of the info/videos on there (http://www.housecallshandyman.com/).  However, I never visited their Facebook page even though it is listed on the website.  The Facebook page only has two posts on it, both in 2012.  The Yelp page however has 6 posts all within the last 4 months and a Google search brings up the Yelp page first, not their website.  I find the imbalance interesting.

When the rep finished the work I had done, he made sure to remind me to go to the Yelp listing and leave a review.  So they are actively trying to increase their social media presence, they just choose to focus on one channel.  Still, does that mean they have a poor social media campaign?  Because their Facebook activity is almost nil?

I do think their Facebook efforts need improvement, simply because it is the top social networking site.  However, I do want to commend the push towards Yelp.  Because their business is highly dependent on referrals and “word of mouth”, Yelp provides ratings and those referrals.  This adds much more value to the business than Likes on Facebook.

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I Can Has Cheezburger

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http://icanhas.cheezburger.com

A couple of months ago I was at the Bellevue Square Apple store to pick up some overly expensive accessories for my macbook pro.   While browsing around looking for a thunderbolt cable, I recognized someone in the store.  I couldn’t quite but my finger on it but there was something about his glasses.  After a few minutes it hit me.  It was Ben Huh, CEO of iCanHasCheezburger.  The reason he looked familiar is I had just watched him on TV the night before in a reality show called LOLWork.  I decided it would be weird to say, “hey I saw you on TV last night” so I finished my shopping and went on with my day.

iCanHasCheezburger is built on and contributing to social media.  The company uses elaborate integration into the social web for several main purposes:

  1. Drive users to one of their sites
  2. Facilitate viral sharing
  3. Encourage users to contribute content
  4. Reduce costs by utilizing YouTube for streaming video delivery

The company’s mission is to make the world happy for 5 minutes per day.  It is working.  Cheezburger has over 350M visitors a month to its 50 sites, over 500K likes on face book and nearly 200K followers on twitter.  This company knows how to leverage social media.

Cheezburger has chosen to create and manage multiple brands such as lolcats, animal gifs, and I can has hotdog.  Each of these sub-brands has its own social media carefully designed to interleave and promote the Cheezburger brand.  For example, @thelolcats on twitter has over 5K followers.

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Cheezburger is one of Seattle’s most interesting companies.  In 2011 they raise 30M in venture funding to continue to spread their vision.  The company has come a long way since posting funny pictures of cats and are slowly becoming the nerve center for the viral web.  I highly recommend checking them out.

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Social media for eBay sellers

I was chatting with my sister-in-law last week, she runs a very successful small business on eBay selling all kinds of vintage articles and clothing. She was recently featured on eBay as a power seller. One of the secrets to her success is her online presence and strong social network.

She was telling me about advertising on social media channels and how its ok to promote your products by putting a picture of a cool “find” that you think your friends will like, however it would not be cool to directly advertise something for sale.

Found this article where eBay coaches their customers on how to use the social media channel to grow their business. I find it interesting how the evolution of social media has empowered small businesses to expand their market in a way never seen before.

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I Concur!

Who among us is an ever-weary road warrior, about to take off on another journey? Well, Concur is here for you. In fact, Concur is looking to build what it calls “The Perfect Trip” to satiate any business traveler – even those on the road most days of the year (we’re talking George Clooney, “Up in the Air”-style here). Among the ideas for this vision? Text message your latest expense (or even just tell Siri), and it will automatically upload into Concur. Plane touch down in Austin, TX? Concur will let the Marriott know you’ve arrived, and check you in automatically. Rolling on into your hotel room by scanning your smart phone at the door to unlock it after a long flight? Priceless.

So, did you book a trip to Hawaii for that long awaited vacation? Send your itineraries – we’re talking car rental, flight, hotel, dinner, all of them – to plans@tripit.com to forma a master itinerary. Oh, and by the way, TripIt will socialize this information: your Salesforce Chatter, Facebook, and Twitter followers (not to mention your TripIt connections) will all get an update – and soon be quite envious.

Want to learn more, and get away from your typical, laborious expense management process? Hit up http://www.concur.com for more details. Also, http://www.tripit.com. Don’t worry – in good time, “The Perfect Trip” awaits you!

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The Forth Place

In early 90′s, Howard Schultz created this vision that Starbucks coffee house would become “third place”, where people can relax, meet others, and enjoy coffee outside of home and work. Once this third place is established in customers mind, it creates steady and continuous revenue for Starbucks. 20+ years later with “third place” is in place, Schultz has now been focusing on making Starbucks the “forth place”, where people exchange ideas and comments about the brand via social media such as Twitter and Facebook.

Although turning fans to revenue is important, Starbucks is more committed to building new relationship with its new customers and to strengthening existing relationship with its most loyal customers. Seeing the increasing needs in effort, in 2009, Schultz hired Adam Brotman as the VP of Digital Ventures to exclusively work on enriching customer experience via social media.  Since then, the brand has created a digital dialogue with its customers in everywhere of the world, enabling them to give feedback and receive a response back from Starbucks addressing concerns or comments. Starbucks don’t just say they care about customer experience, they really do show they care. Today, Starbucks has 3.5 million of followers on Twitter and over 10 million Facebook fans. Schultz’s vision of the “forth place” is being realized.

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Rock Box

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Like many Americans, I had always thought of karaoke as something done in a bar in front of a group of strangers, usually by someone monopolizing the microphone to show off (thanks, Top Gun). Then I went to Japan. If you’re invited to karaoke in Japan, abandon any hope of quietly sitting in the corner and listening…you MUST SING, no matter how much you try to avoid it (and believe me, I tried). The fact that the small town where I lived had only three English songs was no excuse (if you’re ever there, I suggest kicking it off with Dancing Queen, moving on to Love Me Tender, then a big finish with My Way).

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The amazing thing was that after returning from Japan, I actually…missed it. There was something magical about being surrounded by friends sharing their favorite songs, singing lyrics that suddenly seemed to be written just for us. Luckily, for the Seattle karaoke refugee, there’s Rock Box. When a friend introduced me to the place a few years ago, I was stunned when the staff handed us an iPad (the standard remote also works fine for song selection). Not only that, but the list of English songs was as long as the list of Japanese songs, plus a number of other languages. Finally, a place to make a fool of myself with dignity!

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But popularizing Japanese-style karaoke in the US isn’t easy, which is where Rock Box’s social strategy comes in. They’ve been posting to Facebook and Twitter almost daily with special events, contests, raffles, discounts, and the top songs of the month. With over 3,200 likes, the strategy seems to be working.

Oh, and the top 5 songs for March 2013? You guessed it, #1 is Seattle’s own…

1. Thrift Shop (Macklemore/Ryan Lewis)
2. Don’t Stop Believin’ (Journey)
3. Total Eclipse of the Heart (Bonnie Tyler)
4. Call Me Maybe (Carly Rae Jepsen)
5. Baby Got Back (Sir Mix-A-Lot)

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Rock on!

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Windows Phone 8 – Social media strategy that adds color to life

Microsoft may be a little late to the mobile game, but better late than never. Friends ask me why I like my Windows phone 8. My answer is always the same – Fast and fluid. For as long as I have used it, my HTC 8X has never crashed on me once. How many Android users can say the same about their phones? And live tiles bring what I care most to my home screen. Nokia and HTC have collaborated with Microsoft in a big way to bring some of the most vibrant and stable Windows phones that we have grown to love.

WP8_Testimonial

So how do you think Microsoft and Nokia social media campaigns demonstrate the people-centric features of Windows phone? They are diligently attracting new users by weaving customer stories and testimonials. What better way than stories, to stay on people’s minds forever? If you know Ben “The PC Guy”, you might be familiar with the latest ads where he tells customer stories and how Windows phone makes it all about you. Check out one of the videos where Ben takes on the iphone.

Vibrant colors and live tiles are a dream come true for any marketer. It is fascinating to see how Microsoft along with its OEM partners has unleashed its creativity in the social media campaigns for Windows Phone– blogs, twitter, facebook, YouTube . Jessica Alba, the brand ambassador and a full-time mom, has done a wonderful job in promoting the phones to her ever-growing twitter base.

Jessica Alba shows off Nokia Lumia at the Windows Phone 8 launch event

Jessica Alba shows off Nokia Lumia at the Windows Phone 8 launch event

Windows phone is quickly capturing market share as well as people’s hearts.  Why you ask? – Because it is truly reinvented around you!

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Smith Brothers Farms – Milk & Media

This is an era of brands, advertisement and marketing. But do brands really matter when it comes to milk? I did not care about the brand as long as I knew it was Cow’s milk. But, soon I realized that there is more to the process than I ever imagined; there can be tons of differences in the way the cow is raised to the way milk is packaged and delivered. Yes, brand does matter, and Smith Brothers Farms (SBF) is my milk brand. I met the milkman at a stall in one of the farmers market, sampled their milk and got detailed information about the company and the various products they carry. That was the first time I could associate a human face to the carton of milk I take out every morning from the refrigerator.  After switching to SBF, I knew where my milk was coming from, how it was processed and handled – I actually knew my Milkman!!

SBF is a local family-owned and operated dairy farm serving the greater Puget Sound area. Located in the Kent Valley, Smith Brothers Farms have been in business since 1920. They are one of the largest home delivery dairies in the country. Currently they deliver products to more than 45,000 homes every week. In addition to the convenience of online order management and home delivery, SBF got my taste buds so used to fresh milk that there was no going back to the typical store-bought ultra-pasteurized milk.

Their marketing strategy relies mainly on word-of-mouth referrals, door-to-door marketing and participation in special events and local farmers markets. In most of these events, they hand out product samples. They also support various organizations throughout the Puget Sound area, like Program for Early Parent Support (PEPS), Woodland Park Zoo, Issaquah Salmon Days and Denny’s Milk Carton Derby.

SBF’s customers manage their orders via an easy-to-use and intuitive website, http://www.smithbrothersfarms.com. They have also maintained a Facebook fan page, https://www.facebook.com/SmithBrothersFarms and twitter account, @SmithBrosFarms. Despite being a local brand, they have over 23K Facebook likes and over 4K twitter followers. Their Facebook fan page contains product and event updates, sales info, fun facts and much interaction and testimonies from consumers. They are regular on twitter with gathering views and reviews on various products they offer, event reminders for followers and some casual conversation too. SBF has a strong traditional marketing strategy which they have adopted for over 90 years and has been very effective for them. However, they have identified the need to embrace the new generation social media strategy and they are on their way connecting with their e-Age fans.

SBF

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Filed under 2013 - Post 1, Social Media Strategy for Companies

Expedia – Find Yours!

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One of the smartest and most intriguing ad campaign, in my mind, is Expedia’s “Find Yours”.  In that campaign, launched in 2012, Expedia has played on the emotional aspects of travel in a very effective way.

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http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qhfEyj7kuEw

Travel is by nature very individual and personalized, but in the same time it has a huge social aspect to it. Travel is individual and personalized in the sense that every traveler and every trip is unique, and it’s social because travelers typically like to share their trips stories, memories, photos, videos, and artifacts with their friends and families.

Expedia has targeted both aspects of travel in their campaign. They seeded the campaign with a series of video ads on YouTube and TV. The ads showed amazing real travel stories from real people. The ads created a connection on a deep level between travelers and the Expedia brand.

The rest of the campaign was mostly on social media, and it was equally brilliant. It ran on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest, in addition to blogs. Expedia did a number of interesting things:

1-      The entire content of the social media campaign was user generated. Expedia basically worked hard at encouraging travelers to share their stories, videos, and photos on different social media websites.

2-      Expedia sponsored trips for travel bloggers to different popular locations around the world.

3-      It held “Find Yours” Twitter photo contest that encouraged everyday travelers to post photos from their trips for a chance to win a number of prizes.

4-      Expedia created a Facebook app that allowed travelers to keep track of their travel route, their travel memories, photos, videos, and share that with the rest of the world. With the ability to transform your trip automatically into a movie.

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What I really think is brilliant about all of this is the fact that Expedia has not tried to sell anything or push any product in this campaign, they simply created an emotional connection with travelers.

- Ayman Kaheel.

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Can an Effective Social Media Campaign Save Jones Soda Co.?

jones holidayJones Soda Company, the once popular Seattle beverage brand has fallen on hard times.  However, you probably wouldn’t know that based on recent activity on its social media channels.  It has a focused and active online marketing strategy, befitting its image as the beverage of choice among the young and hip.  The strategy puts the customer front and center on its website rather than relying just solely on connecting through conventional channels, e.g.: Twitter, Facebook, Google+.  If you evaluated its strategy only on the measure of followers on Twitter or likes on Facebook you would conclude it was a mediocre effort of an uninspired campaign.  No doubt, having over 1 million likes on Facebook is nothing short of amazing for a company that only did 17 million in revenue last year, but even Sunkist has over 3 million.

First, some context.  Jones Soda Co. is not doing well financially. The company has been through a rough couple of years with revenue dropping from around $40 million in 2007 to under $17 million in 2012, taking an almost $3 million loss. It finished last year with a devastating “delisting” on the Nasdaq with its stock hovering around 40 cents from a high of over $30 in 2007.

What Jones Soda is Doing Well with Social Media

The company is active on Facebook and Twitter and promotes its various brands, new product launches and event campaigns through these channels, actively engaging customers on a daily basis.

It has developed a customized social media strategy on its website that encourages fans to post photos of their favorite moments with Jones Soda.  It’s looks like an impressive effort that has a lot of potential, but hard to tell how active fans are and if there is any dialogue between fans and company.

What Jones Soda is Not Doing So Well with Social Media

Some of the content is dated. In fact, a huge disappoint occurred earlier today when I visited the blog page. The last entry was from 2012 promoting the movie, “Snow White and the Huntsman.” The entry before that one was from September 2011.  Having old content is sometimes worse than not having it at all, especially for a brand trying to seem trendy, young, fresh and in the moment.  Fellow TMMBA colleague, Pranav Nambiar’s blog article on which social media strategy works best, cites a study that concluded “blog content posting” as the most important tactic to use for effective B2C campaigns. If this is true, Jones is making a big mistake by not updating its blog content. I even went so far as to tweet the company with the following exchange occurring:

jones soda

While I can forgive the obvious error in grammar (it’s Twitter!), I don’t think the tone was the best way to answer a customer. Granted, I was kind of being a jerk by pointing out the old blog, but the answer back should have been more playful and should have not taken 5 hours to respond.

Social media IS marketing and when cuts happen, marketing budgets are often the first to go and the case with Jones is no exception. Jennifer Cue, Jones Soda’s current CEO, stated in their 2012 Q4 earnings call that, “During the latter part of 2012, we needed to align our operating expenses to the company’s capital resources and the size of its current business. We eliminated top-heavy corporate overhead along with marketing expenditures that did not fit our brand image.”  This all happened around the time the blog entry stopped, which is probably not a coincidence.

Can social media save a company? Probably not. Can it add value to a cohesive and structured marketing campaign? Absolutely.

You wouldn’t think I’m a fan based on my most recent post (yes, shameless plug) trashing the soda industry on GeekHealth!  But, I truly hope Jones Soda Co. is able to weather the storm and make it, as I AM a fan (who DOESN’T like Tofurkey & Gravy Soda?!) and occasionally enjoy their products—especially on an Alaska Airlines flight!  If you are a fan as well, help them out by following them on Twitter and like them on Facebook!

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Crowd sourcing for game development

In the past few years there have been big talk about social media and how businesses market their products. Of all the industries that I have seen market their products, game industry is the one that stood out the first. I am not focusing here on just the social gaming companies marketing their social games, but the big game players, be it console games, massively multiplayer franchises as Ever Quest, Wow or DC Comics. I have worked in the gaming industry for about 12 years and was part of social campaigns marketing the products. I was part of the game development teams (MMORPG development) and was impressed how the game teams will market their upcoming releases. MMORPG are genre of role-playing games where a very large number of players interact with one another within a virtual game world. The virtual world Is a persistent world which continues to exist and evolve while a player is offline.

While working at Sony Online Entertainment at their Bellevue development studio for a game called “The Agency”, I was part of developing prototype game for the Agency where  players (for example facebook members) can get the feel of what is coming in the real game. There were discussions threads for people to discuss and provide their feedback on what to improve. This method helped the game team tremendously. The prototype game players on facebook were given the option to move their game data to the real game once it was launched. Several iterations of the prototype were done and with the crowd sourcing many new features were implemented in the game.

I have seen various other game companies implemented into their core game development. Sony has also done this for their casual games where the game Free Realms was introduced to the social platform for few months prior to the real game launch. This has been a successful strategy for introducing the new games to the social members and creates a buzz for the game early on.

http://www.facebook.com/FreeRealms?ref=ts&fref=ts

 

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IBM saves employee blogging

Ever since I started seeing the I am an IBMer commercials I was intrigued. After a while I caught onto the fact that IBM was using an old trick that has fallen out of favor for social media marketing – employee blogging, more specifically blogging about what you are working on.

http://www.ibm.com/blogs/zz/en/

I am sure all of us remember the days when blogging first surfaced and companies started realizing the many benefits employee blogging can bring – free marketing, making connections with customers, creating excitement about upcoming products etc. Campaigns were launched across the industry to encourage more and more employees to blog. Then came the blogging blunders where a few employees lacking common sense crossed boundaries and instead of creating value through blogging, ended up making headlines for the wrong reasons. The social media strategists wisened up , realized some of the pitfalls and started providing fairly prescriptive guidance on “what you can and cannot talk about”. This probably hampered the free sharing, participation. But employee blogging about their work was not dead.

What killed the momentum out of employee sharing was the secrecy Steve Jobs famously used as a clever marketing tool. He was smart enough to realize that in the era of hyper connectivity, the only way to create real news was to generate great hype around new product launches, maintain absolute secrecy (that means no employee blogging), create a media speculation frenzy and then eventually satisfy the frenzy with a show. That was great and Jobs was a genius. However I can’t help but feel the rest of the industry not only followed, they upped the ante. This started a new era of non-sharing, hyper secrecy with product launches. I am referring to the double NDAs, don’t even tell your spouse and 3 year old kid kind of secrecy.

Don’t get me wrong. I realize surprise is a powerful business tool and in today’s world where product cycles have become short, pace of innovation has increased there is a strong argument and merit in doing what has now become industry norm. What I am trying to say (and I know by now you are waiting for the punch line) is I think the pendulum has swung too far one way. It is time for us to start restoring the balance. It is refreshing to see IBM get the employee voice out there. After all I have not heard of any company that was successful because it found the new phone the competitor was secretly developing in a bar!

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Social strategy winner – Starbucks!

Starbucks is a clear winner of having a good social strategy.  In fact to Starbucks “Social” does not mean only an online strategy, it also means creating a social environment in their stores. Though the latter may be attributed to its birth place, Seattle, where most time of the year people spend time indoors, except summer months.  Whatever be the reason, you feel good when you enter their stores.  (not applicable to drive through folks!).

Starbucks has great Facebook, Twitter and other social media tools. However I restrict myself to their interesting initiative called “My Starbucks Idea” through which it interacts with their customers actively and solicit new product ideas and enhancement tips. 

If you are reading this blog, then you are online.  Please check this “My Starbucks Idea” for your own experience.  Based on strategy, consumer and employee participation, feedback mechanism, improvements to existing products and ideas for new products and leadership, I rate Starbucks social initiative as number #1.

  1. The strategy was well thought out and the website clutter free and easy to read.  The postings are classified into Product, Experience and Involvement ideas.  These are very broad but distinct categories and might belong to different teams to own it internally.
  2. Community is incented by providing the scores / online badges.  There is an inbuilt scoring mechanism managed by community in terms of likes, dislikes (negative score), votes and comments.  Participants take pride in getting honors online.
  3. Ideas are voted up by community and best ideas move to top naturally. This is the dream of marketers and product managers – they spent lot of money to create a crystal ball to predict the consumers’ behavior towards their new product or improvement to existing product.  Starbucks gets that with minimal cost and with more accuracy.
  4. Also the site will get the pulse of customers (what is your favorite drink?) daily through question of the day.  The data collected is relevant and from their customers real time.
  5. 40 experienced employees from specific areas are called Idea partners and they rank the top ideas. 
  6. Community enjoys the transparency from Starbucks about the action taken on their idea (Reviewed, under review, implemented, etc). 
  7. Even though the improvements and suggestions are common for any coffee company, Starbucks has used internet to bring their consumers together and made them loyal to Starbucks.
  8. It enjoys the lead in the social media globally through active involvement.  
  9. Through this portal Starbucks introduced new products to the market and gained more customer base. 

Do you know any other company using social media effectively?  Please comment below. 

The screen shots below indicate a snapshot from My Starbucks Idea on 4/4/2013. 

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Social media stratgy of drugstore.com

When I review my interaction with Seattle based business, except for big names like Microsoft, Amazon.com or Costco, drugstore.com is the one I bought most staff from in the past 3 years. Drugstore.com is an online retailer focused on healthy, beauty and skincare products founded in 1998 in Bellevue.

As an online retailer drugstore.com started engaging on social media fairly late, opening its page on Facebook at 6/30/2009, comparing with Amazon.com at 3/9/2008 and Newegg.com11/9/2007. Drugstore.com has opened multiple social media channels, but its major social media publishing channel is Facebook with over 910K likes. (The twitter page has only 17K followers)

The main strategy of drugstore.com is using social media only as a channel of promoting new product and promotion programs. Almost all posts on the Facebook page falls in this category. It sees that drugstore.com expects to attract more customer through deals and products broadcasted through people “likes” it. However, in my opinion, it is not a very effective way to use social media. The information on the page are too random and less focused. It is hard to believe that these information would attract interest from people to recognize and feel connected with the brand. A better way may be using more content to tell stories of people interacting with the website and how it makes their life easier. Besides, in publishing products and promotions, instead of posting random information, it should be more consistent and building “themes” which can last for a period of time. Organized, focused and continuous information will help attracting attention of more people.

Furthermore, drugstore.com should spend more effort on other social media channel, like Twitter. Comparing with Facebook, Twitter is a better channel to communicate random promotion information and engage customer feedbacks.

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Evolution of a Store (and Strategy) – Chuck’s Hop Shop

Residents of Seattle’s Greenwood neighborhood have watched Chuck’s Hop Shop evolve before their very eyes. What was once a ramshackle bodega that one would not let their children (or mother’s) enter, is at present one of Seattle’s largest and most beloved beer destinations. When Chuck took over the space he added some fresh paint, better lighting, and overall made the store more welcoming. Still, it was a convenience store with an interesting, if modest beer selection. Over the course of the first two years shelves filled with Hostess and Frito Lay snacks were replaced with more refrigeration cases and beers from across the globe. Chuck would partner with local breweries for special tasting nights. The interesting environment combined with his friendly demeanor found patrons wanting to linger longer and taste the interesting beers. Soon Chuck brought in beer on tap, for sale in growlers or to consume in the store. After just over two years, the shop has transformed into a neighborhood pub/7-eleven/community gathering spot. The place is always packed, and with neighborhood kids and dogs also welcomed, has a frenetic energy all it’s own.

chcuks

Chuck’s social media strategy followed a similar transformation. Initially their presence was limited, as Chuck’s seemed to still be figuring out what they wanted to be. The uniqueness of the transformation was just the kind of thing social media helped spread. Many wanted to share their pleasant experience in such an unusual space. Through local neighborhood blogs, Yelp, and Foursquare the secret slowly got out. Now that attracting customers was no longer an issue, Chuck’s social media strategy transitioned from passive to active, adding greater value and building a community outside of the store. Chuck’s inventory changes daily, and keeping customers abreast of new products keeps them coming back into the store. Given the high amount of alcohol consumed in the store, the need for food options beyond Doritos was addressed by inviting local food trucks. Seven days a week, a different food truck is parked in Chuck’s lot. Given that food and beer changes daily, Chuck’s has little challenge with sourcing content for their Facebook or Twitter pages. Daily updates ensure that customers never forget that Chuck’s is nearby.

chcuks2

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America’s Pastime goes to Twitter

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As the Mariners season kicks off another promising season (it is the beginning of the year), one beer vendor is turning the laborious process on its head.  He is going to be using Twitter to take orders and deliver the beers to spectators.  Kevin Zelko, a 36-year old teacher in Seattle, is a 5-year veteran of the business and makes anywhere from $125 dollars on a weekday to $200 on a weekend.  His philosophy is simple, the clientele who tweets their orders in from there smartphones are more likely to be better off and thus better tippers.  On the supplier side, it will take some of the legwork out of the process by providing direct routes from order to delivery.  The baseball fan just simply tweets to @Msbeervendor with the order and location in the field (lower level only) and the beer is delivered directly.   One downside, prank tweets.  The idea seems to be working, opening day is just 3 days away and Msbeervendor has gone from 225 followers on April 4th to over 1700.  Good luck Msbeervendor, I will take my beer the old fashioned way, I will go get it myself…..I need to pee anyways. 

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Gracie Barra Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Seattle – A Smart Social Brand

Check it out. We all know that Jiu Jitsu can save the world, as evidenced through rigorous strategic marketing analysis and real-world presentations. But did you know? Seattle has one of the most famous Jiu Jitsu schools in the entire whole planet-world, and it’s the Gracie Barra school located in the SODO district – nestled between a police station and a Subway (eat fresh) sinkhole.

What makes the school shine? Aside from the top-level submission grappling instruction provided by none other than world-famous Jiu Jitsu players Rodrigo Lopez and Carlos Sievert, GB Seattle has done a super sweet job of managing it’s social presence.

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For starters, check out the flawless website. The site acts as a hub for all of the regional Gracie Barra schools and allows for prospective students to easily find a location closest to their domicile. Linked on the site is Gracie Barra’s “Barra Wear” online merchandising site which sells badass Gracie gear for training or casual wear. Easy navigation and quick information access make the site completely user friendly and help GB Seattle enable their community to interact.

Next, scope the Gracie Barra Facebook page. This page acts as a center for students to talk shop about upcoming tournaments, post pics of training, and share stories of legendary Jiu Jitsu battles.

A major force behind Gracie Barra’s success is it’s reputation for training the best fighters in the world – George St. Pierre, Jon Jones, and several other UFC champions train Jiu Jitsu at Gracie Barra.

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Finally, Gracie Barra Seattle has won hearts and minds of locals, as evidenced through their flawless Yelp! rating.

For a small business, GB Seattle has gained a righteous reputation for bringing students (both existing and prospective) together through social.

(PS –  if you are interested in training, talk to Sol and we’ll get you started on choke techniques right away)

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Getting high in Downtown Seattle? Legally? Since 2008?

Yes, as of December 6th, 2012 pot is now legal in Seattle. However, people have been getting high on 1st and Pike legally since 2008! With no prescription!

Where: Seattle Coffee Works
How: Off of their Coffee
Why: Seattle Coffee Works brews some of the most potent coffee in the world. The buzz off of their intensely-caffeinated brew surpasses even the high that potheads get off of certain vaporizers, zoom-tubes, and gravity bongs.

What is even more impressive than the caffeine content of their coffee is their online presence. That is saying a lot since their coffee is strong enough that it is beyond legal limits in certain countries. When I jumped online and bong (past tense of ‘to Bing’) “Seattle Local Coffee” I expected to see Starbucks pop up or at least Tully’s or Seattle’s Best. Not the case! Seattle Coffee Works comes up #1. Even when getting “Scroogled” on a simple search of “Seattle Coffee,” SCW comes up just after the Wikipedia article for coffee in Seattle.

What Seattle Coffee Works has done is developed an impressive online presence. They are on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, StumbleUpon, Tumblr, etc, etc, etc, they have an extremely active blog, an exciting, attractive website, and 339 more online outlets! Other coffee shops don’t do this. A typical coffee house, roaster, or slut-hut doesn’t even have their own facebook page. Many don’t even show up on Google maps. Seattle Coffee Works, on the other hand has capitalized in their absence and driven customers to their doors through free online advertising. Go check them out at http://www.seattlecoffeeworks.com/ or try binging them yourself.

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Visit Seattle!

Did you know that last year, 10.2 million visitors spent $5.9 billion in Seattle and King County? Much of the credit goes to Visit Seattle, a private, nonprofit marketing organization which has been the official marketing organization of Seattle tourism for more than 50 years. They do all kinds of stuff to enhance employment opportunities and economic prosperity of the region, and they’ve got an impressive social media presence.

They use three main channels: blog/website, Twitter, and Facebook to let everyone know how cool Seattle is. The “No Umbrella” blog posts a detailed look at local activities and events in the area every few days. Check out this post about all the nearby places a snow-starved Seattleite can go to find some gnar powpow.

The @VisitSeattle Twitter account is very active, with dozens of tweets a day aimed at directing traffic to local companies. Since most posts on Twitter are public, they set up filters to search for mentions of Seattle and directly reply to people who might need some help finding cool stuff to do.

seattletweet

The Facebook page is also incredibly active and personalized. Visit Seattle posts interesting articles and pictures of Seattle, and the posts are highly commented/shared/liked. They also engage directly with users and respond in detail to any questions.

VisitSeattle

This direct engagement with users on Facebook seems to be working well. Their page has amassed 443k likes - that’s equivalent to 71% of Seattle’s population!

Each channel has a unique voice and is catered to different audiences, but the message remains the same… Visit Seattle!

http://www.visitseattle.org

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ICONS of Science Fiction (EMP)

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My true desire was to make comments on the amazing job the Doctor Who franchise is doing with promoting the upcoming all-stops-pulled 50th Anniversary special, but with the mission parameters of keeping our prose focused on local causes, I’ve altered the focus to the ICONS of Science Fiction at the EMP

http://www.empmuseum.org/at-the-museum/current-exhibits/icons-of-science-fiction.aspx

Using The Force, I sense your question, and in answer to it, yes, it IS actually just about the coolest place to hang out locally, and you should go there frequently to see the exhibits that have changed and support such a glorious local treasure. It even has Kirk’s original chair from NCC-1701.

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But how do all these wonderful ICONS relate to social media you ask? Well, the EMP does an amazing job on promoting their events using their various social media channels.  Facebook is my primary mode of keeping abreast of what they’re doing, because ironically, even though I’m on their mailing list, I never get emails of upcoming events. So, social media tools are the only effective way to know what’s happening at the EMP and knowing what I’ve got to make room for on my schedule.

For a couple of examples: When James Cameron came to town to promote the opening of Avatar/Avatar Exhibit, it was only through social media tools that I heard about it. Sure some local TV news may have given a blip on it, but who watches live TV anymore? How gauche. I sure saw it in my FB News Feed though, and having the “Friends” that I do, saw the boards immediately light up with everyone Tweeting, sharing how to get the best tickets, where the best parking could be found, what time to get there, where we’re going to meet up for dinner, and it didn’t cost EMP a penny to target exactly those who’d be interested in attending. Consequently they were sold out very fast. Compare that against a radio spot, or TV ad which only about 1% of people who heard the message would actually care.

Another example: How many heard about the Battlestar Galactica exhibit? Probably not many, and yet it ran for over a year.  Through social media channels on http://www.BLASTR.com, http://www.SyFy.com, and http://www.empmuseum.com I knew about it a year before it opened, as did all my friends.

So, bringing this post to TerminationImage

we once again see that social media channels have the unique advantage of targeting the exact people that would be most interested in your message, with a fraction of the costs of traditional marketing strategies, and the added synergy of using your followers as advocates to advance and proselytize even more users to your cause.

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Costco – Time to get serious about Social Media?

Costco Wholesale Corporation was founded in Seattle and now has its headquarters in Kirkland, WA. It is a membership warehouse club that provides a wide selection of merchandise. As of 2012, it was the fifth largest retailer in the United States, and the largest membership warehouse club chain in the United States.

Costco focuses on selling products at low prices, often at very high volume. These goods are usually bulk-packaged and marketed primarily to large families and businesses. Furthermore, Costco does not carry multiple brands or varieties where the item is essentially the same except when it has a house brand to sell, typically under the Kirkland Signature label. This results in a high volume of sales from a single vendor, allowing further reductions in price, and reducing marketing costs. Costco is known to limit its price markup on items to 15%.

From a social media strategy perspective, Costco seems to not be active in this space. Costco did not have a twitter account or a Facebook page till couple years ago. A quick lookup at Costco’s twitter accounts shows zero tweets! It appears they created the account and then forgot about it. Its Facebook page has 871,494 likes and counting. It does very little in terms of attracting customers to it’s twitter or Facebook page. Most posts on Facebook have been about new store openings. Recently, they have started to post about their ‘online offers’ which is nothing but a link that take you back to the Costco online site. They also have started to post pictures about their vacation packages that they offer through Costco online but the content is very limited.

Perhaps it is Costco’s strategy to not participate; maybe they are monitoring and working a social media program behind the scenes. I’m sure they would like to listen to what their advocates, customers or detractors are saying and it’s only a matter of time before they realize the power of social media & how they can benefit as a company from its use.

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