I really shouldn’t have a growl in my head on a Friday afternoon. The sun is shining. It’s moments before the weekend. And I had great conversations with clients all day.
Well, except for one.
One of the most challenging thing an agency faces is the expectation of instant expertise. Questions like: “Can you guarantee that the social media strategy will increase revenue by double digits?” Or “We went to a lunch about social media. You know, it’s free. I have a nephew that needs a summer job, we’re going to have him fool around with it.”
I have no doubts that social media CAN influence sales. And you may just have a nephew that’s a child wizard… but, in my experience, you what you pay for.
Social media has great influence. BUT it is not a singular activity.
Social media is digital PR with the added twist of being driven by the customer. Few companies are daring enough to risk their well-honed (and expensive) brand on expressions their customers make on twitter, face-book and pinterest.
In the last three years, social media has taught some excellent lessons.
1. Loyalty is driven by brand experience.
Be careful about implementing ideas that are not directly focused on your specific brand. Let’s take the Pepsi Refresh campaign. One could argue that the campaign was based on Pepsi’s commitment to community. It’s even in their mission statement. But their marketing team had their head in the stars of social relevance. They should have studied Coke’s I’d like to teach the world to sing… campaign. Famously striking — and unable to sell Coke. Polar bears, drinking ice cold Coke with their friends at Polar bear parties a give a much stronger message of cold, fun, thirst quenching. which is, after all, why we drink Coke.
The Pepsi Challenge had more than 3 billion impressions. Three BILLION people played around on their site. Three BILLION people saw the Pepsi logo and thought… wow, isn’t Pepsi doing a good thing.
Unfortunately, those three billion people did not change their drinking habits.
In the end, overall sales during the campaign slid by 0.3% and market share went down by 4.8%. The campaign was a bust.
2. Opening the door to social media allows customers (and donors) to rant.
McDonald’s conjured an amazing campaign. Using #McDstories, they built a social environment where customers could talk about their experiences at McDonald’s. Jordan Bitterman, senior vice president and social marketing practice lead at Digitas said, “The conversations took a U-turn and attracted critical tweets about horror stories of McDonald’s instead.”
Be careful. When you open the door to customer comments, they will tell you what they think.
3. Social, when augmented by celebrity can get the word out.
Double lung transplant patient Helene Campbell attracted a lot of attention for organ donations when Justin Bieber picked up her story and his 23+ million followers got on the band wagon. Ellen picked up Bieber’s tweet and her 11+ million followers got on board.
The power of the social media presence is in Bieber and Ellen and the sheer numbers of followers they influence. Measurable results are difficult to pin point, but organ transplant organizations had a day in the social media buzz. They will be able to spin some benefit from it.
I am excited about the possibilities of digital.
But let’s not forget the power of messaging. As marketing professionals, it’s our job to position the product or service in a way that the audience is totally immersed. It is our job to position for increase revenue — not buzz. Getting the buzz is much easier than increasing revenue.
As technology continues to evolve, we must flex with the our learnings. I was delighted to read that McDonald’s took their experience seriously. Instead of halting the comments and trying to subvert the negative messaging, they began to talk to their customers.
Social media opens an entirely new door for companies and organizations to let their loyal customers and clients speak honestly and openly. It’s a bit of a risky thing to do.
I look forward to the adventure of maximizing the power of technology…