Future Implications

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The social media landscape is continually changing. Identify and discuss some implications for brands that you see going forward and how this might impact a company’s existing social media strategy. Is this implication a result of changes in human behavior, changes in technology, or both? Why?

One of the biggest implications brands will face in the changing social media landscape is the introduction of new social media tools and the learning curve that comes with them. This year saw dramatic growth in new social media tools like Pinterest, with 5,124 percent growth, and Instagram, with 17,319 percent growth. Analyst James Murray with Experian explains that, “Offering deeper functionality combined with a lower technical barrier to entry will mean new leaders in social media being created in a matter of days versus weeks and months (Holmes, 2012).” This implication reflects changes in both human behavior and technological growth, as social media venues expand and become more simplified and diverse, users are more inclined to become active. But the evolution of technology has led users to become more reliant on simplified interfaces.

However, social media will begin helping companies improve inter-office communications. Although thus far, social media has largely been limited to marketing and community building functions, social media is poised to become an office productivity tool, allowing employees to communicate and collaborate via instant messaging, wikis, virtual work groups and centralized message boards. E-mail is becoming a tool of the past, and even human resources departments are using social media already to communicate with job applicants and streamline the application process. Sales teams have begun using social media to communicate with and track customers through the sales funnel (Holmes, 2012). Dealer.com, for example, is the automotive industry’s leading provider of dealership website marketing solutions. The company’s employees use instant messaging to communicate with one another. This benefits dealers, because when an account representative is unavailable, another representative can speak with the dealer on the phone while chatting with that dealer’s assigned representative. But the evolution in the way we work is not solely due to the changing technology that we work with, but can also be attributed to the way we behave as well. For example, car shoppers today want information instantly. While shoppers 20, even 10, years ago, drove from car lot to car lot, shaking hands and negotiating with salesmen for hours, shoppers today can compare vehicles side by side online and gather safety information, specs, pricing and even chat with sales representatives. Today’s car shoppers demand a dealer’s best price before they set foot in the showroom, and today’s car dealers have no choice but to keep up with the competition. 

 

Holmes, R. (2012, December 11). 5 Ways Social Media Will Change the Way You Work in 2013. Forbes Magazine. Retrieved from http://www.forbes.com/sites/ciocentral/2012/12/11/5-ways-social-media-will-change-the-way-you-work-in-2013/.

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Module 9.2: Viral Marketing Initiatives

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What do you think makes a marketing initiative go viral? Write a blog post around your choice of top five characteristics of a viral campaign (your opinion). Support this with relevant and current examples and identify widgets, plugs-ins, or badges that the company utilized. Feel free to utilize videos (your own or existing).

 

As the Internet has evolved from an experimental network restricted to the Department of Defense to an essential, everyday information-sharing tool, the act of sharing content online has become a part of modern life. In fact, 59 percent of users report that they frequently share online content with others (Allsop, Bassett & Hoskins, 2007), and it has been reported that someone tweets a link to a New York Times story once every four seconds (Harris, 2010).

So what makes a marketing initiative go viral?

  1. Content. If it’s not interesting, nobody cares. And by interesting, I mean moving, funny, charitable, emotional, scary, heartwarming, cute or touching in some fashion. There has to be a human connection, otherwise no one will be interested enough to watch it, share it, tweet it, link it, send it. The Dove Real Beauty Sketches, for example, has more than 55 million views on YouTube and the video is so popular because it touches women, and people over all, on an emotional level. Women, especially, can connect with and become engaged in the video.
  2. Participation. The most successful videos are simple and can be easily replicated. For example, Gangnam Style and the Harlem Shake are relatively easy dance moves that thousands of users can imitate, record, upload and share. “Sh*t Girls Say” is an example of another video that went viral and was spun off into user-created videos like, “Sh*t New Yorkers Say,” “Sh*t Cats Say” and “Sh*t Nobody Says.”
  3. Controversy. When it comes to viral marketing, all PR is good PR because even bad PR generates word-of-mouth promotion. Clothing retailer Abercrombie & Fitch, for example, recently experienced a bout of viral negative attention. CEO Mike Jeffries went on record stating that he doesn’t want “larger people” wearing his products. The news spread like wildfire across social media networks and resulted in the #FitchTheHomeless campaign, complete with a YouTube video. But the negative publicity and the FitchTheHomeless campaign didn’t put Abercrombie out of business. In fact, it generated further brand awareness and spotlight attention.
  4. Interaction. Engagement is important in social media marketing, and sometimes emotional engagement isn’t enough. Many users like to interact with the medium and when they can, they’re more apt to share the content with their friends. The Burger King Subservient Chicken, for example, allows users to type in commands and control an interactive chicken. It had more than 20 million hits in its first week (Anderson, 2008).
  5. Humor. Ok, so it goes hand-in-hand with No. 1, but let’s face it: Nothing makes an initiative go viral faster than humor. People simply enjoy a 30-second or minute-long break from their mundane or hectic day to laugh. And funny initiatives, like photos or videos, often get replicated and recreated into user-generated content, like “memes” of the actor in the Dos Equis commercial, “I don’t often drink beer…” If you don’t believe me, try a Google Image search.

 

Resources:

Allsop, Dee T., Bryce R. Bassett, and James A. Hoskins (2007), “Word-of-Mouth Research: Principles and Applications,” Journal of Advertising Research, 47 (4), 388–411.

Harris, Jacob (2010), “How Often Is the Times Tweeted,” New York Times Open Blog, (April 15), [available at http://open. blogs. nytimes.com/2010/04/15/how-often-is-the-times-tweeted/].

Anderson, M. (2005, March 7). Dissecting ‘Subservient Chicken.’ InAdWeek. Retrieved from http://www.adweek.com/news/advertising/dissecting-subservient-chicken-78190.

Module 2.2: Differentiation

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Identify two companies in the same industry that utilize social media. Compare and contrast their social media efforts. How does each organization use social media to differentiate the brand as well as advancing differing strategic goals?

Social media has changed the way that automotive dealers not only do business, but the way that they reach out to their customers and handle customer relations issues as well. AutoFair Automotive and Grappone Automotive groups are two of New Hampshire’s largest auto dealer groups. Both hold some of the same franchises, including Honda and Ford, and both auto groups are highly active in social media, particularly on Facebook.

However, the two dealer groups could not be more different in their Facebook approaches. Grappone uses a single centralized login for all of its six stores, while AutoFair’s seven dealerships each have their own accounts.

Grappone is highly active and posts frequently, sharing images and human interest stories from other local businesses, promoting its grassroots and community outreach campaigns and, occasionally, advertising business-related specials, like 0 percent financing and holiday sales. But Grappone’s Facebook page is renowned for its monthly Grappone Cares contests, during which the company allows users to nominate local charities for a $5,000 cash award from Grappone. This not only helps increase traffic on the company’s page but also serves as an excellent tool to humanize the dealership employees, especially sales people, whom customers generally anticipate to be underhanded and deceitful.

Some of the AutoFair stores use their Facebook accounts for the same general idea, humanizing the employees and the industry, promoting positive feedback about the stores and, every so often, spreading the word about an upcoming sale or promotion. AutoFair’s Honda store is the most active dealership. The store posts daily and encourages feedback from clients and challenges users in trivia, in addition to giving out prizes, such as baseball tickets and concert tickets. The Honda store has more likes than any of the other stores and, not surprisingly, sells more cars, month over month, than any of the other stores as well.

From a marketing standpoint, Grappone does a phenomenal job maintaining its Facebook page and engaging users. It couldn’t hurt the company to throw in a few more posts that are business-related. Additionally, it would be in the best interest of some of the other AutoFair stores, especially its newest franchises, Volkswagen and Nissan, to post more frequently and even roll out a program through which to donate to local charitable organizations. It is not recommended that the AutoFair stores combine their Facebook accounts, as the stores are physically too spread out. Additionally, the company’s Facebook pages are individually managed by each store’s internet manager, whereas Grappone’s internet department is centralized.

The Evolution of Virtual Communities

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How often do you scroll through your Facebook news feed, glance at friends’ posts and think, “I. Don’t. Care. Why would you post that on Facebook? Maybe I should unfriend him…”

This, in my opinion, is the future of virtual communities. Our current social networks appeal to a broad range of participants and consumers, but the day of the specialized online community is coming. Users are beginning to look for more targeted, niche groups to which they can better relate. Although networks like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn certainly aren’t going anywhere, the demand for specialized content is increasing, especially among professionals. Users want to be able to identify with the people they’re communicating with (another reason sales teams should be using social media!).

For example, although LinkedIn is primarily made up of professionals, there is a vast range of careers represented on the site. LinkedIn has recently launched a ‘Groups’ feature for more targeted connections among users. According to LinkedIn: “Many professionals advance their business goals by counting on professional groups, alumni organizations and work groups to make vital new business contacts which will enhance their trusted connections.” Google has a similar feature in which users can create circles to organize their contacts into different categories, each with their own level of access to your profile.

These niche groups will be driven by the consumers — the users — and while this is great for private users, who don’t want to scroll through annoying, nonsense Facebook status updates any longer, it could be bad news for marketers.

Personally, I think it’s going to make my job a bit more difficult. Social media marketers have enough on their plates already, right? Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+, Quora, blogs, LivingSocial, Groupon, Flickr, Pinterest, Instagram, FourSquare … I don’t think I need to keep going, but there are a LOT of networks we’re supposed to keep track of, update, pay attention to and be fresh, inviting and appealing on. By dividing these networks into smaller groups, social media is presenting us with quite a challenge. Am I going to have to seek out virtual communities for every. single. car. my dealership sells? Oh, boy.

LinkedIn Corporation. (2012). Your Groups. LinkedIn Corporation. Retrieved from http://www.linkedin.com/myGroups?trk=hb_side_grps_top.

Chrysler Group & Social Media

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The Chrysler Group’s foray into social media has been a rocky one, but the company seems (at least, recently) to have gotten the idea.

But let’s start with an oops — for the exemplary purposes and because it’s funny. In 2011, Scott Bartosiewicz of New Media Strategies, a social media marketing firm out of Detroit, accidentally tweeted an expletive from the Chrysler Group’s Twitter account. Bartosiewicz thought he was logged in to his personal account and wrote, just in case you hadn’t heard by now, “I find it ironic that Detriot is known as the #motorcity and yet no one here knows how to f*cking drive.” Chrysler’s mistake? Sacking New Media Strategies, which, in turn, sacked Bartosiewicz. Although Bartosiewicz should have been paying closer attention, and perhaps not have tweeted such language from either account, Chrysler missed a huge opportunity to show consumers just how hip the brand has become. Social media is not traditional outreach. It is human, and tweeting the f-bomb is a human mistake. Chysler could have taken the error in stride and used it to its advantage — sponsor a driving school, promote safety features in its vehicle lineup, etc. Frankly, this incident wasn’t nearly the PR nightmare that Chysler turned it into. I wasn’t as if Bartosiewicz tweeted that Chryslers are heaps of f*cking junk. THAT would have been a PR nightmare.

The Chrysler Group took a few risks when it entered the social media sphere, particularly on the heels of its 2009 bankruptcy. Such a move could have earned the company some serious negative publicity, raising questions as to how the company could afford social media advertising and the third-party firm hired to manage its online reputation — and whether the funds were coming from Chrysler or the US government. How did Chrysler adapt? It was transparent and tweeted frequently and honestly about the decision to file for chapter 11.

In addition, the company also took some risk when it chose to outsource its social media campaigns, instead of hiring experts in house and implementing a social media policy. Similarly, partnering with Fiat and becoming involved in Fiat’s social media campaigns was also risky, as Fiat was in the process of re-introducing its Italian autos to the American market. Despite the Twitter profanity incident, Chrysler and Fiat have used social media wisely and are better off financially in the end.

So, how would you have handled the Twitter f-bomb incident?

Szczesny, J. (2012, March 8). Chrysler scores big with social media. The Detroit Bureau. Retrieved from http://www.thedetroitbureau.com/2012/03/chrysler-scores-big-with-social-media/.

Falls, J. (2011, March 28). What Chrysler did wrong: Remembering the human side of social. Social Media Explorer. Retrieved from http://www.socialmediaexplorer.com/online-public-relations/what-chrysler-did-wrong-remembering-the-human-side-of-social/.

Elliott, S. (2011, March 15). When the marketing reach of social media backfires. The New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/16/business/media/16adco.html.

There’s an app for that!

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Since there really isn’t a social media mobile application designed just for the automotive industry, Facebook is probably the top dog when it comes to social media apps in the auto industry. It’s the gateway social media tool, if you will, the starting point for us marketers just beginning their social media endeavor.

Facebook allows us as marketers to upload photos, videos and coupons, as well as link to other websites. It is the most open-ended social media tool, which is probably why it’s successful in driving products and services to customers. We can, for example, upload a coupon for a $19.95 state inspection special or 25% off their next oil change in order to drive automotive services to our customers. We’re able to upload photos and walk-around videos of new cars, plus, we can link to reviews, new car spy photos, manufacturers’ websites and more. We  can also maintain a dialogue with our customers and often ask questions that have absolutely nothing to do with business. One of my most favorite things about Facebook is that I can use it to connect my customers with each other and humanize myself, my dealership and my business. As often as possible, we try to snap photos of our customers and their families with their new vehicles. We take pictures of our clients’ dogs when they bring them in the showroom. We take photos of each other when we’re outside brushing snow off cars in the winter and tossing snowballs. We take photos of our team at the Making Strides walk, of construction on our new Volkswagen showroom, of townspeople at the grand opening of our Nissan showroom, of co-workers while we’re donating blood or eating lunch in the new cafe. We publicly congratulate our customers when they buy a new vehicle. We post all this on Facebook and we hope that people understand that we’re not scummy used car salesmen. We’re people too. And more than sales promos, coupons, mailers and cold calls, I think this is what makes Facebook most effective in driving business to our dealership.

Unfortunately, there’s no solid way to track our Facebook successes and failures. We can sort of tell what works and what doesn’t by the number of likes and comments on each post. We can check our Facebook analytics and occasionally our customers contact us through Facebook messages to schedule sales and service appointments.

I’m sure there’s an application or a service available to us to track the effectiveness of our Facebook site, but we have yet to reach that point in our social media campaign.