Tag Archives: Instagram

Soap To Soda To Gum

It’s Foodie Friday and today we’re going to raise a glass to chewing gum. Well, not to the gum itself, but to the founder of the Wrigley Chewing Gum Company, Mr. William Wrigley. While he made his fortune selling gum, he started out to do something quite different and therein lies the thought I have for us today.

English: Doublemint gum Photo by User:Hephaest...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Mr. Wrigley began selling soap. Like many of us in business, he tried to distinguish his brand by giving his customers a little something extra which would help distinguish him and his product from the competition. In his case, he would give away baking powder. After a time, he figured out that his customers liked the baking powder more than the soap and so he started to sell baking powder. Along with the baking powder, he gave away two packages of gum. You can guess what happened next.

There are two things in his story that I think are relevant to any of us in business. First, giving the customers what my Creole friends call a “lagniappe” – a little something extra – always pays dividends and sometimes they’re huge. I don’t know if Mr. Wrigley’s soap (or baking powder) were premium-priced to cover the cost of the extras he gave away, but the outcome certainly negated any cost. Always ask yourself how you can do more for the customer.

At some point, Wrigley realized that he had to pivot his business because his sideline was more successful and popular than his main business. He’s not alone in this. WeWork grew out of a baby clothes business renting unused space in their building. Instagram was something that grew out of the users of a whiskey lover’s app posting photos. The founders recognized that the photo sharing was more important to the users than the whiskey information. When Justin.Tv began letting users stream videos, (having started as just one guy streaming his own life) the “gaming” channel blew up and Twitch was born.

We need to keep an open mind when we see opportunities. Yes, we can’t always be chasing the new shiny new thing, but when one aspect of our business is screaming to be given a lot more attention, we need not be afraid of making a pivot. Mr. Wrigley pivoted (twice) a century ago, and while technology has changed, the basic business acumen he displayed hasn’t. Ruminate about that!

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Tribute Bands And Your Business

Over the weekend I saw the Dark Star Orchestra. For those of you unfamiliar with the band, they’re one of the leading tribute bands out there and they play the music of The Grateful Dead. I’ve seen them several times and oddly enough each time I do it reminds me of a few business thoughts.

I played in several bands as I was growing up. We always felt we were a cover band. We were playing someone else’s songs but doing so in our own way. Most tribute bands go beyond that and attempt to recreate the sounds and often the appearance of the original artists. If you’re any sort of fan of The Dead you know that their performances were very hit or miss. The DSO is way more consistent and they sound just like The Dead on a great night each and every time. So what does this have to do with business?

I think imitation is more than just the sincerest form of flattery. I think in many ways it’s better than innovation despite the fact that we often hear of the “first mover advantage.” Innovation is great, but by not being first the flaws in the original product or service become way more clear. The fact that you’re building later lets you correct for those flaws and get beyond the original. That usually is something you can do much more cost-effectively too.

What do I mean? The iPod was not the first music player, just the most successful. Anyone who looks at Instagram knows both that they weren’t the first of their kind and that most of their “new” features these days come right from Snapchat. You could video chat someone long before Skype came around and Amazon was not the first retailer on the web. Each of those companies, and other such as Spotify and eBay, were not first movers. They were imitators – tribute bands if you will, who took the best of the pioneers and made it better.

Is it easier to get funding for a copycat? Probably – the business model has been proven and, therefore, investor risk is reduced. Japan, and now China, built economies on imitating successful products and making them better and/or cheaper. A tribute band has a pre-built fan base. If you’re a Beatles fan or an Oasis fan or a fan of The Band, you have no chance to see the original but you can spend a night with their music. If you’re a business, you don’t have to be the original if you can make the original better and capitalize on their fan base. The DSO do it brilliantly. Can you?

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Getting Social

You might think that after a decade or more of social media as a legitimate channel through which marketers can engage consumers we’d be doing a decent job of it. Unfortunately, I don’t think that’s true for the bulk of the marketing world. In the interest of improving both results and the quality of the messages with which we’re all deluged, here are a few things I’ve found to be helpful when engaging in social media marketing.

First, research has shown that the vast majority of brands today invest most of their paid social media budgets into brand awareness marketing. I get that the sales cycle has to begin with lead generation and that begins with awareness, but if you’re spending all of your budgets on the news feed and not enough on conversion, retention, and service than you’re doomed to massive churn rates and ultimate failure.

Next, ask yourself how engaging you really are. The news feed, whether Facebook, Instagram, or elsewhere, is a place where consumers go to interact with their friends and to be entertained. It’s also becoming a primary news channel for many. Nobody is there to interact with you. Let me repeat that. Nobody is there to be sold to; they are there to be entertained. Are you doing that or are you the guy at the cocktail party who keeps asking all the guests if they have car insurance because that’s what he sells?

Whatever messages you’re sending out, how are you deciding about targeting? The holy grail of marketing is the right message to the right person at exactly the right time. It’s extremely tailored. If you’re buying big, untargeted audiences (Men, Women 18-34, People living in Maryland), you’re using a wrench as a hammer. It’s a misuse of a tool.

Finally, are you being you? Has your brand created a distinctive personality or is it all corporate ad speak? People don’t want to engage with robots so don’t sound like one. Be real and listen a lot more than you speak. Let your customers guide your marketing. Don’t respond to a question just with a “that’s on the FAQ page of our website.” Use it as the basis for your next blog post which then goes through the social channels.

I’m a fan of social media marketing even as I recognize that it’s full of landmines. You don’t want to be the company that “goes viral” for the wrong reasons (DiGiorno, Red Lobster, and many others) due to some social media faux pas. You want to be unique, interesting, relevant, inspiring, authentic, and entertaining while staying focused on your target audience and your own goals. Doable?

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My Totally Fake Life

I came across an article last week that I found disturbing. I don’t think it’s news to any of you there that it’s possible to buy fake followers on the various social media platforms. You can buy hundreds or thousands of “followers” on Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook fairly cheaply. I had assumed that this was something that some (dumb) businesspeople did to make their metrics look better. More on that in a second. The article set me straight.

What it said was that researchers at:

Huron University College in Ontario, Canada, who surveyed around 450 participants ages 18-29 through an online polling platform, and found that 15% admitted to buying “likes” from Web sites for their Instagram profiles…25% of respondents said they engaged in digital plastic surgery before posting photos.

Yikes! I guess these people figure that by having large numbers of people following them on some platform that they appear to be more influential. The reality is exactly the opposite because it takes very little effort to figure out that those people are fakes. Running a Twitter handle through Twitter Audit showed me that some person who claimed his million plus followers as a reason to do business with his had, in fact, 96% fakes in that million. It’s ego gratification, the same reason why people lie about their age or their weight or name drop, and it makes for a serious level of insecurity. And yes, there are other tools for other platforms to help spot fakes.

The same can be said when we do this in our business profiles. Some warped social media person will buy likes to show the boss that they are becoming more popular and that the efforts they’re making to garner new followers are paying off. Of course, engagement rates will drop off to nothing (those fake names don’t interact), and in fact, could do your brand harm by becoming spammy through your account.

It’s a little frightening that many of us feel the need to live a totally fake life online. The study found that 31% of respondents said they edited out all the boring details to make their life seem more exciting, and 14% said they specifically craft their profile page to make it seem like their social life is much more active than it actually is. Maybe it’s possible that the people who are posting the most are actually living the least glamorous lives?

Maybe one benefit of getting older on a personal level is the realization that the only one with whom we’re competing is ourselves. More “stuff” – cars, clothes, or followers – can mean less happiness. On a business level, more can be great but fake never is. Your thoughts?

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I’m Confused

One of the newsletters I receive linked to a couple of articles today which deal with the same issue from opposing points of view. I’ll lay out what they say and I’d love to hear what you think.

The issue is how to deal with social media posts made by employees on the employee’s personal pages. On one side we have an article from the AP called “How to handle an employee’s offensive social media post.” On the other we have The Atlantic with a piece called “A Social-Media Mistake Is No Reason to Be Fired.” The former calls for swift action (read that as termination); the latter urges leniency. Here is the reasoning behind each but I think you see why this is a confusing issue for many of us in business.

First the AP piece:

Whether it’s comments about news events, long-held beliefs or a bad joke, an employee’s offensive posts on Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites can damage a company’s image and profits. If the comments are racist, homophobic, sexist or against a religious group, tolerating discriminatory comments puts an employer at risk for lawsuits and losing customers.

Clearly, if posts of this sort are placed on the company’s pages, I’m in total agreement.  There is no middle ground – the person needs to be fired.  But what if, as is the case in some of the examples cited in the article, the employee is posting on their own page during non-work hours?  Are we as business people responsible for the political and religious beliefs of our staff?  What right do we have to regulate those beliefs and, moreover, what about the first amendment protections each of us enjoys?  The article says that many employers have taken to monitoring their employees’ personal pages to make sure that there’s nothing there that would be detrimental to the company.  Fair?

The Atlantic, on the other hand says:

Here’s what corporations should say in the future: “Sorry, we have a general policy against firing people based on social media campaigns. We’re against digital mobs.”

But note the one exception built into what I propose. Sometimes people do stupid things in the public eye that relate directly to their jobs… generally speaking, Americans ought to be averse to the notion of companies policing the speech and thoughts of employees when they’re not on the job. Instead, many are zealously demanding that companies police their workers more, as if failing to fire someone condones their bad behavior outside work.

The piece deals with the public shaming that bad actors often suffer.  The author believes this is punishment enough and is generally a short-term issue while a termination has long-lasting effects, well beyond the scope of the bad behavior.

So where do you come out?  Can you see why this is a confusing issue?

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Facebook Fadeout?

A basic law of gravity says that what goes up must come down and I suppose those laws apply to social sites as well. Witness MySpace, Zynga, and others. Now I don’t believe that social media is going anywhere. It’s become too important a communications channel and too ingrained into people’s lives. However, I do think that which social sites are the focus of social activity will continue to be an ever-changing landscape, particularly among the young and among early adopters.

I see far less activity on Facebook from my younger friends (by young I mean under 30 and under 25 in a number of cases) than I do on Instagram, Twitter, Vine, and other places.  You might have heard about the Piper Jaffray report stating, as TechCrunch reported,

that interest in Facebook seems to be declining heavily among teens. Though teens still dub Facebook their most important social network, Piper Jaffray reports that the numbers are down regarding how many teens see Facebook as the most important social media website.

What it more interesting to me is the report from the Pew Internet & American Life Project that found that even though 94 percent of teenage social media users still have Facebook, more and more are jumping ship to Twitter and Instagram because of what Pew found as “increasing adult presence, people sharing excessively, and stressful ‘drama.’”

Then there are brands who are trying to tap into that audience.  As usual, marketers tend to be their own worst enemies:

Retailers that push fewer posts, but better and more targeted ones, are gaining an edge over those that pursue volume when it comes to publishing Facebook content, new data suggests.

The 50 Social Retail Report from enterprise social media management company Expion analyzed 16,000 posts for the top 50 retail brands as designated by Interbrand. It found that as a whole, fan engagement and volume decreased for retail brands on Facebook, despite their increases in published posts – implying a need for more thoughtful earned and paid media strategies on the platform.

As we’ve discussed before, there really is something to be gained from listening and engaging rather than yelling and spamming.  Quality is demonstrably better than quantity.

All these reports tie together in my mind.  No matter how big a social site is, there are those who become bored and who move on to the next thing.  It’s like the old Yogi Berra quote about a place being too popular so no one goes there anymore.   Kids don’t want to be hanging out in cyberspace with their parents (or teachers or old guys like me!).  They don’t want to be deluged by massive amounts of marketing jetsam.  Is Facebook dying?  No.  But if you’re putting your marketing eggs in that basket in an attempt to reach the younger demo, you might be.

Thoughts?

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Four Misunderstandings About Social Media

As you’ve probably aware if you’ve spent any time here on the screed, I take a great interest in how business folks think about social media.

Image representing Twitter as depicted in Crun...

Image via CrunchBase

I am one of those people who believe that over time the word “social” will vanish as all media becomes more social and what we classify today as “social” media becomes more mainstream (although I’m not sure how Facebook could become more mainstream when it seems damn near everyone is on it!).  How businesses can use social media is one of the areas in which I advise clients and so I took great interest in an info-graphic I came across the other day entitled “How Small Businesses Are Using Social Media (and why they may be getting it wrong).  If you click through I think you’ll find some good information on it but you’ll also find four terrible misunderstandings.

In the section labelled “Why Small Businesses Are Using Social Media” there are four points.  Each one is, I guess, something that these businesses believe to be true.  Unfortunately, they’re not.  Take point one:  it’s inexpensive.  Sure the tools are free but supporting your business on each platform is not free.  In fact, to do social well and to cover all the potential social bases (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and Google+ for starters) in an active way that will engage your customers requires planning, writing, and responding.  It all takes time, and as we all know, time is money.

Point two: it’s easy to use.  Another half truth although I’m sure businesses believe it.   The tools are not overly complicated but creating great, engaging content is hard, as you can probably tell from the attempts to do so in this space.

Point three:  their customers use social media.  Yes they do, but as the term “media” indicates  they’re in a lot of places doing so.  The aforementioned “big” guys are just the tip of the iceberg, and new players emerge and grow every day.  Reddit, Vine, and Stumble Upon are just three places where a lot of the customers are but the brands aren’t.  Add to that the fact that to gain any sort of visibility with the majority of your customers on the big guys (Facebook and Twitter in particular) requires you to be a paying customer.  So much for “free.”

Point four:  It doesn’t take a lot of time.  Totally wrong unless you add “to do it badly” to the end of that phrase.  Supporting multiple platforms with engaging content and responding to consumer interactions takes a lot of time – ask any of the brands that do social media well.

That’s my take – what’s yours?

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