I can't imagine working in any other industry but the Internet. As we head into Q4 and look forward to 2010, the buzz and discussions around social media are deafening.
As someone that crisscrosses the country meeting with agencies and brands, I've had some pretty interesting conversations and experiences recently and thought I'd share. Here goes…
Recently, I met with an agency that said, "We don't do apps." Wow, was I surprised to hear that! Saying you don't do apps is like saying you don't understand all the inventory opportunities available. For example, CaféMom was recently passed by Circle of Moms (a community on Facebook) by millions of women. Another example, NBC's Access Hollywood just launched an app on iGoogle, one of the newest third-party platforms available, and it is already gaining traction. So don't consider apps an object or a banner that goes away but rather a bonafide community that is growing each day. If you are a CPG company looking to sell diapers you may want to reach a highly engaged and targeted community of moms. If you educate yourself on what moms are doing you could possibly provide content, coupons around existing conversations on Facebook and soon via mobile. As a brand, if consumers of Access Hollywood are a fit, why not take advantage of the new iGoogle platform?
ROI (in the campaign sense) and social media don't always mix. That's like asking for Italian food at a sushi restaurant. You need to separate the two. I will always say selling product will work best via ad networks and your search buys, but people on Facebook may not want to buy anything that day or the next but they may want to investigate, learn more and engage. It's equally important to consider building a relationship over time, that's your ROI.
Complete the social loop. Typically, campaigns go up and then down. Social media doesn't typically work that way. Take for example Facebook Fan Pages or Twitter – done well, are around the clock, seven days a week, 52 weeks a year efforts. Completing the social loop is tying your social to your media and leveraging your short term investment to benefit the long term. As an example, recently, a large beverage company conducted an integrated program on a Facebook app and through that program enabled people to become Fans of its Facebook Page, right there on the app. The result: close to a million new fans.
Isn't it fair to say, "Too many cooks can lead to a bad meal?" I have not met a client who isn't frustrated with the lack of communication between multiple agencies. The issue lies in the inability to properly execute an ad program because everyone has their own interests. Some brands have simplified this by initiating the buy in house, using one agency or making it mandatory to have all stakeholders aligned in one room. If you are buying on a social platform it's absolutely necessary to have all the stakeholders together from the start.
Multiple platforms don't mean multiple headaches. With today's technologies and open platforms, conducting one effort but on MySpace, Facebook and the iPhone isn't at all as daunting as it might sound. In fact, because today's developers and publishers are creating across platforms, marketing opportunities across their creations is pretty seamless. ampm recently completed an effort across a poker game on MySpace and the iPhone, as an example, and the only difference I could tell was the screen's size.
Brands need to be involved and work with publishers to get the best bang for their buck. Brands should drive social strategy and agencies should drive campaigns. Back to my comment above, the clients know what's best for their brand, they have more at stake. I know it's easy to say, "Call my agency," but until the education process has been fully realized brands that stay involved with social initiatives can sign off on new metrics, placements faster than an agency. The alternative is a roller coaster ride and potential miss for the first to market opportunity.
Great ideas, big ideas, out of the box ideas don't fall into an Excel spreadsheet. I'm sorry but it's true. Think about it. If your ad network buy is $2 ECPM, your upfront provides you a $4 ECPM how can something that's potentially more relevant, tracks multiple metrics on multiple platforms provide you a low ECPM? I think what has happened in mobile is sad, mobile devices are the most coveted real-estate opportunities on the planet, yet some publishers sell them for cheap because they want the money which forces agencies to beat them up on prices. Clients need to trust that reputable publishers selling into mobile or Facebook are offering great value and that value should be paid for.
We all love Facebook because it allows us to stay updated and informed with our friends. It always works and works great, but as a brand trying to engage potential fans and drive fans to a Fan Page you don't have to buy engagement ads. You can tap your media with top app partners that will provide rich, high-share of voice placements to get fans to engage. The majority of fans of brands don't go to the fan page and many of them aren't active even when they do.
Speaking of Fan Pages, once you've engaged people, they are all about joining the social media conversation, not just simply communicating with your target audience. Don't let your Fan Page or Twitter presence become what corporate blogs have become – a one way communications vehicle. Manage Fan Pages and Twitter for the long term as on-going social media marketing tools, preferably in-house. A great example doing this is Dunkin' Dave: http://twitter.com/Dunkindonuts, which is also tied to the Dunkin' Donuts Facebook Fan Page.
Big up fronts will kill you if you aren't careful. In the last few months I have heard so many agencies say, "I would love to do this, it's amazing, it makes sense, but I have no more money due to already paid-out up fronts. Up fronts are dangerous because they handcuff you and don't allow the agency to take advantage of new opportunities that pop-up. Social opportunities are here to stay for a long time and there will always be great first to market offerings out there but if you spend the majority of your budget with companies you have worked with for ages, you'll miss out on what's new.
People are the destination not the platform. Unlike buying campaigns across relevant sites, the people, not the site, are what to consider in social media. Please be honest with yourself and ask do you actually click on banners and go to brand.com? Of course you don't! Why would you? Facebook connect will make standard sites more social and as a brand if you don't have it you are missing the boat. People want to stay on platforms they go to already, as a brand you need to be where they are while providing value and enhancing the experience, not interrupting it.
Most brands are preparing for a social 2010, don't fall behind. Bravo to the brands our national sales team has talked with that admit they are in preparation for 2010. They aren't going to start 2010 by allowing their agencies to issue a bunch of RFP's that don't tie to an overarching social strategy. These brands understand it's not a race it's a marathon and running many sprints during a year isn't effective. The brands that win next year will ask the question, "How does my media campaign talk to the ongoing relationship I want to build with my target audience?" If you haven't heard of the offering before that's probably a good sign you are on track.
Facebook does embrace apps not the other way around. Contrary to what you think the Facebook platform team invest in making the app experience better, more efficient and useful for consumers. The Facebook sales team is focused on selling media programs, engagement ads that promote pages, so, yes, they may not think of developers, but the folks at Facebook HQ do. Remember when Facebook opened up a couple years ago they had 35 million users. Today, Facebook has over 300 million users and a big part of that success is embracing third party developers who understand that people want more than just communication. They want to play games, ask for advice, plan and engage and discuss around their Interests.
I heart Facebook Newsfeed! By tapping into a social program on Facebook, you get more than just a media buy or sponsorship program. You enable the effort to reach a far greater number of Facebook people through the Newsfeed as a result of them sharing with their friends, interacting and more. That in short is the beauty of buying on new platforms that are social. We've seen anywhere from 5-to-50 million additional impressions that a client and agency gets as added value thanks to the Newsfeed.
Lastly, just because you don't do it doesn't mean millions don't either. One of my favorite stories recently was when a sales colleague told me about a client saying, 'I don't do that, I haven't heard of this or people I know don't do it.' Well, I don't watch reality shows, (if it's not an animal or nature show I'm not watching TV) nor could I tell you the names of many of the most watched, but I do know millions do. Just because you don't take polls, spend countless hours playing social games or download iPhone apps more so than songs on iTunes, don't assume people don't.
It has been a long traveled road in 2009 and the year isn't over. 2010 promises to be even better – economy aside – and I can't wait!