Tag Archives: internet

Surviving the Social Media Storm

It snowed in Atlanta this week.

To a native Atlantan, that statement deserves a line on its own. Once “Winter Weather Advisory” is heard, people flock to grocery stores to prepare for the worst. An innocent bystander unaware of how much snow was on the horizon may think that Atlanta was about to be hit with enough snow to collapse the Georgia Dome. Instead, we only got 5 inches. But again…

It snowed in Atlanta this week.

And I mention this because snow in Atlanta can be as foreign to Southerners as social media is to marketing executives with little experience online.

Grocery stores are mob scenes before it snows. People don’t know what they need or how much they need; they just know they want it. And the same can be said about social media. Many companies know about social media. They know they want to use it, but they don’t know what, or how, or why. Without a plan or a goal in mind, social media results will just fall flat.

Now that it’s 2011, more and more companies are finding the need to use social media. And yet, some still don’t know why.

My suggestion? Stop thinking about Social Media as MEDIA. It should really be called Online Interaction. Accounts are created to strengthen the communication with customers. Yet, companies are creating accounts without thinking of how to get the most benefit from it. A marketer would never say, “We need to be on TV,” without knowing what kind of ROI would justify spending that much money. Before jumping into the latest fad of Online Interaction, take a minute to map out the purpose for being online, be it to establish dialogue with those already engaged with the brand, or to provide customer service to those seeking it.

And, while trying to figure out the purpose, establish goals for what being online will accomplish. Is there a desire to have comments posted about what is posted? Will there be an opportunity to talk with the consumer in order to establish dialogue? If Web traffic is increased, what should these new visitors do on the company site that will result in a positive return for being online? Let this new online interaction be an open door to further the consumer experience.

Once the purpose and goals are set in place, share it with employees. Let employees talk about it on their own online accounts. If there is a strong purpose with clear goals in place, but poor promotion of the online existence, then results will be weak. This may sound silly, but an online interaction continuously feeds off of, just that, interaction online. And the more that fellow colleagues can develop, the better the results.

Establishing a strong presence online is an ongoing process. Companies cannot create an account and leave it, hoping that friends, followers, and fans will continue to build. This is done through a constant stream of discussion. Once that has been established on the big three (Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube), explore new ways to connect with the audience. The age of Social Media is only 6-7 years old, so the “right” way for a soft-drink company may not be the best way for a shoe company. By experimenting with different sites (GoWalla, Digg, Flickr, Friendstr, Groupon, etc.) the online interaction may prove even more suitable than Facebook.

Social Media isn’t new, and is always changing. But having a plan, setting goals ahead of time, and letting fellow employees participate will increase the results of social media efforts. And it won’t feel like you’re scrapping around like we do down South due to winter storm warnings.

— Jonathan Ginburg, Sr. Account Executive

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It’s Déjà vu all over again

As long as I have been in this business, I’ve heard the saying, “There are no new ideas, only old ones recycled.” I think we’re seeing that played out again with regard to test marketing. A staple of the direct marketing industry, it had fallen out of use by other marketing disciplines in the ‘80s and ‘90s.

When I started in the agency business, testing was a priority for a number of accounts that the agency handled.

I’ll throw out a few terms: “Little U.S.” and “As-It-Falls” (which one coworker thought referred to an actual market in the Midwest called “Acid Falls”). These referred to the methodologies we media folk used so that results from any test could be projected to a larger area, most often the entire U.S.

Test markets were selected based on their ability to replicate what the U.S. as a whole looked like. Additionally, they needed to be smaller in geographic scope so as to limit out-of-pocket cost. A few of the more popular test markets were Fort Wayne, Green Bay, and Tucson.

As the business moved into the ‘80s, testing seemed like an afterthought. One of the reasons may have been that the cost of production started to increase dramatically, and running expensive spots in small, inexpensive test markets may have thrown the media cost/production cost ratio out of whack. In any event, I can’t remember a single brand that I worked on during that time that did any testing.  And I find that interesting, given the primary reason for any test is to limit financial exposure.

Fast forward to the turn of the century and the spread of the Internet, and what’s back in style is the concept of testing, analyzing, and optimizing. An idea whose roots are firmly entrenched in the earlier days of advertising is making its way back in a big way. And that’s a good thing.

Testing should be an integral part of any plan. The more we learn, the better we are, and the better our clients are as a result.

The advent of the Internet has only strengthened the case for testing. As I said at the beginning, “There are no new ideas, only old ones recycled.” But a good idea always has a place.

— Dave Capano, EVP, Director of Media Services

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Filed under Compelling, Engagement, Measurement

The Internet Summit—One point worth repeating

I had the pleasure of attending the third annual Internet Summit, held in Raleigh, N.C. Two days of wall-to-wall presentations and conversation on the future of the Web, social media, mobile marketing, online video, privacy, security, you name it and someone was talking about it.

One of the keynote speakers at an eye-opening 8 AM was Chip Perry, president and CEO of AutoTrader.com. AutoTrader.com generates over $500 million in revenue each year and has an eye-popping 3.5 million new and used vehicles listed. AutoTrader.com is part of Cox Enterprises, which also owns Manheim, a client of ours. In fact, Mr. Perry was asked by Manheim to launch AutoTrader.com and was its first employee, back in the day. The company is now considered to be the world’s largest online automotive marketplace, and Mr. Perry is recognized as a pioneer in the industry.

What I found the most fascinating about Mr. Perry’s presentation was one simple point. It was quite striking, especially in light of the venue and reason we had all gathered together.

He said, “Success is more about business fundamentals and common sense than it is about the Internet.”

The point should resonate with brands, businesses, and marketers in the throes of the technology tsunami. It’s easy to get caught up in your underwear over the latest widget, gadget, etc. The basics still remain the basics. Know your customers. Respond to their needs. Use technology as a tool, not as a strategy in and of itself.

– Chris Schlegel, Principal, Chief Creative Officer

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Filed under advertising, Digital, Online Adveritising

Time for a change?

It’s the end of the year, and the economy hasn’t rebounded to where consumers feel like there’s some light at the end of the tunnel. Forecasts for 2010 call for more of the same, at least in the first six months or so. Some feel it will take years to shake off the dust of this recession.

So what does a marketer do heading into 2010? Budgets are tight. Accountability, ROI, and metrics are the buzzwords that matter.

In 2009, only two media categories showed gains: internet display ads, up 7 percent, and freestanding inserts (FSIs), up 3.9 percent. I understand both being up, since they’re measurable in terms of returns. The internet also gives an advertiser the ability to change copy frequently to find out what’s working. However, last I looked, the click-through rate for internet display ads was hovering just under 0.1%. That’s one click (and only a click) for every 1,000 ads served (it doesn’t even take into account what the clicker does when he/she gets to the site). And can someone, anyone, tell me the last banner ad they remember? I hate to say it, but the internet is the SAFE way to advertise. And I never expected to say that.

Change is in the offing. But what does that change entail? It entails thinking differently and altering behavior. It entails a different mindset. If your results are flat, and I’ve heard that flat is the new up, then you probably need to change. Contrary to popular belief, flat is NOT up. Flat means you’re in the same spot. And the real metric that counts is sales. Engagement is fine as long as you can generate a sale from it. When was the last time you heard a salesperson say, “My engagements were up last month, but my sales were flat”?

There’s a saying that drastic times call for drastic measures. While some may feel that drastic change is necessary, I think that small, significant changes can have very dynamic effects on a marketer’s approach. Maybe it’s a shift from one medium to another or into a medium you’ve not used before. It may be a shift in how you schedule activity, or it might be a more tactical shift to supporting only very select trade shows or conferences.

In any event it’s a change in how you approach things. There’s a lot of opportunity out there. But we need to change focus if we are to truly see those opportunities. One of the effects of this recession has been a paralysis of sorts on a marketer’s ability to be bold. And these times call for bold action. The time for the “safe” approach is past. Safe gets you “flat.”

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