Tag Archives: Online Communities

Do QR codes make great marketing tools?

In a recent post, I asked what people thought would be the hottest trend in 2011. A lot of responses discussed the popularity of location-based social networking sites, but there were also quite a few mentions of QR codes.

QR codes are those interesting, fuzzy-looking squares that you may have seen pop up recently on

qrcodeproduct containers, convenience store shelving, or even online. First established in Japan in 1994, the QR code is a 2-dimensional barcode consisting of black elements arranged in a square pattern on a white background. The intent is to scan data at very high speeds, usually with a camera phone or barcode reader. Due to an estimate projecting that, in 2012, more smartphones will be sold than PCs, QR codes are going to affect the way websites are designed and products are promoted.

Take an athletic shoe product, for example. At the next World Shoe Association trade show, a company can add a simple QR code to its handout, which links to a sweepstakes landing page providing key information or even a special offer. Or perhaps it can be taken further to incorporate the product and the use of a durable hiking shoe by creating a QR scan treasure hunt – where each scan links to a new splash page featuring a clue to the next one.

QR codes can be used to swap contact information. Instead of exchanging business cards, a single QR code can be scanned, and the contact information will save to your smartphone.

As this technology becomes more and more popular, there are a few ideas that should be considered to optimize results:

  1. Offer exclusive prizes, offers, or information to those scanning the QR code that are different than what is available to everyone else.
  2. Optimize the website for mobile-browsing.
  3. Include an obvious call-to-action so that the audience is encouraged to scan the code.
  4. Establish a plan to engage people who scan the code over time, rather than a one-time promotion.

The important idea to remember is that QR codes create a new opportunity to enhance the relationship with a customer/prospect who has already engaged with the brand, building positive word of mouth or even a future sale.

— Jonathan Ginburg, Senior Account Executive

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‘Like’ is the new word-of-mouth- don’t be caught without it.

“Like” is the new word of mouth. Don’t let Facebook catch you without it.

Have you “liked” anything yet today? Sure, you probably liked your breakfast, or liked the song playing on the radio during your morning commute, but the “like” I’m referring to is more than just a feeling — way more. For the general public, it’s a platform for sharing content. But for businesses big and small, it’s a social media trend you cannot afford to overlook. Curious? Read on.

I’m talking about Facebook’s Like button — a feature that millions of Facebook users interact with on a daily basis and that many companies have begun to see as a valuable tool in engaging with their audience. I’m taking the liberty of assuming the majority of readers are familiar with the feature, but click here if you need a quick refresher.

So why am I advocating the Like button become a minimum standard on your company website? Because I’m in advertising, and the idea of being able to create awareness of a brand or product with a simple thumbs-up icon is absolute genius to me. By offering the Like button on a particular page of the website, you’re offering the reader a chance to tell their Facebook network that they’re interested in content your company has posted and it was worth sharing. And in the same way someone may read a book because a friend verbally recommends it, a user is more likely to engage with your site and your content if a trusted source, the friend, has already experienced it and Liked it. The impact word of mouth can have is no stranger to brand advertising, so you can imagine the possibilities when this same concept is amplified by the millions.

Brands and companies worldwide are reveling in the ability to so easily distribute their content, track the exposure it receives, and learn what truly interests their audiences. This information allows for a deeper connection and more meaningful engagement with your target audience.  Facebook reports some of their publishers see that “people on their sites are more engaged and stay longer when their real identity and real friends are driving the experience through social plugins.” NHL.com is used as an example, with Facebook visitors “reading 92% more articles, spending 85% more time on-site, viewing 86% more videos, and generating 36% more visits than visitors to other sites.”

Here’s another example: I read this article just this morning, and during its mere 4-hour existence thus far, it’s already gained over 1,600 Likes. And in the time it’s taken you to read this sentence, I’ve gone ahead and Liked it myself. It’s that simple.

If the concept alone doesn’t do it for you, maybe these statistics will help:

As I said earlier, this isn’t something your brand, your products, or your business want to overlook. If you haven’t already, integrate the Like button feature on your website. If you’ve already embraced the trend, give yourself a thumbs up. “Like” is the new word of mouth — don’t be caught without it.

Oh, and do me a favor before parting: if you enjoyed engaging with the content of my post and feel it’s worth sharing, throw it a Like, would ya?

— Beth Madigan, Account Executive

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Thank you for sharing.

Part of the creative’s job these days is to develop ways to encourage sharing a new campaign. It’s no longer enough to create brilliant creative that connects with the audience. Now, creative needs to be so powerful that it encourages “engagement” and “sharing.”

Is there a formula for creating engaging, shareable creative? No, but there are some guidelines. And they must be followed by more than just the folks in the creative department. In fact, it requires everyone who touches the project to make it happen.

A) Creative must be easy to share. That means unlocking the content and putting Share buttons on it (not on a Web page) so that the components can live beyond the page. This allows the audience to take ownership of the content and share it with their friends the way they actually use the Web.

A video that only lives on a Web page isn’t easily shareable to Facebook aficionados who are used to sharing YouTube videos on their wall. And allowing bloggers to embed your content on their blog gives them partial ownership and will generate more interest than requiring them to post a link and send their readers off their site.

B) Make your strategy relevant. Messages like the “best,” “cheapest,” and the “most value for your money” aren’t going to cut it in the world of social sharing. You have to get on the level of your consumer and stop talking down at them. Relate to them with something that is fun or has emotional meaning, and you’re more likely to find them sharing your message with their peers.

C) Be inclusive and honest. People can smell an aloof fake a mile away. Especially the connectors who are the ones that share content socially.

D) Don’t execute just to the media plan. Get into the minds of consumers and think about their behavior and how they will interact with your campaign.

E) All this isn’t enough if the creative is weak. Last year it might have been, when few marketers were in the social sphere. Now that the novelty of social marketing has worn off, creative must be entertaining and provocative.

What are you doing to make your creative shareable?

— Jimmy Gilmore, Senior Writer

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In the age of social media, everyone needs a policy

So does your company need a policy? The short answer is duh, yeah.

The long answer is, of course, much more complicated. You see, your policy should be defined by the kind of company you are and the goals you have for social media in general.

Do you even want your company involved in social media? In my opinion the answer should be yes, for any company. But if the answer is no, your social media policy should reflect this. Because you can’t ignore social media and expect it to go away.

Let your employees know they’re not free to talk about the company on Facebook or Twitter or anywhere else on the Web. If you don’t tell them not to, they may decide to do it on their own. If you don’t believe me, start a monitoring program now; you may be surprised.

Or maybe you want your average employee fielding inquiries from Twitter? This is working pretty well for Zappos and Best Buy. But if you produce a highly regulated product like pharmaceuticals it might not be such a great idea to have unlicensed people giving out medical advice.

Do you have a social media strategy? If this strategy involves blogging and using Facebook, it should be reflected in your social media policy. Let people know who is free to field questions on Facebook and who is not.

Are only certain people allowed to blog about the company? What about on their own personal blog? For example, I have one and clearly state that what I’m writing is not the opinion of my employers, although I do prominently link them on my site.

What are your employees allowed to talk about? Are there taboo subjects?

Must they have training before they’re allowed to engage on behalf of the company?

This list could go easily get long – especially if the lawyers get involved. The trick is to keep it short enough to encourage interaction without being so short that it encourages bad behavior.

One thing to keep in mind, your employees have been spreading word of mouth about your company since it began. This is only the next step in that evolution. So the key is providing practical guidelines to keep employees from making missteps in a new media.

Bonus: Here is some reference for developing your company’s guidelines.

— Jimmy Gilmore, Senior Writer

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With Social Media as a Soapbox, Everyone’s a Critic

I am old enough to remember a time when the only critics of your brand were people who had first-hand experience with it or professionals paid to publish formal reviews.   Now, with Social Media, everyone is a critic.

It was reported that 3,600 people blogged about the Super Bowl commercials this year.  These weren’t blogs about the Super Bowl or the halftime show; they were only about the commercials.  Look at the discussion threads for some of the more controversial spots (Audi “Green Police”, Focus on the Family’s “Tebow” spot), and it is apparent that some of the posts are coming from people who didn’t even see the spots.

Similarly, my Facebook news feed is littered with rants, raves and follow-up comments across a wide range of issues.  I’ve witnessed a fairly comprehensive review of the service at major auto repair facilities.  I’ve formed impressions of restaurants and the food they serve based on the photos friends have posted.  I’ve even been privy to heated debate about political candidates in states where I can’t even vote.   In many of these cases, my overall impressions are formed not just from the initial posting, but the replies of people who jumped on the Social Media soapbox and offered a point of view even if it wasn’t based on first-hand experience.

So, will Social Media become the primary tool by which are brands will be evaluated in the future – regardless of the whether the critic has personal experience with it or not?  According to Edelman’s recently released Trust Barometer, probably not.  It reports that only 25% of us consider our peers credible sources of information and that we must hear the same message from 4-5 different sources before it is considered trustworthy.

However, it would be naïve to categorically dismiss Social Media generated criticism as a hot trend that provides a self-absorbed generation their 15 minutes of fame.

It is more likely that Social Media’s critical commentary will establish itself as one of those 4-5 points of influence, challenging marketers to further refine their tracking, analysis and response to address the many levels of experience it represents.

— Pam Alvord, Chief Strategist

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