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Your Friend Downloaded an App for That

November 4, 2009
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Technology benefits our daily lives. Google maps can display any location on the globe. Facebook reconnects friends near and far. Blogs allow voices large or small to be heard.

Technology has also allowed us to move so quickly that at times it can be overwhelming too. I find myself in information overload with too many posts to read, too many photos to upload and too many status updates to comment. When I got my iPhone, I didn’t know where to begin. There seemed to be some useful options in the App Store, but a lot of junk too. So I just asked my co-workers what applications they liked best.

ChorusNow there’s an iPhone application that is capitalizing on the all-powerful tool – the friend recommendation. As highlighted in the New York Times, Chorus is a new app that lets users see what friends have downloaded and rated highly. The application lets users add friends to Chorus via Facebook, Twitter or an email account. Chorus also makes recommendations via an algorithm based on other apps the user has downloaded. There is also an App Maven feature – apps recommended by notable Chorus users (think popular, featured commenters on blogs). There are a handful of similar applications available on the market.

This seems like a promising application. It transforms word-of-mouth into an actionable tool for iPhone users. Furthermore, marketers could look to use Chorus to energize avid customers and drive user recommendations.  And once again it is a technology that opens the door for consumers to connect with one another in new, meaningful – and helpful ways.

More Popular Than Porn

November 2, 2009

Top 5Last week, MediaWeek published it’s Digital Hot List 2009. The ranking, created by AdweekMedia’s editors, is a top ten of the major players in the digital media landscape.

No surprise, Facebook tops the list. This year, social media apparently passed porn as the number 1 online activity and Facebook is the leader of the pack. According to the post, the site has more members than the population of all countries in the world, save China, the U.S. and India. On the heels of Facebook come Hulu, Twitter, Google and iPhone.

New media (Huffington Post) and old (WSJ) made the list, underscoring the growth of blogs as mainstream source of information and the evolution in the traditional media model. Newcomer Bing makes the list,  hoping it’s partnership with Yahoo! solidifies it as a formidable player in the search market.

The list rounds out with two entries new to me. At number 9 is Federated Media, a group that specializes in integrated content and engagement programs, connecting independent websites and online properties with brand marketers. Work includes the American Express “Open Forum” program and the Microsoft “ExecTweets” campaign. Number 10 is AddictingGames.com, a Viacom web property boasting 15 million unique viewers, now the 3rd largest gaming site.

This list is not full of surprises, but it is interesting to evaluate sucessful properties and identify trends as we enter 2010. It seems as thought the players that provide consumers with a personal connection, give access to information and create opportunity for engagement are those that will be dominant forces in the future of the digital world.

Take It All Off

October 29, 2009

In case you missed it, another naked New York City character has gained popularity. The self-proclaimed “world’s fastest nudist” has been streaking the streets of the city dressed only in a headband, strategically placed fanny pack and running shoes. Videos of his runs have been posted on YouTube over the past several months.

The nudist also has a Twitter feed at fastestnudist, where he chronicles his streaks plus adds tongue in cheek commentary around other naked events, like Marge Simpson’s Playboy cover. You can also find him on Facebook or on his blog The Daily Nude.

While the videos and other online vehicles seem to have only a modest following, the nudist has been featured in several popular blogs like Huffington Post and Gawker, and even interviewed by local news outlets including the New York Post. The peak of the nudist’s coverage occurred when a clip was featured on CNN’s AC 360 last month.

Starting to sound like a coordinated effort? You’re right to think so. The New York Times reported that the world’s fastest nudist is actually a viral campaign created by Agent 16 for Zappos.com, in support of the online retailer’s clothing launch. The revelation came via the video “Ambushed,” when the nudist is stopped mid-streak and fully clothed by a Zappos team.

While the results may be smaller in scope and contained locally to New York City, this seems like a clever effort on the part of Zappos to engage consumers through online media and build buzz around a new product launch. The only question raised is one of trust and transparency. As the Times points out, several reporters were duped along the way by the character. Consumers followed his chronicles. Do they appreciate the joke and feel in the know? Or betrayed for engaging in a commercial stunt? For that reason, is there any negative rub for Zappos – or is any publicity good publicity?

Show Me the Info

October 27, 2009
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For marketers struggling to identify the most relevant and effective way to interact with consumers online, eMarketer has posted some interesting results from Lightspeed Research’s “Global Web Index.” Not surprising given the current economy, consumers indicated the number one thing they want online from a brand is discount offers. From there, the study reveals that consumers also want brands to facilitate the sharing of information, provide engagement opportunities and offer functionality. Actions like news and analysis, ideas and thinking, and useful online applications rank highest.

Relevancy

Less functional tactics, like sponsorship of sports teams or websites and celebrity associations were seen as least relevant.

Also not surprising, consumers identified word of mouth as the number one source of information in influencing purchase decision. In this case, old fashioned communication with a family member or friend was seen as the most trusted, followed by advice from an expert. Only then do recommendations via social networks come into play.

Sources

This data is a helpful reminder that a well thought out plan is paramount in the use of new technologies. It’s not enough just to be online and have “fans” or “followers,” if you’re not doing anything for them. Understand the needs of your consumer, offer a tangible product, build credibility through your actions and enrich the consumer experience online.

The Lines are Open

October 24, 2009

social-media-logosA new study from strategy and communications agency Cone, Inc finds a staggering growth in consumer and brand interaction online and highlights the consumer expectation that brands will communicate with them through new media.

Cone reports, “Almost 80 percent of new media users interact with companies or brands via new media sites and tools, an increase of 32 percent from 2008…New media users overwhelmingly believe companies or brands should not only have a presence in new media (95%) but also interact with their consumers (89%).”

Consumers still seek out brands online through traditional methods like websites and email, and feel that a brand’s first priority online should be to provide information. But the study shows consumer’s growing understanding and acceptance of advertising, promotion, and direct brand interaction online. “When asked about their impressions of companies or brands present in new media, users said they feel a stronger connection (72%, up from 56% in 2008) and feel better served (68%, up from 57% in 2008),” among other measures.

The study goes on to identify specific findings related to consumer influence in corporate responsibility and non-profit action through new media channels. A great majority of consumers believe that they now have the power to impact a company’s decisions and make their opinion heard through new media. Consumers also report online media as the main source of information about non-profits and feel these new channels provide a greater chance for participation in and support of causes.

It is clear there is a significant opportunity for brands to build a direct and mutually-beneficial relationship with consumers using social media. Consumers are open to brand interaction and want to engage on a new level, which will allow brands to build trust, form a more loyal relationship and if successful, influence purchase decision.

Tweetza Hut

October 22, 2009

Pizza HutThis week brings another story of a brand using social media to interact with loyal fans. This time: Pizza Hut. This summer, the New York Times highlighted a Pizza Hut “job posting” for a “Twittern” – a summer intern to manage Twitter and other social media. Alexa Robinson of UNC Chapel Hill was selected for the summer post.

Alexa now works for Pizza Hut full-time and the company is trying to determine her official job title. Announced via Tech Crunch and made official on the Pizza Hut newsroom, the general public has been invited to submit suggestions for her title via Twitter. Selected personally by Alexa, the winner will receive free pizza for a year. The suggestions seem to be rolling in, with some traditional ideas like “Twitter Relations Specialist,” “Social Media Specialist,” “Social Media Officer” along with more creative submissions like “Twitter the Hutt,” “Chief Twitteroni,” “Tweetzzahutter.”

Pizza On Your FacePizza Hut is using social media in a variety of ways. Through Twitter, Alexa refers customers with complaints or questions to Pizza Hut’s online feedback forum. There’s also news of promotions on Twitter and Facebook, like “WingStreet,” the current football-themed chicken wing offer. Additioanlly, Pizza Hut is supporting the World Hunger Relief through its online platforms, donating meals for re-tweets or urging consumers to donate as part of their online pizza order. Pizza Hut offers an iPhone order app and an in-Facebook order app (consumers don’t even have to leave Facebook to order a pie).

Pizza Hut appears to have a well-integrated online social media strategy, allowing it to stay top of mind with consumers when it comes down to decide what’s for dinner.

A Mobile Opportunity

October 20, 2009

In this blog, my attention thus far has largely been focused on branding and marketing in social and online media like Facebook, Twitter, blogs and other new tools. What I haven’t yet explored are the devices used by consumers to access these new tools. The most recent U.S. Census Bureau report on internet usage showed that 62% of households reported internet access in the home. While the penetration of mobile devices is relatively low in comparison, this category is experiencing rapid growth as well. According to the Nielsen Company, “the total number of smartphone subscribers increased 72% quarter-over-quarter, growing from 15 million subscribers in Q2 2008 to 26 million in Q2 2009.”Smartphone Subscribers

Many industry experts believe mobile marketing represents a significant and somewhat yet to be realized advertising opportunity. eMarketer predicts that mobile ad spend will grow significantly over the next several years as smartphone usage expands and marketers grow more comfortable with the device as a vehicle:

eMarkters Mobile Ad Spend

While ad spend projections differ, research firm the Kelsey Group also believes the mobile ad market is set to experience substantial growth. The firm predicts the largest chunk will go to mobile search advertising, which is natural given how smartphones help consumers function on the go in their daily lives. The Kelsey Group predicts display ads to grow ever so slightly, but expects SMS use for marketing purposes to decline. (I wonder about the decline in SMS marketing particularly for teens, given text messaging dominance among this age set.)

So where do brands begin if considering mobile advertising as part of the marketing mix? Forrester Research recommends always starting with “people” – the target. “You have to start by assessing the mobile technologies your customers use.” If your consumers are mobile users, then determine your objective and strategy. And above all else, Forrester points to two key lessons: key it simple and integrate your mobile tactics with other media.