Posts tagged ‘social media for business’

January 15, 2015

Think twice about using the #MLKday hashtag to promote your brand – remember last year?


The day this blog post was published, January 15, 2015, would have been Martin Luther King Jr.’s 86th birthday. Each year, Americans observe a national holiday on the third Monday of January to recognize Dr. King and the American Civil Rights Movement.

Marketers, PR folks, and advertisers are always looking for ways to get their message in front of as many eyeballs as possible. Often, this means trying to piggyback on an existing major event, celebration, or holiday. A great example of this was Oreo’s famous “You can still dunk in the dark” tweet sent during the power outage at Super Bowl 47. It was clever, timely, and a bit funny as it made light of an awkward situation. The Super Bowl blackout had nothing to do with cookies, but after this tweet, it did.

MarCom professionals can run into challenges when they apply this strategy to events with a very serious nature: Remembrance Day (Common Wealth Nations), Veterans Day (US), Martin Luther King Jr. Day, etc. Brands run the risk of looking too opportunistic as they try to cash in on the importance and sacrifice of others.

Last January, several public figures and brands made questionable (to put it nicely) social media posts trying to cash-in on the popularity of the #MLKday hashtag used to recognize Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Reviewing a few of these missteps from last year has led me to three key thoughts on the subject.

The tone of your message should match the spirit of the observance

As a brand, you should seek to create and share content that serves to match and even enhance, the serious nature of the holiday. A few examples from last year that missed the mark:

1. Book a party bus for MLK Day?

2. The infamous “Freedom to Twerk” event that was planned for the good folks in Flint, Michigan drew attention to itself after the promoters Photoshopped Dr. King’s head onto a body of a Man wearing a gold watch, chain, and medallion while making what appears to be a “west side” hand gesture. After this poster gained notoriety, the party was eventually cancelled. Several people weighed in on the issue, including MLK’s daughter, Dr. Bernice King, who was appalled by the poster.


3. Sarah Palin’s tasteless political grandstanding starts with quoting Dr. King’s “I have a dream” speech, and concludes with her telling President Obama “no more playing the race card.” Yikes.

You may not be as funny as you think

Humour is tough. Attempts at humour during otherwise serious situations may be interpreted as your brand’s attempt to make fun of, or devalue the purpose of, the event.

1. This misguided tweet from Nyquil reads like a joke that didn’t quite hit the mark.

2 & 3. Two other notable attempts at humour came from the Chive, and a pornographic website. In both instances they used humour in a way that some would consider distasteful, but considering that the source of these jokes were the Chive and a pornographic website, they pretty much lived up to expectations. Instead of posting these attempts at humour on, I’ll let you google those two tweets yourself.

Don’t make a big stretch to connect your brand with the event

This is obvious self-promotion. It looks insensitive, self-interested, and opportunistic. If you are going to run an MLK Day promotion, make sure it makes sense within the context of the observance. Be aware of the nuanced difference between an event designed to celebrate as opposed to one dedicated to recognize something. What the heck do potato stamps, cereal,  apples, diapers, or a day at the salon getting pampered have to do with the civil rights movement?


This Pampers Facebook promotion is particularly cringe-worthy because (as a current diaper customer) I can tell you that 10 rewards points is what you get for buying about $5 worth of baby bum wipes. They almost couldn’t have offered less.

For any organization thinking about joining the #MLKday trending topic this weekend, I encourage you to focus on respect, not referrals; honour, not sales; legacy, not leads; person to person, not business to business; and to make sure your content reflects the nature and tone of the observance. Without question, Dr. King serves as a hero to millions of people around the globe, and is absolutely a hero of mine.

December 22, 2014

Amazon reviews are almost as trusted as peer recommendations [Infographic]

A recent survey suggests that 50% of customers are actively using their smartphones to compare prices while in store.

A recent survey says 50% of customers are using their smartphones to compare competitor prices while in-store.

CRM software providers crowdtap published an infographic (below) this month to share some emerging trends in the ability of social media to influence consumer behaviour. After surveying over 3,000 US customers in 2013, and again in 2014, they found that social media is increasing its value to businesses who want to influence buying decisions throughout the holiday season.

A few things caught my eye:

1. Amazon reviews are almost as trusted as peer recommendations. I was a little surprised to see the difference between trusting a peer and trusting an online review was only 5 percentage points. I suppose this speaks to the importance of hearing directly from an existing product owner, rather than just trusting somebody in your network who you happen to already know who may not actually own the product.

2. Facebook dominates. If your business is only going to participate in one social media activity, you better make it Facebook. The survey results suggest that people are turning to Facebook, more than any other social network, to research gifts, look for promotions, and share their purchases. The only category where Facebook finished second was “gift inspiration” – losing the top spot by only one percentage point to Pinterest. Twitter seems to be rounding out the bottom of each of these categories. Perhaps this could be due to the transient nature of the messages, and also because Twitter relationships are often centered around topics of interest rather than trusted personal connections.

3. People are shopping at your competitors, right from within your store.  The survey results suggest that 50% of the people physically walking into your store will whip out their device and check a competitor’s price to see where you compare. I do this. I do this all the time. I expect this trend to continue to grow year-over-year.

4. Social media supplants TV as the most popular source for “inspiration”. For the first time, we’re relying on social media to provide us with gifting ideas more than any other medium; overtaking traditional television’s historical dominance in this area. This could be a symptom of the declining TV viewership numbers across every age demographic – with the largest decline in television consumption belonging to the 18-24 segment.

How does social media impact your holiday shopping behaviour? Check out the following infographic, and let me know what you think.


September 29, 2014

The Science of Marketing – 6 Key Takeaways [Book Review]


August is the only month on my calendar where I get a bit of time to catch up on my personal reading list. This year, I spent much of that month reading book after book about social media, marketing, communications and leadership. One book that had immediate actionable content for social media community managers, was The Science of Marketing (2013) by Dan Zarrella. Working for HubSpot since 2009, Zarrella has access to the tens of thousands of data-sets he uses to identify trends and make process and content recommendations on how to improve your organization’s social media presence. Once you get past Zarrella’s description of himself as a “Social Media Scientist”, you’ll find some rather useful information that can help you benchmark and experiment with the social media communities you manage.

This is a tactical book, not a strategy book. If you are looking for ways to tweak your Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, email marketing, blog, and lead generation efforts, this book is well worth the 200-page read. A few key takeaways:

  1. Content is still your biggest ally, and the most important piece of the social media puzzle. Zarrella’s response to the question “how much should I be blogging/posting” is “more than you are now”. He even suggests that, to increase engagement and shares, the optimal amount of blog posts is three per DAY.
  2. Blog posts published on Saturday and Sunday get more comments than posts published during the week. Zarrella considers two reasons for this. First, weekends allow users more time to actually read a blog post. Second, fewer companies publish content on the weekend, which means less competition for attention. In fact, Zarrella suggests that we should seek to publish our content when others are not. He calls this “contra-competitive timing”.
  3. Sentiment is important. Posts that are positive get the most comments, shares, and likes. The second most effective are negative posts, which leaves neutrality as the last place finisher. In other words, neutral is boring. If you are going to post something, make sure it contains your tone and think positive first.
  4. Calls to action work. The primary example used in this book is the correlation between retweets and asking for retweets. Zarrella found that simply asking people to retweet your content delivers four times more retweets than tweets that don’t make that request. I wouldn’t use this tactic for every piece of content I tweet, but it’s good information to know if you are responsible for managing an emergency/crisis situation where you need information to spread very quickly.
  5. If you want to catch your audience’s attention on Facebook, photos are by far the best option. Zarrella’s research indicates that photos are the most sharable form of content on Facebook, blowing text, video, right out of the water.
  6. He even gets down to a very granular level of detail by looking at where within a tweet is the best place to include a link in order to maximize clicks. The answer: right in the middle. He even provides lists of the most, and least, sharable/retweetable keywords.

All of these ideas, and about 100 more, are laid out in simple language and charts in this book. The author is quick to mention that his findings are in no way the set-in-stone way to do things that will guarantee success on social media. They are merely data-backed observations that can help marcom professionals tweak and tailor their social media program. In essence, what Zarrella has presented in this book is a look at trends in social media engagement. It’s now up to us as social media managers to use this information to benchmark and experiment and see what works in our communities.

You can find this title on Amazon for about $20, well worth the investment.

August 14, 2014

Your kids are sellouts, and they don’t even know it [Documentary]

Are you a sell out? How about your kid?

Frontline’s documentary “Generation Like” tells the story of how businesses use social media and big data to sell their wares to members of Generation Z (people born between 1995 and 2010).  It urges you to think about this topic from two angles. First, the teens’ perspective. Do they know they are being marketed to, and if so, do they even care? Wrapped in with this is the parental anxiety that exists for those parents who are not up-to-date with social media and digital technology. The second perspective is from the world of business marketing. The film gets into discussions about YouTube fame, collaborations, product integration, and content creation. It asks questions like: how much is a “like” worth? Or a friend? A follower? Or most importantly, the “share”.

This documentary primary focuses on the tactics businesses use to “empower” youth to spread marketing messages within their personal social media networks. One teen in this film spends her free time liking and sharing all the Hunger Games content she can possibly find to earn “sparks”. A currency only relevant to Hunger Games movies, that cannot be redeemed for prizes, but it’s used to keep score of who are the world’s biggest Hunger Games fans. Public recognition and a sense of belonging is used as the primary motivator for her behaviour.

GenerationLikeImageThe film also considers how these teens interact with traditional consumer brands, and if these youths are aware that they are being marketed to. At one point the film’s author asked members of Generation Z what it means to sell out…and none of them could give the traditional Baby Boomer or Generation X version of the term. In fact, they really had no clue what selling out was. One puzzled-looking teen thought that selling out means that there are no tickets left for a concert. Although technically correct, I can assure you that this wasn’t the context in which the term was being used.

The film definitely has some cringe-worthy moments. The most notable example I observed was a section near the end of the film when a mother discusses helping her 12 year-old daughter take and post photos to Instagram – her advice “if she (her daughter) wants to get the most likes, I know that all we have to post full body shots” (cringe).

I use this documentary as a piece of course content for the Social Media Management courses I teach in the Public Relations (PR) program at  Algonquin College. Students have written some fantastic reflection pieces on how this documentary has changed their view of how business and social media interact, and what implications it may have on their personal and professional (PR) lives.

You can watch the full doc, and access plenty of bonus content, on the Frontline website… Or use the video above to stream it directly from YouTube (there are more ads  in the YouTube version). Definitely a worth the watch.



December 12, 2013

Infographic: Consumers are 64% more likely to purchase a product after watching an online video

YouTubeFormulaWe all know that content is king on the Internet; and when it comes to types of content, it looks like video is at the top of the food chain. Video is everywhere online, from feature-length films, to sales pitches, to amateur videos of people at the zoo. Year over year, YouTube comes out with statistics showing staggering growth in videos uploaded and viewed.

The good folks at MultiVisionDigital published the infographic below to put into perspective how the omnipresent video is affecting consumer decision-making and behaviour. If you are trying to sell products or services, you may want to add video to your online strategy (if it isn’t there already) as consumers are 64% more likely to purchase a product after watching an online video.

The most unexpected finding was that video has a lifespan of 4 years. That’s an eternity. Considering that the average lifespan of a Facebook post is 3 hours and 7 minutes, a four-year shelf-life for a video is astounding. To put it in perspective, exactly 4 years ago, on the date this post was published, Taylor Lautner was hosting Saturday Night Live making jokes about Kanye’s stage crash of Taylor Swift at the 2009 VMAs…but you know what, I still like that Kanye video so the 4 year lifespan checks out.

The infographic also shows that video is not just used for traditional B2C decision-making, but executives are using videos to inform their B2B purchasing choices.

  • The average user spends 88% more time on a website with video
  • 60% of consumers will spend at least 2 minutes watching a video that educates them about a product they plan on purchasing.
  • 96% of IT decision makers and tech buyers watch videos for business
  • 75% of executives watch work-related videos on business websites once a week


What do you think? Do online videos impact your decision-making? When was the last time you made a medium-sized or large purchase without checking out YouTube to see the product in action? Leave a comment and let me know.

November 11, 2013

You are what you tweet: Researchers predict users’ gender with 92% accuracy

How often do you think about what you are telling the world about yourself when you post an update to your social media profiles? Well, it turns out that you are being studied, whether you know it or not. Earlier this fall, PLOSone published a study that aimed to link the vocabulary netizens use with their age, gender, and select personality traits. The unique twist on this study was the methodology. Instead of using known word correlations to base their analysis on, they adopted an open vocabulary approach in an attempt to “find connections that are not captured with traditional closed-vocabulary word-category analyses”.

The use of the open vocabulary approach yielded some interesting results:

1. Men are much more likely to use profanity and talk about gaming while women seem to be much more positive and upbeat. *The size of the word in the word clouds below indicates the strength of the correlation; color indicates relative frequency of usage. Underscores (_) connect words of multi-word phrases.



2. Your age can be determined based on whether you talk about school, work or family.



3. Extroverts like to party, introverts like the internet, neurotics use angry and depressed language, and the emotional stable like….basketball?



4. Finally, the people in your social media networks who’s updates are negative, profanity-filled, and often tiresome, may rank low on the agreeableness, openness, and conscientiousness scale.


Beyond simply being “interesting”, these correlations will further help communicators and marketers get their message in front of the right audience – You need to know where your audience “lives” before you can influence them. Be sure to check out the full study “Personality, Gender, and Age in the Language of Social Media: The Open-Vocabulary Approach” for the complete methodology and findings.


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