A couple I know bought a fancy camera before the birth of their first baby. It’s sitting in a drawer somewhere. Turns out that their trusty iPhone does everything they need: they can shoot a pretty good photo, touch it up with Instagram, and shoot it out to their friends immediately.
Instagram is interesting. Dave Kerpen wrote an article about it over on LinkedIn called “And the Future of Social Media Is” and the answer is… not Tumblr, just acquired by Yahoo, but Instagram. His 10 year old daughter and her friends used it to exhaustion on a recent weekend trip, adding insta-apps to expand the conversation as they went. As opposed to Pinterest, which sends lots of traffic to my food blog but seems mainly a scrapbooking application, Instagram really works as a fully functional social network–and it’s a lot easier to shoot and share a picture than to write an update.
One of those apps, Instafollow, allows users to automatically follow or unfollow up to 160 users per hour, up to an ultimate count of 20,000 users, simply by following followers of a user. That’s a lot more power than Twitter and a lot easier to execute. No wonder my own kid, who’s fairly responsible on Facebook, got me in so much trouble on Instagram that I had to delete my account. Snap a picture, slap some text on it, and you’re good to go.
I just put the account back up and already I’ve got new followers and a writing opportunity thanks to Instagram. My username is otismaxwell if you care to meet me over there.
Have you seen this? According to a media commentator, Applebee’s has a new campaign in which they are urging hipsters to dine at their restaurants “ironically” which makes sense since they are never going to get them there through conventional advertising. Take a look:
Funny thing is, Applebee’s actually is running a social media campaign that is far more bizarre as this, called “Girls’ Night Out. Life is better shared.” A Betty White character harangues ladies for spending too much time online, then tells them the solution is to get down to Applebee’s for some facetime. Take a look:
There’s also a tumblr page that anchors the campaign and has links to Pinterest and Twitter pages (no Facebook, maybe because it’s a regional campaign). All the elements of a well thought out and expensive social media campaign.
Speaking of social media, Applebee’s is also marketing this thing: which is a life size inflatable dummy you can leave at your desk while you sneak out for lunch. This one is on Facebook, where you can take the Desk Lunch Diagnosis Quiz (I am the “Break Room Hero… people are tired of cleaning up the microwave after you”).
Does this stuff work? The “goddess” video above has over 50,000 hits but how many of those are potential customers? There are only 400 plus followers on the Twitter page and the selection of inflatable dolls on Amazon was originally 7 but is now down to just 2. The bottom line is that Applebee’s is still Applebee’s (check the hashtag #applebee and you’ll get a far more realistic snapshot of Middle America’s view of the chain) and there’s only so much you can do to get hipsters to change their behavior… unless they do it ironically, perhaps.
Barclaycard Ring MasterCard “forgot password” page
[THIS POST HAS BEEN UPDATED.] Yesterday I mentioned a problem I was having with the Barclaycard Ring MasterCard “forgot password” page. Today I’m taking the extra step of showing the page because this is something I don’t think has a lot of customer service advantage. They’re using the same page whether you are setting up a new online persona OR you have forgotten your password in which case you simply have to choose a new username.
What else could Barclaycard have done? Send an email at the user’s request, with a unique URL that expires after a few hours. That way the account is secure, but the user stays in control of it. This is the nearly universal practice, and it’s interesting to see an exception and mull the pros and cons.
Requiring a new username is particularly onerous for Barclaycard Ring because it’s supposed to be a social networking community. If I change my username, what happens to the badges and contacts I’ve built up under my old username? But I think it’s not a very good practice in general, and this big international bank must be somehow very stretched for programming resources.
While I’m at it, here’s another not-best practice: confirming the new (or old) password by sending out an email that contains exactly that password in unencoded text. Yikes! What if I’m reading my email in Starbucks or an unsecured wireless hotspot at the airport? Even if I’m in the comfort and sanctity of my home, I’m still going to have to delete that email now. The merchant or marketer probably thought they were doing me a favor by sending me a handy reminder. In contrast to Barclaycard, this is one we’ve all seen, probably several times. Don’t do it.
UPDATE July 3: got a call from Meagan in the Barclaycard digital marketing department and she had a little difficulty reproducing the above page on a test account; possibly I had done something like enter the wrong password too many times that caused the system to “clear out my account”. What I should have seen was a reset page with my security image and with her help I was able to get to that. More important, she and I discovered that if, instead of creating a new user name in the screen captured above, I entered my current one (after confirming who I was with the challenge info above) the system would accept it.
The GOOD news was that when I finally got into my account my screen name had not changed at all; must be different from the username the system recognizes. So all my badges, if I had them, would be intact.
Meagan says this is the password reset procedure used for all Barclaycard products but she does understand how it might be a good idea to present it differently (and tell people they can keep their current username if they like) for the Ring cardmembers. Will be interested to see what they come up with.
AT&T is pretty happy with its 2 million adoring fans...
The Wall Street Journal article on GM pulling its Facebook advertising mentioned that General Motors is third in U.S. advertising spending, behind P&G and AT&T. This prompted me to go take a look at what the other two companies are doing with their Facebook presence.
P&G does not appear to have a corporate Facebook page. That is, if you search “P&G” or “PG” or “Proctor & Gamble” you’ll come up empty except for some odd special-purpose pages. Makes sense because P&G does not generally market itself as a brand but rather as a family of brands, each of which has its own brand manager. And indeed a random search turned up pages for Charmin which offers “SitOrSquat”, an app for finding clean public restrooms, and “Charmin Fan Perks” which are cents-off coupons available in limited quantities at preannounced times (generated repeated visits to the site).
There’s no brand page for Prilosec, another random choice, but there’s one for Pringles. Here you can find the “Tournament of Flavors”, a collection of fan-submitted videos, and “Make Us Laugh”, a joke contest which seems to be in Arabic. In short, P&G’s brand managers seem to have figured out how to use Facebook in a way that is appropriate to the medium and encourages user involvement.
...but the feeling is not entirely mutual.
ATT, on the other hand, makes GM look like a social media maven. Their page is all over the fact they’ve gotten two million “likes” (Pringles has 19 million) with a big “two million thank yous” graphic at the top and a “two million thanks” link just below this. (The link actually leads to something interesting: on May 22 the ATT “house band” is going to start pumping out “thank you” songs written for people who sign up and submit personal information to be used in writing the lyrics. Sort of like the Old Spice Man.) Yet the rest of the page is full of gripes from customers about AT&T. They should do something to moderate these, or at least respond to them.
The moral of this story? With three so different approaches to Facebook, by America’s three top advertisers, this is still a very young medium. Or as Clint Eastwood might put it, we’re still waiting for the ball to come down after the opening kickoff.
So General Motors has pulled its Facebook advertising because it determined its ads had little effect on consumer behavior, according to the Wall Street Journal. Marketing VP Joel Ewanik says the company “is definitely reassessing our advertising on Facebook, although the content is effective and important.” And by “content” he means the pages GM isn’t paying for, as opposed to the sidebar ads.
The story goes on to say that GM had a $40 million Facebook budget, only $10 million of which actually went for ads. The rest “covers content created for the site, agencies that manage the content and daily maintenance of GM’s pages, people familiar with the figures said.”
I took a look at what we can assume is the flagship page for the company, http://www.facebook.com/generalmotors. You can see it pictured here, but you should go check it out for yourself. Then go check out a few other pages, like Chevrolet (NOT “Chevy”) , Camaro, Chevrolet Volt and Corvette. Notice anything interesting? Yeah, the layout and content design is all the same. The whole thing is probably auto-filled by a content management system. If this is worth $30 million I want that gig!
Now notice what GM is doing to promote itself: promote ITSELF. There’s news of what this brand or that brand is doing, Guy Fieri driving a Corvette at the Indy 500 (let’s hope it doesn’t get stolen like his last car) and some proud customers pulling up to a plant in their car on a road trip. Yes, there’s a blurb at the top, “Welcome to the official GM fan page [sic]. Share your thoughts, tell us your story and join in on the discussion.” But nobody’s actually doing that. How about inviting readers to interact with you by sending in photos of their cars, telling stories about their first car, and maybe giving them a chance to WIN something?
And, almost none of these pages has any sidebar advertising. I’m guessing that Facebook pulled all the ads in a fit of pique, to make the pages even less interesting than they are. But here’s an idea: now that you’re spending 75% of your budget to build a “web presence”, is it worth the other 25% to give people a call to action and maybe buy something?
Probably not, if everybody is like GM executives and other WSJ reader: in a poll accompanying the article, 93.4% said they “rarely or never” are affected by Facebook advertising. What more proof could you want that this whole Facebook thing is a flash in the pan?
[UPDATE: The Facebook roadshow video's been taken down so the following is of archival interest mainly. Went looking to see if someone had saved it to YouTube, and no, but here's an interesting 60 Minutes story from when they were at 60 million members.]
As a creative guy I’ve sat through a lot of agency capability presentations that made the air slowly leak out of the room before I ever got to speak. So there was a bit of schadenfreude associated with hearing that, after poor reviews in New York, Facebook had withdrawn their video from the IPO investor roadshow before today’s appearance in Boston.
But actually, it’s a pretty good video and you can watch it right here. (No freeze frame to click, sorry, and you have to sit through a long disclosure/disclaimer crawl before you ever see the people.) It’s the clearest statement yet of “who we are and what we’re trying to do” from a company that is usually very opaque about what it’s up to. And their explanations of the Facebook phenomenon make a lot of sense. Eg. At the beginning user profiles were static and the only thing users could easily change was their profile picture so they constantly changing them. Then they let users tag friends they saw in other photos and the whole social network thing took off. (That from Chris Cox, Vice President, Product in tandem with Mark Zuckerberg.)
The investors were apparently pissed off that after the video there wasn’t enough time for questions. So now there’s no video—and also no Zuckerberg. Did he skip Boston because he was disgusted with the reception to the video, which obviously they’d worked hard on? Time will tell, maybe, but meanwhile look at the video before they take it down. It’s about marketing, just like we are.
My invitation from BarclayCard. Click to see it on their website full size.
Well, this is different. This afternoon I got an email from BarclayCard, with the subject line “Crowdsourced Credit Card – Join the Conversation”. Inside is a message that starts:
Believe it or not, we’d like to see the credit card industry change just as much as you would. We’re people, too. With bills. With families. And we think it’s time for a change. We believe we can give you a simpler credit card product, still make a profit, and then ultimately share that success with you. We’re inviting you to join Barclaycard Ring—a credit card that’s driven by its community of cardmembers. Your actions will determine the financial performance of the community, and the better the community does, the more profit we’ll be able to share with you through our estimated profit sharing program called Giveback.™3
The actual terms of the card are pretty good. 8% annual APR, no annual fee and no balance transfer fees. But what’s really interesting is the Giveback feature. So it’s like a rewards program, except the reward will be determined in part by the above mentioned Giveback program.
There’s very little about this card in Google at the moment, and it appears I may be an Alpha recipient. Nerdwallet has a good writeup in which they quote this little bit from the Barclay’s website: “This profit sharing feature is not based on the actual profits of the program. Instead, the Giveback program contains a transparent calculation that is used to determine what will be shared with the community members and which may or may not approximate actual profits.”
Color me a bit suspicious and cynical, especially because I have no idea how this solicitation made its way to my inbox. There is no attribution to a third party transmitter, and looking at my email archive it does not appear that I have a relationship with Barclay’s unless they are the same folks who sell wine by mail. But, I’ll go ahead and check it out and report back if I find anything interesting.
You put your heart and soul and best marketing smarts into a YouTube video campaign expecting it will go viral and quickly spread across the globe. And… not all that much happens. That’s disheartening but a useful object lesson.
In my little town of Saratoga Springs, NY, the Chamber of Commerce decided to make a promotional video in which thousands of local citizens are captured by a roving camera as they lip sync to a medley of songs from the pop group Train. (Local connection: Train’s drummer hails from Saratoga.) The C of C was up front about the fact that they wanted to emulate the success of a similar video from the city of Grand Rapids, MI which has gotten over 10 million hits.
The Saratoga video is now live, and in the first week, it’s gotten about 36,000 hits. That’s about what you might expect if each of the people in the video sent the link to a few of their friends. By comparison, surveillance videos of a couple of drunks knocking over a statue of a horse (Saratoga is a horse racing town) have gotten over 100,000 hits. Of course, things could change but as local blog All Over Albany points out, most of the traffic to the horse video happened in the first few days after the video went live.
A comparison of the Saratoga and Grand Rapids videos yields some ideas of what works in viral and what may not so work so well.
First of all, the Saratoga piece is obviously a promotional effort. It opens with the producer’s logo, and the first few seconds are archival footage of a thoroughbred race. Many of the participants throughout are waving signs or wearing logos to promote their own organizations. That’s fine for civic pride, but maybe less so for attracting interest from those who don’t already know you. Second, the Train music is just not that good or that catchy; critics have complained that many participants don’t appear to be lip syncing but the songs aren’t really sync-able.
By comparison, the Grand Rapids video has a “wow” factor both in the choice of scenes (including pillow fighters, zombies, an outrageously hamming mayor and a quick pan to what looks like the entire police and fire departments driving down the street waving in unison) and the “how did they do that?” production which looks like a single take. (It isn’t; you can get details in “The Making of the Grand Rapids Lip Dub” which itself has over 112,000 hits.)
It also has great music which ties into a heart-tugging storyline. The video was made to dispel the image of Grand Rapids as just another dying smokestack city, and the music fits in perfectly: a 10 minute concert version of Don McLean’s elegiac “Bye Bye Miss American Pie.” Which, ironically, was penned as McLean was sitting in a bar right here in Saratoga.
I’m a member of the Saratoga Springs Chamber of Commerce myself and would like this video to become successful. My first suggestion is to remove the producer credit and stock footage and to start with Sam the Bugler strutting toward us. Second, now that everybody’s had their moment in the sun try some creative editing of some “best of” clips like local celebrity Garland Nelson in the park, really selling it. Third, sponsor a competition for local citizens (or anyone who wants to try their hand on YouTube) to remix or even parody the original… some very interesting things can happen when you do that.
At this moment I’m sitting in #DMA2011 listening to Biz Stone and trying to follow the stream on his tool… wait, that sounds odd. What I’m doing is watching the tweetstream on my preferred reader (Hootsuite) which though it does not say so is only bringing me the Top Tweets as defined by Twitter’s recently instituted algorithm. And then I have my twitter.com open manually reset to “all” with the #dma2011 hashtag and I’m getting so many more tweets and it is so much more interesting.
The irony of Twitter filtering our results, so only the cool guys show up, is that it’s exactly the opposite of the behavior that caused Twitter to catch fire at SXSW 2008 (or was it 2009?)… people in a session tweeting that there was a better session next door and everybody gets up and leaves because everybody is tweeting and following the same hashtag. If only the Top Tweets were permitted those folks would probably still be sitting in that room at the Austin Convention Center.
Just sayin. You can find a less instantaneous, more well-thought commentary on Top Tweets here.
Groupon, which was featured in an earlier post and also in my social media presentation at the DMA in San Francisco, has recently spurned a $6 billion takeover offer from Google. Pretty cheeky…. considering that there’s nothing proprietary or patent-able about its business of delivering a daily coupon to your inbox with a big discount on a local business.
Indeed, Groupon is one of four coupon outfits I now hear from on a regular basis. BlackboardEats is doing something similar for San Francisco (except they don’t collect the money up front which is good for me but a poor profit model for them), Open Table has gotten into the act with discounts as well as reservations, and LocalSavings is giving Groupon a real run for its money here in the upstate NY area.
But Groupon’s emails are the ones I always open, and why? It’s the copywriting! Today, for example, in an offering for a Portuguese restaurant, the copywriter noticed it had small plates and delivered the following riff: “Small plates provide diners with a rare chance to act like a giant and yell “fee-fi-fo-fum!” at the waitstaff. Enjoy a make-believe growth spurt with today’s Groupon: for $20, you get $40 worth of Portuguese cuisine at Atasca in Cambridge.”
That’s the kind of extemporizing that used to get us yelled at by our bosses when we were cub copywriters… but as always it’s followed by solid research-based benefits including a description of menu items, a reference to its listing on a best-of directory, and a verbal capsule of the ambience: “The in-house atmosphere is warm and romantic, bedecked with Portuguese art and fresh flowers, ideal for a smooch-inducing date or a platonic rendezvous with a band of surly Casanovas.” You can’t make this stuff up, at least you can’t day in and day out. I spoke to one restaurateur who was a happy Groupon client and he said yes, someone from Groupon did indeed call and interview him at length.
I have one worry for Groupon though, and that is its inability to attract quality advertisers in the hinterlands. In San Francisco and Boston, the specials are from recognizable establishments where I’d want to eat anyway. But in Dallas and Albany (all part of my quixotic geographical rotation) we tend to get tanning salons, car washes and second-tier pizza joints, the same folks who show up in Val-Pak.
If Groupon is going to grow beyond $6 billion they’re going to have to find a way to sell creative marketing to the late adopters. If Groupon should happen to implode, at least there will be a lot of good copywriters available for hire in the Chicago area (where Groupon is based).