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Thursday, May 31, 2012

Social Media Its Power to the People

matter which side of the Facebook/GM discussion you stand on, we all recognize that thanks to social media consumers are taking a larger part in establishing the image of most brands.  While what consumers say or write to one another has always been important, typically it could be ‘drowned out’ by the weight of corporate advertising, promotions, and public relations.  Today, of course, consumers have their own media (e.g. Facebook pages, Twitter tweets, YouTube videos, etc., not to mention the narrowcast powerhouse of text messaging).  Consumers also have tools that allow them to produce quality messages from photos and design videos complete with music.

So like it or not we are now clearly in the era of UGC (User Generated Content).  UGC comes in all shapes and sizes.  Sometimes it can be a negative (ranging in power from the review you read about a local dentist to videos gone viral: United Breaks Guitars) but just as easily it can be positive.  The positives don’t always make the headlines, but consider the case of Algonquin High in Northborough, Massachusetts.  The drama class decided to stage a production about of all things, a supermarket chain.  They conceived and presented Wegmans …The Musical!

For those outside the upstate New York and Massachusetts region, Wegmans is a family-owned regional supermarket chain with about 75 stores that’s headquartered just outside Rochester, NY.  It is known as a leader in customer loyalty (some may remember Alec Baldwin’s explanation – on the Letterman Show - the thought of losing access to Wegmans being the reason his mother refused to move from upstate New York), but even for this fabled supermarket, a musical may be a first.  Not only did the musical draw attention within the school and the community of family and friends, but thanks to public social media it’s on YouTube where in one week it’s had over 18,000 views.

The challenge that all brands must face with UGC is, of course, that the message is totally beyond the brands’ control.  While Wegmans did donate some props and was kind enough to cater the after-show party, they had to let go and hope for the best.  The students learned about the company, observed what they did, and told the story as they saw it on stage.

We recognize that customers will write and speak as negatively or positively and as frequently or infrequently as they want.  But we do know that brands can help along the way by: 1) identifying those customers who are behaviorally committed and emotionally linked to their brand, and by finding those among that group who have the “communicator gene” and; 2) ‘arming’ those individuals with content and opportunity (rather than making them find it themselves like the Algonquin High students did). 

10:25 am edt          Comments

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Facebook: The Beginning or the End
Facebook is out doing its roadshow and by the time most read this will have made it initial public offering.  At the same time critics are pointing to: 1) the recent announcement from GM that they will cease to buy paid advertising on Facebook, and 2) a research study that points out that even among Facebook’s most dedicated segment (18-29 years olds)most (75%) do like Facebook corporate pages, but once they make those initial visits, the majority (69%) will “rarely” or “never” return to those same corporate pages again.

I won’t offer any advice on whether either of these announcements mean that Facebook would be a good or bad investment. But as far as the ability of Facebook to help build awareness, consideration and purchase intent for any brand, I think many are missing the point.  Facebook is important to the future of any company not because of how many consumers they might draw to their corporate page, nor what ads they do or do not buy, but rather because of the tens of millions of mentions, postings, conversations (whatever you wish to call them) that the millions of individual people see through the personal pages of their friends, relatives, etc. in the social media each day.

Corporations don’t own the dialog on Facebook, people do. 
8:51 am edt          Comments

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