There aren’t many people I idolize, but Conan O’Brien is definitely one of them. He’s a Massachusetts-bred, Harvard-educated comedy genius. He wrote for my favorite show, The Simpsons, when it was easily the best show on TV. After his stint at The Simpsons, he somehow edged his way into late-night comedy as a host of “Late Night with Conan O’Brien,” and eventually made it to “the big chair” when he became the host of the coveted “Tonight Show.”
Conan’s zany characters (who can forget the Masturbating Bear or Triumph the Insult Comic Dog?) just didn’t play well in the earlier timeslot because they didn’t connect with older, Jay Leno-loving audience. So in early 2010, when we all learned that Conan would be leaving NBC, the internet erupted and Conan O’Brien became a folk hero. Since then, he’s learned to harness the power of social media to create buzz for his new show, and he’s done it well enough to be crowned King of Social Media by Fast Company, which is no easy feat in the “Year of Old Spice.” Everyone can learn a thing or two about marketing from Conan O’Brien.
Listen to your fans
I remember when Conan quit amidst the rumors of Jay Leno reclaiming his old timeslot. #TeamConan was trending on Twitter for days, and #TeamJay was nowhere to be found. The groundswell of support happened on Facebook too. Conan had the support of the entire internet; the “cause” went viral. It was almost as if Conan was a stand-in for the American worker; he was a very talented, very qualified man who had been fired from his job in a recession. We related to him, and we supported him.
Without trying, Conan’s team crowdsourced promotional material from the mob of angry-but-supportive fans. Team Coco absorbed fan-made support into its promotional strategy. “Team Coco” became more than just a hashtag; it became a movement, and later an official blog. Sometimes, it’s okay to ride the wave of support. Often, customers and fans can be used to help determine your brand’s strategy…isn’t that what market research is all about?
Get creative with social media
Conan created his own Twitter account. He has a strong following on Facebook and Tumblr, where his team tells jokes and promotes Conan. He has a Youtube channel where he answers questions from fans (brands have learned some tricks from Old Spice). He also has a blimp (oh, the humanity!). The Conan Blimp is floating around the East Coast, and if you’re lucky enough to check-in on Foursqure at a venue where the blimp is checked-in at, you get a special badge.
Conan is using nearly every popular social networking platform to spread his Goofy Gospel. It’s a good example of how any brand can use social media to its benefit if it gets creative enough. If your brand’s audience is active on social media, then you should be attempting to interact with them.
Combine paid and earned media
Conan has been famous since before the internet became popular. He didn’t start out “internet-famous.” He put in a lot of work, cultivated his fan base on TV, and it all paid off for him when he needed it. His team also used many television ads, an in-person road show (aptly titled the “Legally Prohibited From Being Funny On Television Tour”), and print ads to promote the new show. This is a very good lesson to remember: the best campaigns usually have a mix of paid and earned media to get their message to the consumer. Don’t forget that the Old Spice Guy first started out on a TV commercial before he blew up over the internet. It’s easy to have 15 minutes of fame on the internet; it’s much more difficult to turn those 15 minutes into a lasting benefit for the brand.
As I write this, Conan’s team just ended a 24-hour live webcam. They did some very strange, very wonderful things in those 24 hours: Bearobics, a dancing taco, a zombie attack, and intern twister, all while taking some direction from fans. It was another great use of social media and the internet by Team Coco. I watched a ton of it because I didn’t want to miss out on anything. I definitely won’t be missing out on Conan’s return to the small screen on November 8th. Welcome back, Coco!
Are you as happy as I am that Conan is returning? What other celebrities have used social media well?
Over the summer, my friends and I loved using Foursquare. When we started checking-in, it was so fun to unlock badges and claim mayorships. It was a game that we played against each other. On very rare occasions, we actually received special treatment for being mayors and using the location-based service. It was super fun. But it’s not so fun anymore.
There’s a plateau. If you’re in a city like Madison, Wisconsin, there are only so many rewards you can get and so many things to do. Once you unlock these 10 or so badges, you can’t go any further. Location-based social media needs to evolve past mayorships to fight off Foursquare fatigue.
It’ time for Foursquare to become more localized. They’re heading in the right direction with Foursquare for Universities, which was just launched last week. Essentially, Foursquare is selecting ambassadors to create a more personal, local connection with the college towns. This could be used in so many cool ways. It’s already being used for university tours, which helps smartphone clutching freshmen navigate a new campus (kids these days….).
Schools are able to create specialized badges for different campus hot-spots. I bet that students will love this. Anyone from Madison would appreciate getting a “Badger Badge” for attending a certain amount of UW sporting events, for example. Increasing the relevancy of badges for each University would keep college kids (and the adults that hang out on campus) more interested.
Even in the suburbs, there are interesting, badge-worthy things to do. I currently live within biking distance of the Minnesota Zoo, for example….it’s easy enough to make an “In the Wild” badge. The point is this: the more personal and specialized Foursquare feels to the user, the more a person is likely to use it.
It’s time to look beyond specials for just the mayor. Foursquare 2.0 for the iPhone was released this week, and it emphasizes the “Tips” and “To-Do” sections of the app. On the old interface, the hope was that people would leave friendly tips and comments about the place. Foursquare 2.0 also allows you to find to-do’s on the internet and add them to your Foursquare account as a reminder to go to that place or accomplish that to-do. Here, the possibilities for use are endless.
Businesses can create Tips/To-Dos that entice a patron to do something in exchange for a deal. Think about how word-of-mouth would spread if someone had to do a dance in the middle of a restaurant for a free meal, or you received a free appetizer if you brought in a crowd of 10. It will be cool to read a positive restaurant review online and then be able to “tag” that place, so you know where to go. Or, a business could put the “Add this to Foursquare” button on their website and create quick, mobile coupons. The “Add to Foursquare” button could be a really great tool for businesses to increase new visits and return customers.
There are a ton of other things Foursquare can do to make sure its service stays fun and relevant to users. Here’s a quick list of ideas I’m stealing from other LBS services that would heighten the Foursquare experience:
- Like Facebook Places, integrate other information about the venue. Link directly to the place’s webpage, put reviews up, and tie in the venue’s social media, if applicable.
- Like SCVNGR, integrate “games” and “tasks.” Create scavenger hunts and other fun things to do. Give the user an incentive (even if it is just “fun”) to continue to use the service.
- Allow users to pin photographs to the places.
- Continue to partner with businesses, and work with group-buying companies like Groupon.
- Foursquare is beginning to recommend places to go to. This one is a little touchy because people don’t like being told what to do, but imagine how useful this could be to travelers or people moving to new cities.
So, what does the future look like?
Like I said in a previous post, the possibilities for Foursquare are really endless. What we’re continuing to see in today’s world is a shift to a cross-platform experience; something you do or look at on the internet can be transferred seamlessly to your mobile phone. This is what Foursquare 2.0 is doing with its “Add this to Foursquare” buttons. It will be really cool to see how technology like this continues to grow in the future to create a better experience for consumers.
As location-based social media continues to become more mainstream and the options for which service to use become more numerous, Foursquare is going to have to continue to evolve in order to cater to the users’ needs. Hopefully, Foursquare and other services like it keep listening to what the consumers want so that location-based social media is still fun and relevant. I’ll keep checking-in as long as it remains fun and I get something out of it.
Tired of Foursquare too? How else could they keep it fun?
Epiphanies, small moments of clarity that change your life, often occur when someone “finds God” or hits rock bottom and struggles back up. Mad Men’s episode this week, “The Summer Man,” more or less dealt with that, as Don was trying to “wake up.” And as I was watching, it got me thinking about a very simple idea that took me 22 years to learn. “Epiphany” isn’t the right word for it, but it’s the first one that comes to mind.
Even though I double-majored in four years at a great business school, I coasted through college. It was easy enough for me to get good grades and succeed. And I never got involved in anything academic. Joining student orgs seemed fake to me, like I would only be doing it so I could put something on my résumé and “network.” It took social media to wake me up from this half-asleep, paralyzing notion that participating meant selling-out.
Participating is NOT selling-out
I learned that once you start participating, you’ll want to try harder. To work more. To learn as much as you possibly can. To stop half-assing it and throw every ounce of effort into everything you do. Social media sparked a passion in me that really hadn’t been lit before.
Once I joined Twitter and started reading blogs, I realized how much I liked advertising, marketing, media. It’s genuinely interesting to me; every stat I encounter, every ad I look at, and every article I read reinforces my desire to soak up more knowledge, to participate more, and to get my opinion out there. Before I participated in social media, I had no idea what I actually wanted to do with my life.
Social media makes you a part of the community
I found other people who, like me, were interested in every single facet of advertising. People who shared my love for pop culture, tech, and media. Because I wasn’t a part of student orgs and my friends were dispersed throughout other majors, I hadn’t really connected with anyone who was passionate about the same career that I was. I was blind to that community before I got involved in social media.
I saw all these people my age writing blogs that were interesting and filled with useful information. I decided that I could write too. I could provide my own insights into this world, and people might read what I have been writing and learn something. So I started writing more about those things on a blog (this one, genius), and I joined The Next Great Generation. Social media (more or less) gave me a voice.
You can learn from this community
I saw that amidst all the junk, there were people all over Twitter with interesting, witty, insightful things to say. I saw that there were a ton of people within the industry that would be willing to give great advice. There were even some C-Level employees that were friendly and social. I learned that I could talk to them and learn something was somewhat of a revelation too; I thought CEO’s were supposed to be stodgy, cranky, unapproachable people surrounded by yes-men (yep, just like Mr Burns). Social media blew that idea to smithereens.
I’m lucky that I picked up on this passion when I did; I may have missed out on a lot of opportunities during school, but I’m giving it my best shot to make up for it. I’m not going to ever regret how I spent my time in college; I got to spend a ton of time with my friends and, as the great prophet Tracy Jordan notes, “Regrets are for horseshoes and handbags.” But I am pretty glad I figured this out early on, and I give social media some credit for my tiny “epiphany.”
Ok, two somewhat-personal posts in a row is more than enough. Back to your regularly-scheduled snarky look at advertising and pop culture next time.
Anyone have a similar moment?
Realtors have a mantra: Location, location, location. That might as well be 2010’s official slogan, because every social network is getting on the LBS-train. Now, Facebook has entered the ring with its “Facebook Places” application. At the moment, it’s sort of like Foursquare with a few more bells and whistles.
Look, Zuckerberg, I get it. You want to play with the other cool kids in the location arena. It’s new, it’s fun, and it’s eventually going to be lucrative. But I’m not sold on Facebook’s foray into location-based services yet. Here are a few reasons why:
Foursquare was opt-in
I have 356 friends on Facebook. I maybe care where 10% of them are at any given moment. I don’t need to know where that-girl-I-met-once-in-college is eating lunch and I don’t care where anyone from my high-school is partying. They don’t care where I am, either. I joined Foursquare and chose my friends on that platform because I do care where they are. I chose them specifically because their location might interest me. I joined Facebook and friended people for different reasons.
I think Facebook would have been better off if they had created Places as an opt-in service within someone’s existing Facebook profile. In this service, you would have to choose to join Places, and then you would have to invite people from your existing pool of Facebook friends to accept your “Places Friend Request.” This way, users would have the decision to share their location and they would be able to share their whereabouts with a limited number of people. I imagine Facebook didn’t go this route because they wanted location-based services to become more mainstream; by creating an opt-in service, less people would be interested, and they’d essentially just be creating a Foursquare clone.
Caveat: I’m sure Facebook will allow me to fiddle with the privacy settings of this application so I only see the location of people I choose, but I already did that on Foursquare. It seems a little redundant.
Remember when Farmville became popular and everyone’s newsfeed was clogged-up with annoying notifications? Remember how angry everyone was because they didn’t want to see every update about lonely cows and awesome crops? It’ll happen again with Facebook Places, and it won’t be pretty.
Caveat: Again, I’m sure they’ve already thought this through and will allow you to block/hide location updates. Still, I’m haunted by memories of homeless animals and crop-growing updates littering my feed.
Here’s the sad but realistic news: Facebook Places will probably be a hit. According to Facebook, “there are more than 150 million active users currently accessing Facebook through their mobile devices.” Obviously, not every mobile user will be checking-in, but the number is pretty astounding when you consider that as of today, Foursquare is approaching 3 million users. If even a tiny fraction of Facebook Mobile users begin to check-in , the number of Places users will surpass Foursquare. Having Facebook Places will open up the world of location-based services to many, many people, which is good in the long-run.
Not only that, but it’ll be much easier for businesses to give out coupons and special deals. Since businesses can link their pages to the Places application, it’ll be a nicer integration than Foursquare can currently offer. You will be able to learn a lot more about the place of business when you use Facebook. This means that for businesses, Facebook Places may be more lucrative than Foursquare.
Our new time capsule?
“Cox is really making a higher level argument for Facebook Places and location-based services in general. He’s talking about how Facebook Places will be a collective archive of our memories of what we experienced at a specific location or event, such as Lollapalooza. The company sees it as an evolution of the scrapbook or the photo album — now those stories will get more attention, those stories will be pinned to a physical location.”
As cheesy as it is, I think that’s a pretty cool. Whether we completely understand it or not, everything we put on the internet leaves a mark in time, and eventually they’ll become our society’s cave paintings. Yikes.
Obviously, it’s too early to tell if Facebook Places will be more like Google Wave or, well, Facebook. Right now, I think they have a lot of things to iron-out before I become a gung-ho user. Whether or not Places takes off, having Facebook enter the ring means location-based services have hit the mainstream public, which is think is a great thing for transparency, technology, and innovation.
What do you think? Are you going to join Facebook Places?
Over the summer I’ve been managing the social media accounts of clients in a wide range of industries, from restaurants to spokes-rappers (seriously) to professional organizers. I’ve learned some things along the way, and since I’ve written about using social media as a business before, I think I’ll make some observations about how it works in reality. I’ve been on the frontlines of the social media landscape, and from my trials and tribulations come the following lessons.
| Why your business should embrace location-based social media |
The other day, an article came out with the title “Study Says Most Marketers Should Forgo Foursquare.” Naturally, a title like that is going to entice me to a read it. It explains that only 4% of adults use the location-based social media service, and 80% of the users are male. It also stated that 70% of users are in between ages 19-35, and 70% have college degrees or higher. Now, do these stats sound like a dead zone for marketers? Of course not! If anything, these stats are conducive to huge growth in the future, as the millennial generation grows older and Foursquare becomes more popular.
Think about it; what Foursquare does is entice consumers into your place of business, restaurant, or bar. It creates competition to see who can visit your venue the most. I’ve talked about Foursquare before, but this time I want to talk about how businesses can use it to increase their revenues. I recently read an article about how you can use Foursquare as a marketing tool, and it gave me some ideas. In the article, Danny Brown mentioned that you can use it as a cross-platform tool (enticing people to go to a bar after a movie, for example). Here are some other ideas on how to monetize Foursquare for your business, beyond just having specials for the mayor.
Loyalty Program: Use it as a reward for stopping by more than once. Make a special that says you’ll get something for free (or a discount) on the tenth time you go in. Entice the customer to continue to come in, and reward them for frequency. This allows more than one person to be incentivized for frequency, while still letting one person continue to be mayor (regardless of the prize, it IS fun to dethrone a mayor).
Swarm Party: Believe it or not, one of the more innovative Foursquare ideas I’ve heard of came out of Milwaukee. AJ Bomber’s has used Foursquare very well, and more restaurants should take notice. Bomber’s had an idea to host a “Swarm Party” on a Sunday. Basically, they offered the possibility of a coveted Swarm Badge (for those not in the know, you get one for checking-in to a venue with more than 50 other Foursquare users). 161 people showed up, and everyone got their swarm badge. Additionally, this stunt increased sales by 110%. Your business could go further and say that everyone in the building gets a free drink if you get enough people for a swarm badge. Even if less than 50 people check in, you’ll still have a decent-sized crowd ready to spend money. This is just a case of people lusting after something with no inherent value; consumers will gladly spend money if they get a chance at a swarm badge.
Check-in With a Friend: Have a special that rewards bringing new customers in. If you can show them that you’re bringing a friend in and it’s their first time checking in, reward the word-of-mouth with a special. This is easy enough to prove (and, I’m assuming that as the software becomes more advanced you’ll be able to track the number of people checking-in to your business), and it promotes new business.
Obviously, there’s a very large space for innovation and creativity when it comes to using Foursquare as a marketing tool. As the stats say, very few people currently use it, but that number is growing. The great thing about technology like this is that the possibilities for using it are endless; all your business has to do is embrace Foursquare and get to work counting your money. Let’s hear it: What are some other ways you think businesses can use Foursquare as a marketing tool?
As one of my loyal readers (all fourteen of you, and that’s being optimistic), you probably know that I like Twitter. Quite a bit. I’ve written about it before. Twitter is a portal to the collective thoughts of the world. I recently commented about it on a post about why I love Twitter:
I think Twitter can fundamentally change the way those with little industry experience look for work. Connecting with the right people, posting high-quality information, and making insightful observations on Twitter could potentially catch the eye of employers. It’s an interesting new way to think about job hunting for my generation.
Twitter can change how you find a job. See, I spent a good chunk of my senior year in college sending in resumes, writing cover letter after cover letter, attending job fairs, and occasionally landing an interview because of it. This method I’m going to call the “push” method of job hunting. This is how those with little-to-no experience have been doing it for quite some time. In my case, this was (and continues to be) like shoving a boulder up a hill or getting Zooey Deschanel to marry me.
|Already Married? Rats|
But here we are in the digital age, where mere mortals like me can have real conversations with C-Level employees and thought leaders in the industry using Twitter. This is enough to make me think that perhaps there is a better way to find a job. I’m going to call it the “pull” method.
By this point, you’d have to be under a very large rock for a very long time to have missed the Old Spice ads. The campaign went viral when it began and continues to garner a lot of attention with each new ad. The campaign managed to get star Isaiah Mustafa a deal with NBC. It also won the Grand Prix Award at the Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival, which is sort of like the Best Picture Oscar. Additionally, the ad was recently nominated for an Emmy for Outstanding Commercial, and will most likely win (with their momentum, none of the others can really compare). So, what makes this ad campaign so special? Why does it connect with us, and why did it go viral?
The New York Times ran an article that says we share things that inspire awe. It states that in order for something to inspire awe, “Its scale is large, and it requires ‘mental accommodation’ by forcing the reader to view the world in a different way.” Now let’s look at the Old Spice ads. They definitely have that “how did they do it?” quality that many viral ads have. Curiosity piques interest. However, the ads aren’t doctored. They are well-known to be authentic and shot in one sequence. It was all done without CGI or any digital funny-business. This is certainly awe inspiring, because it makes us view the world of commercials (in today’s digital age) in a different way; we’re so used to over-the-top CGI effects (thanks, Michael Bay and James Cameron) that a spectacle like these commercials (without the help of CGI) is certainly interesting. The scale of the commercials is definitely large enough: TV ads reach a huge chunk of the population.
They’re Actually Funny
I don’t know a single person who doesn’t smile every time they see the commercials. I’ve seen most of them many, many times and I still laugh. The commercials are so over-the-top ridiculous that they’re incredibly funny. They take every Fabio-esque stereotype of male masculinity (including an un-ironic love of mustaches and riding on a white horse topless) and throw it in your face. It would be annoying, but Old Spice is aware of the stereotypes and understands the ridiculous nature of them, so it is able to make fun of itself. This sort of humor connects directly with our generation; we love satire, and we love to see big corporations not take themselves so seriously.
Sharable: These ads are inherently sharable. Just from personal experience, it had a TON of morning-after watercooler buzz in real life, and it went viral on Youtube, Twitter, Facebook, and the rest of the internet. They’re short enough that anyone (even those of you at the office) can view it without getting into any real trouble. The Old Spice phenomenon got so big that if you didn’t know about it, you felt left out.
They Listen and Respond
Old Spice has a Twitter account (@OldSpice, naturally), and they LISTEN to us. We know this because the account tweets back at individual users. The brand has even started to respond via personalized YouTube videos. The takeaway here is that if you want to get and KEEP our attention, you have to listen to us and respond within a reasonable time. If you do, your brand will seem more personal and authentic. We like that. It also helps that the replies are pretty hilarious.
Of course, as with any cultural phenomenon, the ads have their detractors who say the campaign is good for quick laughs but may hurt the brand in the long-term. Others cite that all the awards and buzz doesn’t always translate into sales. Even if it hasn’t exactly rose sales yet, ask anyone which brand of deodorant first pops into his or her head and I would bet Old Spice is it. Many companies would kill for that top-of-mind brand recall and awareness. Whatever the case, these ads have bored a vuvuzela-sized hole in the zeitgeist and have made advertising a little more fun. Well done, Old Spice.
After the social media blitzkrieg, Old Spice’s sales soared. Mustafa eventually won the Emmy, and everything about this campaign was deemed a success. There have already been a number of copycats, but none have matched up to the original. This campaign is sure to ride off on its white horse (in only a towel, of course) into the annals of advertising history.
(Photo via Urlesque)
My generation is a lot of things. We have a lot of great traits: we’re tech-savvy, we’re mobile, we’re driven (albeit in a different way than the other generations), and we’re always trying to be better. We’re also viewed very negatively by “them.” They say we have a high sense of entitlement without having earned it and have no attention span, but that’s for a different post. We tackle work differently too.
The 9 to 5 work schedule is crumbling because of technology. Smartphones are keeping us connected and able to answer emails all day and night, but they’re also allowing us to access our Facebook and Twitter accounts while we’re “working” (a lot of companies are very worried about this). We can stay connected to both worlds all day very easily. More than any previous generation, we’re seeing a merger of professional and personal life.
In the past, it was easier to keep work at work. If you were someone like Don Draper (Mad Men is back on July 25th!), you didn’t bring work home and definitely didn’t have the wife and kids on your mind at work. You’d go to work, flip on the “work mode” switch in your brain, and get working (admittedly, “work mode” in Mad Men sounds pretty great). Then, you’d come home (or the home of a mistress, or a bar, in Draper’s case) and flip that switch off. Now, we’re never completely “off” and never completely “on,” which is restructuring how we spend our time. So the real question is this: How do we separate work and our personal lives? Here are a few ideas.
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