Last night I was at dinner with a friend explaining what we do at 1000heads. I’d just got going when his attention was diverted.
“What’s that?” asked my dining partner not apparently talking to anyone in particular. I turned in the direction of his glazed gaze.
“It’s wonderful isn’t it…” exclaimed a woman in a state of giddy joy, “…we saw them having it and we just had to order one.” She motioned to the table beyond where a couple looked on with the glow of parental pride.
The ‘it’ in question was a rather wonderful chocolate sundae crowned with a hemisphere of thin, dark chocolate. On the side, a jug full of hot butterscotch sauce was waiting to be tipped onto the crown where it would burst the confectionary bubble and reveal an oasis of cream and popping candy. The fizz and freckle of the butterscotch on candy drew oohs and aahs normally reserved for fireworks.
“Looks great…” I said, “…we should order a couple of those later”.
And so we did.
When they appeared we caught the table next to us peering over.
“What’s that?” asked one.
“It looks amazing!” squealed another.
“It’s wonderful isn’t it…” said my dining partner.
And so the ripple continued.
All in all that evening we observed a chain of twelve sundaes, each directly attributable to the trendsetters at the top table.
“So…” said my friend smearing chocolate brownie across his lower lip. “…1000heads, what is you guys do exactly?”
“We help our clients make chocolate sundaes” I said.
“I thought you were in marketing?” (He never got metaphors).
In an industry forever discussing new platforms, new audiences and new techniques it’s important to remember what we do and why. And hey, it never hurts to have a delicious go-to example to explain what success looks like.
Recently I was asked participate in a print debate for Economia magazine, a back-to-basics scrap between myself and Robert Wynne, President of Wynne Communications. Our topic: Is social media a waste of time for business?
There are still (and quite rightly so) many sceptics out there wondering whether social marketing is all so much smoke and mirrors, so I was delighted to get the chance to articulate why (when done properly) it isn’t.
Look at your audience. Who is primarily on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter? Children, teenagers, celebrities and families. What is it you want to say? Probably something important about taxes, a new hire, a new law that impacts your clients, or possibly a new office. Now post it on Facebook, right next to photos of that cute kitty. “Watch out, he’s about to knock over that aquarium. What a scamp. Now what were you saying about your firm?” It doesn’t look appropriate next to that cat, does it?
Some things do well on social media: celebrities who appeal to teenagers, such as Justin Bieber and Miley Cyrus. Games including Candy Crush. But not businesses or accountancy firms. If you post your news item on social media, then send it out via a news release service or to your client list: which do you think will be more successful?
Social media is about conversation and most of that, unfortunately, involves reposting. Financial results, tax advice, new hires; most of that is best posted on your website, your blog or sent directly. The best way to reach your clients, friends and influencers is via email. As Rick Newman, chief business correspondent for the US News & World Report put it: “Social media represents all these new forms of information, but all roads lead to email.”
NO: Molly Flatt
Saying social media is a waste of time for business is like saying humans are a waste of time for business. Social media is simply a set of tools that allow people to connect with each other. Sometimes we use social media to gossip or watch videos of cats, just like we sometimes eat junk food. But most of us also cook nutritious meals, and we use social tools to do things that are central to our lives and to businesses: for example, asking others for advice, giving recommendations or collaborating with others.
And by “we” I mean everyone.
Pew Research tells us that 71% of online adults now use Facebook, including 45% of internet users aged 65 and over. The Interactive Advertising Bureau tells us 90% of consumers would recommend a brand to others after interacting with them on social media. Frankly, if you think that connecting with your clients involves talking about taxes or telling them who you just hired, you’ve got a problem. This is about emotion, not just information. Emotion is what drives people to buy products, remain loyal or spread the word, and emotion is the currency of social media.
Yes, more people are using social media than ever. But are they using it to discover the offerings of a company, to compare prices, to contact customer service or to engage with businesses? Not really.
Look at your own habits. If you have a problem with your Samsung 55-in LED TV, do you check Facebook and Twitter or do you go to the retailer’s website? If you have an American Express Platinum card and want to buy tickets for Adele’s concert using the credit card firm concierge to get the best seats, do you look at social media or “like” a page about Adele on Facebook? Neither – you look at their website.
The same principles apply to accountancy firms. If you need to contact your clients about a change in tax policy, a direct email or notice on your website homepage will be more effective and professional. The same applies when it comes to crises. Twitter may seem to be the best platform to inform the masses but it only works when you lead clients to a live person or team of experts via email or phone.
It’s comforting to believe that all businesses need to do is type in a few words or post an arresting photo and the magic happens. But perhaps it’s better to think of social media as a complementary function that leads people to where they really want to go: to your website or to a live human at your practice. That’s what you want as a customer, isn’t it? So treat your clients with the same respect and efficiency.
Using your own habits to extrapolate what the rest of the world is doing is a classic marketer’s mistake. Let us consider the facts. Research from the Ambassador Group shows that 9% of all social media users engage with brands daily, more than half will do so several times a month, and 33% of people would rather contact a company by social media than by telephone. And this behaviour is increasing.
The Center for Marketing Research in the US recently found that 62% of Millennials like at least one brand on Facebook, 23% follow a brand on Twitter and 11% have pinned a brand on Pinterest. Their top three motivations? Supporting that brand, getting brand news and updates, and discovering discounts.
But although the value of social media for brands – as a channel for broadcast, transaction and customer service – is valuable, it still misses the point. Getting people to talk to each other about you as a brand, rather than talking to them, is where social’s power lies. The best brands spend more time listening on social media than they do talking – and then use that insight to surprise customers or clients.
Take the Samsung example: a savvy competitor could spot that person tweeting about their broken TV and offer them a free trial of their product instead. Or with the American Express example, why not give bloggers early access to your top events, encouraging recommendations with greater reach, trust and relevance than your concierge will ever have?
You can’t just plonk the same old business approaches onto social media. You have to change what you do. And that means prioritising advocacy, not just functionality.
There are great statistics about the rate of people using and enjoying social media, but it’s difficult to find anecdotes about serious businesses actually profiting from social media compared with good websites, their own blogs, and other effective digital communications including email. The example about another TV company bottom fishing by trying to pick up dissatisfied customers illustrates a reactive strategy for followers, not leaders.
Think of social media as another outlet for posting news, stories, anecdotes and hope it brings customers, friends and other audiences to your website or even better, to call or email you directly. I’ve seen marketers spend hundreds of thousands of dollars building up Twitter followers and Facebook likes with nothing to show for it but… followers and likes.
There’s a role for social media, as part of an overall public relations, marketing, advertising and communications plan. There are apps used today by Forbes contributors, including myself, that allow us to post our columns to several social media sites simultaneously. Soon anyone will be able to do that. And once the sites and messages can be aggregated, they will seem less unique and just one more hammer or screwdriver in the toolbox.
Social media is not a better or worse version of brand websites or emails. It is a totally different beast, requiring a totally different set of approaches and skills. Businesses are followers, not leaders, in this space. In social media, you need to listen to your consumers or clients, then serve them in the most helpful, timely, relevant and inspiring ways – not try to dictate your superior wisdom or pre-packaged marketing bumf.
Of course, social media can’t fulfil every business role. But it is a way to build genuine and mutually rewarding relationships with your customers. So do keep auto-publishing your fascinating Forbes columns and sending them round via email. That way the rest of us can happily ignore them – and spend time engaging with businesses who approach this space like human beings, not content-creating robots.
The tide is turning once again on the platform of choice for social media’s movers and shakers. Snapchat’s for teens, Facebook’s for losers and Twitter’s for marketers, but Instagram is unequivocally having its moment in the digital spotlight.
We had a sneaking suspicion the times were a-changing. First, there was the influencer who, after we shared our planned Twitter activity for an event they were attending, literally scoffed, “Twitter? Why? I barely use it anymore. I ‘gram.’”
(Attention to the unhip: A “gram,” as it’s affectionately referred to amongst Instagram’s most devout users, refers to a photo posted on the platform.)
These Twitter-spurning, Instagram-loving influencers are becoming increasingly common. We work with a growing pool of influencers who, from their average Twitter following, look more like you or me than a bonafide influencer (apologies to all the Twitter kingpins reading this – you’re exempt). Look at their Instagram accounts, however, and you’ll see a following in the 10k+ range with engagement per post of 1.5k+.
Then, there was the time we first engaged influencers on Instagram using Direct Messaging. The result? An avalanche of immediate, effusive responses. What a change from the “Is this a scam?” or, more frequently than not, the pure radio silence our community team has become accustomed to when engaging on Twitter.
Giddy with the results, we decided to take our newfound Instagram success a step further. How? By publicly commenting on an influencer’s photo. Shortly thereafter, we were greeted by a screenshot of our comment posted on the user’s Instagram, accompanied by text saying how “cool” it is the brand took the time to comment on their photo.
In the vein of not letting our love affair with Instagram go to our heads without cold, hard stats, we did some research. According to a recent article by Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA), Instagram’s monthly active user base of 200 million boasts an engagement rate per user 60 times higher than Facebook, and a whopping 120 times more than Twitter.
But why? Why is it a preferred platform? Why more engagement? Why more consumer trust in brands that engage on Instagram? We have a few theories:
Visual – Instagram’s inherently visual nature makes it the ideal platform for the plethora of visually inclined fashion, food and lifestyle bloggers we so frequently work with to share their content vs. text-heavy Twitter.
Easy – Sure, tweeting is easy. However, as the pressure to think up a witty, unique, 140-character-or-less bit of wisdom that will score you retweets, favorites and legions of new followers (and maybe a book deal!) can put a damper on things. With Instagram, no words are necessary. A picture is worth a thousand characters.
Uncluttered - Instagram has yet to be overrun by brands clambering for user’s attention (According to WOMMA, only 15 brands are currently approved for sponsored posts*). A brand reaching out to you on Instagram is out of the norm. It’s different. It doesn’t feel spam-like. It might even feel personalized, because, as our social savvy influencers know, there isn’t currently a platform that makes mass marketing promotion easy on Instagram.
Where are your influencers exerting their influence?
Having touched on the topic of native advertising a couple of months ago, I’d now like to turn to… well, native advertising.
The trend continues to rise and the case studies accumulate, and it’s hitting more and more of a nerve with consumers fed up of traditional, interruptive ads. So let’s dig a little deeper into what’s causing the upsurge, and how businesses can make the most of it.
Don’t do this
Cast your mind back to 1994. More specifically, 27th October 1994, when the first banner ad went live on hotwire.com and 44% of those who saw it clicked on it. Fast forward to today and banner ads are ineffective and, frankly, downright annoying; nowadays you’re lucky to get a CTR of more than 0.1%.
Intrusive ads just aren’t the way into consumers’ hearts. During our usual bedtime browse, we’re increasingly resentful of those annoying onscreen popups that obscure content, or even the whole page; background takeovers; ‘suggested content’; and the much-hated banner ad.
As we spend more and more time online and the ‘second screen’ becomes the ‘first screen’ (3 hours and 41 minutes are spent online per day, that’s 26 minutes more than we spent watching TV), not being interrupted is becoming incredibly important.
And that’s where native comes in. What makes something native? What are the rules? And more importantly, how can it be measured? The answers are a work in progress, but marketers are swimming in a sea of opportunity, which is both exciting and scary for all involved.
Consumers are tired of being shouted at. They’ve had it for the last 100 years, and it’s time marketers became smarter. Indeed, the IAB found 60% of consumers prefer digital advertising that focuses on a story rather than selling a product, highlighting the importance of storytelling in advertising and the power of emotional connections.
The key issue here is one of transparency. When it’s not so obvious consumers are being advertised to, marketers run the risk of leaving the consumer feeling misled and eroding brand trust. In the same IAB report, 41% of those surveyed recognised native material as advertising. This is a big issue for brands and marketers.
This ‘advertorial’ unashamedly peddled the achievements the controversial church had witnessed that year. The issue here, other than the brash nature of the article itself, is that there was no distinction between The Atlantic’s standard editorials and the sponsored article.
In short, we’re going to see a lot more of native advertising. It’s certain to evolve into something that is different to what we’re seeing today, but the similarities will be one of discretion and, for the format to survive, one of transparency and trust.
A Custom Audience is an ad targeting option available through Facebook which lets advertisers connect with a brand’s existing audiences. This targeting option leverages the power of CRM data to find Facebook users who have previously interacted with a brand. It enables advertisers to reach qualified leads on Facebook, precisely segmenting this audience by CRM data, pages visited or by any of the ad platform’s standard targeting options (age, gender, interest etc).
This powerful tool blurs the lines between CRM and advertising and although the potential applications are huge, we’ve identified eight ways brands can maximise its value:
1. Grow your fan base
Once you have uploaded your CRM data you can target this group during your paid social campaigns, allowing you to target everyone from your email list who isn’t an existing fan to like your page.
2. Extend your post reach
A published Facebook post can often only reach a small percentage of your audience organically. If you want to reach more people you can promote your posts using Facebook’s advertising platform. However, with your own CRM data you can reach individual users on the Facebook platform who may not be your fans yet. These users have already expressed interest in your brand and its content, so they are more likely to embrace seeing your post in their newsfeed.
3. Retargeting website visitors
There can often be a large drop off during the purchasing process as customers research their options or simply become distracted. Retargeting ads remind the customer of what they were looking at, build familiarity and bring them back to the site to complete the purchase.
Knowing which products a customer has purchased before gives a brand the opportunity to upsell a complementary item to existing customers through Facebook.
5. Cross device retargeting
A lot of customers will research a product on a mobile device but then make the purchase on a desktop. As custom audiences allow us to retarget the user rather than the device, brands can extend this behaviour by promoting further browsing to mobile users, or to trigger a sale with desktop users.
6. Seed campaigns
Custom audiences allow brands to extend the reach of ‘fan’ targeting to those outside their current social following, but still to engaged and reactive audiences.
7. Building new customers
Look-alike audiences allow advertisers to create additional audiences similar to your existing customers based on their demographic, interest and profile make-up.
8. Profiling your customer base
Brands can apply targeting filters on custom audiences to discover a huge amount about demographics, interests and profile. These insights can then be used to inform business objectives and decision-making.
Facebook Custom Audiences is currently under-utilized by many advertisers. The potential of the advanced targeting option allows you to reach current and potential customers with your Facebook advertising, and benefits brands and customers alike.
For brands they benefit from targeting the exact customers they want to reach allowing them to be more efficient with advertising spend. For customers, they benefit from being served more relevant advertising, from a brand they have previously engaged with.
In our next post, we will be covering the application of Facebook Custom Audiences as a profiling tool in more detail.
3D printing. A concept that only a few decades ago would have seemed ludicrous, is now set to revolutionise the way we live today.
Eco-friendly, a cure for cancer and a functioning 3D-printed kidney. The rise of 3D printing has been heralded as the “Second Industrial Revolution” , and it has the potential to impact our lives in a similar way
“Imagine being able to walk into a hospital and have a full organ printed – or bio-printed, as we call it – with all the cells, proteins and blood vessels in the right place, simply by pushing the ‘print’ button on your computer screen?” envisages Dr. Luiz Bertassoni of the University of Sydney. Forward-thinking doctors want to be able to print tissue to make organs cheaply, and anticipate that in 10 years’ time every lab and hospital will have a 3-D printing machine that is able to print living cells.
3D printing even has the scope to revolutionize the way we treat cancer. Tumours can now be ‘printed’ for the purpose of testing developing drugs quickly and more accurately. A living tumour can be printed at an extraordinarily high resolution, in a multitude of different and specific shapes and sizes. Each tumour is different, so there’s even the possibility that the technology will be able to simulate individual patients’ cancers in the lab – to see which drugs work most effectively to combat it.
3D Printing and Sustainability
3D printing is being lauded as a ‘greener’ option to traditional manufacturing processes. The problem with traditional manufacturing is in the costs of transportation from A to B to C and often D. Creating not one, but multiple routes of carbon emission, not to mention excess packaging. With 3D printing, a design team come up with an object and then store the design in an online repository. Clients then peruse designs online before loading their favourite to an in-home or local 3D printer to be reproduced and used; therefore removing the individual legs of shipping as well as the dilemma of excess packaging.
A distant version perhaps; in a world where all homes are kitted out with a 3D printer, akin to the two dimensional printer these days – but nonetheless, this could be an environmental game changer.
3D Printing and Brands
3D Printing is already starting to speed up small businesses. Science and life-enhancing capabilities aside, it is proving an effective tool for brands to tap into. However with the ‘democratization’ of 3D printing, as it has been termed, will brands lose their power and lure as more people are able to manufacture products independently?
The cleverest brands are embracing 3D printing; and harnessing the opportunity. They are riding the wave of the revolution and inviting collaboration with the individual. 3D printing provides a unique opportunity to strengthen the link between consumer and brand through the creation of one-of-a-kind products.
This mode of thought is exactly what Adobe tapped into with their #CreativityForAll campaign hatched by 1000heads. We were briefed to raise awareness of Adobe’s new 3D printing capabilities. The solution: we invited a selection of 2 and 3D artists to reimagine the traditional Easter egg. In turn, we 3D printed their visions in magnificent coloured sandstone. Read more here.
Other brands operating creatively are Dewar’s who gathered a swarm of 80,000 honey bees to “3B print” a bottle of whisky. A transparent whisky bottle was created housing a swarm of bees for a period of 6 weeks. From this, an inside out beehive was gloriously constructed. The experiment was broadcast “Live from the Hive” to Dewar’s Facebook page. Despite not being a clean-cut example of 3D printing, it clearly demonstrates its powerful influence and the creative possibilities 3D printing invites.
To promote CocaCola’s mini-size bottles in Israel, the brand created an app which allowed consumers to create virtual replicas of themselves to feed, drink and take care of, a la Tamigotchi (remember?). The reward to those that looked after “themselves” successfully was an invitation to Coke’s headquarters in Israel where “mini me” figurines were 3D printed. Successfully tapping into Coke’s overarching marketing strategy about the formulation of personal relationships with its customers.
The possibilities with 3D printing in the future may well extend beyond our wildest dreams . Already we are dealing with Bio-Printing, dreams of 3D printed airliner wings and plastic skulls (yes, really). Chris Anderson, former editor-in-chief of Wired, once said that 3D printing “will be bigger than the web.” A bold statement indeed, but judging by the levels of ingenuity, it could well be the case.
Each year the social media industry asks itself a new set of questions. In 2009 we wondered if it was a fad. In 2010 we debated what we should say. In 2013 we stood for all things ‘real time’.
This year we’re finally taking steps to talk about actual, proven business value.
Platforms like Instagram have been cautious about introducing advertising. Others like Pinterest have been more aggressive. Just last week, both Facebook and Twitter took a step further: they want to make buying things on their platforms easier by introducing direct response solutions (Twitter already had Lead Generation Cards for example). All of which takes me fifty years back in advertising history…
When David Ogilvy was 25, he discovered what would become his “first love and secret weapon”: direct mail. It was his introduction to the power of measurable results, instead of general platitudes and opinion. With direct mail, you either got a result, or you didn’t. You either sold something, or you didn’t. Simple.
As an industry, we tend to avoid talking about selling. We like to talk about conversations and ‘engagement’, an altogether more human kind of communication. We don’t like the nagging salesman, the cold call, the hard sell.
To think we are either cold-blooded salesmen or daydreaming enthusiasts prevents us doing our best work. We love to think we’re either one or the other, but in fact we must be both.
The backbone of our industry has always been probability. The right research, strategy, idea and measurement are essential not because they make failing impossible, but because they make success a bit more likely. Now that it’s becoming easier to define success, we’re getting closer to what Ogilvy stood for with direct advertising: you either get those results, or you don’t.
Social media has always allowed us to track the metrics – number of fans, total reach, conversations, referral traffic – but it’s not as easy to tie that to actual value. If people tweet more, do they care more? Do they buy more? Metrics are a means to an end, but in the end it’s the business value that counts.
It’s good to see social platforms mature to the level in which they give us more tools to better make that connection between what happens on social media and how that reflects in business performance. Tracking direct response is not the only way to do that, but it’s a good start.
We’ll not always be able to connect the dots, because the research around brand building is clear: these things take time and are not always logical. In a way, we’re going back fifty years to Ogilvy’s philosophy around direct advertising and we have more tools than ever to tie the metrics to actual business value.
As our self-appointed in-house Emoji expert I am unashamedly passionate about the sunny yellow characters used to inject personality into messages nationwide. Born in Japan, the characters have been incorporated into Unicode (the computer industry standard for encoding and displaying most of the world’s writing systems) and captured the hearts and minds of the masses at an unprecedented rate.
Emoji is the sticker album we had as youngsters, digitalised. Last week saw the launch of Emojli, the niche “Emoji-only” social platform and over 17,000 people have already flocked to the site to secure their username (in Emoji, of course).
Granted, Emoji has its sceptics – ‘informal’, ‘unnecessary’, ‘distracting’ are a handful of the labels thrown their way – but millions of people disagree. The use of Emoji in social media has given rise to a new method of storytelling; these visual tokens add emotional nuance or strengthen a point. Research has revealed that our brains have adapted to read emoticons in the same way that we read human faces, and studies report that those who use positive emoticons tend to be the most influential people on Twitter.
So, how can a brand harness the power and influence of Emoji? To be more approachable, humane; to be better understood?
Brand collaborations with Emoji are manifesting in a number of ways.
Animal charity PETA has used Emoji in a first-of-its-kind cross channel mobile campaign entitled ‘Cruelty beyond words.’ Tapping into Emoji as a universal “language” for the under-30s, PETA used the characters to create a short clip and conjure graphic animal cruelty scenes in imagery spread across social media. Add a clear anti-slacktivism call to action at the end, encouraging supporters to text the heart Emoji or keyword HEART to support the cause and you have a campaign that is easy, timely and effective.
Brand Emoji has morphed a collection of well-loved brand logos from Coca Cola to Chanel into Emoji form: a concept that makes cold or corporate imagery instantly shareable and could be exploited much more vigorously by brands.
Renowned early adopters Oreo targeted mainland China, with their Oreo Bonding Emoji Campaign. Through research, Oreo found that Chinese families were becoming increasingly divided and Emoji was perceived as the best tool with which to unite the broken nation (yes, really). Family photos could be pasted into interactive Emoji frames and shared through China’s biggest mobile, social platform, WeChat. The figures speak for themselves – 99 million Emojis were generated over 11 weeks and 10 million shared with family and friends.
We’ve also been helping Skype use their famous emoticon library in new ways – letting the Emojis loose from the Skype app to help build brand love and create conversations. Using emoticons to tell simple visual stories in the newsfeed has generated some of the highest engagement rates for Skype across Twitter and Facebook.
We’ve also taken emoticons offline. As part of their presence at the Spirit Awards, we hired an artist to create on-the-spot emoticons of the stars live from the red carpet.
Attendees could even order a special emoticon latte.
For Skype’s recent Easter promotion, we hid hand-crafted “eggmoticons” in Skype’s cover photos for fans to collect. Users then had to find the hidden emoticons, sign into Skype and IM them to a “Skype Easter Basket” ID.
The humble emoticon has also underpinned Skype’s recent movie sponsorship deals. As part of its partnership with Marvel around the latest Captain America movie, Skype dropped limited edition emoticons into the latest version of Skype for film buffs.
Apparently, 250 new Emojis will be coming to our keyboards this month – everything from a levitating suited man to a chipmunk. And Emoji could be set to become legitimate search criteria. Yelp now allows users to search venues through Emoji whether they’re on the lookout for a coffee, haircut or a slice of pizza. With most of Yelp’s audiences are accessing the site through mobile, it’s an ingenious time-saving device. Google, Bing and co. may not be far behind..
Twitter has already seen #emojiethnicityupdate trending, backed by the likes of Miley Cyrus in an effort to get more Emojis of ‘colour’ to our keyboard in the current absence of ethnic diversity. InstaEmoji is an app that allows you to plant Emojis onto camera roll photos to Tweet/Instagram as you like.
In short, Emoji may be cartoonish, but brands would be well advised to take them seriously. There’s real power in those smiles.
At 1000heads we look at social media as one part of a wider ecosystem that permeates our clients’ work as much as it does their audiences’ lives. Social as a layer for brand activity, instead of a communications silo.
We’re also incredibly geeky when it comes to Game Of Thrones. The series, the books… but also Game Of Thrones the social brand.
When it comes to social media, how does the story around the show add value to the story within the show? In other words, do they use social media as a layer integrated into the whole world of the production – or as a campaign silo?
What others say of us is often more powerful that what we say of ourselves, so let’s start with what people said about the last series of Game Of Thrones.
Every week a new episode aired, #GameOfThrones trended on Twitter. Lots of videos went viral around the show, including this one that showcases the actors in the days before Westeros. The volume of conversation is staggering – take a look at the /r/gameofthrones sub-reddit.
On top of that, season 4’s finale turned Game Of Thrones into the most pirated show in history, according to Forbes. Legal issues aside, this is huge news when it comes to measuring its popularity.
Now, all this conversation comes from somewhere. It would be hard to deny the high production values behind the show, and the existing groundswell of George RR Martin fans. But the communications team behind Game Of Thrones have done a great deal to capitalise on these advantages, with both top-level initiatives and detail-focused human moments.
Top level initiatives are what typically get the show featured in news outlets. They have included so far, but not exclusively, letting people bring down King Joffrey with the power of the internet, and having Lena Headey talk “Game Of Thrones style” with king-of-all-things-internet Jimmy Kimmel.
But it is the human moments that give those big news campaigns soul. Paul Adams, now VP of Product at Intercom, once said that the future of advertising would reside in “many lightweight interactions over time”. How does Game Of Thrones create them? Using the people that most publicly bring to life some of its top moments: the actors (warning, spoilers ahead!)
Arguably one of the most memorable moments this season was the fight between Oberyn Martell and Gregor Clegane, which culminates with Martell having his head smashed in by Clegane’s bare hands. I found it one of the most brutal moments of television I have seen, and I was not alone.
But something interesting happened in the meantime. Pedro Pascal, who plays Martell, posted this on Instagram. So did Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson, literally one of the strongest men in the world, who plays Clegane. In essence, after the climactic scene, the conversation didn’t stop – it grew, albeit with a change of tone: calm down everyone, they’re still friends!
They’re not the only ones to contribute to a layer of conversation that surfs on the series’ shocking twists. Lena Headey posted this around the same time the episode aired out! Spoilers much? And how about this, pointing out to the season finale or maybe what happens next?
Bold, perhaps. But human? Most definitely. The actors not only provide shock and delight by watching the show alongside their fans – they also provide relief and to some extent a deeper level of relationship with the audience by keeping the story going outside of the screened episodes.
What does this tell us about how to become a super-social brand?
First of all, it shows social media works best if you involve as many people as you can within the organisation, regardless if it’s a corporation or television cast. Stories are told around a brand in a controlled manner, but unexpected, human moments are also allowed to spill out. Social acts as a backbone for daily communications, instead of an afterthought.
Perhaps most importantly, it’s a great example of how you can extend a narrative around a certain story, mixing fiction and reality, and heightening its inherent creative flavour and atmosphere. Ultimately, this is another example of how providing sneak peeks into your brand backstage keeps feeding fans what they really want: more things to talk about with other like-minded people.
If that isn’t the definition of something social, I don’t know what is.
As one of the judges of the Warc Prize for Social Strategy, which has just named AMV BBDO’s ‘Doritos Mariachi‘ Facebook campaign ‘the world’s best social strategy’, you’d think I might have my answer down pat. But after four months spent arguing the merits, or otherwise, of 40-odd case studies with a brilliant global group of strategists, planners, researchers, analysts and creatives, I have never been more aware of how subjective success can be in the social marketing world.
Wary of my own prejudices, I employed the process to articulate the criteria I use to define social success. It turns out I have four.
1. Does this strategy use social channels in a uniquely appropriate and/or innovative way?
2. Does it spring from an idea that is inherently conversational?
3. Does it generate enough emotional advocacy to achieve behaviour change?
4. And is it the product of a company that ‘is’ social, rather than one that ‘does’ social to try to win awards?
Let’s examine the first. I have to admit that, when one entrant explained that they ‘started a relationship with bloggers’, I scribbled a weary ‘woohoo’ over the submission form. Putting slick images up on Facebook or sending freebies to semi-celeb bloggers seemed fresh in 2008. They can still form useful components of a wider strategy, but they’re mostly tired old tactics from print or PR squashed to fit a new space.
How about harnessing geolocation, augmented reality, wearable tech? How about looking beyond Facebook or Twitter to engage with exciting emerging communities on Findery, FightMe or VSCO?
Saatchi & Saatchi’s ASB ‘Like Loan‘ campaign, which won a Gold Award in the Warc Prize, used the power of group-buying to create the world’s first home loan rate powered by likes. It’s a great example of a brand using a uniquely social technology to game-change a risk-averse industry. Making an expensive video and slapping it on YouTube – a common tactic for weaker entries – is not.
And what about the small matter of an inherently social idea? What we’re looking for here is a concept that makes people talk, a spark that builds relationships, a story that inspires others to tell their own.
A strong example of this is the Silver Award-winning ‘Animal Strike‘ campaign by DDB Group New Zealand for Paw Justice, which gave animal lovers a series of tools to help their pets ‘strike’ on the internet in protest against new chemical testing laws. The ‘black paw’ symbol, whether plastered over a deactivated YouTube video or printed onto signs outside empty zoo enclosures provided a bold, simple message that people could customise to disrupt their own networks and convey their own sentiments.
The opposite of this is a brand pumping out a smorgasbord of content – Facebook posts, Twitter Q&As, blogger outreach, hashtags – at great volume but without a single coherent, emotional centre that will turn a marketing drive into a movement that others want to own and share.
Thirdly, behaviour change. It’s no coincidence that the Doritos case study scooped both the Grand Prix and the Special Award for Analytics. With its mix of metrics encompassing reach, engagement, sentiment, intent to purchase, shift in demographics of Facebook followers and, yes, sales figures, it was a refreshingly sophisticated definition of social value in an industry that remains over-reliant on views, follows and likes.
The fact is, if you want massive exposure, you might as well just pay for a Facebook ad or put up a billboard. The superpower of social media is not exposure: it’s influence. Did your audience do anything more taxing than clicking on a button or typing a smiley face? Did they create their own content and translate the spirit of your campaign into their own lives and words? Tracking emotional impact and consumer action is an essential indicator of social success.
Finally, a great campaign should be just one manifestation of a brand’s commitment to a lifelong relationship with its consumers (not to mention partners, stakeholders and staff). Running shoe brand Mizuno deservedly won Warc’s Special Award for Social Business with its Mezamashii Run Project, in which it collaborated with runners to rigorously test its product. The approach stemmed from a deep respect for existing online running communities and involved the company being publicly honest about its challenges and mistakes, resulting in an ongoing conversation between equals rather than a short-lived marketing stunt.
That’s my take. You probably have four – or 40 – more. Tell me why they’re better with a tweet to @mollyflatt.