Jason Falls

Jason Falls

As the influx of big brands into the social media space continues, we’re starting to see more and more marketing managers and executives become less, not more, comfortable with social media. The main reason is they expect instant returns and needle-moving. But most of social media is about building relationships, which takes time.

Still there are stories of some successful ventures into social media and creative forms of Internet marketing that get people talking and do produce some quick results. H&R Block’s Truman Green campaign moved the needle, though it was as much creative advertising as social media engagement. Quaker Oats blogger engagement worked for a while (disclosure: I was one of the bloggers they engaged thanks to my #twit2fit thing) and probably accomplished the types of goals they were looking for. (I had Quaker Oats Oatmeal Squares for breakfast this morning, so they at least converted me into a customer.)

But, for the most part, if a social media “campaign” doesn’t turn heads in the course of a single quarter on the calendar, brand managers are most likely to can it and buy more print ads.

So what we, as social media thinkers and/or marketers need to do is two-fold. First, we should continue to educate the brand managers of the time investment good social media takes. But we should also attempt to deliver what our clients are demanding: something that moves the needle.

We need to get people talking about our brands.

But who talks about brands and why?

I polled folks on Twitter Saturday, asking what compels them to talk about brands. Almost to a person, the answer was something along the lines of, “When I have an exceptionally good or exceptionally bad experience.”

MARKETING MANAGERS TAKE NOTE!

People aren’t going to talk about your toothpaste, your soap, your car or your beer if it does what it’s supposed to do. People are only compelled to spark conversation when you do not meet their expectations, or when you exceed them.

I like Colgate toothpaste. I had the pleasure of meeting some of the members of the Colgate toothpaste team at SOBCon this year. They’re putting a lot of time and energy into social media and engaging bloggers about their product.

But their product is a commodity. There are hundreds of brands of toothpaste that do the same thing. If I clip the right coupons on Sunday, I can get any number of brands at a better price. Colgate, while a very good toothpaste, has little to differentiate itself from others. It does what it’s supposed to and, to my knowledge, nothing more. Thus, people aren’t going to talk about it.

The first avenue a marketer’s thought process goes down when trying to find a talking point for consumers, then, is the charities the brand can support or initiatives it can get behind. Sure, that helps, but in the end, all the other toothpastes are going to have charities and causes, too. Plus, the people wind up talking about the cause, not the product.

You can add giveaways, promotions or coupons, but they are not only short-lived, but cheapen your brand. (Just ask the pizza industry. They’ve coupon-ed themselves out of ever being able to sell at full price.)

So what are marketing managers of ho-hum brands — the commodities, utilities and, what I would call non-passion brands — supposed to to?

Xerox's Information Overload Syndrome Microsite

Xerox's Information Overload Syndrome Microsite

Xerox has taken a delightful stab at engaging customers through a new Internet marketing effort around a semi-imaginary disease called Information Overload Syndrome. (It has a real Wikipedia entry. It’s real, but Xerox is using a playful, over-exaggerated look at it.) They’ve taken a humorous look at people trying to manage all the work and messages of our over-teched world to drive awareness and interest in their document management solutions.

Document management solutions are certainly important to companies, large and small, but it’s not exactly a sexy topic of discussion. So, in order to differentiate and give the brand talkability, Xerox has a silly, but fun website built around Information Overload, an hysterical video, the social elements of customizing an IOS message to a friend, sharing your own overload experiences and more.

Yes, Xerox can differentiate itself with its products, but this is a great example of a company working in the social media and Internet marketing space that has found a way to differentiate itself and get people talking and thinking about a product that isn’t very talk-able, unless you’re in a board meeting with a bunch of suits.

I promise you, if Colgate came out with a spoof website about Funky Breath Syndrome with a video that featured close-talkers, coffee-stain-teeth guy and what-not, with some fun gags thrown in, and some customizable share functions that let you make fun of your friends for having FBS, more people would be talking about Colgate. (And yeah, I guess you can have that idea for free … or you could hire me to help you execute it. Heh.)

Whether or not the Xerox, or my imaginary Colgate campaigns actually do move the needle has yet to be seen, but the Xerox effort at least give the brand a chance to do so.

The point of this is that while you want people talking about your brand, often times your brand isn’t enough. That’s why God invented marketing. (Esoteric pun. Please don’t lecture me on religion.) Unfortunately, marketing has gotten to be stayed and commonplace as well, so bigger logos, neon “ACT NOW” stickers and low, low prices don’t work as well when everyone uses them.

So you have to make your product stand out. And in the world of social media, having a Facebook page, a Twitter account, some silly attempt at a “viral video” and a company blog make you more and more like everyone else.

As hard as it might sound, in order to get people to talk about your brand, you need to do something outstanding.

Let me know if you’d like some help.

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About Jason Falls

Jason Falls

Jason Falls is the founder and chief instigator for Social Media Explorer's blog. He is a leading thinker, speaker and strategist in the world of digital marketing and is co-author of two books, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide To Social Media Marketing and The Rebel's Guide To Email Marketing. By day, he leads digital strategy for CafePress, one of the world's largest online retailers. His opinions are his, not necessarily theirs. Follow him on Twitter (@JasonFalls).

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Comments Policy

Comments on Social Media Explorer are open to anyone. However, I will remove any comment that is disrespectful and not in the spirit of intelligent discourse. You are welcome to leave links to content relevant to the conversation, but I reserve the right to remove it if I don't see the relevancy. Be nice, have fun. Fair?

  • http://mediaemerging.com Scott Hepburn

    Heh. Look at you giving props to the up-'n'-coming youngsters. You're doing a pretty fine job evolving the conversation skills of brands, young fella. ;)

    On a side note…looks like its time for you to visit Charlotte. Between Jarod, jakrose and myself, you've got the Charlotte social media crowd (#smclt) well represented on this one.

  • David

    Wait a minute, wasn't it Al Gore that invented marketing?

    Anyway, with today's “you are only as good as last month's numbers” mentality, a lot of businesses are are going to “do social media” for a while then back out. The one step at a time approach, which might lead to good results in due course, isn't going to do it for many.

    Maybe companies have to screw up big time to get people talking – that one always works.

    Good story – I enjoyed reading it.

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Thanks David. My hope is that we (the social media thinkers) can help companies in the short term by doing smart things that energize their customers and drive some sales, goals, etc., but lay that long-term foundation so one day, the brand managers look up and go, “Wow. We're getting a lot of traction out of this 'Community.' Where'd that come from?”

      But you're right, a lot of companies just need to fall on their faces to learn how to run with this stuff.

      Thanks for chiming in.

  • David

    Wait a minute, wasn't it Al Gore that invented marketing?

    Anyway, with today's “you are only as good as last month's numbers” mentality, a lot of businesses are are going to “do social media” for a while then back out. The one step at a time approach, which might lead to good results in due course, isn't going to do it for many.

    Maybe companies have to screw up big time to get people talking – that one always works.

    Good story – I enjoyed reading it.

  • http://mediaemerging.com Scott Hepburn

    I've been channeling my inner Jason Falls/Doe-Anderson in my first weeks on the job as social media goon for an agency here in Charlotte.

    There aren't a lot of traditional agencies (advertising OR public relations) putting full-time resources into social media. I feel like we're writing the playbook, so to speak, or at least the first few chapters. Yours was one of the first SM/PR blogs I discovered (way back when)…I wouldn't have this opportunity had I not studied at Social Media Explorer U.

  • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

    Very flattering, Scott. Thanks for saying so. My hope is that we can all continue to champion social media so that the consumer experiences with our brands improves. When we apply that thinking to government and healthcare and other entities being our “clients” social media can change the world. Just keep doing what you're doing, I'll do the same and we just might do that.

    Thanks for reading.

  • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

    I love Charlotte. Let's put something together.

  • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

    Thanks David. My hope is that we (the social media thinkers) can help companies in the short term by doing smart things that energize their customers and drive some sales, goals, etc., but lay that long-term foundation so one day, the brand managers look up and go, “Wow. We're getting a lot of traction out of this 'Community.' Where'd that come from?”

    But you're right, a lot of companies just need to fall on their faces to learn how to run with this stuff.

    Thanks for chiming in.

  • http://masterresalerightsdirectory.com/resell-remedy-ebook-how-to-heal-yourself-with-holistic-and-natural-remedies/2008/ Natural Doc

    “Excellent campaign by Xerox. It is true on so many levels (except the obviously exaggerated parts).

    Good or Bad, it is the memorable marketing/advertising that is will make people talk. you could have the worst AD out there, but something about it makes people talk … even if they don't like the AD, your product (which could be an excellent product) is still getting a lot of word of mouth recognition which isn't all bad. So maybe a bad AD isn't so bad after all? “

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      I see where you're going with that, Doc, but I'm having trouble connecting a bad ad with a positive for the brand. Bad ads cause talk, certainly, but more ridicule than anything else. But I'm sure there's an example of what you're shooting for.

      Thanks for the perspective.

  • http://masterresalerightsdirectory.com/resell-remedy-ebook-how-to-heal-yourself-with-holistic-and-natural-remedies/2008/ Natural Doc

    “Excellent campaign by Xerox. It is true on so many levels (except the obviously exaggerated parts).

    Good or Bad, it is the memorable marketing/advertising that is will make people talk. you could have the worst AD out there, but something about it makes people talk … even if they don't like the AD, your product (which could be an excellent product) is still getting a lot of word of mouth recognition which isn't all bad. So maybe a bad AD isn't so bad after all? “

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  • jonnybgood

    Great post, Jason. I would just add that it is very important to have a full picture of your brand's social media space (yes that is Twitter, Facebook and similar but also blogs, thematic forums (hey we track them for diapers!), message boards, audiovisual sharing media, forums on online media (TV, newspapers) before engaging or trying a viral track (I liked the Xerox viedo). You'd be surprised what people talk about but you need to know if they talk and if so, where, about what and with what impact-

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Agreed, Mr. Good. I think what you're getting to is more listening to the various conversation streams which is what I consider the No. 1 rule of social media. Good thoughts.

  • jonnybgood

    Great post, Jason. I would just add that it is very important to have a full picture of your brand's social media space (yes that is Twitter, Facebook and similar but also blogs, thematic forums (hey we track them for diapers!), message boards, audiovisual sharing media, forums on online media (TV, newspapers) before engaging or trying a viral track (I liked the Xerox viedo). You'd be surprised what people talk about but you need to know if they talk and if so, where, about what and with what impact-

  • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

    I see where you're going with that, Doc, but I'm having trouble connecting a bad ad with a positive for the brand. Bad ads cause talk, certainly, but more ridicule than anything else. But I'm sure there's an example of what you're shooting for.

    Thanks for the perspective.

  • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

    Agreed, Mr. Good. I think what you're getting to is more listening to the various conversation streams which is what I consider the No. 1 rule of social media. Good thoughts.

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  • http://www.digitaltip.com.au tiphereth

    Good points in the post, especially about the long term commitment for brands. It's frustrating when marketing managers using old media glasses looking at social media and expecting a fast silver bullet.
    Campaign based social media can work – its about making something worth sharing and talking about. And many of the old media agencies don't quite understand that their huge production number TVC is too boring to tweet about.
    Listening to where the brand conversations are taking place gives social media marketing brands opportunities to see how their customers are shaping the brand. And one of the biggest lessons is letting go from the controlling, broadcast “corporate speak” model. Many brands are not ready to do that yet, but the conversations will be going on without them, regardless.

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Agreed, madame. Thank you for the response and for reading.

  • http://www.digitaltip.com.au tiphereth

    Good points in the post, especially about the long term commitment for brands. It's frustrating when marketing managers using old media glasses looking at social media and expecting a fast silver bullet.
    Campaign based social media can work – its about making something worth sharing and talking about. And many of the old media agencies don't quite understand that their huge production number TVC is too boring to tweet about.
    Listening to where the brand conversations are taking place gives social media marketing brands opportunities to see how their customers are shaping the brand. And one of the biggest lessons is letting go from the controlling, broadcast “corporate speak” model. Many brands are not ready to do that yet, but the conversations will be going on without them, regardless.

  • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

    Agreed, madame. Thank you for the response and for reading.

  • http://www.constructivegrumpiness.com/ Len Kendall

    Jason,

    Just saw that you linked to my post on MarketingProfs. Thanks so much! Hope it was helpful.

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