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Posts Categorized: Social Media

Old Spice: Don’t forget the bookmarks!

The marketing world is all a-Twitter about the latest social media extension of the now very famous Old Spice ads (original one here, newest one here). These two ads have received more than 20 million views combined on YouTube, and the ad agency’s team extended it beyond a commercial is as masterful as the original commercials’ production.

In case you haven’t heard, the creative team created a series of short videos where the star of the commercial responded directly to comments on YouTube, Twitter, Facebook and other social media outlets.

I won’t go into the details of the campaign here, for there are plenty of analyses elsewhere. But one key detail that is not getting enough attention is how the group seeded it, as revealed in this great interview with the creative team. They didn’t start on Facebook or Twitter. They started on Digg and Reddit, two of the most popular social bookmarking sites. Many people forget (or weren’t even thinking about social media), but before Twitter and Facebook, there was Digg and Reddit, and they were both highly influential communities. It might seem easy to forget about them, with the mainstream media attention being lavished on larger sites, but the Old Spice campaign shows that they can still be an amazing source of traffic.

That said, the Old Spice people knew their audience. They knew that Digg users are fanatical, and would be thrilled to see the pop culture icon wishing Digg founder Kevin Rose get better (he’s been sick).

I get asked a lot what is the value of using social bookmarking sites. Like any other social network, you have to invest time and energy to realize any benefit. That means engaging with people in the network, and in the case of social bookmarking sites, that means not just bookmarking your own content, but sharing content that is interesting and contributes to the community. It also means commenting on other content posted on the site and interacting with people. And unless you’re offering up some pop culture gems, don’t expect your blog post on the theory of fundraising for non-profits in rural Canada to make it to the front page.

Should an Agency Tweet?

A few days ago, I was asked this interesting question in a meeting with a potential client. Actually, the prospect asked me if I tweet as Evolve Communications. (In case you’re wondering, I don’t. I tweet as myself.)

Up until recently, I held the belief that agencies should tweet. All the time. After all, it’s a way to establish connections, showcase work, and also establish a foundation for thought leadership (yes, I DO believe thought leadership can be accomplished in 140 characters). There’s certainly no shortage of ad agencies on Twitter.

I believed this until I attended the #140 characters conference in DC. During the panel discussion called Emergency 2.0, NPR social media strategist Andy Carvin was discussing a request for donations of food, clothing, etc. that he tweeted during the Haiti crisis. He tweeted through both his own personal account (@acarvin) as well as the NPR Politics (@nprpolitics) account. Andy has approximately 15,000 followers. NPR has close to two million followers. What happened next was fascinating.

Andy received more responses from his personal account than the tweet through the NPR account. This lead to the observation (I’m paraphrasing here) that the connection Andy has with his Twitter followers is much stronger–and possibly more powerful–than the connection between a mainstream media outlet and its followers. NPR, like many other news outlets of its stature, never interacts with its followers (to the frustration of many, I’m sure).

For all the talk of “engagement” and “conversation” that social media offers, it seems rare for mainstream media outlets to use it as such (side note: the fine people who manage the Baltimore Sun’s Twitter presence (@baltimoresun) do an excellent job of interacting with their followers on Twitter). Most of them still use it as a broadcast model.

Which brings me back to the question of whether or not an agency should tweet. After hearing Andy’s story, I say no. Let your people do it for you. They’re your best spokespeople. They’re the ones who either talk with clients every day, or produce amazing creative, or create powerful marketing strategies, or even pay the agency bills, or answer the phones. The human connection is what we are all striving for when using social media. Let people be people, I say.

Of course, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have a social media policy. More on that later.

Social Media & Public Relations Theories

Anyone who has spent some time studying the underlying theories of public relations has heard of Dr. James Grunig and his contributions to the practice. Long before the term “social media” was coined, Dr. Grunig advocated a methodology of public relations that puts communicating with “publics” first, above the tactics of  media relations. Until the rise of social media, the practice of public relations was too often characterized as media relations, and anyone who has worked in the field knows that it’s a common misperception that PR = media relations.

In this paper from 2009 (hat tip to The Measurement Standard), Grunig argues that social media has the potential to make the practice of PR a more “global, strategic, two-way and interactive, symmetrical or dialogical, and socially responsible,” while still calling social media a “fad.” Yes, all in the same breath.

Specifically, Grunig has offered two major contributions to public relations practice which inform social media strategy and execution. The first is his Four Models of Public Relations, which describes four different approaches to the practice. They are:

  • Press Agency/Publicity: Uses persuasion and manipulation to influence audiences to behave as the organization desires.
  • Public Information Model: Uses press releases and other one-way communication techniques to distribute organizational information. The Public Relations practitioner is often referred to as the in-house journalist.
  • Two-way Asymmetrical Model: Uses persuasion and manipulation to influence audiences to behave as the organization desires. Does not use research to find out how stakeholders feel about the organization.
  • Two-way Symmetrical Model: Uses communication to negotiate with the public, resolve conflict and promote mutual understanding and respect between the organization and its stakeholders.

It’s this last bullet point that most resembles what people working in social media attempt to do every day. All the social media catch phrases you’ve heard before (“Join the conversation,” “Engage your audience,” “Participate,” etc.) all refer to the two-way symmetrical model. People who work in social media often like to think this stuff is new. And to many marketers who have spent careers broadcasting messages, it IS new. But to people who have been practicing public relations, engaging publics (not audiences) in conversation has been a common approach for quite some time now. Despite the common misconception that PR is simply media relations.

The second theory that has been a big influence on social media practice is Grunig’s Situational Theory of Publics. At its core, this theory postulates that people organize and communicate about issues more frequently based on their awareness of the issue, its level of impact on their lives and their perceived ability to do something about it. The theory is more detailed than that (you can read a more detailed overview of the theory here), but this is its basic premise.

Using this theory, we can segment groups based on their interests, their concerns, their level of awareness and their activities, instead of the traditional marketing demographics like gender, age, income, etc. And that’s where the power of social media comes in: people use social media to organize themselves along these lines. A smart marketer knows how to find this information and will use it to inform their communications strategy, identify publics (and not audiences), and prioritize spokes of their communications strategy.

That last point is essential to the success of any communications initiative. In today’s always-on world, communications professionals need to be able to maximize their resources so that programs work efficiently as well as effectively. After all, if you’re marketing a B2B company that sells to technology officers, are you going to be communicating with, say, film makers on Twitter? Hopefully not. But you may find tech blogs, Listorious lists and other tools useful for identifying potential customers.