Archive for May, 2010

The bar for viral marketing keeps getting higher

Wanted to pass along another example of excellence in viral marketing.

This thrilling 3-minute epic is a Nike tribute to the excitement, glamor and high stakes of the upcoming World Cup competition.  It features celebrity cameos including Kobe Bryant and Homer Simpson (who has the only speaking role in the video!).

It has also received 10 million page views. In ONE week.  Wow.  The bar for quality and entertainment value just keeps getting higher and higher, doesn’t it?

And by the way, you probably recognize that raucous theme anthem but can you name the song and performer?  OK 70’s music fans, time to get your game on!

When parody becomes a corporate PR disaster

When does online parody cross a line?

By now you’ve probably become aware of the “fake” BP global public relations account on Twitter spewing humorous observations such as:

“We feel terrible about spilling oil in American waters, we’ll make sure the next spill happens where the terrorists live. #bpcares”

“Just wrapped up a meeting with the EPA. Terry kept farting out loud at all the right moments. Not sure how he does it, but it’s SO FUNNY!”

“Oh man, this whole time we’ve been trying to stop SEAWATER from gushing into our OIL. Stupid Terry was holding the diagram upside down.”

According to Ad Age, the account started last Wednesday afternoon with this tweet: “We regretfully admit that something has happened off of the Gulf Coast. More to Come.”

Fewer than 50 tweets later, the feed had nearly 13,000 followers — compared to the 5,000 or so at the “real” @BP_America — and as of today, the account had about 40,000 followers.  Its humorous blasts have been re-tweeted by everyone from filmmaker Michael Moore to singer Michelle Branch.

Toby Odone, a spokesman at BP, told Ad Age: “I’m not aware of whether BP has made any calls to have it taken down or addressed. People are entitled to their views on what we’re doing and we have to live with those. We are doing the best we can to deal with the current situation and to try to stop the oil from flowing and to then clean it up.”

While there have been plenty of fake Twitter accounts before, perhaps none has spread so rapidly or gained this kind of momentum. The timing is right, the content is superb, and people are eager to connect emotionally to anyone poking fun at the easy target.

Let’s take a look at some of the realities and implications of this development for our own businesses.

1) Is it legal?

According to Twitter’s guidelines, it is perfectly acceptable to set up accounts that parody real companies, celebrities, etc. as long as it is clear that it is a parody. Their rule states:

The bio should include a statement to distinguish it from the real identity, such as “This is a parody,” “This is a fan page,” “Parody Account,” “Fan Account” or “This is not affiliated with…”

The account should not, through private or public communication with other users, try to deceive or mislead others about your identity. For example, if operating a fan account, do not direct message other users implying you are the actual subject (i.e., person, band, sports team, etc.) of the fan account.

As of today, the fake account bio reads: “This page exists to get BP’s message and mission statement out into the twitterverse!”

So no, it is not an account that meets Twitter’s standards. Further, it is causing a lot of confusion because many people are actually taking this as a serious BP account.

2) What should BP do?

BP has much bigger PR problems than a rogue Twitter account.  And making an issue of it and spoiling the fun would probably just heighten negativity against the company.

However, if I were working for BP right now <shudder> I would at least approach Twitter and ask it to enforce its own rules and declare clearly that this is a parody site.  Given the number of people who actually think this is a real account, there is a high probability that quotes from this parody site could start showing up as legitimate quotes from the company and stress the PR department further.

Really, BP’s only real option is to withstand the public fury and and eliminate the core problem — the root cause — at the source deep in the ocean and spreading across our shores. And that is going to take years.

3) What should YOU do?

The social web has imparted a whole new sense of meaning and urgency to PR planning, monitoring and response.  How have the rules changed? Or have they? What are your thoughts?

The key to social media mastery?

I’ve been teaching classes on social media marketing to business professionals for about a year now and I’ve found that there is definitely a group that “gets it” and a group that doesn’t.

The successful ones keep in touch with me long after the class is over and tell me how the social web has dramatically changed their lives through exciting new connections and business opportunities.  For others, I can usually tell by the end of the first class that it isn’t going to “take” no matter what I say or do.

I’ve thought a lot about what separates these two groups because I care about my students and I want them ALL to succeed.   Both groups start out motivated enough to plunk down their money and attend a class.  Everybody is attentive. They take notes and engage. They’re all successful business people receiving the same content with an equal opportunity to learn the strategies and channel tactics. So what’s the difference?

I’ve decided that it boils down to one important difference: MINDSET.

Meet Social Sue. She’s urgently trying to get on Facebook and Twitter because she’s heard all about social media and she’s afraid of falling behind.  Her marketing budget has been cut and she needs to find a way to sell more with less — fast!  She’s already overworked and sees the social web as just another source of pressure.  That makes her a bit skeptical — and even afraid — of opening up this Pandora’s box. Her customers have been complaining about her business on various sites and she wants to find a way to contain the damage and even eliminate the negative comments if possible. She thinks life will be so much easier if she can just find somebody to set up a Facebook fan page for her … like me : )

Sitting next to her is Social Sam. Sam is open-minded and excited about exploring the possibilities of an entirely new communication channel.  He realizes that he needs to focus on the bottom line, but he’s eager to immerse himself in this new platform and learn more about his customers and marketplace. He wants to meaningfully connect his business to customer wants and needs.   Sam knows it will take time to learn, listen, experiment and master the channel, but recognizes this is a wise and necessary investment if he is to be relevant in his marketplace — traditional advertising measures seem to be less and less effective. He’s heard a lot about Facebook of course, but is open to matching the appropriate marketing ideas with his business strategy.

There is a subtle difference between these two folks.  Both of them have an urgency to learn and an obvious business case for integrating the social web with traditional channels. But the difference in mindset seems to make all the difference in the world. At least that’s my experience but I’d like to hear from you of course.

A challenge for me — finding a way to work on this mindset with students upfront in the class.  Is that possible?  Some people seem to have a pretty strong bias toward “Sue” from the start. Maybe I’ll even use this post as a teaching tool!

What about you?   How would you convert a Sue to a Sam?

What does the future hold for blogging?

In the rapid-fire world of the social web, blogging will surely evolve. What might the future hold for our beloved blogs and how should companies prepare for inevitable change?

Will blogging die? It was trendy a few months ago to predict that micro-blogging (like Twitter) would kill blogging. But Twitter NEEDS blogging. Twitter is like the movie trailer but you still want to watch the movie. About 70 percent of all tweets link back to a blog.  Content publishing through blogs is important.

Publishing platforms tend to last for a long time and I think in many cases blogs have supplanted newspapers, magazines and even books. It’s not going anywhere but it will evolve.

Make me laugh — Blogs won’t die, but boring blogs will. The pressure to produce entertaining content will be keen as the roar of competing content on the social web becomes deafening.

Consolidation — There are too many blogs and it’s becoming difficult for individual bloggers to compete against companies with a staff of paid bloggers.  Look for consortiums to emerge and thrive.  An example of this is the Social CMO blog. A group of individual bloggers contribute to the content of one themed-site.

This approach also creates diversity of thought, consistency of quality content, regularity in publishing, and a greater opportunity to get the critical mass needed to monetize. For corporate blogging, this might mean deputizing many people in your company to blog (IBM is a best practice), or joining others in your industry to contribute to online “trade” content.

Aggregation — Sites that aggregate vertical-themed content are becoming popular time-savers for readers. For example, aggregating top industry headlines can make your blog more attractive as a customer stopping point.

Integration — If you’re working the web well, you probably have content in a number of places like YouTube, Twitter and Slideshare.  Provide a mechanism on your blog for readers to find your content wherever it might be. Look to integrate  features like video, podcasts, forums, job boards, classifieds, chat features, and voting tools to increase value for readers.


Mobile — Today, consumption and creation of content happen not just on traditional computing systems like a laptop, but also on highly mobile devices. Imagine the volume of information we’re going to create and consume when we have ubiquitous broadband speeds on our on-the-go devices.  This trend is making creation even more immediate  and collaborative.  Posterous and Tumblr are trying to tap into in-the-moment blogging but who knows where it will lead? How about instantaneous video blog comments?

New journalism — Blogging is already filling legitimate journalism niches left vacant by the decline in traditional media.  The edges of what is, and isn’t, blogging continue to blur. What does this mean to the corporate blogger? Blogs will increasingly be an important source of news stories, leads and product placement.  How does your industry traditionally get information? If it is through dying institutions such as trade shows and publications, can your blog help fill the gap?

Facebook — No discussion of any aspect of the social web can exclude a mention of Facebook.  This platform has leveraged partnerships, momentum, and an intuitive interface to become the web’s most important social networking property.  For millions of people. this is their ONLY home on the web. How its ubiquity and growing power will affect blogging remains to be seen … but it probably will.  A presence on Facebook has augmented — and sometimes replaced — traditional websites. probably the only thing keeping Facebook from being a dominant blogging platform is the issue of ownership — Facebook’s terms of service dictate that they would own the content.

What ideas and trends do you see out there?  Will blogs evolve or die away?

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