Case studies


Can Twitter be used as a workplace tool?

A recent research study by IBM indicates that micro-blogging sites like Twitter can be a powerful internal workplace communications tool.

The study said that despite the inherent simplicity, microblogs are evolving into a richly-nuanced medium for maintaining awareness, building relationships, and finding and sharing valuable information from internal and external sources.

The study analyzed more than 5,000 microblog posts from a group of IBM employees who used both a proprietary internal tool to post and Twitter to post externally. The internal IBM micro-blog, called BlueTwit, has many of the same features as Twitter except it had a limit of 250 characters instead of 140 and could only be used internally.

Some key findings:

Real-time Information Sharing and Awareness — IBM heard repeatedly from employees that the value of Twitter was to get access to good information sooner than through other sources. It provided access to thought leaders without having to know them personally. For instance one person said:

“As far as Twitter is concerned the value is two-fold: learning much of what is happening in the marketplace, picking up trends, and picking up news… get a lot of news items earlier that way than any other way… With Twitter I know it’s a human who has selected the information and is saying that you should read this article. RSS feed is robotic selection for topics while Twitter is human selection based on the quality of my network”

Collaboration and Connection — Reading BlueTwit allowed employees to become aware of what their colleagues were working on in areas of the company they would not normally access.   BlueTwit was also used for social purposes. For example, some people used BlueTwit to broadcast lunch and dinner plans asking others if they were interested in joining. An important side effect of microblogging is that mobile and remote workers felt more connected to the company.

Employees  equated interaction on BlueTwit as “family conversation.”  Users could engage in constructive criticism of company products since all discussion was internal. They would avoid doing that on Twitter because they did not want to give the company a bad name.  Contrary to a common perception that microblogs are really just for posting messages about personal activities, IBM found that workplace employees are mostly using the tools to post business information and to engage in brief directed conversation with other employees.

Political expedience — Microblogging can increase the visibility of a topic compared to discussing it over email or instant messenger. Since microblogs are generally public and searchable, more people have access to it. Some employees reported using microblogging intentionally when they wanted to get more visibility on an issue. “Value as an employee is to be visible inside the company,” said one employee.  Another participant mentioned, “If I only ask questions then people will see me as someone who only asks questions. But if I answer, people will see me as someone as who knows and who can help.”

Crowd-sourcing — The report mentioned that one of the benefits of microblogging that has not received as much attention is its use for “crowdsourcing”.  Participants said they got a more rapid response to questions because more people beyond their normal network, including many technology experts, were awares of their problems.

Confidentiality — There was no ambiguity about posting confidential information; all participants exercised common sense and were very clear that they would never post any information that might be construed as confidential on Twitter or even BlueTwit.

Negatives:

  • Participants mentioned that the sheer amount of information on Twitter can get overwhelming, and not all of it is useful.
  • Some users had concerns about spending too much time wading through various pieces of information. Finding intelligent ways of filtering information in microblogging tools such that only information relevant to an individual user is visible is needed for widespread use of microblogging in the workplace.

IBM found opportunity in using micro-blogging with employees.   Is it happening in your company yet?  Why or why not?

Illustration: Scott Hampson: “Twitter Bird In Real Life

Meet the captain of the world’s first viral marketing success

 

Can you imagine being in charge of marketing and watch your product become the first-ever “viral” success story? 

It was just five years ago. YouTube was brand new.  Facebook was just being opened to the public.  And performance art with Mentos “geysers” became the world’s first video viral sensation.  If you haven’t seen some of this amazing fun, push play above!  Here’s an interview with Pete Healy, who saw it all happen on his watch as vice president of marketing for Perfetti Van Melle USA, makers and distributors of Mentos …

Mark: Pete, it’s hard to imagine a world without the social web. Tell us how the whole Mentos viral event evolved.

Pete:  It was something that could have come and gone in two weeks, but it ended up lasting nearly a year.  To be honest, we didn’t start the “Mentos Geyser Craze” of 2006, but I think we did a good job of inviting people everywhere to participate in the goofy fun. The fountain effect of dropping a Mentos into soda was already known and used by Steve Spangler and other science educators, but in 2006, the performance art duo “Eepybird” decided to make it theatrical by dropping Mentos into 100 bottles of soda simultaneously, with spectacular results.  They posted the video titled “Experiment #137″, an homage to the Bellagio Fountains in Las Vegas, and it immediately started getting attention–including ours.  By chance we had just re-evaluated the personality of our Mentos brand; and thinking metaphorically, we had decided that if Mentos were a celebrity, it would be Adam Sandler.  What better match than Adam Sandler and shooting off bottles of soda?!

 I’m passionate about building “brands that captivate,” and that means that every time a consumer is pleased by contact with a brand, they should have the chance for additional contact or “touchpoints.”   This approach led us beyond supporting an Eepybird sequel to a “DIY Mentos Geyser” video contest microsite, a chance to hang with the street team of the Mentos Roadshow tour, an opening video segment for a Blue Man Group national tour, and “Party with Mentos” photo uploads during Spring Break 2007.  The craze culminated in the first Guiness Book of World Records “Mentos Geyser” event at Fountain Square in Cincinnati, when 504 bottles of soda were “shot off” at once.  It was a hot day, so that soda splashing down on all the volunteers who turned out to help was kind of fun!

 When we talk about “viral” what did that really mean in terms of views or whatever?

The impact was amazing to us, especially since we were still figuring the social web out. Ultimately there were more than 7 million viewings of the first Mentos Geyser video and it took only five days to hit 1 million views of the sequel, “Experiment #214.”  From the standpoint of User Generated Content, there were more than 10,000 videos created and posted by people doing their own Mentos Geysers; the comic effect of the ones done indoors tended to offset any aesthetic shortcomings!  For our own “official” video contest, we had to pick a winner out of 200 entries.

While you facilitated the viral event, you mentioned to me that Coca Cola, the other piece of the geyser formula, reacted in a much different way.

Yes, the difference came out early on when the Wall Street Journal called me to ask our feelings about the spread of the first geyser video.  I could genuinely say that we were delighted by the creativity, fun, and whimsy of the effort. After all, Mentos is candy — fun by definition. The WSJ reporter told me that, in contrast, Coca Cola’s first reaction had been that this whole thing didn’t fit the Coke brand, although they later seemed to change their thinking.

It’s remarkable to me that you had the foresight back then to let the thing roll and disconnect it from a traditional marketing perspective.   What were the results?  Where you able to connect this event to sales in any way?

For better or worse, I guess my approach was the result of my own personality, along with my previous work at Jelly Belly, another fun brand with a lot of passion behind it.  My years launching and building Jelly Belly in international markets–including countries where people had no idea what a regular jelly bean was, much less a “gourmet jelly bean” selling at a crazy-high price, led me to a marketing approach that mixes a “why not?” attitude with some very carefully defined measures of progress.  In any case, the Mentos Geyser craze resulted in a year-over-year sales boost of 20%; this eventually dropped to a 15% y-o-y gain, but that’s still not too bad.

You’ve had a wonderful career in traditional marketing and are now at the forefront of the social web. What challenge do you see as these two worlds collide? 

Great question, and one I sometimes struggle with. There seems to be so much froth and frenzy over social media that I worry about marketers getting distracted by “bright shiny objects” to the detriment of making their brands truly more meaningful.  Until the day we’re all chained to computer screens 24/7,  consumers will continue to want contact with brands in many different ways and places, from in-store sampling to event marketing to fantastic customer service to active support for charitable causes. 

The social web clearly has the power to amplify the total brand experience; but brand marketers will be hurting themselves if they put all their eggs in that basket, either from infatuation or peer pressure.  

Pete, final question. In your career, you were also behind the amazing Jelly Belly marketing effort. If you had to describe me as a jelly bean candy flavor, what would it be?

Well, I’d have to go into the Jelly Belly flavor archives and say…Espresso!  Straight-ahead, high-octane, great balance … one of my all-time favorite flavors. 

Additional reading: Business Week article on how Coke finally embraced viral marketing.

Pete Healy is currently the director of Crowbar Marketing in Cincinnati, OH.

How to use Twitter to crowd-source creativity

I have a “virtual” company. Well, it’s a real company, but I don’t have a building and employees and all that traditional stuff. I work with a posse of freelancers who might be spread out all over the country. So I have the best of both worlds. Great company, great people, but no worries about payroll and HR issues.

Everything works great about this model except for one thing. You can’t brainstorm by yourself.

This was the problem I was facing recently when I needed to come up with creative ideas to help a client company mark its 30th anniversary. I had some ideas, but I’ve been around long enough to know they weren’t the BEST ideas. For that, I needed to put some minds together. But how? I was on a deadline and needed to write a proposal quickly.

It dawned on me that this is what the social web is all about — networking, sharing, helping, creating. So with literally no planning, I wrote up an invitation on my blog to join a web meeting at 4 p.m. that very day and sent out one tweet asking if anyone would be interested in spending 30 minutes with me to think out loud. I was fortunate that seven people joined me, including one from Brazil and one from Spain. Some I didn’t know at all, some like Gregg Morris and Carla Bobka had become my friends over months of interaction on Twitter.

I used Citrix for the online meeting interface and conference call.  I wrote out ideas on my shared computer screen so all participants could build on what was being said.  On the notification on my blog I had given dial-in instructions as well as a little background on the problem.

In 30 minutes, I had two pages of great ideas.  I massaged the ideas into a proposal, presented it to company management and <ta da> they loved it!  But there were side benefits, too:

  • I explained to my client how I came up with the ideas, which further strengthened their interest and commitment to the social web.
  • The people who connected on the call enjoyed the exercise and have reached out to stay connected between themselves. I think that’s cool.
  • I had an idea that worked, will be repeated and it was something I could share with you.

What I could have done better:

  • Planned it ahead of time and allowed more time for people to learn about it.
  • 30 minutes was probably too short. Another 15 minutes would have made a big difference.
  • Two participants had technical problems which limited their ability to participate. A few additional people bopped in for a few seconds and left. I’m guessing they had tech problems too.

All in all, it was a  simple, cost-effective, successful people-technology mash-up.  Are you doing these kinds of things to support your business?

Social media measurement: Sometimes a picture is worth a thousand tweets

In all of the posts I’ve read about social media measurement, very few address the possible role of qualitative research — measuring when you don’t have data — so let’s take a look at that today, shall we?  This will not be boring, I promise.

To make sure we’re all on a level playing field, let me quickly review the difference between QUANTITATIVE and QUALITATIVE data.

Quantitative marketing research is descriptive and conclusive.  It addresses research objectives through numerical measurement and statistical analysis.  In the social media world, this means data you can easily collect and measure like tweets, page views, comments, and perhaps even sales.  These are the facts and figures that get all the headlines. 

Qualitative Research is more, well …  touchy-feely.  It uses small samples and may involve focus groups, interviews, and behavioral observation.  Although it does not lend itself to statistical analysis* it can still be a quick and effective way to tell a story.

Because of all the free and voluminous data available through the social web, most of the attention is on the sexy quantitative side, but it might not be the best way to show value or tell your story.

Story time

Let me give an example from my own experience …

In addition to marketing and management, I also have a background in organizational development.  On one of my projects, I was delivering a training program to help correct dysfunctional management-union dynamics in a large company.  The people who went through the program raved about its effectiveness and had concrete examples of how it was dramatically improving the workplace.  The company’s top managers — who would not go through the program — were very skeptical about any progress and, lacking measurable results, were leaning toward cancelling it.  Like most managers, they demanded quantitative measurement … and I didn’t have it.  Sound familiar?

At the next employee training session, I mentioned that the program was probably going to be cancelled. The result was an out-pouring of outrage by both union and management participants. I had a video camera nearby for a training exercise and said, “Excuse me, but would you mind if I just turn this thing on to record your views?”

The group proceeded to tell story after story about the benefits of the training and also scolded upper management for not attending.  I edited the video to conform to the 5-minute executive attention span and played it during their next meeting. The managers sat dumbfounded and impressed as their employees passionately talked about the tangible benefits of the training. By the end of the meeting they all committed to attending the training themselves and expanding the program — without one pie chart!

Apply this to the social web

I use this example because like PR, marketing, or social media programs, training is very hard to quantify on a nice, neat spreadsheet.   This situation was a perfect time to use stories — qualitative data — to define value in a very different, yet compelling, way.

When you’re struggling to measure the value of social media marketing in your company don’t overlook the possibility of using qualitative stories from customers, employees and other stakeholders.  They might be showing up every day in comments, reviews, and customer meetings.

The technology of the social web offers unprecedented ways to capture and display this qualitative output.  And you know, sometimes all it takes is ONE story to provide more new insight than a dozen graphs!

What are your ideas?  What are some of the ways we can use stories to demonstrate the value of marketing through the social web?

*Michelle Chmielewski wrote in a {grow} comment that values can indeed be assigned to qualitative data to create numerical analysis. In effect this is how sentiment analysis is conducted. However, I was just trying to keep it simple today! : )

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...