Case Study: How Facebook Users Halted a $100 Million Project

I was once told by a marketing manager that her company's senior executive adamently refused to permit them to establish a blog or Facebook page. His reason? He feared people would start saying bad things about their organization if they got on social media.

He seemed totally unaware that people were already talking about his company and others on social media. People use these platforms to comment about their experiences with the products they buy and the services they receive.

He did not realize that having an online presence on Facebook or a blog merely gives a business the opportunity find out about and then respond to any negative comments people make.

Reputation management is one of the most important reasons businesses need to be using social media. Regardless of what business you are in, chances are someone has an opinion about your company, your brand, your product or your service. And most likely they are expressing these opinions on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube or some other social media platform.

If your organization is not listening on social media, you have no opportunity to respond to the opinions expressed by others. And if you don't respond immediately and on same communication media, your brand can suffer significant harm.

For example, United Airlines' response respond to Dave Carroll's video "United Breaks Guitars" was woefully slow. And when they did respond, it was couched with insincere-sounding words like "regrettable incident" to describe how their employees damaged a $3500 guitar.

Had the flower delivery service FTD been listening on Twitter, they would have learned that Lena West was venting about her frustrations over the fact that FTD had not delivered the arrangement she had paid for and were stonewalling her efforts to get the matter corrected on her blog and Twitter.

By not playing in the social media sandbox, these companies were blindsided by people who were expressing very negative opinions about their brands. They lost the opportunity to manage their reputations.

Which leads me to another example of how a business' failure to engage with social media cost them big. In this case, $100 million.

Developers and business leaders in Huntington, NY on Long Island foresaw no hurdles to an affordable housing development. But opponents objected to it because they felt it would bring in low-income residents and balloon school enrollment.

At first the opponents tried to mobilize protesters with traditional methods like posting street signs and protesting at zoning meetings, but got no traction until they went online and created a Facebook page that took a stand against the development.

The Facebook campaign quietly built opposition leading up to a town board meeting on the plan.

Meanwhile, the developers were not listening on Facebook, and had no idea their project was in trouble. When the meeting took place, they were taken completely by surprise to find that the board had been swayed against their project.

As one of the opponents put it:
We were a bunch of moms," said Jennifer LaVertu, an opposition leader. "I didn't even have to be home to do it. We could access Facebook by phone, dropping a message to everyone that we needed them at town hall that night for a protest. It helped us organize much more quickly.

Too many business executives are still sitting on the social media sidelines, filled with skeptisism and confusion. Understandably they are not pleased by the changes social media can make to their old ways of doing business, but that is hardly an excuse to stick their heads in the ground. On Long Island, that mentality cost developers $100 million.

Here's what businesses can do to manage their reputations effectively with social media:
  • Track all mentions of your brand, company name or products on Twitter, YouTube and Facebook.
  • Just listen to conversations already taking place. Don't be in a hurry to express your point of view or cram information down people's throats.
  • Be authentic and honest. Don't mislead people about who you are and what company you represent. Believe me, others have tried to be deceptive and have been found out. And it is never pretty.
  • Make friends. Treat the people who are tweeting and commenting about your topic as real people. Be helpful.
  • When someone presents misinformation, remember there is a tactful and friendly way to offer rebuttal information. Tread gently.

Perhaps listening on social media won't save your company $100 million, but it could help you protect your brand's reputation when a crisis occurs.

Here's How to Comment on This Post
  1. Just click the title of the article you want and then go down to the bottom of the article.
  2. Once you click the title, a comment form should appear below the article.

COPYRIGHT © 2010, Charles Brown

If you like this article:

Add to OnlywireAdd to Technorati Favorites

Creating Compelling Content for Today's Changing Customers

Wisdom from "Social Media Marketing Superstars" - Part One

Even though internet marketing is barely more than a decade and a half old, the game is changing for online marketers. Gradually the importance of search engine optimization is giving ground to social media optimization.

In other words, playing in Google's sandbox is not as important as playing in Facebook's playground.

But one thing that has not changed is the importance of creating and posting quality content on the web. Good content is just as important to social media as it is to search engines. With each year that goes by, the world will more and more belong to those who put a lot of (valuable) content on the web.

People frequently ask me how Twitter, for example, can make much of an impact since you are limited to 140 characters. The answer is not much unless your tweets include links to your blog, your website, your videos, your photos, your slide shows, your podcasts or other content you may create and upload to the web.

Content is still king, even as the "game" shifts away from search engines to social media.
  • Content can solve problems for your ideal clients,
  • Good content establishes trust and credibility with them,
  • Good content entertains them, educate them,
  • or it can help them become better, more-informed, consumers of whatever it is that you sell (which is no small achievement, since it helps them distinguish between your products and your competitors' products on factors other than mere price differences).

Additionally - since search engine optimization is still important to any online marketing campaign - content can be optimized with the appropriate keywords to help people find you and all your wonderful solutions online.

Which leads me to a brilliant piece written by my friend Anne Handley of Marketing Profs. I found this in a book called, Success Secrets of Social Media Marketing Superstars.

This book is a collective effort compiled by Mitch Meyerson. It includes chapters written by Anne, Gary Vaynerchuk, Brian Clark, Shama Kabani, Julie Perry, Mike Stelzner and many others. In other words, the superstars.

Anne's chapter is called, "Creating Content People Care About: The Cornerstone of Social Media."

Now let me start by saying that Anne Handley is a genius. She really "gets" the how, why and what about creating marketing content for the web.

Anne, points out that today's customers have changed. They are no longer easily swayed by bombarding them with advertising. Instead they seek out information before making a buying decision. They Google various brands and they ask their friends on Facebook what their experiences with various brands have been.

Think of how you behave when you take off your marketing hat and put on your customer hat.

No doubt you are far more proactive when you are shopping for a new car or even looking for medical care. Possibly you also read reviews and ratings by actual customers of these products on Amazon, Angies List, Yelp or Foursquare. Why then, do you expect your own customers to behave differently when they are buying your products?

So how do you create content that can attract these changing customers? Anne gives us a list of 11 Rules of Compelling Content, with several examples and short case studies. I won't re-list them all here, but I will higlight a few of her insights for you:

  • "Compelling content is vendor-agnostic." In other words, your content is not about you, your company, your products or your brands. It puts the spotlight on what the customer wants to learn and becomes a publisher of information that meets these needs.

    Nothing will turn off your customers/readers faster than lot of self-serving commentary. Keep your brand mentions to a minimum. This is a medium from which people value objectivity, not salesmanship.

  • Build trust by become a resource. Nothing builds trust faster and more reliably than educating customers. Anne uses Rubbermaid as an example. Their blog "does not focus on injected molded plastics but on space-saving and organizing, as well as on the consumers interested in, and the industry build up around these issues. Consider these recent posts: 'How to Sell Clothing at a Yard Sale,' and 'Save Money Packing Your Lunch.'"

  • Compelling content allows for interaction or dialog. Create content that serves a specific community and allow them a voice.

  • Great content does not create barriers. Anne gives an example of a General Mills "community" site Psst General Mills. Instead of finding a community, she found barriers in the form of pages of qualifying questions designed to compile their database.

  • Compelling content starts a conversation.
    Build in ways for readers to share you information with their friends (or fans, followers or blog readers). Don't force them to sign in order to link to your content, but encourage them to share with easy to use widgets.

What kinds of content appeal to you as a customer or potential customer? How have your decisions been impacted by commercial information that educated you and offered solutions to specific problems? And how did you feel toward the brand that took the time and effort to educate you more without an over-powering sales message?

You definitely want to check out the book, Success Secrets of Social Media Marketing Superstars. It is full of a lot of useful ideas from some of the best minds in the field of social media marketing.

For those of you who have already read this book, what were your favorite insights? I plan to write an occasional series of articles based on the chapters and lessons in Social Media Marketing Superstars, so I will greatly appreciate your feedback.

Here's How to Comment on This Post
  1. Just click the title of the article you want and then go down to the bottom of the article.
  2. Once you click the title, a comment form should appear below the article.

COPYRIGHT © 2010, Charles Brown

If you like this article:

Add to OnlywireAdd to Technorati Favorites

Using Twitter to Promote Big Brands

This is a Google Sidewiki I wrote about a great article called: Using Twitter for Brands or Corporate Identities by Dawn Foster. I encourage you to read the entire article, as it offers a number of excellent ideas to businesses wanting to incorporate Twitter with their marketing.

The lessons in this article are: Listen and respond to mentions of your brand, don't blast out links to your own content, don't be too promotional, have a personality and follow back people who follow you.

in reference to:

"It is OK to link to informational blog posts, but I always put some text around it so that people can decide whether or not to click through. You should also be linking to posts from other blogs that are relevant to your company or industry as a whole. These should be a fairly small portion of your overall Twitter posts"
- Using Twitter for Brands or Corporate Identities « Fast Wonder: Online Community Management (view on Google Sidewiki)