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Social Media Engagement

This week’s two articles focus primarily on engaging customers through social media, and the things  that stood out the most to me were the cut and dry statistics from each articles graphics. For instance, the face that the top business objective of social media, above revenue generation,was better customer engagement. Initially, that shocked me, simply because as a business you want to grow your business, and increasing revenue plays a major part in that. However, the more I thought about it, if you have improved customer engagement, and thus more exposure, ultimately your revenue will grow. I always remember this quote from Chick-fil-A’s Truett Cathy, when he said “If we get better, our customers will demand we get bigger.” It starts with the image of your business, and how you connect with your client base that will drive your revenue.

Another staggering set of information came in the Engagement Marketing Fever article and the IBM survey of 1700 CEOs. 80% of those surveyed said they currently use face-to-face type engagement methods and only 16% currently use social media. However, in the next 3-5 years, that number jumped to 57%. I personally no longer think social media provides a competitive advantage, but it can be a disadvantage. Companies that are not in social media are at a disadvantage to their competitors, but they have chosen to put themselves in that spot.

As the article goes on and shows survey results of how companies use social media, the top reason is to monitor what customers are saying about their brand. I truly believe there are so many different ways for companies to benefit from social media, it would be hard to count them all. In this case, I think a lot of companies also monitor what customers are saying about their competitors, as well as to gain competitor insight, possibly from people sharing private information. Let’s think about a few instances over the past few years where this has happened. I can remember two distinct instances where a company(i.e. Apple, Google, etc.) have a prototype of their to-be released phone and they have employees testing these phones. Those phones are shown to the public in bars, clubs, etc. or, in the most recent case, left behind accidentally. In the latter, the phone and it’s features are made known to the public, which is free competitor insight for other companies in the industry, and most the information is shared via social media.

It wouldn’t surprise me if eventually we started to see companies begin to hire new employees to simply run their social media business, from marketing to competitor analysis, to advertising. Truth be told social media is here now and will continue to shape the future of business for many years to come.

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From Defense to Offense

Social media can be a great tool for growing a company’s influence as well as its reputation among the community. However, it can also be used to destroy companies, and before they realize what is happening, it is too late to correct the problem. In trying to tie all these readings together, this is the common theme I settled on. Let’s begin with the famous wedding video.

In June 2009, there was a wedding, and in that wedding, the bridesmaids and groomsmen danced down the aisle to the song Forever, by the artist Chris Brown……everyone who just read that last sentence knows exactly what I am talking about (if not, take a look  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4-94JhLEiN0). Now, much speculation has been made about whether this video going viral was manufactured or not. The answer is, yes, it was manufactured. So, rather than reiterating all the details from the article “The JK Wedding Dance video was real; the viral effect was manufactured,” I want to just point out briefly why I am almost positive it was manufactured. The most referred to conspiracy was that the audio quality in the video was too good for a small video camera to capture, and most people have come to the conclusion that the music was added post-production. Why, or better yet, who would do that? 

In February of 2009, Chris Brown, the artist of the song featured in the video, turned himself in to the LAPD, charged with making criminal threats after a woman involved with an incident with him had sustained visible injuries. He immediately began losing endorsements, and in June he plead guilty to a felony charge. Would engineering this video and making it become viral not only generate revenue for his record label, but also resurrect his career after all the headlines he was a part of for the five months prior to pleading guilty? That’s by far one of the most believable conspiracy theories I have read on the subject.

This example gets me to the points I want to make about how one can use other people’s media (i.e. photos, music, videos, tweets, etc.) for either generating their own personal gain, or for generating negative press regarding others. How about the two examples from “Community Relations 2.0?” In one example, one of Comcast’s snoozing technicians became a viral video sensation, and that video resulted in widespread negative publicity. Or what about the blog rant by the low-level employee from Kaiser Permanente that disrupted a multibillion-dollar IT rollout, as well as ended up on the front page of the Los Angeles Times and Wall Street Journal? These are just two examples of how sources of media (in these cases a video and a blog) were used to shine a negative light on large corporations.

People in today’s world are able to be a part of online communities, and thus feel they are a part of these corporations more so than if they were just the average customer who did business with the corporations, but had no interaction other than that. I think there are two things that corporations can do to mitigate the risks involved with today’s social media attacks, and play a little social media defense.

1) Maintain online community involvement. Time-Life was able to reduce the negative impacts of three Greenpeace activists who managed to get their message across from a 15 minute protest, by influencing the Time Magazine cover, simply by acknowledging the concerns of the activists and taking action to research the issues causing those concerns.

2) Monitor the content that is being shared within online communities. I believe that much of the negative publicity that results from social media applications could be prevented with dedicated resources to monitoring what information is being shared about a company in the social realms, and working to reduce the amount of this material that goes “viral.” People of greater influence have a better chance of changing someone’s perceptions about a company, and I think this is where being a large part of applicable online communities can really benefit these corporations.

In all, I don’t see these social media attacks going away at any point in the near future, and I strongly believe they will continue to get worse before they ever seem to dissipate. However, I do believe there are many avenues for companies to mitigate risks that result in the negate publicity they face each and every day.

Human Nature

I struggled initially to identify the common theme with the articles and video from this week. Had I read them in a different order, it may not have been such a struggle, but I think I identified at least one common theme: in today’s world, people genuinely want to be a part of something, a “community” type environment. What ultimately led me to this conclusion was when I read about the success achieved by collaborative offerings (Wiki, Craigslist, Facebook, etc.) and the success has been confirmed on a scientific basis. The Unselfish Gene mentions that through field studies, they have identified highly cooperative systems that are more stable than those based on incentives. So, what that says to me is that people would rather participate in something (i.e. volunteer for Wikipedia) in order to be connected to others rather than participate in something for some other incentive (i.e. money, perks, etc.).

How is this connected to the other readings, Wikipedia in the Spotlight and Gin, Television, and Cognitive Surplus? Let me start by briefly discussing Wikipedia in the Spotlight. The article details the “experiment” that became Wikipedia, called Nupedia. The idea was to create a peer-reviewed, closed-content, encyclopedia, which they intended to produce in a variant of the traditional peer-review process. In 2001, Nupedia was altered to a “wiki” format, which gave editing power to any user with access to the site and would, in principle, speed content development. After refining the process of who could edit or delete an article, an elite group called “Wikipedians” was identified. These users could delete, restore, and protect pages, as well as block other users for violating policy.

Wikipedians all had a common desire to explain a topic and to have some authority or control over its presentation on the site. Many contributors liked interacting with each other and felt a bond with others who were committed to the goal of making information accessible to any Internet user. I think above all else in that is written in this article, that is the single most important statement for me to draw my conclusion on what the relationship is between all these readings. The last article in the bunch, Gin, Television, and Cognitive Surplus was much easier for me to understand and identify the theme for this week.

Essentially what this article is explaining is that before the 2nd World War, there was much “free time” for people. However, after the war, increases in GDP, education, and life span led to a dramatic increase in unstructured free time. So, what do we do to fill this time? Watch TV of course. The article states, “The sitcom has become our gin, an infinitely expandable response to the crisis of social transformation, and as with drinking gin, it isn’t hard to explain why people watch television programs – some of them are quite good.” It goes on to say, “toxicologists like to say ‘the does makes the poison’; both alcohol and caffeine are fine in moderation but fatal in excess.”

Are we watching fatal amounts of TV? Americans watch roughly 200 billion hours of TV every year, roughly 100 million hours every weekend watching commercials! I think where this ties in to the previous two readings and my analysis from those is the fact that two psychologists, one from University of Buffalo and the other from Miami University of Ohio, concluded that people turn to favored programs when they are feeling lonely, and they feel less lonely when they are viewing those programs. That is because a lot of times the people we see on TV constitutes a set of imaginary friends. And if more evidence is needed to further make my point that people are partaking in so many hours of TV or social media because they are seeking to be a part of a “community”, try this on for size. Three behavioral economists concluded that not only do unhappy people watch considerably more TV than happy people, but watching TV also pushes aside other activities that are less immediately engaging but can produce longer-term satisfaction.

In a world that is so fast-paced and so demanding, with a society that is all about the “now” mentality, one of the most common phrases we hear is “I don’t have time.” I enjoy watching a little TV as much as the next person, but I think a lot of people have that so engrained in their schedule, that they will sacrifice other, more important things (i.e. family, friends, etc.) in order to tune-in to their shows. Why? Is it because they enjoy those shows, or is it because they feel they are a part of a fantasy life? Personally, I think for the majority of people, it’s the latter.

YouTube: Not Just Videos

When users are seeking out videos, the majority of which are humorous in nature, their number one choice is YouTube. However, there is so much more to this site than just user shared videos. In June 2009, there was a wedding, and in that wedding, the bridesmaids and groomsmen danced down the aisle to the song Forever……everyone who just read that last sentence knows exactly what I am talking about (if not, take a look  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4-94JhLEiN0). This video was uploaded to YouTube in July and by December it was the third-most-watched video of 2009, totalling 28 million views in North America and 33 million worldwide.

As I mentioned earlier, YouTube is much more than just videos. According to the HBS article “Sony and the JK Wedding Dance”, “In the early 2000’s the Recordings Indutry Association of America (RIAA) started the practice of filing lawsuits against those sharing music online illegally, via peer to peer networks.” It goes on to say that two high profile cases ended up going to court, and I would assume one of those was the famous Napster. The point is that anytime someone else’s work is used to generate positive perception, the original artist, in this case Chris Brown, wants their fair share, and who can blame them, for if he didn’t produce that song, would the video have been the such a hit? Although, I also think the video and its populatiry resurrected his music career by using his song. In Feburary of 2009, Chris Brown turned himself in to the LAPD, charged with making criminal threats after a woman involved with an incident with him had sustained visible injuries. He immediately began losing endorsements, and in June he plead guilty to a felony charge. So, without this viral video using his song, would he even have a career today? Within 48 hours of this video being posted, it had broken the record for most views for a single video on YouTube, with over 3.5 million views. That is an incredible amount of exposure for the artist.

Jeff Doeds was the Executive VP of Marketing and Digital Media for Son’y Jive Label Group, which had signed Chris Brown in 2008. The article quotes him as saying, “We sit around these offices on a daily basis and try to figure out how to create viral activity for our artists, often with little success. Then this happens.” Sony had a content licensing deal with YouTube, which used a content identification system to track and notify licensees of copyrighted materials on YouTube. When this video went viral, Sony was notified that one of their songs was being used without authorization, providing them with three options:

  1. Issue a take-down notice, forcing the video to be taken down
  2. Do nothing, which provided an ancillary way to benefit from the attention gained from the video (i.e. ticket sales)
  3. Notify the host they were claiming the song, allowing them to negotiate some form of revenue generating or sharing agreement

Accoridng to Dodes, “At Jive, I’ve taken the approach that the best thing in most cases is to try and allow the consumer to do what the consumer wants to do with content after it’s released. That’s the physics of the web nowadays; it is nearly impossible to prevent it, so you need to embrace it and often times positive things can come of it. At the same time, if our artists’ content is being used, they should be paid for it.” In most cases, I agree, the artist should be compensated for their work being used. However, I think this video did more good to Chris Brown’s career than any cut of revenue from it would have done.

Initial Thoughts

I am a part of Generation Y, and I have considered myself technologically savvy for as long as I can remember. This generation was the first to grow up with computers in the home, but I never realized how much we would come to rely on technology. Our first computer was driver completely by MS Dos, and when we had an opportunity to use the Internet, we would have to tie up the phone line (insert loud modem sound here). I found a few stats that I though were interesting to not just show the reliance Generation Y has on social media, but to show the impact social media is having on every generation.

  • By 2010, Gen Y will out number Baby Boomers, and 96% of them have joined a social network
  • 1 out of 8 couples married last year met via social media
  • Years it took to reach 50 million users: Radio (38), TV (13), Internet (4). Facebook added 100 million in 9 months, and iPhone Apps hit 1 billion in 9 months
  • 80% of Twitter usage is outside of the Twitter website (i.e. from mobile devices, etc.)

I remember the day in the Spring of 2004 when I heard about this new technology called ‘Facebook.” My initial reaction was, “wow, that’s the dumbest thing I have ever heard of.” Obviously, not many agreed with me, as there are over 800 million users signed up, and according to Chapter 7, Facebook could be the third largest nation in the world with that many users. I think what’s more staggering to me is that the average person spends 55 minutes a day on the site. The first two outlets I think about when I hear the phrase “social media” are Facebook and Twitter, but after reading Chapter 7, my views of social media have changed to include blogs, wikis, etc.

My initial reaction to Twitter was similar to my initial reaction to Facebook, and it wasn’t until a few months ago that I established a profile. My opinion of Twitter was that it’s just a place for people to share with the world what they are doing, like the text mentioned “I’m having a sandwich.” To me, that is useless, and a waste of time. I also had the perception that businesses established Twitter accounts to “keep up with society”, when in reality, they are able to get out vital information faster than they ever could have prior to Twitter, as Dell did for receiving feedback and being able to issue change orders before the next product version was released. I think like with most new technologies, it takes time not only for people to embrace the newness, but it also takes time for people to identify how to maximize the technology. People are able to innovate so well within social media outlets, and that has contributed to the change in our world over the last decade.

Facebook and LinkedIn are the two most dominant social networks, and corporations who have established Facebook accounts can gain unlimited exposure when users decide to ‘like’ them, as information from the corporation will be displayed in that users news feed. With 800 million users spending on average 55 hours a day on Facebook, the free marketing that is available to corporations is the single best investment they can make. However, Facebook users at times fail to realize that what shows up on your profile (i.e. posts, pictures, etc.) can have negative impacts. Corporations almost always investigate a potential employee’s profile, and what is there for them to view can influence their decision significantly.

Whether you like social media or not, the fact of the matter is that it is only going to continue to evolve every day. If Twitter and Facebook go away, it’s only because the next best thing came along; not because the world got burned out on social media.