Senior Executives’ Use of Social Media Suggests Room to Grow

We know that many people have no reservations about using social networking media at work (if their employers have not blocked their access), but top managers may be another story. A study done by Russell Herder and Ethos Business Law revealed that many managers are concerned about potentially negative effects of their employees using social networking web sites. Approximately 50% believed that employee productivity would suffer as a result of accessing social networking sites. A similar percentage of managers surveyed feared that a careless employee could tarnish the reputation or image of the company with inappropriate postings.

While there is some validity to the concerns when employees use social networking web sites, the real concern could be in who is not using social media: the executives themselves. In the same study, 70% of the managers surveyed said they visit a social networking web site at least weekly. What is is troubling is that only 52% of executives using social media said they log on to read what customers and other people are saying about their company. They are almost as likely to use it to monitor what is being said about competition (47%) as they are monitoring what is being said about their own brand.

Findings from this study reveal a missed opportunity for top management. A channel is being cultivated that gives an unprecedented amount of feedback from customers and the front lines. Yet, almost half of the managers who otherwise use social media do not take advantage of the opportunity to read what people are saying about them. Why? Are they afraid of what they will read? Do they feel that reading customer feedback is the job of others in the organization? I am at a loss on this one. It is time for these managers to tap into the conversation about their brands. Better yet, it is time for those managers sitting on the social media sidelines to get into the game!

Center for Media Research – “Corporate Use of Social Networking Still an Executive Concern”

Using Social Media to Facilitate Social Change

Social media are powerful for engaging individuals in conversations and building community. Social marketing is a platform for companies to use their voices and resources to improve quality of life in communities where they do business or any corner of the world. Now, these two ideas intersect in a campaign launched by Nike. The iconic athletic brand has a social marketing campaign called “Back Your Block”. The program awards grants to community organizations that seek to use sports as a vehicle for making a difference. Social media are integrated into the campaign as organizations that apply for a grant can then use tools such as Facebook and Twitter to encourage people to go to the campaign’s web site and vote for them.

Demonstrating concern for local communities is not only good business sense, it is fulfillment of philanthropic responsibilities business concerns are expected to meet by society today. While supporting community organizations can have a desired business effect of “doing well while doing good,” the impact of such a campaign is enhanced when individuals are drawn into it as Nike is doing by allowing people to vote on grant applications. Nike’s campaign is not just about the company supporting a cause. It is also about individuals (Nike customers and non-customers alike) who are being drawn closer to the brand as they support their favorite local organizations. Nike’s program is a winner, not only for the potential positive change it may bring, but for giving power to the people to help make change possible.

Marketing Daily – “Nike Launches New Grant Program via Social Media”

Social Networks’ Value for Internal Marketing

As social networking has emerged as a communications medium, businesses have focused on the marketing implications in terms of influencing relationships with customers and prospects. Another potentially value marketing application of social networking web sites is enhancing communication within the internal (employee) market. A recent Business Week cover story raises the point that companies stand to gain if they can figure out how to harness the power of social networking to strengthen communication and knowledge sharing among employees.

According to the Business Week article, internal research done at IBM found that consultants with tighter e-mail communication relationships with their bosses generated an average of $588 more revenue per month. Of course, employees that make the effort to establish relationships with their superiors may also be driven to engage in other behaviors that would contribute to generating more revenue. In other words, it is far too simplistic to suggest a causal relationship. But, the findings are intriguing in that they illustrate potential benefits of employees connecting with superiors as well as their peers via social networking.

If employees are able to build stronger personal and professional bonds with their peers, it creates a path for more collaboration as well as sharing information about products, customers and competitors. The increased flow of communication and shared knowledge are vital to creating a culture of innovation.

Link: Business Week – “Learning, and Profiting, from Online Friendships”

The Making of a Social Networking Hero

The dramatic landing of a US Airways jet in the Hudson River last Thursday captivated people worldwide. The skill displayed by pilot C.B. “Sully” Sullenberger saved lives and rightfully earned him the label “hero.” His heroism took on an added dimension when a Facebook page recognizing his efforts appeared within hours of the incident. Fans of Captain C.B. Sully Sullenberger now number nearly 370,000. The page has an unintended effect of creating positive word-of-mouth communication for US Airways.

The event and ensuing communications online demonstrate the power of social networking. People are eager to share opinions and emotions. Thousands of people who were not impacted first-hand by the US Airways incident were moved by it. There is a marketing lesson to be learned here. Companies must explore ways to get their stakeholders involved in discussions about their needs, problems, dreams, or any other relevant topic. Customers are empowered to talk more than they have ever been; marketers would be wise to listen and join the conversation. While there is a great deal of interest in trying to figure out how to utilize social networking web sites as an advertising medium, there is perhaps greater value in shutting up and listening, for a change!

Link: Online Media Daily – “US Airways Social Media Index Soars”

Choosing a Hamburger over Friendship

It has been said you can’t put a price on friendship. Well, perhaps that adage no longer applies in our Web 2.0 world. Burger King launched a clever app on Facebook recently that encouraged users to cull their friend lists, offering a coupon for a free Whopper for every 10 friends a user removes. The campaign, created by BK’s ad agency Crispin, Porter + Bogusky, included a signature edgy element for which CP+B has become known. The removed friend would receive notification that their friendship “has been sacrificed for a Whopper.” The app was an immediate hit as more than 80,000 users added the app and sacrificed more than 230,000 friends.

Now, the BK campaign is no longer doing the friend notification because there are questions about whether the practice violates Facebook users’ privacy rights (removed friends do not normally receive notifications they have been removed). The campaign is easy to criticize for not considering this aspect of Facebook users’ privacy expectations, and some may see the campaign as cheapening or diminishing the value of friendships.

The folks at CP+B are sharp, and they certainly factored in these possible responses when formulating the campaign. The campaign generated buzz when it launched and again now as it has created some controversy. For a brand like BK, being talked about is an important strategy to keep it on consumers’ minds. You can question the tastefulness of the Facebook friend sacrifice campaign’s brand building impact long term, but it has created buzz for BK in the short term.

Link: Online Media Daily – “Hiccup for Whopper Sacrifice Campaign”

Be My Friend and I’ll Give You a Pizza

I don’t have the resources to give away things to have people become my friends on Facebook. Papa John’s Pizza, on the other hand, will gladly give you a free pizza if you become its friend on the popular social networking site. Facebook users who become a Friend of Papa John’s will receive a coupon good for a free medium cheese purchase with the purchase of a medium pizza. You have to act fast, though. The offer expires December 1.

What’s the motive? Perhaps it is competition as Pizza Hut has unveiled a Facebook application that enables users to order from Pizza Hut online without ever leaving Facebook. Online sales are a rapidly growing channel for both Pizza Hut and Papa John’s. The Papa John’s offer focuses on the online channel as the coupon is good only for online ordering. Or, maybe Papa John’s is doing what Cnet blogger Justin Yu claims: “bulking up skinny nerds.”

In either case, marketing on social networks is another example of exploring ways to reach customers where they are. This outreach has to be balanced against coming across as being intrusive. Or, in the case of Papa John’s, some people might be insulted to think that Papa John’s is trying to buy its friendship with a medium pizza. I’m not insulted; I for one will enjoy my free cheese pizza!

Ads on Social Network Sites: Friends or Foes?

Social network web sties give us places to connect with people with whom we share common interests. The fun, interactive environments in which we talk to friends and make new ones started out as commercial-free zones. However, as the popularity of social network sites grew, marketers could not resist the urge to reach us, and social network hosts could not pass up the revenues ads can create.

While social network ads have the potential to turn off the very people they are intended to reach, it appears that most visitors to social network sites are OK with the presence of ads. A study conducted by Razorfish found that 76% of social network site visitors do not mind the presence of ads. Further, 40% of those people surveyed said they had made a purchase following ad exposure on a social networking site.

Before advertisers begin lining up to create clutter on our social networks, a word of caution. Social networks provide an ideal platform for audience engagement through brand fan pages, games, or other interactive experiences. The real promise of social networks as a communication vehicle is this relationship building capability they possess. Ads are OK, but marketers should be more creative in using social networks for deepening consumers’ relationships with their brands.

Link: ClickZ – “Social Networkers Don’t Mind the Ads, Says Razorfish Report”

Social Networking not Ubiquitous as Hyped

Social networking has been all the rage in the last 2-3 years. Marketers have fallen over themselves trying to figure out how to have a meaningful presence on social networks. Whether it be having a MySpace or Facebook page or taking the bold step to create a social network, the aim is to listen and interact with customers as well as provide a channel for stimulating word-of-mouth brand communications. But, for all they hype and promise of social networking, it has a long way to go to become a staple of American life.

Results of a multi-nation survey conducted by Synovate found that 40% of Americans surveyed belong to a social network. This figure means the majority of consumers cannot be reached via social networks. Of course, social networking sites can reach certain audience groups (e.g., teens and young adults). Overall, social networks have not been adopted on the broad scale that computer and Internet has experienced. A more troubling finding from the Synovate study is that 36% of American social network users indicated they are tiring of using social networks. Does this mean social networking is more of a fad than a seismic shift in the way we interact?

It will be interesting to see the formation of long term behaviors with regard to social networking. Will youngsters who frequent MySpace and Facebook eventually outgrow these virtual communities? Will they move on to other types of social networking sites? Will they abandon social networks altogether? Will older Americans find social networking sites appealing and join the conversation? Time and technology will tell. The next trend in social networking is accessing via wireless devices. The cell phone could be the key to greater adoption of social networking.

Link: eMarketer Daily – “Social Networks Are Not Yet Universal”