Sunday, July 25, 2010

Moms to Corporations: "You Just Don't Understand!"

The online community CafeMom recently launched a new measurement tool called the MomIndex, tracking moms’ quality of life. A quick review of highlights suggests that brands need to convince moms of their authenticity and truly offer great value to grab these women’s attention. According to the CafeMom study, only 7 percent of moms agree that corporations understand their needs and work to make their lives better. Only 6 percent trust brand advertising messages.

Moms are also concerned with the state of world and national affairs. Only one-fifth (22 percent) believe that America is headed in the right direction and 14 percent trust the government to help improve their lives. As low as these percentages may seem, it is worthwhile to note that moms are more likely to trust the government than corporations and brands. They have more hope in an institution that is criticized daily by multiple sources through numerous channels, than companies that try to communicate positive aspects of their products and services.

The gaps between these numbers show the long way ahead of brands that want to earn moms’ trust and generate positive word of mouth. They will need to fight moms’ cynicism and be ready to withstand these savvy consumers’ scrutiny. Above everything else, their messages will need to be believable.  

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Monday, July 19, 2010

Legal Expertise Needed!

Increasing brand presence in social media calls for help from legal departments. As brands step into open commentary space, they need to protect their name as well as the rights of those consumers creating content on their company sponsored pages. The latest updates to FTC guidelines--which insist on disclosure of all material connections and hold marketers liable for false information that may transpire as a result of their social media programs--are all the more reason to get professional legal advice before launching an online campaign.

As social media is still an evolving marketing area, many marketers and their counselors are challenged by the absence of precedents. New tools and functionalities pop up almost every day. Existing platforms, such as Facebook, may change their rules as they go along, responding to public criticism. Moreover, content ownership in social media remains a gray area, where one company provides the frame (e.g., Facebook), another sponsors the area (e.g., your brand) and audience creates the content.

Here are some suggestions that can increase collaboration between marketing teams and their legal advisors, while helping brands navigate social media waters as safely as possible:

1-                   Disclosure should be top priority. Include the necessary statements in your social media communications and Web areas to abide by the FTC guidelines. Refer to disclosure statements suggested by WOMMA. Consider adopting a system such as, which provides an FTC-compliant software platform to organize all communications between a brand, bloggers and other social media participants.

2-                   If you are signing contracts with bloggers, spell out the terms of disclosure as part of the deal.

3-                   If employees are likely to chime into social media discussions about your brand, provide them with the necessary training and information so they know how to disclose their relationship with the brand.

4-                   Work with legal teams at Facebook, Twitter and other popular communities. It is best to go to the very source and ask. Often times, their rules of communication and participation will be laid out under ‘about us’ or ‘corporate’ sections of their Web sites.

5-                   Encourage all of your team members (i.e., brand marketers and legal) to familiarize themselves with the tools you are deploying. You can have more fruitful discussions, if everyone understands the social media tools’ basic functionality.

6-                   Speedy response is critical in social media communications. Before launching a project, arrange a core set of team members including a legal counselor who can be on-call to evaluate questionable comments.

7-                   You do have (some) control of content in branded areas. When planting your brand’s flag in social media and creating areas dedicated to your topics, communicate your rules of communication to your audience. You may reserve the right to remove inappropriate postings. If you are planning to use consumer-generated media in corporate promotions (e.g., ads, releases, etc.) be sure to indicate this as well. 

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Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Global Web Index Lite Is Here:

The smart folks behind the Global Web Index just launched a smart widget that provides top-level data on social media habits from 16 countries, ranging from the US and Brazil to Japan and South Korea. The cool thing is that you can slice the data by age and by behavioral segments, such as Informers, Internationalists, Premium Lovers and Risk Takers. What a great way to package rich information! 



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Can't Buy Me 'Like'

Facebook has more than 400 million active users, who spend over 500 billion minutes per month on the site and interact with 160 million features (i.e., pages, groups, events, etc.). While the typical Facebook user is connected to an average of 60 pages, groups and events, how is a brand supposed to attract fans and keep them interested? 

There is a surge of campaigns online that encourage users to ‘like’ brand pages on Facebook in exchange for a discount, product trial or charitable donation. As the pressure to show ROI on developing and maintaining a Facebook page mounts, marketers resort to these tactics to give their communities a boost. 

The reality is that Facebook is cluttered space and a brand needs a cohesive set of promotions and smart posts to break through and grow their fan base over a reasonable amount of time. The quid pro quo approach will create a spike for a week and then the brand may need a new idea.

Moreover, this approach is a big no-no if you read the fine print in Facebook rules for companies. As stated in this section, “you cannot administer a promotion that users automatically enter by becoming a fan of your page.” Brands cannot use native Facebook features to run campaigns. Instead, they need to build apps that sit on separate tabs to run their campaigns. The main reason behind this separation is data ownership and potential liabilities that come with it. Facebook wants the brands to handle their own data and provide the following disclaimer: "This promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with, Facebook. You understand that you are providing your information to [recipient(s) of information] and not to Facebook. The information you provide will only be used for [brand needs to disclose any way that it plans to use the user's information]."

Among brands looking to acquire fans with the quid-pro-quo tactic, Ann Taylor has a more refined approach. The brand is leading loyal customers (called the Insiders) to their Facebook page with an e-mail invitation and offering them a discount in a tab dedicated to this initiative. To get the discount, users need to ‘like’ the brand. Considering that they have already opted in to receive emails from Ann Taylor, these customers are bound to click ‘like.’  

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Monday, July 5, 2010

Shout out for Implementing Word of Mouth!

I recently had the pleasure of participating in AMA's Marketing Power podcast series. You can download and listen to it right here. My interviewer and program manager commented on my book Implementing Word of Mouth Marketing as '...the most comprehensive guide for carrying out social media based programs that make an impact.' Thank you! It's really gratifying to know that the book's value is understood. It's also wonderful to have a venue to share my thoughts and get feedback. If you have been asking yourself 'I set up my Facebook page, now what?' or 'I really want to delve into social media, but do not know how big of a team I need?' or 'What else can I measure besides fans, followers and clicks?', then check out this podcast.

And I have to send most heartfelt thanks to Mr. Hakki Ozmorali, an expert on direct selling and a prolific writer/blogger. He interviewed me about the synergies between direct selling and word of mouth marketing a while ago. We conducted the interview in Turkish and he just translated it into English and posted it online. You can read it here. A bit of background info on Hakki: He worked as country manager (meaning regional CEO) for direct selling companies Oriflame and LR in Turkey, and as Regional Manager, North America for Lifestyles in Canada. He also wrote the first book in Turkey on network marketing. Perhaps I need to interview him for dotwom!

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