Thursday, April 29, 2010

A Yogurt Culture of Lies

One of the things that excites us about social media is its ability to neutralize false or misleading information being spread on the web.

If there is negative sentiment in the blogosphere about your brand that is based on inaccurate reporting or someone with an axe to grind, you simply inject some truth into the discussion and turn the dial "up to 11" until the dialogue becomes more balanced. 

In Buenos Aires, the Danone company took a novel approach to doing this when its brand of probiotic yogurt, Actimel (DanActive in the U.S.), fell victim to a viral email hoax. The email, which circulated all around Argentina, directed people to a web page that warned that the yogurt is addictive, that it destroys the stomach's natural defenses and that it is harmful to children.

Danone initially responded by engaging the bloggers and websites that had posted the misinformation, answered questions about the report on its own website and ran a commercial addressing the issue.

Then it tried something different: It invited people to another site where they could generate their own rumors about their friends who then received an email inviting them to the site. There the friends would see the rumors about them, along with the message, "Don't believe everything you see on the internet. I'll show you how easy it is to spread a rumor about you."

"What we are trying to do is show people how easy it is to lie and deceive on the web, and how careful we as consumers must be to get truths about brands," said Sebastian Garcia Padin, owner of Danone's Argentine agency, Sinus (say what?), which created the campaign. "What the Creador de Rumores is doing is telling people 'Be careful'."

In the first month of the campaign, more than 40,000 people visited the site, and more than 100,000 individual false rumors were created and sent.

No lie.

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Saturday, April 10, 2010

The United States of Social Media

An interesting study was released yesterday by Arbitron and Edison Research.

It reveals that 48% of all Americans over the age of 11 now have profiles on at least one social networking Web site. That includes 78% of all teenagers.

According to the study, the usage of social networking sites in the U.S. has doubled over the last two years.

Of these people, 30% say they check their profiles "several times a day." That's up from 18% just last year.

Most surprising is that the number of people with social profiles does not decrease with age as much as you might expect.

In fact, usage by people 55 to 64 and 65 and over has increased by about 300% each year over the past few years.

"Social networking has become a part of mainstream media behavior," says Tom Webster of Edison, who also points out that the usage of social networks by 18 to 24-year olds is almost 100%.

For this group, he adds, "Social networks... are the new phone."

I came across this report only minutes after seeing a news story about how the Census Bureau is seeing a very low response rate on its survey.

Maybe the next Census should look to the social network sites instead of people's homes?


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Friday, April 2, 2010

Weave It and Believe It

We created the picture above to demonstrate to prospective clients how social media is not just about one specific channel or discipline, but rather, the weaving together of them all.

It’s about advertising, PR, relationship marketing, customer service, and promotion. I’m sure it’s also about a few other things I can’t think of at this moment.

As I was putting the slide into yet another presentation, I got to thinking:

Even as we’re all struggling to learn about social media, it’s teaching us about the various disciplines we may never have paid much attention to in our own little silos.

I was a creative. My world was limited to striving to do the best creative work possible. To devouring the award show books. To creating great ads and commercials that would get into those books.

Now I find myself discussing – even almost understanding – analytics. Yet back in my general advertising days, the only data I wanted to hear was if enough people were watching my commercial to keep it on the air.

Likewise, I’m now keenly aware of the importance of crisis management, although not long ago, PR was about as mysterious to me as America’s fascination with reality television.

You could say the study of social media has made me a student of marketing in general. It’s helped me to think more holistically about how to reach and engage people.

It’s made me realize that creativity is about more than just clever headlines and eye-grabbing visuals.

It’s about using technology and smarts to listen and learn from consumers. To strategically engage them in a dialogue in which they actually want to take part. And ultimately, to provide them with the valuable information, support and guidance they seek.

What’s more, very few businesses today have a budget large enough to support four or more agencies on their roster. One agency that embraces the best of all of these disciplines provides much more bang for the buck.

It’s been a long journey getting to this broader view.

I just had to learn how to knit.


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