In a year where conference and training budgets were probably pretty thin, the Web 2.0 Conference in New York brought a very decent crowd to the Javits Center. Last year, the place was packed with young entrepreneurs riding into the next frontier of the Internet. Confident and seemingly indestructible, these new businesses were destined to be big hits, and the conference was a celebration of their soon-to-be successes.
This year’s conference was young and vibrant, but seemingly more sobering and cautious. One of the speakers showed a drawing created a couple of years ago that was a collage of all of the logos of the next generation web companies. More than two-thirds of those organizations have disappeared, and this year’s conference attendees definitely did not want to end up in the trash pile with those other organizations. As companies jockey for position on the social web, it does seem that three general uses of the social web are materializing.
A few of the case studies were fairly impressive in the scope and size of leveraging Web 2.0 infrastructure for an advertising campaign. Ford gave out 100 Fiestas prior to the launch of the new car. These drivers were asked to perform missions like buy Chipotle for the homeless or make a record with Jay-Z. These missions were chronicled through blogs and videos with the Fiesta prominently displayed. This was an awareness campaign in which the agency boasted huge numbers of impressions as people tuned in to see the next installment of their favorite driver. The results were impressive, and the focus group surveyed after the program showed quite a bit of brand recognition. However, I was also impressed with budget for this type of initiative including the cars, paying the drivers, the technology (probably the cheapest part of the entire thing) and funding these missions.
Another interesting use is DonQ Rum’s social site that is meant to provide advice to men. The site hosts a set of good-looking women who blog and discuss some of the pressing issues like “boxers versus briefs” or “when to pick up the check” or “when to make the first move.” Guys can pose questions to specific girls and get timely answers to prepare for dates or going to a party. The site drives an enormous amount of traffic and awareness for the alcoholic products in a fun, interactive manner.
So we are seeing some extremely creative use of the new technology to really grab people’s attention beyond a thirty-second spot and turning brand interaction into a habit, especially for companies that don’t typically have interactions with the end customer like auto or consumer goods. Tying this type of awareness to sales is difficult, if not impossible, but certain case studies showed sales increases that could not be explained without the social intervention.
Large brands want to buy exposure to large groups of targeted audiences. Campaigns for major new product launches like cell phones, consumer electronics, movies and music need to blanket their target demographics through television, radio, email, Internet, PR and, increasingly, social media. Like anyone, advertisers want a broad reach, but they have a target in mind and they don’t want to waste money outside of their target. So who can bring the most relevant eyeballs?
Disney made a really interesting presentation discussing how they have recently competed and won one of these deals for a major player in video games. Disney pitched the Jonas Brothers as their representatives to herald the new product to market and Viacom countered with Nickelodeon’s iCarly personality. Through social media metrics, Disney was able to show their customer that the Jonas Brothers get more buzz on social media than iCarly. They showed that they could get a more viral and a more family-oriented audience through their own set of social media sites and also in the major social sites on the Internet.
The customer chose Disney because they felt they could create the most buzz and reach the most influencers through their marketing strategy and their representatives. The customer believed that the intimacy of the social media presence would be more valuable than television or traditional websites where iCarly may have had an edge. Disney showed that their promotion increased sentiment and, maybe most importantly, “intent to purchase” metrics that cause retailers and consumer goods providers to salivate.
Plenty of sessions focused on how to make social media sites simple, to help users build an online identity and personality, to help build reputation and reward systems, and really identify and focus on influentials and product enthusiasts. The I Can Has Cheezburger CTO gave a great presentation on how to keep the interface simple and how they get so much interaction from their customer base just looking at cats doing silly things. But there is a case not to build this yourself but to rely instead on the big social media presences that have already figured it out like Digg, Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, TripAdvisor and the rest.
Plenty of organizations have successfully built Facebook pages that drive traffic toward their websites and keep a dialogue with their customers that they probably could not do if they built it themselves. Twitter plays the same role in ensuring your customer base is aware of your newest promotions and offerings.
Sure, you could use newsletters and emails to try to keep your customer base informed, but Facebook and Twitter consolidate this information into one format and platform. And these platforms provide the interaction component that newsletters lack. Even if only 2% of people actually contribute to social content, people enjoy reviewing the feedback and feel they are part of the community.
The Web 2.0 Conference was a great way to get the pulse of social media. In the end, social media is still a new frontier. With the exception of the user interface design, best practices are few and far between and how to use social media for marketing purposes came across as “it depends” instead of confidence in tools you can use in the real world. Though metrics and analysis are becoming more established, tallying followers, fans, friends, posts and sentiment needs to turn into more direct marketing ROI and financials.
Most independent social media sites were really trying to find a revenue stream. I Can Has Cheezeburger showed how difficult an ad-related model can be, even for a high traffic site. The conference sponsor, O’Reilly, presented the keynote with a mantra of “Do what you do best, link to the rest,” but monetizing that statement sounds difficult. The Digg management team provided a keynote interview that focused solely on their trials around advertising and how it is the most important thing they are working on. The Flickr founder showed off her new company, Hunch, which uses groups to help you make decisions if you tell the site about yourself, but I wasn’t sure if the group or the site collected a consulting fee. But it is probably more around lead generation and referrals to e-commerce sites.
The power of social media was evident during the Web 2.0 keynotes. The conference always posts the real-time tweets from people following the conference on a screen behind the keynote speakers. Microsoft’s representative gave a presentation, never looking up from her notes and talking at warp speed. Sure enough, the tweets came fast and furious:
- “Wow, that lady up front can sure talk fast.”
- “How long can she go without taking a breath? She won’t collapse will she?”
- “Is she racing against another speaker?”
- “I wish my Microsoft products ran this fast.”
Ouch. Real-time criticism that everyone but you can see. The conference did turn off the feed, which showed that revenue was important to them (Microsoft was a key sponsor) as well as having an open, free-wheeling Internet.
There was a time when people really weren’t sure if “that Internet thing” was going to catch on and/or if it would make a material financial impact. Social media has majorly “caught on,” and revenue models are circling and will land shortly.
SOURCE: Sales and Marketing: Web 2.0 New York
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