Church of the Customer: Citizen marketers archives
October 08, 2009
Facebook fan pages are the future
Facebook fan pages are the future for three reasons: They're free, easy to create and build a nearly instantaneous pathway to evangelists, prospects or the curious.
When fans interact with a fan page on Facebook, that interaction is sent through the fan's news feed, which goes to all their friends, practically daring a chunk of them to see what the page is about.
Compared to Twitter, Facebook fan pages rule. You're not limited by Twitter's 140-character posts, plus it's far easier for fan page members to preview a photo, video or weblink than what Twitter offers.
What more could a brand manager want?
Finally, a Facebook fan page can be a strong leading indicator of how well a brand is doing at any one time with buzz-spreaders, some of whom could represent connected, influential customers. Its feedback is all qualitative, but a Facebook fan page could help guide a brand in 3 ways:
- It immediately surfaces questions, problems or issues. A fan page can create an immediate fix-it list.
- It tells you how well you're connecting with fans through Facebook's free "Insights" feature that graphs subscribes, unsubscribes, post quality and total interactions. Plus, you get some tasty demographic stats about your fans -- won't get that from Google Analytics or Twitter.
- It tells you what resonates with fans by the number of comments and "likes" people give each post.
With a little bit of imagination, it shouldn't be too hard for a brand manager to devise a spreadsheet filled with marketing tactics that emerge from a vibrant Facebook fan page.
P.P.S. You should friend me on Facebook here.
June 15, 2009
An emerging metric: the GoodGuide score
A non-profit website founded and staffed by academics and researchers is scoring consumer products based on health, environmental and social impacts. Based on its purpose and how easy it is to use, GoodGuide could usher in a new metric: social value.
You could say social value is how well a company practices good corporate stewardship, something the typical may not concern himself with in the aisles of Walmart, but early adopters, buzz-spreaders and health-involved purchasers often do. For GoodGuide, good corporate stewardship includes product ingredients free of carcinogens, aren't brought to market via cruel animal testing and whose packaging is environmentally friendly.
For instance, here's how my deodorant, Dry Idea, stacks up on GoodGuide. It scores a 7.4 out of 10. Not bad, but Dry Idea is dinged for containing "controversial ingredients" aluminum zirconium and fragrance.
"Aluminum has long been known to have neurotoxic effects in humans and other animals," GoodGuide says. "Most aluminum used in deodorants and antiperspirants exists in either aluminum salts or aluminum-glycine complexes. Researchers continue to disagree about the risk of aluminum use in deodorants and antiperspirants, particularly the correlation of aluminum and other compounds and cancer in the upper quadrant of the breast near the underarm." Then it cites the research.
Fragrance, GoodGuide says, "is considered a trade secret, which means the company doesn't have to say what's in it - but generally fragrances have strong allergy and immune system toxicity concerns, and they often conceal the presence of toxic phthalates." Both explanations are enough for me to look at, and purchase, the highest-rated product in the category, Tom's of Maine Natural Deodorant. It, too, has "fragrance," but no aluminum, which has always worried me through the years.
"What we’re trying to do is flip the whole marketing world on its head,” says Dara O’Rourke, the University of California professor who launched the site last year. “Instead of companies telling you what to believe, customers are making the statements to the marketers about what they care about.”
The implications of what GoodGuide could mean for not just marketers, but big company culture, could be significant, especially in how people talk about products with one another, especially in families, where consumer product good decisions are often handed down generationally. If the free, non-ad-supported, easy-to-use (and easy to understand) GoodGuide starts showing up in research of big manufacturers of why their market share is suddenly slipping, it probably won't take long for companies to adapt.
April 27, 2009
A fun ad, for real
If TV pitchman Ron Popeil has taught creators of TV commercials anything, it's be entertaining.
So the makers of SlapChop, the kitchen tool advertised endlessly on late-night TV (here's why it must advertise), might have been given the gift of a longer lifespan thanks to a citizen marketer-created video/song remix.
If I saw this "ad" during my late-night viewings of the Tennis Channel, I'd turn the sound up, not down.
February 23, 2009
In Yelp we trust?
Yelp has successfully set many standards for democratized participation. It has cultivated a strong, tribe-like culture among passionate, hobbyist reviewers. If a local Yelp tribe falls in love with a local business, that can translate into significant dollars. Yelp is a word-of-mouth ecosystem, and it's powerful.
That's why this article is concerning: "Yelp and the Business of Extortion 2.0" quotes Bay Area business owners who said Yelp sales people offered to manipulate the ranking of user reviews based on their willingness to buy an ad. Yelp CEO Jeremy Stoppelman refutes claims in the article here and here.
Trust in user-created reviews is delicate. By extension, so is trust in the platform that hosts them, which must demonstrate uncompromising standards for transparency, honesty and over-the-top concern for fairness. Trust is a bank account that can be quickly depleted. It's almost impossible to refill.
Update: The New York Times weighs in on Yelp, with a balanced piece, but the coda is direct and uncompromising:
Yelp’s lack of transparency does not affect its relationship with businesses alone. It also risks eroding users’ trust in the site. Eric Kingery, an engineer and frequent Yelp user in Chicago, discovered that a review he had written of a jeweler disappeared. “It just makes me suspicious of the impartiality,” he said. “It is a very useful service, but this kind of harms the integrity of the site.”
Update 2: More allegations of suspicion, this time from the Chicago Tribune. Yelp: It looks as if you're caught in a storm of bad word of mouth.
September 30, 2008
Social media as customer service
Some stats from a recent survey conducted about Americans who use social media sites and their interaction with business:
- 60% interact with companies using social media
- 93% say a company should have a presence in social media
- 85% say a company should not only be present but also interact with its customers via social media
- 56% say they feel a stronger connection with and better served by companies when they can interact with them in a social media environment
- 43% say companies should use social networks to solve customers' problems
- 41% say companies should use social media to solicit feedback about products and services
(Source: 2008 Cone Business in Social Media Study, from an online survey conducted Sept. 11-12, 2008 by Opinion Research Corporation among 1,092 adults comprising 525 men and 567 women 18 years of age and older. Margin of error +/- 3%.)
Social media is the new customer service. When social media-driven customer service is combined with the work of citizen marketers, it becomes a force for more credible problem-solving (and less expensive customer service costs). With its inherent market research opportunities, social media has crossed over to the category of obvious strategy.
Update: Nathan tracks real-time examples of one company's social media-driven customer support in the U.K. travel industry. If anything, the example company's responses on Twitter and a travel blog help neutralize skepticism and lightly tinged anger. With the right combination of empathy and problem-resolution, a customer vigilante is sometimes just a few degrees away from turning into a customer evangelist.
May 14, 2008
Yes, we're all replicants
"Lured by free goods and cash, everyday people are talking up products both in public and private, leading critics to envision a world in which every corner of American life is saturated with pitches and product placements."
The only "critic" the Trib points readers toward is a spokesman for Commercial Alert, which hasn't been known for keeping an even head when it comes to word of mouth.
The Macy's program is run by RepNation. Glad to see the Trib highlights the company's credo that reps must be upfront about their ambassadorships. It's unfortunate, though, that RepNation refers to itself on its website as "the consumer powered media network."
A "media network" makes it sound as if brand evangelists are just another media buy.
A true brand ambassador/evangelist program is focused on building customer loyalty. If it's viewed as a media buy and planned as an inexpensive form of advertising, it cheapens the brand by emphasizing promotion over emotion.
February 08, 2008
"Citizen Marketers" for educators
As the son of a retired college professor, I'm a softie for teachers.
So, high school and college educators: If you're interested in a review copy of "Citizen Marketers" to consider for inclusion in a course syllabus, email me at ben ****at*** benmcconnell.com and we'll make arrangements.
We've been pleased at the adoption of the book by educators, so perhaps it makes sense to widen that pathway. (For newcomers, "Citizen Marketers" is a trend book that examines the early history of social media and its implications for business marketing.)
February 06, 2008
How to correct an evangelist
Maybe you're lucky enough to have customer evangelists who are passionate and spread the word about you.
But perhaps the way they describe you to others in person, or on their blog, isn't how you would say it personally, or how your company says it. It isn't factually wrong, but it's not exactly how you would say it.
a) Correct your customer evangelist publicly, such as leaving a comment on their blog?
b) Thank them in an email for the mention, and then correct them?
c) Thank them on their blog, or in an email, and say nothing about their somewhat flawed description?
d) Do or say nothing?
The correct answer, as I see it, is C.
- No matter what, thank the customer for her referral and/or passion.
- If the customer has old or incorrect information, you could ask if they're interested in an update on what's new. Better yet, invite her to join a special program for evangelists; access to an inner circle can be golden.
- If the customer's information is technically correct but incomplete, or uses her own words and not yours, get over it. A word-smithing scold is old.
January 11, 2008
The good pirates
If you're a football fan, you haven't escaped seeing the YouTube-like Coors Light commercials that employ fake fans holding their cans of Coors (in a most improbable way) and ask dumb questions of actual coaches.
The gimmick is that the spots splice in the coaches' answers from their actual post-game news conferences. Funny premise, but most fell short of actual humor.
The commercials have succeeded, though, in inspiring a bevy of online copycats, precisely because it is an ode to amateur culture--mashing up actual footage with fake footage for humor. One of my faves features Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin. The Pittsburghese is dead-on funny.
Not a bad blueprint for future TV ads: pay homage to amateur culture, and amateur culture will return the favor, spreading word of mouth.
Amateur ad featuring Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy [RSS readers click here.]
Amateur ad featuring Steelers coach Mike Tomlin [RSS readers click here.]
October 30, 2007
Apple embraces citizen-made ad
Almost everyone knows of Apple's reluctance to embrace third-party applications for the iPhone.
Yeah, it's an ad. Yadda yadda.
But maybe, just maybe, it's a sign of a notoriously secretive and closed company opening up. There's no monopoly on good ideas.