February 29, 2016

Social media + cool things = your free sales force.

My nephew is going to eat at Roast Sandwich House with his friends, thanks to a picture posted on Facebook (which he doesn’t use) by a girl (who he doesn’t know). Here’s the story…followed by a million dollar marketing question: 

Some girl Amanda (a stranger to me as well) posted this picture on Facebook of Roast’s “Buffalo Organic Chicken Mac-n-Cheese Grilled Cheese.”


A gent named Chris liked her photo. I’ve not seen or spoken to Chris in around five years, but we’re friends on Facebook. And that photo appeared in my news feed because Chris liked it.  I knew the moment I saw it that my nephew would LOVE it…but I’m not friends with him on Facebook (because no self-respecting teenager uses Facebook).  So I took a screen-shot of the post and texted it to him.  He responded with all sorts of “OMGs” and drooled on his phone…and next thing you know…he’s gathering up friends to go eat there.

So basically, a friend of my friend of five years ago recommended a sandwich to my nephew and his friends. And none of us have ever spoken or discussed this in any way…and most of us are strangers.

Now… here’s the million dollar marketing question: What if Roast Sandwich House offered boring sandwiches?

NO ONE takes a picture of a plain ol’ turkey sammich. Why bother? But a Buffalo Organic Chicken Mac-n-Cheese Grilled Cheese?  That sucker earns you bragging rights on social media.  So, yes…it might be harder on the operation to produce AMAZING sandwiches.  And it might require more ingredients.  And it’s probably much more work.  But it made Amanda take a picture and share it with her friends, and that marketing power is priceless.

The point is…be interesting. Be different.  Be unexpected.  Be unique.  Make the time…make the investment…dedicate the brainpower.  If you do unusual things or offer unusual products, people will want to capture and share the story.  And you’ll be rewarded with an exponential (and free) sales force…even if they’re not on Facebook.

Thank you, Amanda…whoever you are. And you’re welcome, Roast Sandwich House…as you’ll be seeing a lot of my nephew in the future.

September 23, 2014

Postcards: low-tech “social media” marketing.

Dig those crazy postcards, kids.

Dig those crazy postcards, kids.

The postcard is making a comeback…and not as a communication tool, but as a social media marketing tool.

Having postcards available for guests to purchase at your business is one thing.  Giving them out for free and offering to mail them – including postage – is quite another.  In marketing-speak, that’s the old school version of “encouraging a share.”

I’ve stumbled across two noteworthy examples of this in my travels recently.  The first was at P.J. Clarke’s, an institution among NYC bar/restaurants (since 1884).  A note at the bottom of the menu informs diners they can ask for a P.J. Clarke’s postcard to write out, and then give to their server to apply the required postage and mail.  (Side note…I had planned to do this, but the food coma from the Cast Iron Skillet of Baked Mac & Cheese with Peas & Bacon rendered me incapable of writing.)

The second – and brilliant – example (pictured here) was at Stratton Mountain Resort.  Perched in a place of honor on the front desk, a plexiglass cube filled with colorful postcards beckons travelers to drop a note <ahem, marketing piece about Stratton> to good ol’ Aunt Mary back home.  You can’t miss it…and you automatically get an itch to do it.  While standing there, I got the added joy of hearing the kid next to me ask his dad, “What’s a postcard?”… and then, of course, he had to send one to his friend back home.  (The hilarity continued when he had to text his friend to get the address, which is the only fly in this marketing ointment…who knows anyone’s mailing address anymore?)

Why are postcards sent by guests a smart marketing tool?  Because they’re…

  • Highly visual
  • Different and noticeable
  • Inexpensive
  • Fun for the sender & recipient
  • Turnkey and low maintenance

Postcards never get flagged as spam, they don’t need specific keywords to be found, and they are likely to be tacked up on the recipient’s refrigerator or bulletin board, quietly radiating subliminal marketing messages with every casual glance they receive.

When was the last time you could say that about your OTHER marketing tactics?

“Social media”…indeed.

July 3, 2012

The golden rule of using social media for business.

Beware of the new illness that’s catching among marketers…and their bosses.  It’s called  irrational fan base envy and when it infects you, poor marketing decisions are bound to follow.

You can catch this illness from even the briefest exposure to ANY social media channel, such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and YouTube.  The infection is often triggered by media reports that sensationalize the wildly positive impact of social media as a marketing tool.  Symptoms, which mirror the frenzied fever associated with a gold rush or get-rich-quick-scheme, include:

  1. Obsessing over how many fans/followers your brand has vs. other brands in your competitive set
  2. Setting arbitrary-yet-super-high fan base targets based on absolutely nothing realistic
  3. Spending money to increase your fan base numbers without spending money to sustainably enhance the quality of your messaging content

Interestingly, social media novices are the most susceptible to irrational fan base envy and they also succumb the hardest.  The more immersed you become in marketing through social media, the greater your immunity becomes.  Why?  Because you discover that having a zillion fans does not impact your bottom line unless you engage them…and engaging them takes time and money, just like any other marketing initiative.  And it doesn’t matter if your competitor has triple the number of fans that you have…what matters is how YOU interact with YOURS.

The golden rule of using social media for business is this:  the success of your social media efforts are in direct proportion to the amount of love you put into them.  If you treat social media like a pesky item on your to-do list (“make post to Facebook today…check;  pin something to Pinterest board today…check”), you can’t expect social media to love you back.  It simply doesn’t work that way.

The only cure for irrational fan base envy is to change your thinking.  Stop focusing on QUANTITY and start focusing on BALANCE.  Engage your current fan base, so that a high percentage of them are liking, commenting, sharing, re-tweeting, re-pinning, and in many other ways becoming a messenger for your brand story.  If you achieve that, it means you’re on the right track to harnessing your fans.

Then…as you add more fans to your community…they have the potential to become more than just empty numbers that look good on a stat sheet.  They can become your brand evangelists, returning the love to your bottom line exponentially.

Just remember…as you start to change your thinking and infuse a little more love into your social media efforts…be mindful of the other golden rule, shared by Redpoint in a previous post:  You Can’t Find Love on a Spreadsheet.  Who knew you could learn so much from ordering dumplings at Buddakan?

March 28, 2011

Lesson learned: no more boots at boot camp.

Here they are…the culprits:

The boots that launched a blog post.

I wore these suckers while leading a presentation at a recent Redpoint Marketing Boot Camp, and they caused some hilarity.  While pausing momentarily in my front-of-room pacing to answer a question, I crossed one leg in front of the other…and that’s when my boots worked their mischief.  The metal hooks of one locked into the finger loop of the other, and voila:  I was stuck.  (enlarge the photo if you’re curious about the mechanics)

In a split second, I realized that there would be no graceful resolution to this situation.  They were hooked tightly, and jiggling them unobtrusively only seemed to make it worse.  So, there was nothing for it but to confess to the group, bend dramatically from the waist (thank you, Miss Marianne, for the years of dance training in my youth), and perform the intricate surgery required.

The audience’s laughter was ringing in my ears while I was down there, but I took comfort that they weren’t laughing at ME…they were laughing at what I said:

Guys, can you believe this?  My boots just got hooked together and y’all need to give me a minute to get untangled.  Note to self:  no more boots at boot camp.

Here’s what I learned from this hilarious situation.

1 – If you want to hear God laugh…make a plan.  I had this day orchestrated down to the most well-thought-out detail.  Boots hooking together did not even make the list of “things to prevent from going wrong.”  So, just be ready to take things as they come.

2 – If you are giving a presentation – no matter how “exalted” your authority or expertise is – you’re still just a person.  And your boots can get hooked together just like anyone else.  Displaying practical humility at all times will enable you to maintain your dignity and authority…even through a dramatic “waist bending moment.”

3 – Social media has changed our culture forever.  After getting unhooked, I said to the group…”do me a favor…if that happens again and I go flying while trying to move, please don’t all whip out your video phones and immortalize it on YouTube.”  And then someone shouted out “Why?  It would get millions of views and you’d be famous!”

And you know what?  Damn.  She was right.  Why didn’t I think of that?

Note to self:  wear boots at next boot camp.

March 22, 2011

You too can be clever and intelligent six times a day on Facebook.

Last week at Redpoint’s Marketing Boot Camp in Maine, a participant asked me how many times a day a hotel should be posting and interacting with its Facebook community.

My response?  “A lot depends on how large and active your fan base is, but certainly everyone in this room should strive to post interesting and engaging stuff at least six times a day.”

Audience response?  (Insert dramatic collective gasping sound here)

Then one brave participant raised her hand from the waaaaay back and voiced what was on everyone’s mind…

“With everything else I have to do at work, I’m just not sure I have it in me to be clever and intelligent six times a day on Facebook.”

After they all stopped laughing, everyone just looked at me expectantly…perhaps willing me to back down from that (to them) lofty goal with a fabulous display of group peer pressure.

But I’m a tough old marketer, and I held my ground.  After giving everyone a verbal valium about how and why this is important, I shared a few tips on how to make it easy to be cool, interesting, fun, timely, and engaging on Facebook…without struggling to create ideas from scratch all day long.  Sure, that’s easy to do when it’s your full time job, but most of us who manage our brands’ Facebook communities already have other full time jobs.  So we need a little help to keep us cool and groovy.

If you need this kind of help too, check out our Tip Sheet here.  Got a tip of your own to share with the redpointspeaks.com community?  Post a comment here!

Oh…and, footnote:  I’ve been traveling extensively lately…weeks at a time.  So, when I got back to the office on Friday for the first time in what seemed ages, My Coffee Guys said “Miss!  Where you been?  We worry you are sick!”  Oh, it’s good to be loved.

January 4, 2011

Anti-social media? Three tips to faking “authentic engagement.”

My poor nephews (14 and 11 years old) will never grow up knowing the blissful oblivion that most kids – and adults – experience with brand interaction. 

Having a seasoned PR counselor for an aunt just ruins it for them completely:  they know that Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins likely did not REALLY sleep with the Stanley Cup (with his teammates “leaking” the photo online), and that the Washington Capitals’ Facebook page is not updated by the Gr8 Ovechkin himself…or the coach…or any of the players.  And during Saturday’s NHL Winter Classic game (which was a spectacular display of subtle sponsorship and cross promotional genius), you wouldn’t believe how many times the oldest one said to me “Wow Didi…look at that!  It’s all about the marketing.”  One eye riveted on the action…the other taking in all the orchestration that went into influencing the audience’s perception.  Smart kid.

But as audiences go, I think my nephews are in the minority.  Most people really DO think that the concierge they are tweeting with is actually that concierge.  And that the GM’s blog post they just read was really written by the GM of that hotel.  And that the Facebook site of their favorite brand is updated by someone who actually works there.

And sometimes, it really is…but not always, and increasingly, not often. More likely, it’s updated by someone who has been “assigned the task” of engaging the social media audiences.  This could be the PR firm, the ad agency, the internet marketing firm, or – I shudder to say – the son of the owner’s sister’s cousin’s friend, who “has time available while away at college and understands all that Facebook stuff.”

Ideally, the voice of your social media channels is someone who works at your company and has the knowledge and authority to represent your brand with your desired image.  If you don’t have or don’t want such a person onsite, here are a few guidelines to help you successfully “fake” your authentic engagement:

  1. Whoever does it needs to have experienced your offerings from soup to nuts.  If a hotel, they should have stayed, spa’d, eaten, played, seen the town/city, checked out the competition and more.  If a product, they should use it often…and also, they should be well versed in your company culture (your social media voice should match this culture).  This might be a heavy investment of time/money for you up front, but the result is worth it.
  2. If the person is not onsite, they need an open flow of communication to people onsite who can feed them up-to-the-minute news.  No snippet is too trivial, as you never know what will be relevant/handy/interesting to share with audiences in this arena.  Is someone having a birthday?  Did a customer just pay you a huge compliment?  What’s the weather like?  What’s happening in your area?  What peeks behind the scenes can be given?  Your social media audience WANTS this kind of connection to you.  Formal, untimely, promotional fluff?…not so much.
  3. A knowledge of branding, marketing, and persuasive engagement is key…as is sound judgment.  There is a trick to knowing how to promote a brand without being too aggressively promotional, and mature social skills are required to deftly orchestrate a virtual conversation, especially when negative comments may be thrown into the mix.  College interns are handy for many tasks, but sometimes, they just simply lack the “brand marketing maturity” to fulfill this social media role successfully.

Having an “outsider” be your social media voice is certainly doable – indeed, at Redpoint, we do it all the time for clients – but it must be carefully managed to ensure that, not only does it not sound fake…it is not fake. 

The moral of the story?  If you want your social media effort to be successful, you simply can’t fake it.  No matter who does it…it has to be real:  real time, real voice, real passion, and real knowledge. 

And if you need a litmus test to be sure your efforts are working, drop me a line and I’ll get my nephews on the case.  If you can convince those two tough critics, then you’re on the right track.

November 17, 2010

Dude, no one is going to make you tweet.

“I hate Twitter.  I don’t get it.  It’s useless and a waste of time.”

This provocative comment from the floor at the start of a recent social media workshop at Redpoint’s Marketing Boot Camp sparked an utter frenzy of debate from the rest of the audience.  To tweet, or not to tweet?…that was DEFINITELY the question on everyone’s mind.

The incident gave me a perfect opportunity to pull the group up to 30,000 feet and acknowledge Redpoint’s Three Undeniable Truths about spending your social media marketing dollars wisely.  Resources are at risk of being wasted if…

  1. The person doing the job doesn’t get it, doesn’t like it, or doesn’t want to do it.
  2. Influential senior executives in the company are publicly skeptical about the benefits of social media.
  3. You’re waiting to pounce if it’s not a home run 24/7.

We’ve seen it time and again:  positive energy adds an intangible magic to social media marketing that simply cannot be replicated any other way. 

My advice to this passionate gentleman?  Don’t stress out about it.  If you hate Twitter, don’t use it.  Leverage a different social media tool that better suits your personality, and your brand’s.  Or…don’t.  How you choose to spend your marketing resources is entirely up to you, and there’s absolutely no point in wasting your time on something whose value you question.

Footnote:  while you shouldn’t expect to see this guy on Twitter any time soon, we DID at least get him to uncross his arms and laugh a bunch by the end of the workshop.  (And I tweeted about that.)