Social Media Marketing Budgets Are Up

As I, and many others, have been predicting for some time now, the shift towards social media/social networking for marketers is continuing to gain strength, even as the economy continues its sluggish recovery. Jobs and resources are being cut across all industries, and frazzled marketers are constantly pressed to do more with less. Yet a recent survey from Forrester research confirmed that social media marketing budgets are actually UP: 53% of marketers surveyed are planning increases to their social media budgets, and 95% are bullish on SM marketing. It’s important to remember that budgets are still quite small. Some might even throw around the word “miniscule.”

The Forrester reports also warns marketers considering taking the leap to “not approach social media marketing as experimental, but to put the right roles, process and measurement capabilities in place to be effective. Remember, the most expensive cost isn’t the tools. The most expensive part are the soft costs: strategy, education, process, roles and measurement.” A social media strategy might not be cost intensive, but it is human resource intensive. Community managers and strategists are full-time roles, yet as we noted above, people are being cut everywhere.

I take this news as something of a double edged sword. Since I think of myself as a “glass half full” guy, any increase in adoption I see as a good thing. A lack of seriousness in approach or a “let’s give it a try for a few months” attitude will prove harmful both to the businesses that try it that way, as well as to the industry as a whole.

It’s worth noting that Forrester’s report is entitled “Social Media Playtime is Over.”

Is your company or organization adopting a social media strategy? What were some of the factors that sealed the decision?

Tropicana and the power of listening

PepsiCo has been quite busy lately redesigning their logos, both for Pepsi, Mountain Dew, Sierra Mist, as well as Tropicana.
I don’t know if any of you have been following the story about how Tropicana orange juice redesigned all their packaging, and then retreated back to the successful and iconic “orange with a straw stuck in it” after a negative hue and cry from upset brand enthusiasts (otherwise known as consumers).

You can read the story here, but here is why it really resonated with me.

In the first place, I am one of those weirdos fascinated by packaging, the use and effect of color on our moods and decisions, as well as the science behind the engineering of consent. Secondly, it shows the power of consumers and their ability to (sometimes) effect change when they organize themselves both on and offline. Lastly, it has a happy ending  because the big company LISTENED and responded.

Now, I realize we’re just talking about orange juice here, but bear with me. I’m sure Tropicana spent a lot of money and time focus group-ing the logo changes and they got what they believed was actionable intelligence, as it were. But they may have underestimated that people can sometimes get really attached to a brand, sometimes in subconscious ways or ways that might not be revealed in a focus group setting. I know that I noticed the new Tropicana cartons in my supermarket and thought, “Hmmm, I wonder why they changed that? I loved the little orange with the straw.” At no time did I consider changing brands, but it did make me curious as to why, as George Carlin once observed, “They always change the stuff we like.” The other thing I noticed on the billboards around town was the heavy use of images of dads with small children. This piece of the campaign, evidently, will NOT be changing. “Hey,” I thought to myself,  “I’m a dad with small children and I like orange juice. Thumbs up!There don’t seem to be too many consumer products other than cologne, light beer or deli meats (three things I am not interested in) that overtly target us guys, so it definitely caught my attention.

In these turbulent economic times and diminishing brand loyalty, I think it says a lot about Pepsi/Tropicana that they honored the feedback. Much like the post I made recently about Intuit, it cannot hurt to listen and respond. The victory will be long.

UPDATE: This post caught the interest of the folks at, the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism. Who knew people could get so exorcised over OJ? Here’s the link.

Is Hulu changing our online video habits?

Not sure how much higher the numbers can go, but the latest online video figures for December 2008 are out from comScore and they just keep on growing.

US internet users viewed a record 14.3 billion videos in December, up 13% over the previous month. Google sites, which include YouTube, accounted for 2 of every 3 users who watched video.

What is interesting to me is that Hulu made some big gains, meaning that the AMOUNT of time people spend watching video is also increasing. The average duration of online videos watched was just over 3 minutes, but that number jumps to over 10 minutes on Hulu. Not sure if Alec Baldwin’s Super Bowl commercial for Hulu will bump those numbers up any further- something worth watching (pardon the pun).

How and how much online video do you watch? Do you seek it out on your own, or do you rely on forwards? And what did you think of the Alec Baldwin ad? I thought Hulu missed a big opportunity by almost insulting us. Do you agree?

Become your own TV network

Clearly, I am biased, but if you’re trying to tell the story about your company’s products or services, video will trump text everytime.

But what other benefits are there to creating, AND OWNING, your great video content? Well, in the first place, you have complete control of your own brand’s story and message. But, perhaps more importantly, you control the distribution. Instead of buying out of reach advertising on TV, you can create your own channels online to distribute your content. It’s worth remembering that “www” stands for WORLDWIDE web. Nowadays, internet users (read: everybody) expect to find video when they search.

Online video can help you reach multiple goals at once:

  • SHOW, don’t tell, about a new service or product or destination.(Remember what your high school English teacher used to say? I think the band Rush might have said it, too.)
  • Introduce your employees or executives to the public. This is not ideal or even necessary for every business, but imagine if your people ARE your business. Think of a law firm or accounting practice. Maybe even a dental practice where people can be hesitant, or even fearful, of engaging. There is an adage that people don’t buy things, they buy people. If you can jump start the sales process, you are ahead of the game.
  • Enhance your company’s credibility and shorten the sales cycle with potential customers.

There are so many ways to get your content distributed, and tracked, widely nowadays that there is no excuse to NOT be online. Obviously, you want people to come to your website, but they might not. So you need to be where they are. You must deploy your content to where the audiences are.

Don’t misunderstand: quality matters and slapping up any old video can often do more harm than good. But a well thought out and executed online media plan is a must in today’s marketplace.

Now, how do you make sure people actually SEE your awesome video? Check back next week for that all important follow up post.

Interactive TV: UPDATE

Well that was fast. We just posted about whether or not the future was finally here as it pertains to interactive TV. Less than three weeks later comes this:

“Tivo announced they have teamed up with Amazon to provide consumers with the ability to purchase physical products from on their TV sets using their Tivo remote control.”

So Tivo, which was once viewed as the TV advertising killer is now sleeping with the enemy and becoming a potential advertising savior. The word “Tivo” has become consumer shorthand for any DVR, just like Band-Aid or Kleenex. But while Band-Aid and Kleenex pretty much own the boo-boo and booger spaces, everyone and their brother makes a DVR and Tivo’s market share has been steadily declining. They are only in about 4 million homes. As we noted before, this idea has failed many times in the past, largely because stopping to buy something while you’re watching TV interrupts the experience you had settled in for: watching TV. Tivo may have figured out a way around this. If you choose to buy an advertised item, Tivo will record the rest of the program (duh, it’s Tivo!), so that you can go back and watch it after you’ve made your purchase.

On another topic, I can’t help but notice that some of the posts we make here on the Clearcast blog have been jumping onto the front pages of the NY Times or other more, shall we say, traditional forms of media shortly after we write about them. Jill Bolte Taylor, the dancing guy and now this (to name just three). I am certainly not saying that there is a causal relationship. All I am saying is we seem to be on a hot streak, so if you want to know what’s next, stay tuned here. Oh, and please tell a friend (or two).

Who do you trust?

The issue of trust has been on my mind lately. For all the changes that the internet has wrought on our society, the basic question, “Who do you trust?” has not changed at all. We trust our friends, peers and family members. And research would suggest that those with a lot of “social clout,” that is, people with hundreds of “friends,”  contacts, or followers from the (new) usual places like Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn or Twitter rank pretty low on the old trust-o-meter.

I am talking about trust strictly as it relates to comments and reviews you might seek out when you’re heading out to the marketplace to buy a product or service.

It’s refreshing to see an old world remnant like good ol’ word of mouth still going strong in this digital age. Authenticity rules the day and consumers own brands today as never before.

Is your company still wondering about using online video?

Horowitz Associates, a market research and consulting company,just released a report analyzing the rapid growth in consumption of broadband video content. It reveals that 61% of high speed users watch or download online video content at least once a week and 86% do so on a monthly basis. That is up 16% and 15%, respectively, from 2006.

Naysayers often set up a false choice, the way some politicians love to do. They will tell you that online media will never kill TV and radio. Who ever said it would or, for that matter, should? Radio didn’t kill TV. TV didn’t kill newspapers and magazines. The automobile did not kill the horse- it just repurposed it.

The point is, exploiting online media to you or your company’s advantage is not akin to giving up. "Oh, well, we can’t afford a big TV campaign. I guess we’ll do something on YouTube and hope for the best." You now have more control than ever and you have, most importantly, an audience starving for good content that already has trained themselves to search for what they want.

Are you giving it to them? Do you even know what it is? Need some help?

IBM predicts the end of advertising as we know it

IBM Global Business Services released it’s new report entitled "The End of Advertising as We Know It" in which it forecasts greater disruption for the ad industry in the next 5 years than in the previous 50.

The report is incredibly rich in both substance and fact and I would urge you to check it out here.

For those of you who read blogs so that folks like me do the heavy lifting for you, here are some highlights:

  • Traditional ad players risk major revenue declines as budgets shift to new, interactive formats which are expected to grow at five times the rate of traditional advertising.
  • Broadcasters need to change their mass audience mind set and deliver targeted ads across a range of multimedia devices.

Personal internet time is now rivaling TV time. Consumers are sick of interruption advertising and are ever more in control of how they interact, filter, distribute and consume their content and any ad messaging that might come with it.

Analytics will continue to play an ever increasing role in delivery, as our pals at Lotame will tell you.

I won’t go on any further, but the message is clear. Change is the only constant.

The writer’s strike is the harbinger of the crumbling of an unsustainable business  model. iTunes and other music services were a harbinger of a sea change in the sales and distribution of music. The world is digital and that can be a scary prospect for analog players. You cannot unring the bell, however, so how are you going to respond?

Not just preaching to the converted

Intel has decided to accelerate their shift of ad dollars to newer media like the internet and away from older media such as radio and TV. The reason they gave is that consumers are turning more and more to online media when researching purchasing decisions and they desire the level of engagement that the web offers.

Sean Maloney, EVP at Intel observed, "In the last year, there appears to be an acceleration of attitude-forming, opinion-forming online, instead of in the traditional media, and we have to respond appropriately."

OK, no surprise that a technology company would see the writing on the wall, but even lower tech companies are changing their media plans. The American Egg Board, which promotes egg consumption, used to dedicate 100% of their ad budget on traditional media but they are now adding online media such as a redesigned web site and blogs. Roughly 20% of their $10 million budget will be spent on new media. (By the way, who knew there was $10 million available to talk about eggs?)

The Partnership for a Drug-Free America predicts that over 30% of its budget will be online within the next 2 to 3 years.

All the rules of online advertising are changing. Once upon a time consigned to afterthought status inside of many media budgets, it is now taking its rightful place as a key element of any media buy.

Today, we demonstrate the concept of “link love”

On the topic of blog and podcast promotion, we left out one element in last week’s podcast episode: link love. Link love is when you link back to a relevant site that supports what you might be blogging about. Very often, you can let that blogger or website know that you are doing so, and it can produce some rather nice results that benefit both parties. That’s why it’s called "love." It must be reciprocated. Concept is simple, now here it is in practice:

Our pal Andy at Lotame posted today about the growth of advertising on user-generated content sites. The takeaway is that these sites are experiencing phenomenal growth rates and advertisers better pay attention because this is where the eyeballs are but, more importantly, this is where the active users are. Social media sites’ (even this very blog) whole raison d’etre is to get you do DO something while you’re there: upload or download a picture, video or song, click on something, post a comment, etc. It would stand to reason that if you can reach these people IN THE SAME WAY THAT THEY ARE USED TO COMMUNICATING, you will probably have some success.

Which brings us to link number 2 from The article is entitled "Traditional marketing failing on social networking sites" (Kind of telegraphs what the article is about, eh?) Two key takeways from the article are, 1) "…marketers should be prepared to engage in a personal relationship with users by providing something of value." (Bold mine.) And, 2) "People no longer want ‘interruptive’ brand communications; they want interactions with their peers and true value from companies…"