Social Media Press-Releases – part 2

Earlier I’d written on the social media press release – essentially a site designed as a repository for sharable clips, images and story components that can be used by journalists and bloggers.

A few days ago Maggie Fox released her company’s version, providing details of the internal lay out and the elements that should be included. That engendered quite a bit of insightful discussion (here, and here).

As a template Digital Snippets hit all the right core content notes – it includes extensive RRS feeds for easy dissemination of updated information, and interestingly includes embeddable widgets for the true fans to add to their sites. Each page includes contact information to corporate communication people giving story writers the contacts if they want to expand a story through a specific line of questions.

All this is good – but at I can’t help thinking that while this makes corporate PR more effective – it still treats PR as a separate part of communication strategy – at the very time that consumers are integrating messages where ever they find them – sometimes across brands. Just look at what is happening with Unilever over its AXE and Dove brands. (here and here)

It also doesn’t appear to leverage the knowledge of social media firms to design creative that builds on their understanding of viral transmission and social sharing. While it’s fine to centralize creative developed elsewhere for social media use I believe that the true value will emerge when social media releases can create their own creative to both tell the story and encourage viral spread.

While not developed as PR its hard not to think that creative like the Travelers IQ Challenge developed by Ottawa’s TravelPod (and seen on hundreds of blogs, papers and social network sites) hasn’t been contributed to stories about the company (it has) or driven traffic to both their brands.

It also would be nice to see these sites more fully integrated into the sponsor’s web properties – rather than echoing them as they do now.  Social media sites should also being promoted with conventional promotion techniques.

Finally having real time components such as live conference or video calls included would add to the immediacy of a release and creating urgency around spreading the news.

All of this is to say that by dealing with media releases as system – which the social media release and Digital Snippets does is an important step. The real value though is going to come from building the specific skills of social media experts into corporate communications – and empowering them with the tools and creative to tell the story in new ways and across more platforms.

Social Media as the new marketing and advertising

On Monday I attended Joseph Thornley’s Ottawa Third Tuesday Social Media Meet-up. As usual it did not disappoint.

Richard Binhammer, Dell’s Senior Manager of Public Affairs took us through the process that took Dell from ‘Dell Hell’ to ’Dell Swell’ and everything in between.. Along the way he provided remarkable insight into the way that social media could change corporate America.

First the background way back in July of 2005 Jeff Jarvis took Dell to task for its customer service – and most importantly not paying attention to what their customers were saying (on blogs)  about their products. 

Now as I’ve commented elsewhere Jeff’s comment was a perfect storm for Dell. An influential and highly media savvy blogger takes the company to task, taps into an underlying sentiment that is accentuated by Google’s page rank algorithm at the time (which favoured blogs) and press coverage of the emerging blog medium which connected with the broader public.  It was impossible to miss – and damaging to Dell.

Fast forward to Mr. Binhammer’s presentation and you’d be forgiven for thinking the pendulum had swung the other way.

Dell now scans blogs for any mention of Dell and swoops in with support if the customer is dissatisfied. It’s got a team of top tier customer support and technical specialists to deal with nothing but blogger complaints. In a sense it’s a re-architected customer support strategy that recognizes the importance of influence on the buying habits of others.

What was most interesting to me is where Dell is taking this. Mr. Binhammer outlined an experimental concierge program to take customer service to a whole new level (for some customers) helping them expand their use of the product and answering all manner of questions related to use (how to up load pictures, choosing photo manipulation software etc). He also talked about Idea Storm – Dells Digg like service to uncover product desires and rank and validate them. He also hinted at custom applications they are developing to better understand how these direct media influence each other and overall buying patterns.

In the end one couldn’t help but come to the conclusion that while Dell misses the importance of social media initially they are at their heart innovators and that these initial forays are part of a larger process that will see a re-alignment of advertising, customer support and market research budgets – with a large proportion shifted to social media interaction and relationship building with thought leaders in targeted segments. 

Possibly this was Jeff’s intention all along – because if anyone was going to lead corporate America into social media it would be Dell.

It would be ok to leave the story there – but it would be wrong because you’re all thinking – well Dell can do it but my company never could because we don’t have those resources’.  Look no further than Alec Saunders excellent post on how he, and his small company, track and influence the issues in their world.

 It’s an inspiration – and an argument to look at how you allocate those budgets.

(Web) Video killed the TV Star

With apologies to Buggles – whose 1979 hit remembers the golden era of radio while celebrating the unrelenting force of technology to re-shape media.

It’s TV’s turn now.  Web & Social video are set to reshape both media. 

Locally stealth start-ups Overlay.tv and FaveQuest are playing in this area, as are local content producers like RaceDV. What’s happening locally is echoed elsewhere with video producers and aggregators/sharing sites opening daily it seems.  Each of them focused at different areas of the video sharing stack.

Video Application Stack

As everyone who’s looked at this area knows, viewer ship is exploding and with it ad revenue, and influnce.

Ad Revenue

In fact some commentators believe that the web will overtake TV as the major source of ad spend. For that to happen the web has to attract brand and product positioning advertising – not just transactional advertising.

Video presents some particular problems though – even for transactional ads. For ads to be effective they need to be embedded with the video – not on the same page as it. That’s why Viddler’s ad tagging technology is so promising – it puts the ads right in the video stream. Its potential impact on TV is nicely reviewed on Philadelphian Mel Taylor’s site (Philadelphia is home to Viddler and a city that is turning it’s self into an interactive media hub)

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Viddler’s original  technology – in video commenting is incredibly powerful because it allows community to develop even as the video spreads from site to site through viral embedding. The ad technology is a logical extension of that.

What also isn’t clear to me is the business model – because I believe they are focusing at the wrong point in the stack. As I see it they believe these features will drive people to their site both to publish and consume video. I’m not so sure. I believe that web video will, like blogging before it, will move from individual user generated content to pro-am and organizations dominating niches.

These sites will be in direct competition for advertisers and viewers – not just with other web based services but with TV as well.

As Viddler demonstrates for ad delivery, and RaceDV does for niche user generated content, the advantage the web services have is that they innovate on numerous levels that TV doesn’t stand chance – because, as the Buggle’s sang “we can’t rewind we’ve gone too far”.

A Beacon for Media IT

Yesterday FaceBook announced Beacon – an ad widget for eCommerce sites that asks the purchaser if they want the purchase in their FaceBook feed. One click and you’ve promoted the site and product while linking it to the reputation of the purchaser.

What’s slick about this is it removes the last shred of doubt that content is needed to deliver advertising. As Google has shown with search and FaceBook hopes work for Beacon – Context works just fine.

Of course that’s obvious – except to media companies that systematically under invest in IT and technology innovation. It’s not as if they have to develop the services themselves – they can do what most of them do for content – which is typically buy and distribute – not make.

Even the internal processes are similar – match audience interests with content/service, and program distribution to keep audience within the network if possible – or provide hooks so they return frequently.

What’s missing is the deep understanding of IT infrastructure and evolution – and a belief that investing in it can produce revenue every bit as good as investing in, and protecting content.

Until that happens media companies will remain protective about content and worried about declining ad revenue as it shifts to companies that understand a new model is here.

Axe the Evolution

Unilever is a huge company with many impressive brands under its control. 

It’s got a firm grasp of alternative and interactive marketing techniques – in fact its Dove brand is currently basking in the limelight for its Evolution and Onslaught campaigns for Real Beauty.

What’s interesting is those same techniques are being applied to another Unilever brand – Axe – whose brand message couldn’t be more opposed to the Dove message as the attached video shows.

Don’t get me wrong Unilever is a superb marketer. Its products have such strong brand identity, and that their marketing efforts so in tune with the intended market that they can create new categories as they did with Axe, or redefine them as they did with Dove.

What is going to be interesting to see how consumers react to the cognitive dissonance between the brand messages!

My guess is that Dove will lose some of its luster – and that Unilever will learn that interactive marketing cuts across brands, and therefore has to me managed with that in mind. 

Social Advertising

To be effective advertising has to ensure that it gains, and holds, the audiences attention.

Volvo UK found an interesting way to do this for at cinema adverts. It developed a game where the audience co-ordinates waving its hands to score points (and win prizes) on a virtual course.  The cooperative nature of the activity also underscores the brand message “Life is Better lived Together”.

It’s a brilliant example technology enabling new forms of socially interactive advertisements.

To see pictures of the audience check out the Volvo site

Social Media Press Releases

Maggie Fox asks whether a site for social media sharing makes a good press release (here). The idea is that making images and video available for sharing enables traditional press and well as bloggers to spread the news – and that is after all the purpose of a press release.

Conceptually it’s a great idea.

What’s needed to make it successful is content that evokes sharing. While it’s possible that that includes traditional marketing materials – too often those tell us the product attributes but don’t engage an emotional reaction.

In the Focus’s case if the one of the attributes is the (optional I’m sure) voice recognition – shoot a custom video that highlights the feature in a way that’s funny or tragic but that tells a story that engages ones emotion – while highlighting the product.  That’s more likely to be shared than an instructional video on the features use.

By way of example my friends at RaceDV have just done a series of in car videos for the North American launch of a performance car. The video speaks directly to the value proposition of the vehicle – performance – and more importantly puts the viewer in the driver’s seat.  After watching the video I expect prospective buyers will be in a quandry – do they take the time to share the video – or just find a dealer.

Same goes for photos. It’s certainly less expensive to re-use the photos shot for the brochure on the web – but one of the things about images is that they tell stories. By the time that someone arrives at a dealership they shouldn’t be bored with the images– but see a fresh story about Fords respect for the car the dealer and the buyer. 

Social media press releases have a much more diverse audience than traditional releases – and the motives for using the material are more diverse. Traditional press, and tier one auto bloggers are at some level interested in advertising – so discontinuities in visual style may not be wanted. The same cannot be said for the blog community below them which may be offering traditional reviews – but more likely is telling a story as they discuss the product.

The idea of making material available for sharing is a good one. Placing it in a site where one can track use and referrers is also good (that’s what Dove did with its Onslaught campaign).

In the end though sharing depends on the story that one can build around the content.