TAG | relationship

Connecting Online Social Efforts to Offline Meetup Fun

As a marketer, where do you put your offline “geo-targeted” efforts? A college film club, a local Alliance Française, a Chamber of Commerce, Singles Clubs? As you hone in on your intended demographic, you may have already or will one day find that Meetup.com can complement an online social media campaign. It continues to surprise us as to how many people overlook this fascinating resource to not only build brand awareness but even bring people together in the real world. This is of special interest to those marketing offline events. Upon a recent visit to an old ally at Southern California Outdoor Adventurers, Media Needle’s Bernard Yin was inspired to talk with founder Chris Ashford about his strategy and experience.

B: Chris, please tell me what social media platform has served you best and why? Maybe offer a quick example or anecdote. I know of you as a result of Meetup.com which makes a lot of sense to me because your community is all about outings and activities. Feel free to elaborate on how this has worked out for you.

C: Meetup.com has been a tremendous platform for SCOA and we have leveraged as much as their API allows. SCOA’s focus is all about being outdoors and active. Meetup’s is “Doing something” – the similarities enabled us to crowd source. With eyeballs, we built a crew and executed on some amazing activities.

One trip we spent 10 days in the Yucatan swimming with whale sharks, learning about sea turtles, checking out amazing crocodiles and living as fishermen! We stepped up our local game with sea kayaking and spear fishing, which were unique to the pool of people served through Meetup. The old saying if you build it they will come was true in this setting. Two years after starting from scratch we had 2,000+ members. Once we had the numbers, we understood there was an opportunity to engage outdoor equipment manufacturers for sponsorship. At the time, Meetup.com was eyeing this space – and would not provide analytics to us! It was never our intention to build a web presence and community but due to the lack of the tools required to have a conversation with potential sponsors we had to. I can remember speaking with a large snowboard manufacturer who contacted us with an opportunity for sponsorship, Their first question? “What kind of traffic are you getting?” From that moment on our relationship with Meetup.com changed. Why were we paying for a service that served up Google Ads on the content we produced and a service we had to pay for? While we were trying to differentiate, they were advertising similar focused groups on our home page.

While we still leverage Meetup’s sourcing capabilities and some of their content our online focus is our 5,000 strong community of adventures. We chunk out 120 – 170 page views a month, 1.5-2M hits/month and about 2000 uniques. Some of your readers may say that’s it, why are they excited over those numbers? Keep in mind we are laser beamed focused on people in the SoCal region. We think more impressive is the 40+ events per month we host. During our busier months we reach 150-200 real live people. It is the latter that we look to capitalize with equipment manufacturers.

Think about it – Burton Snowboards spends millions on marketing to get customers but how much are they spending to keep them? Once they buy the snowboard, what brings them back for the jacket and hoodie? SCOA provides a laser beamed channel to active outdoor people hungry for adventure and product knowledge. Our customer loyalty programs are ready and just need a little push to get going.

It is an education process. We have hit the larger accounts but all they say is – ‘talk to us when you reach 10,000’. The small mom and pops typically do not have a marketing budget or the sophistication to take advantage of our services. But we keep working it everyday. We will find the happy medium.

B: Do you see a shift of any sort in how social media, technology and communications overall might affect SOCA in the next year or two or is “business as usual” the modus operandi for SOCA for the foreseeable future?

C: In order to stay ahead, SCOA will have to keep evolving. The Meetup.com pool is saturated with outdoor adventure groups. Differentiating ourselves is crucial. We are in the process of working some collaborations with Mountain High (http://www.mthigh.com/) and Adventure Link (http://www.adventurelink.com/). Their content and our social networks will increase awareness and ultimately bring activity. How much will depend on growing our Twitter and FB reach. For organizations our size – small – it isn’t enough to just have one. They all need to be connected and focused on specific goals. Our collabs for 2012 will provide unique contests and adventure content we think our members will get excited about and get outside – the win/win for everybody.

B: I am impressed by what you have achieved, what are some of the goals of SOCA? What is the “next level” in other words.

C: Thanks for the kudos. It has been a ridiculous workload and we were lucky, every step of the way we had competent, capable people around to execute. On the one hand, friendships, relationships are important to nurture. Ultimately you are talking about trust. On the other, the Internet is the great disrupter – as long as you keep it fresh and interesting people hang around and momentum grows. Skip a beat and lose momentum, it takes an inordinate effort to get it back.

B: Has the SCOA experience offered any insights of a “bigger picture” that you care to share?

C: Ultimately, marketing and advertising will be centered around your network’s recommendations. I have clicked on many the Facebook ad that has my friends’ recommendation by it. Recommendations are everything. At SCOA, we strive to provide a professional and well-run organization. We strive to work with other well-run and professional organizations. Hopefully our members recognize that and stay with us and spend their hard earned dollars with us!

B: Thanks Chris. You really hit the nail on the head with “SCOA provides a laser beamed channel to active outdoor people hungry for adventure and product knowledge.” and I feel this applies to most Meetup communities in general. We may circle back with further questions or thoughts to throw around.


Note: SCOA currently has Columbia Clothing as one of their sponsors.


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Social Media & The World

Social media is affecting the world in big ways, both good and bad. Just a few years ago, news didn’t travel as quickly as it now does through Twitter, Facebook, news aggregators, etc. Positively, this means we have access to world news in a matter of seconds, and we no longer have to wait for the evening news to catch up on daily occurrences (see: social media’s role in Egypt’s 2011 Revolution). Negatively, especially for those in the public eye, this means that nothing goes unreported, even private pictures sent through a site like Twitter (see: Anthony Weiner). We take a look at some ways social media is affecting the way we look at religion, sports and politics:

Religion: The Catholic Church has joined Facebook and Twitter. In June, The Vatican announced the launch of a social media-integrated official news website, news.va, that will make heavy use of social networks. Pope Benedict XVI himself sent out the first papal tweet. News.va will function essentially as a Vatican and Catholic Church-related news aggregator, republishing stories from L’Osservatore Romano, Vatican Radio, Vatican Television, the Fides news agency and from Vatican media relations. Livestreaming of Papal events will also be featured, along with links to homilies, statements, and speeches. Spanish, French, German, and Portuguese-language versions of the site will be launched over the next few months. Users will also be able to post links on Twitter and share stories on their Facebook walls.

Sports: The International Olympic Committee has issued rules for athletes using social media at the 2012 London Games. The athletes are encouraged to “post, blog and tweet their experiences,” but forbidden from using Twitter, Facebook or personal blogs for commercial or advertising purposes or to share videos filmed at Olympics venues. If the rules are broken, athletes are warned that it can withdraw accreditation, shut down online operations and start legal action for damages. These new social media rules come after some controversy at the 2010 Vancouver games, where US skier Julia Mancuso was asked to stop online merchandise sales after her silver medal-winning performances generated interest in her official website. Some of the other social media stipulations for London? Posts, blogs, etc. should be in first-person, should not contain vulgar or obscene words or images, and should not reveal confidential information. “Unlike in Vancouver, where the rules were adapted to fit changed circumstances, the rules in force in London have been properly codified,” the IOC said.

Politics: In mid-June, Rep. Anthony Weiner, D-N.Y., resigned from Congress in the wake of a sexting scandal. The move, which abruptly put an end to Weiner’s on-the-rise political career, serves as a warning to politicians and lawmakers about dealing with the social media world. To recap:  Reports indicated that a college student had received a sexually suggestive photo from Weiner’s Twitter account. Weiner denied sending it, saying the account had been hacked, but as more texts and photos of the congressman surfaced, Weiner finally admitted that he’d sent the photo. The story picked up and more revelations surfaced, including messages to a 17-year-old Delaware girl. Ultimately, Weiner sought a leave of absence and said he’d seek treatment. While Weiner isn’t the first politician to deal with a sex scandal, the incident reverberates as politicians grapple with the new world of social media. It should serve as a “serious warning sign to politicians,” said Steven Schier, a professor of political science at Carleton College in Minnesota, that that they need to be careful. “They send out this stuff unfiltered, so the risk is increased considerably,” Schier said.

In what other ways is social media changing the world? Tell us in the comments!



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Will Blog for Food…

Typewriter Robot by Jeremy Mayer

I’ve been asked to write a blog post.

A blog? Me? But I get PAID to write and to whip other people’s meandering brain-farts into glorious prose! Well, that is, I did until two weeks ago, when I was laid off from my job as editor at a book publisher. You know, moldy old books. Like, paper and ink and four-color printing and stuff.

I’ve been in print publishing for nearly 20 years, writing for and editing magazines and books on everything from international business news to music to architecture. Why should I stoop to a medium that’s attainable to any idiot with an iBook? I mean (to paraphrase the old joke about awards), blogs are like hemorrhoids: sooner or later, every asshole gets one.

The truth is, publishing now really is for everyone, from bloggers to tweeters to the right-place-at-the-right-time bystander who manages to capture breaking news with a cellphone camera.

This may be bad news for the professionals, that endlessly growing pool of talented, out-of-work journalists who are duking it out for the few available jobs at established publications. For everyone else, though, it means access to a wealth of opinions, points of view, and, yes, insane ramblings, which may inform, infuriate, call to act, or simply amuse.

The Web, with its accessibility and immediacy, lends itself intrinsically to writing of an egocentric nature. My own writings have never been personal; my professional duties have always been as a reporter or as an editor of other people’s work. I find it incredibly embarrassing to talk about myself; can’t we discuss that fascinating individual over there?

But clearly I need to get with the program. My profession has changed; hell, even the language we use to discuss it has changed. While I won’t stop looking for a job at a “legitimate” media outlet, in the meantime, I will begrudgingly learn to write snappy, snarky, first-person Web-speak, and to embrace the blogs and Twitters and Diggs and Wikis, and, yeah, I still don’t know what Foursquare is.

So, here’s my blog entry. Maybe some people will happen upon it. But for now, until I get used to the idea, one thing you can count on is that I won’t be posting a link for all of my friends on Facebook. Just give me a few weeks.


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Social Media Success Stories

The most successful social media campaigns have had certain characteristics in common. Whether the campaign has been centered on the launch of a big brand’s newest product, or simply consists of the revival of a decades-old favorite, success cannot be attained if all the brand has to offer is… its product. Durability comes from other factors, including personalization, discussion, novelty and buzz.

Personalization: Facebook capitalizes on the fact that its users are impulsive and restless. It’s just as easy to click on a link, a page, or a group as it is to close out of that tab and move on the next one. Therefore, in order for a brand to capture the attention of these most fickle of internet users, it must offer a personalized experience. The main difference between a traditional campaign and a social media campaign is the level of interaction the latter can offer users. Take, for example, IKEA’s wildly successful Facebook campaign in 2009.  The campaign used one of Facebook’s most popular features, tagging, to encourage people to tag themselves in photos of IKEA showrooms. The company offered users the chance to win tagged items for free, and as word of the campaign spread, photos were tagged within seconds of being uploaded. Without the store rolling out a costly campaign, their products were personally promoted by their audience. People also felt a personal connection to the brand, picking and choosing pieces of furniture they would want in their own homes.

Discussion: Encouraging discussion on Facebook, or any other social network, is tricky, especially when the discussion is initially based on a single product. For the Wrigley’s Extra Facebook campaign, the Wrigley’s team took a different approach. Instead of focusing solely on the product at hand (gum), the page capitalized on the current “foodie” trend and prompted discussions about good food and eating. The page was created with the premise that strongly flavored food and drink, while one of life’s pleasures, are not necessarily things we wish to carry with us for the rest of the day on our breath. The message, then, doesn’t directly rely on the product itself, and is designed to continue conversation for as long as people eat and drink. Discussions on the Facebook page, which has more than 150,000 “Likes,” range from favorite Valentine’s Day food to the best pie flavor. Asking questions like, “Do real men eat quiche?” and “What do you reckon’s your CPM (chews per minute) rate?” provoke interesting, lively and continuous conversation that shouldn’t die down when buzz about the new gum does.

Novelty: Creating a social media campaign that draws a broad audience is tough when your product is a standard household item, like the toothbrush. It becomes even tougher when you’re trying to generate buzz for a new mini disposable toothbrush called The Wisp. In designing their social media campaign for this product, Colgate knew they’d have to think out of the box to generate any kind of attention. Hence, the brand took a fresh approach and came up with the “Be More Kissable” creative platform, which rerouted the issue at hand from dental hygiene to a topic that was more fun, social and sexy. At the heart of the campaign strategy were online videos, and a series of online videos were released that cinched into the comedy and how-to market. The brand also ran a photo contest, looking for “The Most Kissable Person in America,” and created a Facebook app called Spin the Wisp. Once the app was installed, it had the names of the consumer’s Facebook friends and provided them with an experience similar to Spin the Bottle. Ultimately, there were more than 100,000 engagements and 40,000 + installations of the widget and more than 1 million unique impressions of the widget. Overall, as of May, 2010, Big Fuel reported 6 million+ total engagements with the Wisp campaign (widget installs, video views, game plays, pass-alongs). The campaign succeeded not because it was led by a big brand, but because it took a fresh and new approach to something as stale as toothbrushes.

Buzz: Even with all of the components above, a social media campaign cannot be successful without buzz. Word-of-mouth gears social media; as an example, let’s discuss the buzz that the Red Cross accidentally generated a few weeks ago with an unintentional tweet. An employee with access to the @RedCross Twitter account had accidentally posted about their night of drinking Dogfish Head Midas Touch and tagged the message #gettngslizzerd. Within moments of the tweet going out, it was like a social media avalanche. While The Red Cross has about 270,000 followers subscribing to that account, hundreds of re-tweets and tweets about the post put that number well into the millions. Although the Red Cross later deleted the tweet and replaced it with one that read,“We’ve deleted the rogue tweet but rest assured the Red Cross is sober and we’ve confiscated the keys,”  it didn’t stop this non-campaign from generating buzz. In fact, the Red Cross reports that the incident actually resulted in slight raise in donations and interest in giving blood. Everyone, including Beer brand Dogfish, has now blogged about the incident and it just goes to show- if an accidental tweet can generate this much buzz, how much attention can an intentional, well-played tweet get?

Ultimately, social media case studies allow us to look back and move forward more successfully. We can see the numbers and the views and decide for ourselves which brands were triumphant in what they did.


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Mommy Revolution

The modern mom: She is educated, nurturing, career and family oriented and today, she’s a business powerhouse. She values brands like Target and Ikea, which are family-oriented and proud of it; places that fulfill all of her needs in one space. The modern mom is a powerful consumer; she knows what she wants, and she knows that there are plenty of places where she can get it.

Family dynamics have certainly changed in the past few decades; no need to watch Mad Men to confirm this. The 1950’s dad-as-dictator framework has collapsed, and today we’ve even surpassed the 90’s model of mom and dad ruling together. In 2011, households are democracies; kids, mom, and dad all have a say, but mom is more powerful than ever. Mothers today have higher salaries and many are college educated. They are more involved mothers and ultimately, more informed consumers.

“I wish every product were like the iPod,” one mom said in a recent survey. “It is the one thing in the house that means as much to me as it does to my daughter…we share music. I can’t imagine sharing music with my parents when I was a kid.”

Mommy bloggers, as they’re called, have taken over the web. These women are a powerful force in the blogosphere, often peppering their sites with coupons that fit the needs of the thousands of other moms who scour their sites daily. With topics ranging from pregnancy, parenting and motherhood to household tips, these blogs are relevant, targeted, and successful.

So successful, in fact, that a new wave of “daddy bloggers” is now attempting to catch up. It’ll be tough, however, to catch up in this race, as mom bloggers take on roles varying from that of Entrpreuner Mom to Tech Mom to Photographer Mom. Hardly anyone, especially in the online world, is just “Mom” anymore. In 2011, brands will continue to frequently court these powerful bloggers, no longer dismissing them as bored, stay-at-home moms. Aware that women make 85 percent of consumer purchasing decisions, major brands do not take lightly the fact that 23 million women read, write or comment on blogs weekly. The power of the mom blogger can no longer be disputed.

Pepsi, Wal-mart, and ConAgra are just a few of the companies that have formed relationships with them. On the negative side, just last year, mommy bloggers encouraged drama which included a Nestle boycott, dissatisfaction with Air Canada, vilification of corn syrup, and outrage at Amazon’s choice to sell a book about pedophiles, among other issues.

The Pepsi Mommy Blogger case study is an interesting one; Pepsi has been working on an image makeover and has therefore reached out to mothers, playing up the importance of their Tropicana, Quaker and Dole brands, which currently only make up 18% of total revenue. Pepsi appeared at the 2010 BlogHer conference, and is sponsoring the 2011 Social Media Week, during which it will unveil its Women’s Inspiration Network (WIN). By covering topics that would be of interest to females, and more specifically, to mothers, Pepsi is hoping to corner the Mom market and gain from their influence. These “feminine” topics include the environment, sustainability, health, and stories of inspirational women.

It’s safe to say, then, that the stereotype of the Mommy Blogger has gone out the window. In the blogosphere and elsewhere, these women have power. Mommy bloggers have realized this power, hosting meetings and conferences frequently.

Also read 2011 Predictions for Mommy Bloggers and about Some up-and-coming Mom Bloggers.


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Will You?

proposal What a powerful question. It’s the first step in creating engagement – you’ll hear us preach on engagement a lot here – and, asked properly, initiates a new dynamic. If you agree, we are now intertwined in an exchange of expectations. If you don’t, we separate and move on. Such as it is in life, so it goes in social media.

If a brand establishes a fan page on Facebook and promises information, offers or an “experience,” they expect that if you become a fan, you will actively participate as long as they continue to deliver their promised obligation. Sounds fair enough. As a matter of fact, it sounds like any social relationship you may enter into – lovers, friends, etc… The primary difference is that the onus is upon the brand to continually invigorate the relationship with new and exciting “stuff” lest boredom creep in and breed disinterest. Again, given the particular nature of the relationship, we say fair enough.

So, how do we as social media marketers maintain this lopsided relationship while ensuring that rewards are being reaped for our efforts? You got it – engagement. Make that “will you” question an active part of your social media marketing program. Don’t be afraid to ask people to do, try, ponder, consider, debate, refute, celebrate… things. If your audience is truly engaged, they will. If your request falls flat, then maybe you need to reconsider how you built your following (buying fans is questionable, and probably wont produce sustainable results) or what you are doing to keep them engaged (too much? too little? too fluffy? to pedantic?).

Plan ahead, ask the question and prepare for the discussion. Not only in social media, but in your real life as well.


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