140 Characters

When Twitter first launched and I heard it had a character limitation I thought “how can users say ANYTHING meaningful in 140 characters?” Originally, Twitter seemed best suited to following celebrities and letting followers know what you were doing – serving a limited (not to mention easily duplicated) function at best.

Though it may have been slow to catch on, Twitter has evolved into something much bigger.

In business to business publishing, “news trackers” have become increasingly common to provide customers with relevant, timely information, with short headlines that help users filter what they do and do not want to read in greater depth. As the need for content on mobile devices has increased, limitations to the amount of content people want to view on their phones has pushed publishers to adopt a similar model to Twitter’s character limitations.

Today, even Twitter is used more as an information source than it is as a way to keep track of specific people. Rather than follow Chris Brogan to know what he had for lunch, we follow him for the the valuable knowledge and information to which he can connect us.

An evolution in the way Twitter is used has seemingly revolutionized the way that we filter information.

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Aflac Looks for New Voice

Known for it’s strong social media presence, Aflac (and its trademark duck) recently entered some unfamiliar waters… hot water.

After making a number of insensitive cracks about the recent disaster in Japan, the voice of the Aflac duck was relieved of his duties.  As a result, the insurance company was in need of a new voice to represent its brand through the various social media platforms that it has been active on over the last several years.  However; what could have been a public relations disaster has been parlayed into a creative social campaign designed to find the next voice of the Aflac duck.

Aflac’s quick response to the situation distanced the brand from the opinions of  the its former spokesperson.  While incidents like these are unfortunate, the company’s deep involvement in social media allowed it to reach customers quickly to involve them in a search for a new voice.  This involvement has not only helped people forget about the recent comments, but will also undoubtedly lead to a voice that customers can resonate with.

Fiesta Farms Connects with Customers Online

Toronto Grocer Joe Virgona has taken a non-traditional approach to marketing his grocery store ‘Fiesta Farms’ with a heavy emphasis on social media and connecting with who he believes are net-savvy target customers.

With the store’s new website having only launched late in 2009, it is difficult to assess how effective the online approach will be long term.  In my opinion, Fiesta Foods is doing exactly what more small businesses need to be doing to expand their target customer groups and compete in what has become an age of big business dominance.

Known for its emphasis on providing natural and organic foods to health conscious consumers, Fiesta Foods has created an interactive online presence allowing it to display its specialist knowledge to potential customers across the Greater Toronto Area.

“More than anything else, it’s building your community”, Virgona said in a recent article published in the Globe and Mail. “But keep your site interesting or they won’t come back on.  Done correctly, it’s probably the cheapest advertising that any grocery store is going to get today.”

Social Media ROI: The Proof

If you haven’t seen this video yet, I definitely recommend it.  Author of “Socialnomics”, Eric Qualman, outlines some pretty amazing statistics as they relate to return on investment from social media initiatives.  He also presents a number of online marketing strategies that have each set a precedent for future attempts at using the social media landscape to reach customers in ways traditional marketing never has.

Aflac Quacks it’s Way to Social Media Success

Have you ever heard of the American Family Life Assurance Company?  A question that would likely be met with blank stares welcomes a completely different reaction when the company is referred to by its acronym, Aflac.

In 2008 Aflac’s revenues were $16.8 billion, a 44% increase from 2003 results.  The biggest reason for the company’s sudden success?  A campaign centred around an ‘Aflac’ quacking duck.   Click here for Daniel P. Amos’ (Aflac CEO) account of how he fell for the duck, featured in last month’s Harvard Business Review. The company’s improved brand awareness and name recognition has made them a leader in the two largest insurance markets in the world, the United States and Japan.

Aflac is a great example of a company that has leveraged the success of a traditional ad campaign through the effective use of social media integration.   As evidenced by demand for stuffed replicas of the Aflac duck following the release of the original ad campaign, the duck created a brand ambassador customers had developed a connection with. 

Aflac created a website that allowed people to rework the words the duck sings in its Japanese Aflac commercials.  In only 2 months, over 100,000 people had posted spoofs of the song online.  Today, the Aflac Duck has over 170,000 Facebook fans (I just became one).

Social media has allowed Aflac to further develop the personality of its star performer.  The duck has become more than just a part of an advertistement. He’s the face of the franchise.  Interested in knowing about some of the duck’s personal interests?   Facebook has the answer:

“I like watching funny videos on the internet, and hanging out. Food network- especially that Paula Deen. Listening to music. Acting in commercials. Pretty much, I’m living the dream. I would be into French food, but they use more duck than I’m comfortable with.”

Social Media Success Stories

Based on my post from a day ago, I’ve decided to dedicate part of this blog to providing examples of social media success stories that can be used as proof that social media marketing channels can contribute significant return on investment to a wide range of organizations within varying industries. I’ve added a blog category titled “Success Stories” that will act (similar to CaseStudiesOnline.com) as a database of precedents for readers to look back on to justify future online strategies.

Molson Canadian

Being from Canada, and given that we are in the midst of the Olympic Games in Vancouver, I thought it would be fitting to discuss a campaign that Molson Canadian rolled out as a part of their 2010 Olympic related marketing efforts.

“Gear Up For Gold” is a campaign Molson Canadian developed with the goal of engaging customers through social media channels. On their website, fans are able to customize Olympic gear that can then be added to personal profiles used for posting on both Facebook (which recently passed Yahoo as the second most visited website behind Google) and Twitter. The campaign has seen Molson’s Facebook ‘friend’ numbers jump from 30,000 prior to the Olympics to over 260,000 people today. In comparison, Budweiser (boasting the 2nd largest beer fan site) has only 98,000 friends on Facebook.

To create a buzz, 3000 Molson employees were given a sneak peek of some of the campaign’s ads and were urged to spread the news ahead of their release. This goes to show how using internal brand ambassadors can be an effective way of promoting your company’s products or services at a low cost.

The social media strategy is considered the main reason for Molson Canadian’s improved identity with beer drinking Canadians, and have clearly revived what was slowly becoming quite an unmemorable brand.  With beer consumption in British Columbia projected to be up 19% over the same period of time last year, Molson has done a great job of making their brand visible at just the right time. For those that are concerned that social media strategies lack the ability to convert sales and drive revenues, Molson provides an example of a company that has used online customer interaction to increase exposure to their brand over a period of time that they knew there would be high demand for their product (beer).

Note: Statistics from The Globe and Mail article titled “Brewer Dons the Red Jersey for the Home Team” (February 23rd, 2010)