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.

Advertisements

Web Evolution – A History of Web Design Over the Past 20 Years

Below is a graphic developed by KISSmetrics outlining the evolution of web design since the world’s first website was launched  in 1991.

In only 20 years the definition of a “web presence” has evolved to the point that today, many argue that traditional websites are becoming obsolete.  When discussing the promotion of his new book, Guy Kawasaki recently suggested that he didn’t need a website to reach his target customers, but a Facebook page instead.

Static websites are a thing of the past and concepts like collaboration and crowd sourcing are becoming web standards.  Of course, the evolution will continue and even these concepts will become old news (probably even faster than traditional web pages).  The infographic below is a great reflection of where we’ve been in such a short period of time.  One can only speculate what this chart will look like 20 years from today.

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.

Social Media Metics and ROI

Since the emergence of social media marketing as a way of maintaining a continual dialogue and brand recognition with customers, brand marketers have struggled to understand the true impact of their online efforts.

Syncapse recently published a whitepaper on  understanding Facebook fan value and key return on investment indicators.  I recommend that any brand marketer interested in better understanding the online landscape and the value of engaging customers through social media platforms read it and consider how to provide relevant content to potential customers (and convert them to brand ambassadors) online.

Similar to a Twitter follower, a Facebook fan will be more valuable if they have a true interest in your brand and product offerings.  The number of facebook fans a brand collects is less important than who those fans are.  In other words, quality trumps quantity.  Knowing who is following your brand will go a long way in understanding their value and the return on your online activities.

What does your company do to assess the quality of your social media following?

Brands that Engage

To date, the majority of brands that have experienced success online have done so by engaging customers through campaigns designed to involve online communities in the brands’ development. One-time give-a-ways and discount offers to followers will attract one-time visits, but brands that truly engage will be top of mind to customers for a much more significant and meaningful period of time. Involving them in the development of the brand, for example, gives customers a rooting interest in an outcome that they’ll follow with interest. Further, when companies accept input and feedback (and actually act on some of it) it makes customers feel like they’re more than just the end purchasers of the product.

Papa John’s recently launched a social media campaign called “Papa’s Specialty Pizza Challenge”. Customers have been given the challenge of creating a new specialty pizza for Papa John’s menu. The top three pizzas will be featured on the pizza chain’s menu through the month of August, with the winner being the pie that earns the highest sales figures.

The contest winner will receive 1% of sales (up to $10,000) for the one year period the pizza will be offered after the contest and free Papa John’s pizza for life. The winner will also appear in a Papa John’s television commercial.

A little like American Idol for pizza lovers, the new Papa John’s campaign is a great example of efforts made to engage customers online. Dominos recently used the online space to obtain feedback on it’s pizza and built a new receipe based on the customer input. Papa John’s; however, is going one step further, linking efforts to incentives that will undoubtedly create a buzz around the campaign. In my opinion, the contest offers more than just financial incentive, but the opportunity for loyal Papa John’s customers to become a part of the ‘Papa John’s family’.

Tim Horton’s: Please Play Again

Last month I blasted McDonald’s for their free coffee giveaway and praised Tim Horton’s for the brand loyalty they’ve developed, in part through their Roll Up the Rim campaign. However, just over a month into Tim Horton’s annual contest, I’m back to acknowledge the shortcomings of my initial comments.

The free flow of communication and information online have allowed consumers to have a much stronger voice when it comes to criticizing brands. No longer can companies hide from their deficiencies without feeling the wrath of harsh consumer feedback through various online channels.

A search for “#TimHortons” on Twitter will quickly highlight the consumer perception of the coffee shop’s Roll Up the Rim campaign today. Many customers are clearly upset with both the success rate they’re experiencing and the quality of the prizes they receive when they do actually win.

Today, companies are forced to be more responsible for their marketing efforts, and while the online space allows for greater interaction with customers, it also comes with an open line for criticism. This is not necessarily a bad thing if brands are able to respond to feedback through positive change; however, companies unwilling to make the effort must tread carefully. If Tim Horton’s is not careful, they’ll quickly find more and more customers refusing to ‘please play again’.

“Real” Social Networking

Seth Godin discusses his insights to social networking and the importance of building real, authentic relationships.

The benefit of social networking is not in the total number of people you can reach, but in the number of targeted customers you can connect to and share value with. As a business, what really matters is who you’re interacting with and how you’re able to show them what you have to offer.  As I’ve said in the past, it doesn’t matter how many people are introduced to the butcher if they’re all vegetarians.