Get off my lawn: Chapter 6,000,000
August 7, 2009 6:29 AM   Subscribe

Help me get some understanding of social media/corporate/marketing relationships.

I have no Twitter account, no Facebook account, and I need a better understanding of social media goals in general as it is something I'd need to do as part of a larger job. (Yes, I'll get both accounts.)

Specific questions:

Are there any studies done on the effectiveness of corporations having a presence on Facebook/Twitter? (Hereafter referred to as F/T).

Is the basic idea, that Dove soap has to have a Facebook page because Palmolive does -- they're just following the customers, trying to stay in their lives and looking to compensate for the reduced face time their ads get, now that we're TiVo-ing (etc). and ignoring them?

Does anyone have hard data (or even soft data) on the demographics of these sites? It seems like a surprising number of people in their thirties and forties are on these sites -- are these people essentially sharing internet space with their kids, or are their kids already on to the next F/T?

Have you ever gone to a corporate F/T page, and if so, seriously, why? What were the circumstances? (I always thought it was a profoundly stupid notion that anyone would voluntarily give corporations another inroads into their lives, and yet, yesterday I ordered two pairs of shoes from Zappos and wound up on their Facebook page, just from poking around their site. But I really like Zappos. Do people like Dove soap so much they're going to the Dove soap Facebook page? How does that even happen?

Can you give me any additional insight into how these sites deepen consumer relationships, whether they do it at all?

I promise not to do anything douche-y with this knowledge, ie. I'm not asking these questions so I can start a Comcast Twitter feed or some grossness.
posted by A Terrible Llama to Computers & Internet (13 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Does anyone have hard data (or even soft data) on the demographics of these sites?

Yeah, Google [facebook demographics] or [twitter demographics].

Have you ever gone to a corporate F/T page, and if so, seriously, why? What were the circumstances?

I'm a regular Facebook user but I never use the "fan" pages on Facebook -- I don't see the point. If I did, it would be for a band or author or someone I care about -- I agree that it's absurd to publicly announce that you're a "fan" of something like Dove soap. On second thought, there might be a few companies that particularly inspire loyalty, e.g. Apple., which I'd be a "fan" of if I were a "fan" of anyone on Facebook.
posted by Jaltcoh at 6:51 AM on August 7, 2009

Well, in a lot of cases, I think companies are doing this for the same reasons they initially started web sites--to provide a different way for consumers to contact them and find information about them. As a society, we are turning away from captive-audience advertising, so they need to find a new way to reach us. In some ways, this works very well--some companies (Snapple and Starbucks are two, I think) are putting coupons on their Facebook pages that people are snapping up. That's value for the consumer (I "became a fan of" Snapple, printed my coupon, and removed myself as a fan immediately afterward, but that's how I roll).

A LOT of companies are finding that their standard customer service offerings (1-800 numbers, email) doesn't work to resolve their customers' problems and many have turned to Twitter to help meet those needs. (The Consumerist has regular stories about consumers who had problems that weren't resolved who tweeted about the problem and someone with authority to fix the problem took care of it).

Full discloser--I'm an administrator for a corporate Facebook page. So far, it's been a lot of busywork with no real consumer benefit--but our authors love it. We're encouraging them to use social media platforms themselves, and they like to see us doing it as well. So that's a benefit, although I'm not sure it's worth the timesink. Our Twitter account is only slightly less time consuming but we've had a fantastic consumer response--we use it to insert ourselves into publishing conversations (like debates about ebook prices) and the reaction has been great. We give away a lot of early books, signed copies, that sort of thing. Imprint and even publisher brand recognition is not very high, but we're developing it a little with Twitter. That's nice.

Personally, I hate the idea of corporations contacting me through social media, and while I use these things for work purposes, I try to keep my personal profiles as sparse as possible (if you saw the back end of the Facebook advertising pages, you would too). But I can't blame companies for trying to reach consumers any way possible--as long as they're doing it in a pull method versus a push method, I really can't complain.
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 6:56 AM on August 7, 2009

I suspect some of these companies, Dove soap for example, have Facebook pages, because the marketing people would be remiss if they didn't have a presence. They likely know full well that it's BS, but they have to do it anyway, because they get paid to.

Some companies may understand that they need to offer real incentives for consumers to become fans or otherwise actively engage with the marketing presence on the web. For example, some companies offer web-only direct purchase discounts, other offer web coupons. A really sharp marketing staff could come up with some clever content, say web video clips, although the astroturf-viral thing is so 2003. Better to be up front. Burger King had a lot of success with the surreal subservient chicken thing, for example.

As far as actual studies, probably most of the current work is proprietary and confidential done by marketing consultants. They'll conclude pretty much what I just said, with reams of paper and statistical analysis.

The reason to follow a presence on Twitter or on Facebook is to get tweets or updates from the subject, particularly with perishable information. That's extremely crucial. Nobody cares about tweets from Coca Cola, what are they doing now that they weren't doing 15 minutes ago, and why would I care? Facebook is good for non profit organizations, such as the Green Building Council, to get information out to a self selected demographic, and that information could have a half-life of days or weeks.

A company like GM may use Facebook to get information out about new products, but the product development cycle doesn't lend itself to the immediacy of real time "push" marketing. Apple is a technology company, and there are are always nifty applications, bug fixes, and other information coming out about their products, so the development cycle does work with the marketing cycle in something closer to real time.

Just my two cents.
posted by Xoebe at 7:10 AM on August 7, 2009 [1 favorite]

I has anecdote, if that's helpful.

I really like World of Warcraft, and I really like Mountain Dew. (Don't you judge me!) So I gleefully became a "fan" of Mountain Dew Game Fuel on the FaceBook. I even posted a link in my LiveJournal so all my friends could know how far I've fallen. I loathe most advertising and honestly I'm not a huge fan of FaceBook (got sucked in by family/friends joining and sharing pictures I wanted to see. Now I spam them with Pick5 crap. Anyway.)

But becoming a "fan" of Game Fuel and posting that one link--that's been it. No further engagement with Game Fuel's social-media presence. I get very crabby about almost all other corporate identities on social networking sites but then again I don't really enjoy FaceBook etc. in the first place.

(The Horde flavor is delicious, though.)
posted by Neofelis at 7:54 AM on August 7, 2009

I am starting to run social media stuff for my job, and my spouse is in a similar position with his employer. Basically, the simplest way to put it is this, as far as I'm concerned: Consumers are on twitter and facebook TALKING ABOUT US. And we are idiots if we do not listen to and politely, unobtrusively, and non-assholishly participate in that conversation. If you sell beer, you care about what people in bars think (yes, generalization) because bars are where people drink beer. Well, now people are drinking my metaphorical beer and talking about it on the internet, rather than in the bar. It's pretty awesome. I don't have to be in any particular place, I just have to open the correct channels, and BAM! people can tell me what they want or need from my company, and I can, in turn, provide helpful information or assistance, as well as pushing the data I get (hey, people really love widget x and we only have 20 left in the warehouse! we might run out, yeah?) to higher ups. I am a bit of a hippie about it, but I really do look at it as "I help you, and maybe you help me," kind of situation.

Full disclosure: I work for a small-to-medium biz, spouse works for an 800 lb gorilla.
posted by Medieval Maven at 8:01 AM on August 7, 2009 [2 favorites]

Maybe you don't fall into the target demographic of Dove soap, but I guarantee there are people who are very passionate about that brand. Maybe they've tried every other soap and find Dove to be the best, or maybe they just respond well to the logo. Whatever the reason, Dove has a core group of people who won't purchase anything else by Dove. Facebook provides a way for company to talk to the consumer and gather insight and (hopefully) make the product better.

Take Coca-Cola for example. Perhaps there is someone in Georgia who can't get Dr Pepper in their local area and they Tweet about it and other people start talking about the lack of Dr Pepper in their areas, too. Someone in the company can use this information to better distribute Dr Pepper and reach the people who want to buy it.

The near real time availability of this type of information is astounding. As long as a brand/company listens and interprets it correctly, they can make their product or service better.

As for me, I follow brands that I like on Twitter. Starbucks tells me when they have new flavors of drinks & Wholefoods talks about in-store events and offers food ideas. I won a $100 gift card from Starbucks just by following them on Twitter and winning a contest. These are companies that I want to know more about and I'm willing to spend more money there because I know more about them.

I work with social media and follow the usage of social media in the retail industry very closely. Maybe I'm biased, but I think there are a lot of overwhelming positive things about SM (for companies & customers) when brands get it right. Mail me directly if you want to talk more about it!
posted by tommccabe at 8:24 AM on August 7, 2009

Quasi-related: Dell Does $3 Million in Sales on Twitter. That's three people, running Twitter, doing a million dollars in sales, each, through online promotions, during the past year. For a computer company, a million in sales isn't huge, but for the limited scope of Twitter, I think that's remarkable.

Personally, I'm not a fan of Facebook yet: only your friends can see what you do, and people already have to know you exist in order to be your friend - and that's if they can find you, so it really isn't much more than a bells-and-whistles-laden email newsletter. At the very least, you need to have people who want to friend you. A corporation can't ignore ways that customers want to connect with their product, and if people want to friend them on Facebook, that ability needs to be made available -- it's a huge opt-in way for the word-of-mouth component of advertising to be further embraced by their favorite products. I think it may be a bit overblown in the amount of attention new media gets in advertising - but it needs to be made prominent so that people know the Facebook friending is available.
posted by AzraelBrown at 8:46 AM on August 7, 2009 [1 favorite]

ReadWriteWeb has some actual evidence for the importance of social media... can't recall the articles, but some searching should help.
posted by k8t at 9:11 AM on August 7, 2009

i work for a large corporate entity that has recently joined the fray on both facebook and twitter. it is ASTOUNDING the change in our online sales since we started. and although i'll never understand why we actually have fans on FB, we do, and they visit the page regularly to comment, etc. We also have subscribers to our YT channel -- so it's been a huge boon both in branding and sales. i would imagine it's the same for other corporations.
posted by unlucky.lisp at 10:32 AM on August 7, 2009

Medieval Maven has it. People are out there talking about the companies/products they love and hate; brands can earn goodwill by resolving problems and providing helpful info via social media channels. Or they can completely blow it, as in this exchange with the Best Buy CMO over Twitter.

Are their kids already on to the next F/T?

Kids are on Facebook but not on Twitter. There's been a lot of noise made recently about the fact that teens don't see the point of Twittering. (There are many reasons for this. IMO it's a result of teens' particular social habits and a healthy dose of stranger danger. I don't think it spells doom for Twitter.) As to the next F/T, there's no consensus on what that is yet, and whatever it is, 16 yo's are too busy Facebooking and texting one another to be using it yet.

Social Media is the next Thing. People are still figuring out the business models, but nobody wants to lose their Facebook URL or Twitter handle to a competitor or disgruntled customer. And plenty of companies are getting good results, though a complete measure of ROI may never be possible because F/T is more PR than marketing.
posted by junkbox at 11:04 AM on August 7, 2009

Here are a few links that may be helpful:

Mashable offers good perspective on anything and everything you would ever want to do in social media. Peter Kim's exhaustive list of social media marketing examples. Many big name companies have done lots of cool stuff...

The best advice is to spend lots of time on the various social media platforms. I can say with absolute confidence - your customers are there waiting for you. How you choose to engage with them is limited only by your effort and creativity.

Check these out...

A recent Nielsen report: "Social Networking’s New Global Footprint"

A nice presentation on the subject in general: "What the F**K is Social Media"

(Oh... and for the record: Comcast's efforts on Twitter are pretty well received by their customers.)
posted by LakesideOrion at 11:45 AM on August 7, 2009

Response by poster: You guys have been terrific--thank you so much for all of your tips and insights.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 1:37 PM on August 7, 2009

junkbox - I think you're right about teens - they don't see the point of twitter because they do with text messages and online chat what adults tend to do with twitter. Your wants and needs for this kind of communication change when you are not living within 25 miles of nearly every person who is important to you. Or, when you are paying your own cell phone bills. I don't need to mass text my friends (they might actually be angry if I did) but I can and do twitter at all of them.
posted by Medieval Maven at 1:54 PM on August 7, 2009

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