Baseball Clubs Using Social to Engage Fans and Doing It Well, Very Well

Major League Baseball Embracing Twitter and Facebook – NYTimes.com.

I’m not a huge baseball fan, but this is a great piece on how the Chicago Cubs are using social media to engage their fan base, not by just offering great deals but providing content that is relevant to them. The money quote is:

“If your focus is revenue and your content reflects that, I don’t believe that’s a wise strategy,”   said Kevin Saghy, adding: “That’s not why people are there. They’re there to converse. So we’ve taken the other approach where it’s definitely a priority for us, it’s something we track, and I can say from 2010 to last year, as we got more involved and offered better content on our platforms, we quadrupled our revenue. So we’re up about 300 percent.”

The Zombie of Public Awareness Campaigns

According to the National Institutes of Health, 20 percent of Americans sleep less than six hours each night.  This can lead to mistakes in the workplaces, costing American businesses billions of dollars each year.

That’s why the Better Sleep Council (BSC), a trade association representing the mattress industry, declared May as national “Stop Zombieitis!” awareness month.

The BSC sought to use social networks to identify and educate those who complain of the symptoms of “zombieitis” – feeling like death, exhaustion, irritability, and a slow gait.

“Linking sleep deprivation to zombies is a clever idea, especially for a social media campaign,” said Sparklight President Joseph LaMountain.  “Millions are sleep deprived and zombies are a popular online meme, so this was a great opportunity for BSC to reach a wide audience with its messages.”

But that hasn’t really happened.  The campaign website was not intuitive and took several visits to understand.  Their three YouTube videos were seen fewer than 700 times while the “Stop Zombieitis” Facebook group counted fewer than 600 friends and hardly any engagement with members.

“What the BSC discovered is that it takes more than just a clever idea for an awareness campaign to work,” LaMountain said.  “Putting a couple videos online, creating a Facebook page, and hoping that your video goes viral is not the best strategy.”

As representatives of the mattress industry, the BSC could have aggressively reached consumers through retail outlets, manufacturers lists of customers and delivery trucks.  They could have used targeted online advertising (Facebook and Google AdWords) and reached out to niche “horror” blogs to gain traction.

“Social media is a great tool for reaching people,” LaMountain said, “but it’s not enough to simply post your content online and wait for the masses to arrive.  It has to be part of a comprehensive marketing and communications plan if it’s going to work.”

Should your intern run your social media? Maybe not.

When I was in Austin at the SXSW conference, I heard the fabulous communications expert, Peter Kim. In addition to other social media stories of a “fail,” this one was his best.  So when I saw this on his blog today, I had to replay here. It’s just too good to miss. You can follow him on Twitter, @peterkim.

Here’s what “fail fast” looks like

Earlier this year, Chrysler made a bold statement to the world, airing the Imported From Detroit commercial during Super Bowl XLV in February 2011. The ad created buzz in the ad world, political circles, and the entertainment industry, while helping drive a 191% increase in month-over-month sales of the Chrysler 200, the car featured in the ad. Unless you hate America, it’s hard not to feel proud of the United States and one of its core but beaten down industries after watching the full two-minute spot.

A month later, this tweet publishes one morning from Chrysler’s official Twitter account:

@ChryslerAutos errant tweet

Auto blog Jalopnik broke the story and here’s what transpired in rapid succession:

  • @ChryslerAuto tweets “Our apologies – our account was compromised earlier today. We are taking steps to resolve it.”
  • post to the corporate blog clarifies that an agency was responsible for the tweet and the employee responsible for the action was terminated.
  • News breaks that Chrysler fires their social agency of record.

The root cause here might have been technology failure, user error, lack of process (publishing) control, and/or temporary lapse of cultural connection.

Within the 48 hours, an iconic brand gets a black eye, an agency loses a major account, and a person gets fired: nothing good for those directly involved. So where’s all the praise for failing fast? 

The answer is there is none. This mistake could happen to anyone, but most likely to someone who much younger, and a little less experienced with your brand, your audience and your goals and objectives for your mission. So I ask you, would you let your intern run your social media campaign? Maybe not.


The Big Flea Thrives on Word of Mouth

The fifth annual MV Big Flea was held last weekend in Alexandria, Virginia.  This year the annual flea market raised an impressive $30,619 from nearly 2,000 attendees.

Since 2007, the MV Big Flea has raised $93,481 for the Mount Vernon Community School PTA. Not bad for a public elementary school where 2/3rds of the kids qualify for free and reduced-price lunches.

But what’s even more surprising is the role word-of-mouth communications have  played in the Big Flea’s success.

“We don’t have a big advertising budget,” said MV Big Flea spokesperson Maria Getoff.  “We’ve spent less than $1,000 on advertising, and about $7,500 total, to organize and promote the event since 2007.  Instead, we’ve relied on inexpensive grassroots and word of mouth communications tactics to spread the word.”

Local community listservs are the MV Big Flea’s primary means for reaching thousands of potential donors and event attendees.  Organizers do their best to to make the messages “sticky” so they have staying power and spread throughout the community (see here and here).

Organizers rely heavily on other online resources: Craigslist to sell items (and promote the event), Freecycle to get rid of the leftovers, a WordPress blog for a website and targeted Facebook ads to raise awareness in the week before the event.

Old fashioned tactics like personal meetings with community leaders, yard signs and photocopied flyers also help spread the word.  As a result, despite a very limited presence in the local media, the MV Big Flea is widely known in Alexandria and attended by thousands each year.

The Future of Advertising?

Some two decades ago, writes Michael Serazio for The Atlantic, in a sly yet silly vignette from Wayne’s World, Mike Myers and Rob Lowe exchange testy remarks about a sponsor’s gauche intrusion into Wayne’s cable access show. Reclining nearby in mullet-to-toe Reebok gear, Garth, Wayne’s companion and co-host, laments, “It’s like people only do things because they get paid. And that’s just really sad.”

This weekend, Morgan Spurlock, documentarian provocateur last seen eating his way to angina in 2004’s Super Size Me, gives that same joke full-length treatment in The Greatest Movie Ever Sold, a film financed by and about “advertainment”—the increasingly pervasive nexus of commercialization and entertainment.

Knowingly or not, Serazio writes, Spurlock’s wink-wink meta-narrative on promotional culture speaks to a much more serious, simmering crisis of faith in the media industry today. No longer able to depend on traditional institutions of advertising to get their message across, corporations need a vessel. No longer able to depend on the publishing and programming apparatus that long supported them, creators of pop culture need a patron.

And thanks to profound economic and technological transformations, audiences’ ability to filter out advertising from their lives—via TiVo, satellite radio, national Do Not Call registries, spam filters, and the like—may one day result in all content becoming branded content.

On one level, Serazio writes, we have no one but ourselves to blame. The more we steel against marketer entreaty in familiar venues—armed with our DVRs and pop-up blockers—and the more that we refuse to pay for editorial content, be it entertainment or journalistic, the more the media and advertising industries will need to wind up in bed together in order to survive.

And the ongoing development of such branded material could be a harbinger for how these businesses are funded and managed—redefining their roles in, rules for, and relationship to popular content.

But if advertising is, indeed, “geographically imperialistic,” and the growth of word-of-mouth marketing over the past decade is any indication—whereby brands try to seed buzz in our everyday conversations—we may well be facing the next creepy horizon of commercial colonization: “real life product placement.”

Online Poker Backers Step up Lobbying Efforts

With three poker websites popular with U.S. players seized, their founders indicted and billions of dollars in cash locked up in cyberspace, supporters of legalizing online poker stepped up their lobbying efforts Monday for federal regulations reports the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

According to staff writer Chris Sieroty, those efforts have been led by a small, grassroots organization that has become the main voice of poker players in the United States. The Poker Player Alliance has helped its members voice their support for legalizing online poker through several lobbying campaigns.

“They are spending millions to prosecute these individuals when they could be making billions through regulation of online poker. We are urging Congress to pass legislation to license online poker,” said John Pappas, executive director of the Washington, D.C. -based Poker Player Alliance.

The PPA launched a Take Action page on its website to assist players with contacting members of Congress, the Department of Justice and President Obama.  There is even an online form letter set up that asks players to fill in their name, email address, mailing address, and phone number.

The Take Action page also includes a link to the Justice Department’s Facebook page to leave comments. The organization urges its supporters to post on the DOJ’s Facebook page: “Politely post your thoughts.” It also urges others to “like other pro-poker posts as well.” Continue reading

Sending the Wrong Message: Parents Protest Budget Cuts

A local grassroots collection of parents displayed concern over Florida legislature’s plan to cut education funding this morning with a march over the Granada Bridge in Ormond Beach.

A larger march is planned between 4 and 6 p.m. today, according to a report published in the Daytona Beach News Journal by staff writer Audrey Parente.

“The point is to let legislators know there is unhappiness at the local level with the idea of cutting educational funding,” said Julia Truilo of Ormond Beach.

The local mom was among a small group of bridge marchers this morning, but said the crowd after school is expected to be larger.

“It’s a parent-generated protest,” Truilo said. “My purpose is to let folks know education funding is important.

“There’s one rule when organizing a protest,” said Joe LaMountain of Sparklight Communications, “you’ve got to deliver a crowd.  If you don’t, you wind up looking weak to the politicians you’re trying to influence.”

The parents organized in a online blog at PreserveEducation.blogspot.com listing email contacts for key legislators and the Volusia County School Board. The blog site also includes suggested slogans forbridge-walkers to include on homemade signs.

“Parents are doing right by involved,” LaMountain continued.  “But a successful protest needs more than just a blog.  You need dozens of personal meetings, hundreds of phone calls and thousands of flyers for it to work.” Continue reading

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