Category Archives: Case studies

Fandango’s smart Facebook trick sells more movie tickets

Being that it’s Friday night, my thoughts have turned to movies (and since I’m too lazy to stick my nose out of the door, I’m writing about them instead. <grin>) Movies and social media marketing, that is.

Have any of you ever bought a movie ticket from Fandango.com? The site, which is owned by Comcast, pulled a clever rabbit out of its hat when decided to see the Disney/Pixar flick Wall-E for my eight-year-old and I. (I recommend you buy it or rent it pronto — it’s a killer movie written for adults more than kids.)

There I was, happily completing my purchase, when what should appear but a banner asking if it was OK if the purchase I just made showed up on my Facebook home page. Being who I am, I thought that was great, so I said yes. When I arrived at Facebook to check out what Fandango had done, I was struck by how powerful it was for something simple.

All Fandango.com did was place a small banner–how, I don’t know, but I’ll try to find out if you want to know–at the top of my home page. The banner, which was colored burnt-orange like the site, simply said “Anne Zieger bought two tickets to Wall-E” and provided a link for others to use to buy some too. It was also branded “Fandango.com.”

Now, since I don’t work for Comcast I obviously can’t offer analytics here, but my suspicion is that this approach sells a lot of tickets. Think about it…it offers a credible reason to buy the same tickets (your friend is seeing the movie), ease of purchase (the “buy” link’s right there), and what’s essentially a professional pitch where there usually aren’t any (in the middle of the Facebook home page).

In short, this my guess is this is an example of a social media approach which almost certainly would have justified its costs. Has anyone else seen smart viral techniques like this out there which seem likely to move product without a lot of fuss?

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Twitter broadcasts track season’s e-commerce woes

Now here’s a neat idea putting new-fangled Twitter to old-fashioned use. Our friends at smart insider retail IT publication StorefrontBacktalk.com will be launching a Twitter feed tracking major retail site performance problems—crashes, slowdowns and other glitches—starting Black Friday (Nov. 28). Sign up for the site’s feed at http://twitter.com/SFBackTalk ASAP before the hot news starts moving.

For those who don’t know the term, by the way, Black Friday is the unbelievably profitable Friday retailers usually see the day after Thanksgiving, fueled by a frenzy of Christmas shopping by consumers with time off from work.

StorefrontBackTalk will be working with at least a half-dozen of the top site traffic tracking fims from Thanksgiving through New Year’s, watching the largest retailers globally, with a special eye on the majors in the United States, Canada and Europe.

Since SFBT’s audience made up folks like the VP of e-commerce for Borders, this is red-hot information. Some consumers will doubtless be interested in knowing if they’re about to lose their carefully-picked shopping cart in a flash due to a server overload, too. So this thing could be big.

Sure, lots of sites are already pushing out their RSS feeds onto Twitter. But it will be interesting to see how it works to treat Twitter as, in effect, an old-fashioned wire service. After all, it still isn’t the easiest broadcast mechanism to use. In the future, perhaps it will be, in part due to demonstration projects like these!

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Creating a Twitter explosion, or the FlyLady effect

Editor’s Note: Here’s our first report from new guest contributor Christa Bradney, on the ever-expanding Web phenom that is FlyLady. Christa, take it away…

If you keep track of the trending topics on Twitter, you might have thought that the #flylady channel came out of nowhere yesterday afternoon.  (Even more so if you haven’t heard of FlyLady, the Web-based domestic goddess whose keep-your-life-organized system has attracted devoted followers from around the world.)

Besides, in a matter of speaking, the topic did come out of nowhere.  Yesterday morning, FlyLady was not on Twitter.  Then, somewhere around nine or ten AM, she announced on her e-mail list that she had a Twitter account (@theflylady) and wanted to try it out.  Boom! Less than twelve hours later, nearly two thousand people had already followed her to Twitter-land. 

Of course, word is still out on how many of those 2,000 followers were already Twitter users and how many are new to the service, and it also remains to be seen how much more FlyLady’s presence on Twitter will grow. But this was a heck of a start.

So, if you were ever wondering what would happen if a brand with a devoted following puts a Twitter ID in the hands of its fans, look no further. Clearly, when a someone who a) has a strong Web brand name and b) frequent contact with its customer base spontaneously announces that they are joining a social media website, spontaneous Twitter combustion can occur.

P.S. By the way, FlyLady (and other Web celebrities who follow) may find that the rules for communicating with fans have changed once they enjoy more instant contact with a large portion of their fan base. After all, if FlyLady isn’t careful in mentioning small, third-party websites, they could be brought down by an accidental Slashdot effect, and most don’t take kindly to that.

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Great idea for connecting with your Twitter followers

Now here’s an idea that makes sense not only for Twitter, but also for other forms of social media (including blogs, social networks and bookmarking sites). I love it — not only does it provide great information for the marketer, it also builds a sense of community in the process. Great stuff!

What’s got me stirred up is a site mounted by Eric Miltsch of car dealer AuctionDirect. The site, Tweet and Greet, challenges Miltsch’s Twitter followers to answer 10 quick questions about cars.

The results Miltsch gets are entertaining, revealing and most importantly, memorable. Not only that, the survey is likely to engage rather than frustrate users. As ProBlogger Darren Rowse notes, the odd thing is that people tend to be more committed to your product when you ask them to do some work.

Readers, what’s your favorite technique for learning more about your social media followers and fans? Have you ever built a campaign around information gathered from social media-based research? — Anne

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Google Chrome, and other things that don’t need social media marketing

As anyone reading a blog like this knows, tossing out the name of Google’s super-hot new browser, Google Chrome, is likely to give this item a boost in the SERPs. If I’m Google, I certainly don’t need to pump up my reputation with bloggers or make sure a lot of people “favorite” Google Chrome groups in one form or another. All of that may happen, and it’s fine, but if I were on Google’s marketing team, it certainly wouldn’t be my priority. All of which is to say that while big brands are certainly leveraging social media, it’s still more important for small and emerging businesses:

– Social media has a few well-known networks, but the medium is still rather fragmented, with small but important players emerging seemingly every day. Bigger businesses are unlikely to benefit from adapting to multiple social networks and platforms; it’s more likely to create inconsistencies in their message.

– Social media is neither fish nor fowl, in that it has characteristics of both PR and Web marketing. Big brand marketers seldom have the flexibility to adapt their message, budget and personnel to such hybrids.

– Small businesses are close enough to the product or service to carry the feedback from social networks straight to those who deliver the product or service. Big companies, in theory, can do the same thing, but they’re more likely to respond to focus groups and other throat-clearing.

So what do you think, folks? Aside from a few rumored successes, like Dell‘s moving some PCs through its Twitter presence, do big businesses need to have an integrated online presence yet? I’d love to hear your comments.– Anne

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Staples’ “That Was Easy” brand makes another convert (me)

Ok, folks, I’ll admit that this post is partly a “hey there, I’m not dead” note — I’ve been crazy busy in my personal and professional life and haven’t posted in a few weeks — but I did want to share with you a simple, sweet marketing tactic I just encountered which had a real impact on my personal spending behavior.

A few days ago, I was cruising around the Web aimlessly (I think on ZDNet, though I’m not sure) and somehow encountered a banner ad for Staples.com pitching a discount coupon.

Since I’ve become a fan of the site and store of late, I clicked, expecting to spend at least a bit of time filling out some sort of tiresome form or enduring some pitch.

Guess what — I didn’t.

When I clicked on the banner, the ad triggered my PC’s printer driver. When OK’d the print job, my system immediately printed out a nice little $15-off coupon usable either online or in one of the Staples stores. Since I’ve been meaning to buy an office chair in the $100 range, that’s a meaningful discount which pretty much ties up much decision to buy there.

Not only did this “cut to the chase” approach deliver exactly what I needed, which certainly can’t hurt, you can’t beat this as a way to reinforce Staples’ whole “That Was Easy” brand online. As the coupon printed, those three words came into my head unbidden; I don’t know if the ads got to me or that was just how I felt, which I guess could be said to be the magic of a strong brand! All I can say is “high five, Staples!”

Meanwhile, if you’d like to learn more about some of Staples’ other online strategies, you might enjoy this Promo article from December 2007. As you’ll see, the office giant’s “That Was Easy” widget seems to be quite a hit.

P.S. By the way, stay tuned for a review of Spongecell.com, a really interesting site which makes it easy to promote events virally using social media and other traditional Internet technologies. Here at WhatMattersOnline Labs we’re giving it a thorough look and will report back shortly.

Like what you see in What Matters Online? Want to stay up to date on the latest in Web 2.0, social media and old-school interactive marketing? Get notified of our latest updates by e-mail or RSS. I will never sell or exchange your information, and I won’t deluge your inbox — I promise!

Twitter comments fuel unique social advertising campaign

Ideally, social media campaigns should have a completely different feel than old-media marketing or even last-gen Internet efforts. While most old-style campaigns talk to (or at) customers, social media marketers need to foster honest, unfiltered communication with current and potential users.

If you want to know how that looks in real life, I can’t think of a better example than the site “We All Hate QuickBooks,” a unique site mounted by Florida-based software firm Less Everything. The firm, a tiny virtual company with less than 10 employees, has taken candor and transparency to a level you’ll probably never see from bigger competitors–and it’s marvelous to watch.

The WAHQ site, which promotes the company’s LessAccounting software, runs an unfiltered list of Twitter posts (“tweets”) which contain the term “QuickBooks” in them. Since the posts aren’t censored, some actually offer positive QuickBooks reviews, while others seem to support Less Everything’s contention that the market-leading accounting package is kludgy, hard to use or otherwise a pain in the patoot. (“We’re showing the good with the bad, so decide for yourself!” the site says.)

Online marketing director Rhea Drysdale says that before Less Everthing mounted the site, some of its employees simply lurked on Twitter, and when someone posted a QuickBooks complaint, let them know that there was an alternative. By the way, I asked her whether people complained about being approached this way and to my surprise, she said that they’d gotten no complaints.( Interesting, given the current wave of paranoia over Twitter spam, but I digress.)

The project was a seat-of-the-pants social media project from the get-go. The site was created in-house (using a unique technique known as CSS parallax, for my geekier readers), and promoted exclusively by Twitter posts from Less Everything staffers. Since then it’s gotten more attention from Digg posts and StumbleUpon links created by WAHQ.com fans, Drysdale says.

While Drysdale isn’t sharing how many people actually signed up for a LessAccounting trial as a result of the project, she says it’s generated “a very nice list.” So yes, the project had an impact. That being said, Less Everything execs see this as something of an experiment. “We’re going to begin moving to formalized press releases, weekly e-mail blasts to existing customers and all of that,” she says. “This is just supplementary, for the fun of it.”

Even if this was mostly an experiment for Less Everything, I predict that its smart little site will be seen as visionary in coming months. Let’s hear it for people who actually have the guts to put uncensored end user commentary front and center!

Meanwhile, readers, if you’re aware of other intriguing social media marketing efforts, I’d love to hear more. Comment when ready! (If you want to reach me directly, please feel free to tweet me at @annezieger.)
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Like what you see in What Matters Online? Want to stay up to date on the latest in Web 2.0, social media and old-school interactive marketing? Get notified of our latest updates by e-mail or RSS. I will never sell or exchange your information, and I won’t deluge your inbox — I promise!