Category Archives: worth watching

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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Will your brand be Twit-jacked?

twitter

Beware: a painful phenomenon from the Web 1.0 world is creeping into Twitter and other social media platforms. Opportunists of the same stripe that reserved Coke.com for themselves in the cowboy days of 1993 (hoping to make millions, of course) are beginning to try similar tricks with Twitter, Facebook and other Web 2.0 identities.

The twit-jacking phenomenon hasn’t moved as quickly as most people feared. Sure, there have been some incidents–about a year ago, for example, one questionable fellow tied up the Twitter versions of CNBC, MSNBC, Newsweek and Business Week–but I haven’t heard anything about a large-scale attack. I think you can be pretty sure it’s coming, though. Domain squatters may not be geniuses, but they’ll catch on soon enough.

Why? Publicity is peaking. Twitter (and fellow social media platforms) are reaching the critical mass of mainstream media coverage which attracts the predators in every business community. Once the coverage reaches them, they’ll be registering social media IDs like mad.

In the mean time, I’m recommending to my clients that they to a social media naming audit (write to me if you’d like our form for doing this) to make sure their core brand is protected on all of the major platforms. It’s worth probably analyzing and leveraging a few of the lesser ones, as well, as you want to hedge your bets.

I also suggest that clients do what they’re probably already doing in the Web 1.0 space, which is to reserve multiple spellings of their corporate name, keywords they consider important to their mission and personal names of their corporate executives. Be thorough, and be thoughtful; and remember that nobody though something crazy like an “URL” would make much of a difference in 1994. We’re at that point again.

Besides, it never hurts to think how your brand is positioned today’s hottest emerging media, and if you’re lucky, you may develop new ideas to reach these audiences as you dig through their layers of social participation. If nothing else, though, you’ll have protected yourself against Twit-jacking for the near future. Believe me, you’ll be glad you did.

Anne

P.S. This Network World editor has his own interesting take on the subject, including some interesting details on the extent to which Twit-jacking is already picking up steam

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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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Ad agencies join to measure social media ads

Social media advertising spend should hit $1.8 billion in 2009 according to eMarketer. (Sure, that’s a small percentage of overall Web advertising, which stood at about $20 billion last year, but give it time.)

So it’s no surprise that yesterday, a group of ad agencies and their social media buddies announced that they’d form a trade group focused on defining metrics for measuring social media advertising. (Heck, it was probably overdue.)

The group, the Social Media Ad Council, is backed by Tom Gerace, CEO of social network Gather, and includes reps from Edelman, Universal McCann, e-publishing firm Zinio, Quantcast and a grab bag of i-marketing organizations. The group hopes to find ways to measure “engagement,” the term some use to describe what they’re buying when they place ads on a social networking site.

How does a bundle of x number of Tweets compare with ten PPC ads on Facebook or countless impressions through Friend Feed?  No one has figured that out yet. But it’s critical that someone does. After all, you can’t build an advertising market unless you have some basic units of measurement in place.

Other than Gather, none of the other founders are social media sites. In announcing the group, Gerace noted that he’d invited Facebook and MySpace to participate, but it seems that haven’t gotten involved as of yet.

The fact that they aren’t taking part makes you wonder whether they prefer social media ad buying to remain a bit mysterious. After all, the more the buyers know, the more they can squeeze ad sellers. Maybe that’s what they have in mind? — Anne

P.S. SMAC member UniversalMcCann, not surprisingly, has some thoughts of its own to offer on social media. Its new report on influence in social media, “When Did We Start Trusting Strangers?” is definitely worth a look. Or if you just want a summary check out the review in Marketing Pilgrim.

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Google-Digg mismatch is no surprise

So, in the past several days we learned that Google had made a feint at Digg, then passed. Looked at one way it’s a bit surprising, given Digg’s raw power and extreme brand recognition among the Web’s tastemakers. On the other hand, it may have been a good decision. After all, Google can buy a company, but it can’t buy an attitude.

Sure, any big, lumbering company would like to get its cool on by acquiring a relatively edge Web player like Digg. But the truth is, it’s seldom a good idea–because big companies digest little ones. Sure, the big company can acquire assets–and even Digg’s prodigious traffic and influence–but I doubt it would preserve the culture that makes Digg compelling. Hey, look at the social bookmarking sites that have sprung up since…they’re just not the same.

By the way, in case anyone still has an image of Google as scrappy and innovative, let’s give that a rest. Sure, I remember when Google was the Next Big Thing and full of vibrant energy. But those days are gone, baby. Google may still pay for people’s lunches, but it’s as corporate as they get.

Hey, I’d argue that in some ways, Google is the biggest potential challenger to monolithic Microsoft (more explanation in a future column). What else explains Microsoft’s clumsy pursuit of search dominance by attempting to snag Yahoo? — Anne

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Spongecell brings viral communications to events

For a few months, I’ve been looking into an interesting Left Coast startup called Spongecell which helps companies promote events virally. (The only problem with this company’s presentation is that it’s easy to call it “SpongeBob” instead, especially you have two small children (grin), but apparently the founders find that amusing.)

Well, now I’ve meddled with the Spongecell tools for a while. I’ve also brought them to the attention of my husband, a Web designer who manages a site for a folk artist that does lots of gigs. And my conclusion is that if Spongecell can make them a bit simpler to use, they’ve got a huge hit on their hands. While it’s not as easy as it should be to wire up multiple events–such as the dozen-odd shows being performed this quarter by our folkie friends–the result is worth the trouble.

Here’s how it works. Users who want to promote an event enter event details into Spongecell’s hosted application, creating a customized event page. Users who visit the event page can then easily move the event from the page onto their personal calendars, their iGoogle interface or Outlook.

They can also share notifications via e-mail or into a social network setting like Facebook or Digg, or promote their events through a Java or Flash widget.

Spongecell also allows users to send up to 1,000 free e-mails (using its templates if they wish) to promote their event. The e-mails offer the same capabilities as the customized. They can also send out SMS messages.

Then, there’s tracking. If the user wants to know how users are interacting with their event content, they can check on forwards, acceptances and the like using Spongecell’s reporting technology.

At present, Spongecell doesn’t charge send users for the majority of these functions, though they do impose a fee if users want to send out more than 1,000 messages.

Now, to be honest, my husband found the Spongecell a bit too intimidating to implement–though he later found out that he could have imported those dozen-odd events into Spongecell fairly simply from a spreadsheet (.csv) or calendar file (.ics).

Even so, I see tremendous potential in this approach. While sites like Facebook do a lot to tap the viral potential of their messaging and sharing capabilities, Spongecell takes things a step further by offering viral functions that cut across networks and systems. I’m eager to see where they take this.–Anne

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