August 20, 2009

Social media, brands and the way forward

JD LasicaThis week I attended one of the more interesting discussions around brands’ use of social media that I’ve taken in during the past year.

Your Brand, Their World at Razorfish’s corporate headquarters in San Francisco brought together a highly engaged audience of 100 social media and marketing specialists during an opening presentation by Garrick Schmitt, GVP Experience Planning for Razorfish (@gschmitt on Twitter) followed by an interesting panel with Megan O’Connor, Levi’s; Michael Brito, Intel; Marisa Gallagher, Razorfish; Sam Faillace, Shutterfly, and Jon Swartz, USA Today (moderator).

“We’re all intuitively going through these changes and we’re all intuitively interacting with [brands and media companies] in different ways without fully understanding what it all means,” Schmitt said.

Slide highlights: social media spending

• Schmitt offered metrics to back up the excitement around the explosion of interest in social media. For instance, in slide 3 of the deck above, you’ll see that in Interactive marketing spending (US), search marketing and display advertising far surpass email marketing, social media and mobile marketing social media in terms of dollars spent today. Social media spending will grow from $716 million this year to $3.113 billion by 2014, according to Forrester’s projection.

• Advertising dollars haven’t followed the audience’s migration online yet — but it will. Americans spend about an equal amount of time watching TV and going online today, but ad spending remains at 31 percent for television vs. only 12 percent for the online medium. (slide 5)

• Bad news for newspapers: Individuals spend 7 percent of their media consumption with print newspapers but the ad spend for newspapers is 14 percent today.

• You’ll find richly textured analysis of the trends in social influence marketing in Razorfish’s recent fluent publication (free download).

Panel highlights: rock stars and the 80-20 Rule

actor playing ajay bhatt• I love those new Intel commercials (“Our rock stars aren’t like your rock stars”) on PBS’s NewsHour and elsewhere, especially the ones featuring Ajay Bhatt, one of the inventors of the USB. I guessed that it wasn’t really him (Wikipedia is silent on his age), but thought those were real Intel employees. However, it’s an actor playing Bhatt, Michael Brito said, and indeed, all the employees portrayed in the ads are actors.

• Brito (@Britopian on Twitter) uses the 80-20 Rule in his tweeting: 80 percent is personal, 20 percent is business — an excellent frame of reference for companies just jumping into the game. He talked about the importance of reaching out to the community “in an authentic manner” through their social media efforts, such as the Intel Insiders (disclosure: I’m part of that team). “I’d rather have 100 people I have an authentic relationship than 5,000 followers” and an artificial relationship or no real nexus to you or your brand.

• “Social media is not the be all and end all,” Brito added. “Not every company needs a Twitter account or a Facebook app.”

• More Brito: “Most corporate blogs suck. They really do.” Across industries, most corporate blogs average one comment per post. Intel’s blogs average about four comments per post, he said.

• Robert Scoble (@scobleizer on Twitter), who has more than 94,000 followers on Twitter, has recently begun cutting back on following people back. “It’s not a good goal for businesses to have more followers. It’s a good goal to have participants or enthusiasts,” he said. “The best brands create conversations.”

“Most corporate blogs suck. They really do.”

• Lots of discussion about measuring return on investment, but Gallagher came up with the best metric: sales. During Barbie’s 50-year-anniversary campaign, Mattel decided to do no traditional media push, focusing 100 percent of its efforts on social media. The effort resulted in 35 million impressions on Facebook and an 18 percent increase in sales that quarter in a down market.

• In his years at Intel, Brito said, “I’ve never seen an ROI report, and we’ve spent millions of dollars in search advertising. We’re not selling direct to the consumer. … ROI is not what you think. You can’t measure ROI of a billboard.”

• Jacob Morgan asked a number of spot-on questions and talked about ROI as “part brand awareness, part friend equity. It’s not just a number.”

• Someone from the audience offered a concise synopsis of inbound vs. outbound marketing. Outbound is the traditional form of interruption advertising (commercials on TV, a billboard interrupting your thought process), while inbound marketing is about people opting in or getting recommendations from friends.

• Tom Foremski noted that Apple doesn’t directly engage in social media, but others pointed out that its iPhone has become a key device enabling social media (Twitter apps, etc.) and the company has ingenious branding approaches that make us want to talk about its products. “They don’t need a blog or a social media plan, their products kick ass,” Brito said.

• Someone on the panel compared where we are with social media in the enterprise today with “where we were 10 years ago with websites.” So true.

• Deb Schultz (one of four Traveling Geeks in the room) asked about companies scaling resources and suggested that perhaps it was time to redeploy “all the 20somethings” charged with figuring out placement of ads on websites and instead make them begin to use social influence marketing.

• Razorfish’s Gallagher said the auto companies don’t have as much fear jumping into social media as some of the other incumbents because it’s do or die for them.

• A woman from the California Academy of Sciences said of the steady spread of Facebook Connect through the interwebs: “It’s insidious and evil and really very interesting.” (“Facebook in essence is creating its own web browser,” Brito remarked. Interesting!) She observed that social media is becoming more connected to real life interactions at the dinner table, in the park and at church. (“You can’t track the dinner table” for ROI, someone snarked.)

The session was videotaped and presumably will be released on video at some point. You can read tweets about the session at #brsm.
JD Lasica, founder of, is now co-founder of the cruise discovery engine Cruiseable. See his About page, contact JD or follow him on Twitter or Google Plus.

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  • The conversation on authentic interaction is interesting. This has been on my mind recently. Really how many people can we have authentic relationships with on social networks? For businesses using networks to market, should we be concerned with that or is it still effective to have 5,000 followers that we talk to but not interact with personally as much? Does it still help sales, that's what my clients want to know.

    • Hi Deborah. Can we have both? I like to think that there can be 100 – and this may be a moving feast dependent on the topic, the news environment – for whom we have more direct interaction and take the connection from SM to email, phone and beyond, and 4,900 who are listening in, monitoring, learning a lot about us, forming opinions and may never take it further in the SM environment, but may end up connecting elsewhere. Perhaps the interaction is lacking but the communication can still be authentic.

  • Thank you for this insightful post.