Marketing on Twitter: What NOT to do

By Todd Bacile | May 31, 2012

What NOT to do on Twitter

One of the first things business people ask me when I tell them that I teach electronic marketing and social media marketing within Florida State University’s College of Business is “How can I market my company on Twitter?” A lot of business people understand the benefits of marketing on Facebook, yet Twitter remains an enigma. In fact, many companies fail to use appropriate marketing strategy for this particular medium.  A great example of this is a series of actual tweets that recently appeared in my timeline. Based on these tweets, the following is a very simple case in point of what marketers should NOT do on Twitter.

As an example please view the screen shot below (note: I have attempted to let this company maintain some of its dignity by blurring / redacting its name). If you read the content of each tweet and notice the time between posts you see an unspectacular pattern forming. The funny thing is that I have done business with this firm before and they are very knowledgeable with marketing concepts in some emerging technologies. Apparently their breadth of knowledge does not encompass Twitter.

Twitter: What NOT to do

The screen shot depicts tweet after tweet using the same core message with minor edits to verbiage, but virtually the same offer. It appears that once per hour the company posts a nearly identical form tweet – and that is something that firms should NOT do when marketing their products on Twitter. Perhaps even worse is that the company is trumpeting its terrific offer. Consumers on Twitter – and most social media sites – do not want to be “marketed to” or “shouted at” regarding a firm’s latest and greatest sale. Why? It’s annoying. Even though consumers have learned to accept annoying promotional communication within mass media, consumers prefer to avoid annoying marketing communication when they are reading and exchanging content within their social networks. It should come as no surprise that the company depicted in this screen shot has a following-to-follower ratio of about 5-to-1. This is not a recipe for success to build a supportive and engaging following for your brand on Twitter.

If you want a basic Twitter 101 on what should be done to correct this issue, one can follow the advice offered by Joel Comm in his book Twitter Power. It’s acceptable to mix in tweets containing promotional offers, yet this should not be the majority of tweets sent. Instead, a firm should mix its tweet style using classic tweets (this is what I am doing), opinion tweets (this is what I am thinking), accomplished tweets (this is what I’ve done), entertainment tweets (I’m going to make you laugh), and question tweets (can you help me with something?). Furthermore, these five different tweet styles can be mixed-in with four common types of corporate brand tweets: company or industry news, feedback, special offers, and support. A company can create various tweets using combinations of these different styles and types. Then, a brand can occasionally mix in a sales pitch. A company using a Twitter strategy such as this will minimize the annoyance factor, appear more interesting, and improve its chances to engage with other consumers while building a large following.

Todd Bacile is a marketing doctoral candidate and instructor for Electronic Marketing and Services Marketing in the College of Business at Florida State University. He has published and presented numerous marketing studies in the areas of social media, mobile marketing, and services marketing at national and regional marketing conferences. When not working, he loves to cook BBQ on his smoker and always enjoys a good baseball trivia question. You can contact him on Twitter @toddbacile

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Social Complaining: the evolution of technology and media

By Todd Bacile | May 23, 2012

 Social ComplainingI recently interviewed several social media marketers in conjunction with a study being conducted with Florida State University’s marketing department. During these interviews the majority of marketers stated that they have deleted consumers’ negative comments from their firm’s Facebook wall. Mind you, the consumer comments that these marketers deleted did not contain any inappropriate or vulgar language (usually). Moreover, the marketers acknowledged that the consumers were right to justify their complaints related to some type of dis-satisfaction or service failure with their firm. However, the marketers wanted to maintain a clean Facebook wall without any negative comments. The remarks from one marketer summed up the group’s outlook of Facebook comments: “This is our firm’s Facebook page, not a blog. If a consumer wants to complain about something, they should find a blog. It’s my page, so I can control whatever content I want.”

Social Complaining: deleting comments is not the answer

Along with all the positive outcomes that firms associate with social media, one of the “dark” sides of such media is negative publicity. Firms don’t like to discuss this negativity in great detail. As illustrated by the marketers interviewed, they can simply make the problem disappear from their page with a press of the delete button. Some marketers view this situation similar to sweeping dust under a rug: out of sight, out of mind. Newsflash to firms: this does not solve the problem.

Social media has created a phenomenon that I refer to as social complaining. The Internet has enabled consumers to complain or post negative comments for several years. However, the power of social media tools to easily reach consumers’ personal social networks is now enabling social complainers to be heard by large masses. Most consumers on Facebook have 100-200 friends. These friends actively listen to a communication describing a malicious marketer, who has a heavy finger on the delete button.

I conducted several interviews with consumers asking about their experiences and reactions to having their social media complaints deleted from a company’s Facebook wall. The consumers’ frustration and emotions were immediately apparent. Several of the interviewees stated that they have had their complaints deleted. When this action occurs, this usually sets in motion a series of events that a company A) cannot control; and B) will regret. The consumers stated that the original complaint takes a back-burner to what they now consider an unethical company that does not care about their consumers. These consumers have their own Facebook wall, Twitter accounts, YouTube, blogs, and other easy to use, yet powerful self-publishing tools to inform their networks through social complaining. Not only does the original complaint get re-published to consumers’ personal networks, but also the action that the company took to hide the problem (deleting the comments) becomes a focal point of the communication. Hence, the social complainer is still heard, even though the marketer did their best to sweep the issue under the rug.

Advice to Companies

View a complaint posted to your Facebook wall as an opportunity to stand out and impress your consumers. Not only the original complaining consumer, but also those additional onlookers reading and posting to your wall. When a consumer complains they are asking for you to recognize them and communicate with them. A complaining consumer is really saying: I like your company, spend my hard earned money on your products, and now I need you to help me resolve an issue. Please talk to me! A good way to handle this is to address the consumer in an apologetic and empathetic manner (similar to how traditional brick-and-mortar customer service is conducted). Then, take the complaint offline. I don’t mean delete the complaint from the wall. Rather, ask the consumer to contact you via phone or e-mail to fully resolve the issue. Taking it offline allows for you to give more personal attention to the consumer, while also avoiding any messy details or additional negative comments to be posted for all to see on your wall. A good example of a firm that is using this strategy is Holiday Inn. The screen shots below illustrates their complaint resolution in action.

Social Complaints

Holiday Inn resolves the issue by taking it offline. They also leave the original complaint viewable on their wall. This is a smart move by a strong brand. By leaving the complaint on the wall, the company is communicating to their customers that it cares. The company wants to let their consumers know that they are willing to talk with them. This level of interaction and engagement is what makes social media so powerful – and it can nip a social complainer’s problem in the bud before it leads to a larger problem that the company cannot control.

 
 
Todd Bacile is a marketing doctoral candidate and instructor for Electronic Marketing and Services Marketing in the College of Business at Florida State University. Outside of the classroom he enjoys cooking BBQ in his smoker and coaching tee ball. You can contact him on Twitter @toddbacile
 
Jennifer Bacile contributed to this post. She holds degrees in IT & Communication with technology. Follow Jennifer on Twitter @JBacile

Scoutmob: a new location-based app

By Todd Bacile | May 17, 2012

 Scoutmob Upon being presented with 25-to-50 local deals that were offering 50%-to-100% off special items, a former Electronic Marketing student of mine exclaimed “My prayers have been answered!” Her enthusiasm was the product of discovering a location-based mobile app named Scoutmob. “While visiting Atlanta I wanted to get the full Atlanta experience while avoiding name brand restaurants,” she said. Stumbling upon the Scoutmob app gave her the information, guidance, and incentives to achieve that goal.

Scoutmob is similar to Groupon, in that it offers affordable discounts to fun places around a large city. However, unlike Groupon you don’t have to purchase couponsto use them. All coupons are free to use. Each deal is only eligible to be redeemed once per person, but if you’re lucky you can become eligible for a Return Perk if you are a good “mobster.” Scoutmob started in Atlanta and has subsequently expanded to other large cities across the United States including Austin, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Los Angeles, Nashville, New York, Portland, San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington DC, with further plans to expand in the future.

Scoutmob.com is very informative providing details on daily deals in your city, articles about what is fun to do on the weekends, and other special events. The app also offers “Curiosities” that feeds you with interesting factoids of the area. Scoutmob will assist you in filling your calendar with affordable activities that will open up a whole new world that you never knew existed. The app is available at no charge to consumers. Don’t have a smartphone? No problem. You can visit scoutmob.com to register for e-mail notifications and be considered a “mobster.”

Scoutmob is a creative concept and has great potential in today’s marketplace where discovering a hidden gem is rewarding for consumers and small business owners. Many local economies are sustained by small, niche businesses that need support in these trying economic times. This app provides a small technological boost to get to know cities better and find these hidden treasures of local economies. For more information you can visit their web site, follow @scoutmob on Twitter, or watch this video describing its benefits.

 

Todd Bacile is a marketing doctoral candidate and instructor for Electronic Marketing and Services Marketing in the College of Business at Florida State University. You can contact him on Twitter @toddbacile

Tessa Revolinski contributed to this post. She is a recent graduate of Florida State University and has the proud distinction of having a higher Klout score than her e-Marketing professor. You can follow Tessa on twitter @mamaswoosh

Klout: A Service Failure Episode

By Todd Bacile | May 13, 2012

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Many Klout lovers and Klout haters have surfaced recently as the online social influence metric has gained popularity in the press. I for one happen to like Klout, and similar social popularity scoring engines. In today’s age Klout gives marketers access to a new type of information emerging from the social web. Having said all that, today Klout let me down and this post is a brief description of the event. As I write this I feel confident in saying I am not the only person Klout has failed in this manner.

This morning while on a brisk walk I received an e-mail from Klout: I had earned a Klout Perk. Companies are using these “perks” to offer free swag to influential consumers, in the hopes that after a free trial we (the influential consumers) will write, tweet, blog, and tell our masses of followers how much we enjoyed the product. This makes great business sense: go after the opinion leaders with some capacity to influence and let organic word-of-mouth reach the masses instead of paid advertising. Today’s email from Klout notified me that I qualified to receive a free 5-pack of an energy drink called EBoost.

I clicked the link from my e-mail message to go directly to my Klout Perks page. And this is where the fail occurred. The free perk I had qualified for, that Klout took the time to contact me via my e-mail only minutes before, was no longer available. Apparently, only so many freebie EBOOST perks were allocated by Klout – and that limit had already been reached. A couple of things I must clarify here. I feel that Klout failed me for two reasons: they contacted me via e-mail setting an expectation and within only a few minutes (i.e. less than one hour) after sending the email, the offer was no longer valid (at least for me). Now, I have seen many perks in the past that I was qualified to receive, yet were no longer available. But, none of these upset me because the offer was a few days old – meaning several influential Klout users had ample time to request the freebie – and Klout had not e-mailed me. The fail occurred because of the direct contact and the brief time frame.

This is classic services management 101 stuff. This semester I am teaching Service Operations Management at Florida State University. And a scenario like this is covered in an early chapter for the undergrads to understand how innovative services must be managed properly to avoid service failure situations. If you logically think about what occurred today with my Klout encounter, it is nearly identical to the following situation. While walking down the street a restaurant owner tells me “Hi Todd! Come on in and try this free sample.” Only, when I come in a few minutes later the owner says “Hey, sorry we ran out”, with no other apologies, rain checks, or attempts to make me avoid feeling like a meaningless number.

Klout is sitting on a mountain of data. As their site states they analyze 2.7 billion pieces of content on the social web per day. To frame this in a technology service delivery scenario, Klout could easily run the numbers to assess how many people qualify for a particular perk and how many people they choose to directly contact before working with a company like EBOOST. Klout and EBOOST can then decide how many freebies to initially give out. In today’s technology rich environment this is service delivery 101 stuff, and like I said, by the end of this week my undergrads, most of which have no business experience, will understand how to recognize such potential pitfalls in the service delivery process. Klout, I love you and am not trying to trash you. But try to work on the underlying details before setting high initial expectations that cannot be met for myself and other similar consumers. Has anyone else experienced an issue like this?  If so please post a comment below and /or RT this post.

Todd Bacile is a marketing doctoral candidate and instructor for Electronic Marketing and Services Marketing in the College of Business at Florida State University. He has published and presented numerous marketing studies in the areas of social media, mobile marketing, and services marketing at national and regional marketing conferences. When not working, he loves to cook BBQ on his smoker and always enjoys a good baseball trivia question. You can contact him on Twitter @toddbacile

The Death of Advertising? Not Quite

By Todd Bacile | May 11, 2012

Advertising is on its deathbed and it will not survive long, having contracted a fatal disease of new technology.”

— Roland Rust and Rich Oliver, 1994, in the Journal of Advertising

The opening quote is from an 18-year old article titled “The Death of Advertising”, in which predictions are made regarding the inevitable end of extant advertising strategies. The authors stated that in “10-to-15” years advertising as we know it (back in 1994) will be dead. However, here we are several years later, and advertising is not dead – at least to the degree predicted. This is not to say the authors were off their rocker in their prediction – these are two very smart marketing researchers – but rather advertising has had a surprising ability to hang on into its ripe old age despite newer, younger, and sleeker options looking to replace it.

Technological advances in marketing have forced managers and industry leaders to change the way they communicate and offer products to consumers. Advertising itself has seen this first hand in the past and continually has adapted. For instance, new technologies in printers forever changed how mass audiences were advertised to, via newspapers and magazines. Radio, and later television, followed print media to enable advertisers to more effectively reach their target audience in new and innovative ways. For many of these advancements marketers and advertisers were able to maintain their all-inclusive control over the communication process to consumers. For example, when television became widespread decades ago, powerful firms and ad agencies that had worked with the radio broadcasting networks began to work with the three sole television networks. And when television networks expanded to additional public stations – and eventually cable networks – the same default model of key corporate decision makers controlling all aspects of the advertising and communication process remained. The powerful few corporations controlled the powerless masses of consumers, otherwise referred to as “the micro-impotence of consumers’’ (Rezabakhsh et al. 2006). This power advantage for marketers was due to information asymmetry and the bases of social power favoring ad agencies and marketing departments representing firms that were rich in resources.

For the first time in at least a century this power model is not carrying over to the next emerging media spaces. The dominant forms of newer media are emerging in the form of social media and mobile devices with ubiquitous connectivity. In these media the all-inclusive corporate-control model is not appropriate. Yet there are no widespread advertising or marketing strategies firmly entrenched to guide marketers. There are tips and to-do lists, but no overarching theories or philosophies to force a deviation from advertising strategies grounded in mass media. Instead we are seeing ad agencies and marketers make mistakes in new media; and several self-titled “experts” with a large following standing on a pedestal boasting about what works in new media. In effect, what we are seeing is more like the Wild West with some marketers acting as town sheriffs taking the law into their own hands; and the “experts” acting like gunslingers seeking to takeout the ill-prepared sheriffs.

In fact, what I am seeing is very similar mass media ad methods being applied to these new media channels. It is true that in some new media consumers can now “opt-in” which gives the appearance that consumers have more control over advertising / marketing communication. However, this is a facade marketers use giving the illusion of consumer participation and empowerment. Consumers are opting-in to become a passive audience unable to make specific decisions within the marketing communication process. As a passive audience consumers are exposed to ads and promotional messages based on agendas decided by firms. Marketers still control the frequency, time of delivery, length, design, and other factors that make up marketing communication in new media. This situation is no different than consumers turning on their TV and being exposed to commercials without the direct ability to express individual preferences (such as when to send an ad, how often, what type of content preferred, etc.). An ironic comparison can be drawn to mass media concerning this passivity. Consumers can, in effect, opt-in through a non-formal process with mass media such as choosing what station to watch or what radio channel to listen to, but then the consumer ceases all control. This is what we are seeing for the most part in newer media channels. The old way of advertising is carrying over to new media. Advertising has dodged another bullet.

Back to “The Death of Advertising”: the core ideas are correct, in that advertising as we knew it in the 1980s and 1990s is based on a problematic foundation when consumers demand an increase in control and participation with more personal media. Yet, the 100+ year history of ad agencies and marketers being the sole decision makers in the advertising / marketing communication process is “not dead”. Case in point: 95% of Facebook questions or complaints that consumers post to a company’s Facebook wall go unanswered, or worse yet deleted. Why? Many firms view their Facebook page as an ad medium that they control. As one prominent marketer told me: “Our company Facebook page is not a blog, it is our page. We control what goes up and what gets removed on the Wall.” Old habits die hard. Until new guiding strategies are not only discovered, but become widespread and adapted by major ad agencies and marketing gurus, we will continue to see advertising’s core ideas from decades ago live on well into its old age without fear of death.

 

Todd Bacile is a marketing doctoral candidate and instructor for Electronic Marketing and Services Marketing in the College of Business at Florida State University. He has published and presented numerous marketing studies in the areas of social media, mobile marketing, and services marketing at national and regional marketing conferences. When not working, he loves to cook BBQ on his smoker and always enjoys a good baseball trivia question. You can contact him on Twitter @toddbacile

David Fountain contributed to this post. He is an undergraduate student at Florida State University with a passion for marketing and social media. You can contact him on Twitter @jdfountain