I’m thrilled to introduce a special guest posting this week from writer and advertising illuminato Terry Selucky. Her work has been featured throughout the NY lit scene, most recently in New York Magazine. Below Terry shares insights into a new social media branding tool called Udorse. It’s a creative attempt to help brands leverage word-of-mouth in creating a movement. It’s a thought-provoking way of putting the onus on consumers to propel your movement.
In 1994, when NPR’s All Things Considered broadcast an April Fool’s Day segment stating that corporations such as Pepsi, KFC, Apple and Gap would give a lifetime 10% discount to any teenager who would tattoo his or her ear with a corporate logo, droves of young people called in to find out how they could sign up. Those who knew better laughed.
But 15 years after the hoax, as we’re just beginning to settle into the digital age, Udorse.com has created the social media equivalent of a tattooed ear. By tagging certain items on photos throughout personal pages online, an individual can share favorite brands and, when tagging Udorse’s partners, earn money with each Udorsement. The tagger has the option to either donate his or her reward earnings to a favorite charity or have them deposited directly into a PayPal account.
Udorse.com, a company backed by Founders Fund and featured at TechCrunch50, is a direct response to the individual’s increasing desire—and ability—to ignore traditional advertising. DVR has allowed viewers to skip TV spots; pop-up blockers prohibit unwanted messages. Now, more than ever, consumers are filtering through the flotsam to get to products that are useful, sexy and recommended by someone they trust. But will Udorse catch on with advertising-elusive, tech-savvy consumers?
Probably not the way the company envisions, or hopes. Udorse claims to “empower each of us to endorse the items and places in our photos that we want to help support, and share with our friends.” That’s true, and well-spun. And Gen X may try it out, but while many successful brands are proudly touted as part of one’s identity, Gen Y is too skeptical to buy into a program that could so easily be seen as “selling out.”
It’s a logical leap forward in consumer-driven advertising, but it will only survive if people find it useful—or if advertisers find it profitable. Most likely, other companies are going to create better, more palatable versions of the same idea. And in the meantime, finding the function and form of your company remains top priority.
Are your internal communications keeping up with the times? BRANDEMiX can help!
Gartner Highlights Four Ways in Which Enterprises Are Using Twitter
By 2011, Enterprise Microblogging Will Be a Standard Feature on 80 Percent of Social Software Platforms
As businesses struggle to consider the uses of microblogging platforms such as Twitter in the workplace, Gartner, Inc. has highlighted the four ways in which organizations are using Twitter.
“Despite the fact that Twitter is primarily aimed at individual users in the consumer market, many of those individuals work for companies and ‘tweet’ about business issues, leading businesses to explore how they could best use it,” said Jeffrey Mann, research vice president at Gartner.
“In general, Twitter usage by employees should be covered by existing Web participation guidelines,” Mr. Mann said. “As Twitter is a public forum, employees should understand the limits of what is acceptable and desirable. It is good practice to remind employees that the policies already in place apply to this new communication forum, as well. If organizations have not defined a public Web participation policy, they should do so as quickly as possible.”
Twitter allows users to post short, 140 character updates, on what they are doing right now. Users distribute quick thoughts, news and ideas, and this broadcast element of Twitter has led this type of service to be called microblogging, as each individual message (called a “tweet”) can be considered a very small blog post. Users select other “Twitterers” to follow or receive their messages in close to real time.
Gartner analysts predict that by 2011, enterprise microblogging will be a standard feature of 80 percent of social software platforms on the market. While other consumer microblogging platforms exist (such as Plurk, Jaiku, and Identi.ca), Twitter is the most popular.
Twitter is primarily aimed at individuals, so it is not imperative for every corporation to be actively participating at an official level. However, the popular impact of microblogging is leading many companies to explore how they could use it. In addition to the individual use of Twitter, Gartner has identified four different ways in which companies are making use of the Twitter application: direct, indirect, internal, and signaling.
Direct — The company uses Twitter as a marketing or public relations channel
Many companies have established Twitter identities as part of their corporate communications strategies, much like corporate blogs. They Tweet about corporate accomplishments, distributing links to press releases or promotional Web sites, and respond to other Twitterers’ comments about the brand. Gartner maintains that this approach should be used with caution because uninteresting or self-serving Tweets could hinder the brand image as much as it could help. Responding to comments can be particularly risky, as the anonymous nature of Twitter can easily descend into a negative spiral. Gartner recommends that at a minimum, companies should register Twitter IDs for their major brand names to prevent others claiming them and using them inappropriately.
Indirect — The company’s employees use Twitter to enhance and extend their personal reputations, thereby enhancing the company’s reputation
Good Twitterers enhance their personal reputation by saying clever, interesting things, attracting many followers who go on to read their blogs. As people enhance their personal brands, some of this inevitably rubs off on their employers. Twitter provides a way of raising the profile of both individuals and the organizations they work for, which elevates these companies that want to be seen to employ influential leaders.
Internal — Employees use the platform to communicate about what they are doing, projects they are working on and ideas that occur to them
In most cases, Gartner does not recommend using Twitter or any other consumer microblogging service in this way, because there is no guarantee of security. It is crucial that employees understand the limitations of the platform and never discuss confidential matters, because as a seemingly innocuous Tweet about going to see a particular client can tip off a competitor. Other providers, such as Yammer and Present.ly, provide Twitter-like functions targeted at enterprise microblogging with more security and corporate control.
Twitter streams provide a rich source of information about what customers, competitors and others are saying about a company. Search tools like search.twitter.com or the twhirl application can scan for references to particular company or product names. Savvy companies use these signals to get early warnings of problems and collect feedback about product issues and new product ideas.
I stumbled into a brilliant Social Movement Marketing case study at Mashable’s Summer of Social Good Conference last week. Andy Ridley, the executive director of Earth Hour, presented an inspiring case study of the work his organization (WWF) has been doing.
Previously I’ve discussed how successful social movements are able to balance a seemingly contradictory dynamic: They empower individuals by forming one collective identity. Followers of a movement join a group of many to achieve personal betterment; the way mackerel form schools to increase the chances of survival for each individual fish.
Abstruse as this may be, Earth Hour is a perfect example of how to work this balance in the cause world.
You may have participated in Earth Hour without even knowing it. In Sydney, Australia in 2007, Earth Hour convinced 2 million people to shut off their lights for an hour at the same time. The stunt has now become an annual global event that, in 2009 saw 4,000 cities and 1 billion people participate. (Watch a great video about it here.)
For one organization to inspire one fifth of the planet to act in unison, they needed for all participants to bear the responsibility of promoting the movement. Earth Hour’s brand, manifested in its culture of joy, communion, and hope, transcends geography, nationality, and class. However, it was Earth Hour’s ability to let people personalize the brand that really generated a movement.
People took those core virtues of joy, communion, and hope and ran with them. Some people organized candlelit beer pong, some organized rock concerts, some hosted dinner parties, some had bon fires, and the ideas went on and on. From Israel to Iowa, people took ownership of the movement, but everything remained in the context of the culture of Earth Hour.
However, we must recognize that this wasn’t the luck of the draw. Earth Hour set out to encourage people to personalize the brand or movement. They offered access to download any of the promotional creative work to use as templates, created a forum for people to share materials they had created on their own, and made available all of the social networking tools necessary for people to the reins of the movement.
Brands must offer both the collective identity and the personal reason to believe. Earth Hour mastered both and changed the world, at least for 60 minutes. As the media landscape changes to favor individuals, relinquishing brand ownership to the people will inevitably be necessary…all we can do now is set the context.