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Social media is all about networking and connecting to your audience on a more intimate level, but lunchmeat companies Sara Lee and Land O’Frost are taking the ‘meat-up’ capabilities of social networking to a new medium within their industry.

Sara Lee’s first push into the social media spectrum was with their ‘Mama Saga’ web series. Their Senior Brand Manager, Paula Shikany tells Business Wire in a press release that Sara Lee understands the importance of creating an opportunity to speak with moms one-on-one in the immediate and engaging nature of social media. Their focus is on moms who already active in this spectrum, so the ‘Mama Saga’ videos are available on their Facebook Fan Page, Metacafe, Youtube and more.

The goal of this campaign is to help moms with everyday dilemmas in a humorous way that will spark conversations, all while driving them back to their Sara Lee deli products through coupons and discounts. This is important to note because Sara Lee is not just creating a social media presence because it is what everyone else is doing right now but because it’ll ultimately help the company’s bottom line, which is selling its products.

Their videos star real moms who are eating, preparing, or sitting by a Sara Lee product. Here is an example of one of their video entry’s of a mom “Dealing with Disaster:”

Land O’ Frost is conducting a similar campaign that again, drives its customers and moms back to buying its product with discounts and coupons but they are utilizing a blog, called Land O’ Moms, as opposed to just a video channel. They are also targeting moms who are already active in social media and they have a Facebook and Twitter page where if you become a fan/follower, they will donate $1 to Youth Sports programs. On Land O’ Moms people can exchange recipes and parenting advice, get articles from women’s magazines and communicate with popular mommy bloggers.

As with many social media strategies and tactics, the primary goal is to first create a lasting relationship with your audience, in this case moms, and secondary to promote your brand. Land O’ Moms barely mentions the brand in the network in that it is their as support for moms everywhere. The president of Land O’ Frost was shocked by this. This is a good example of how CEOs and other executives may be hard to convince when the brand they spent so long building is not in the forefront of the campaign. To get your projects under-way you need the “OK” (as I discussed in an earlier post Social Media Strategies) and that means you must be able to show how your tactic is going to help the organization overall. It takes a lot of effort to transform your company’s campaign and goals to an integrated campaign especially since success measurement is difficult and when taking the control out of the exec’s hands and accepting people’s comments, whether positive or negative.

Regardless, both Land O’ Frost and Sara Lee both have very successful social media campaign strategies in that everything is uniform to their goals and they are not push campaigns.

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Image from MediaBistro: Agency Spy

Aflac has been having a major identity crisis, having difficulty getting their audience to truly understand what it is that they do- if 100 people were asked, only 4 would know.  The duck has been the company’s image through all of their campaigns and when switching to their new ad agency they intend to keep the relevance of the duck. Their new challenge is to generate interactivity, utilize integration marketing, and provide relevant information. Their new campaign, “You Don’t Know Quack,” was launched in January and is an integrated marketing campaign where they, for the first time, are using new social media in addition to traditional media tactics. The “You Don’t Know Quack” campaign has strategies around four markets: consumers, business-to-business, product-specific executions and insurance brokers.  According to Jeff Charney, Aflac’s senior vice president and chief marketing officer, they are striving to go from recognition to definition and a household name to a household need, as he explains in this interview with Forbes.

Since they are asking people to “get to know quack,” they want to give the audience a chance to share what they do know about Aflac. Their new consumer generated initiative is, “Aflac in 10 Seconds.” It is a challenge to the people to create a 10-second video describing what it is that Aflac does for its consumers. Videos can be posted to both their company website or on the Aflac duck’s Facebook page. The contest ends on April 18 and anyone over the age of 18 is eligible to win the $25,000 prize. The three-runners up will win $1,000 and all four winners will receive an Aflac snowboard like the one in the promotional video.

Why this campaign should be successful:

Aflac is not changing its brand image in their new campaign, only reconstructing their brand identity in the eyes of the consumer through user-generated videos.

Their goals of interactivity, integration and information are all tied together; they have a very interactive website, the information is given by both the company and users, who are the most widely trusted source, and they integrate the same message into all aspects of their campaign – billboards, social media, TV ads…

They are focusing on their relationship with their audiences. Since the audience is unaware of what Aflac is about, they are putting the power of the message in their hands, building trust on both sides of the relationship.

Ultimately, they are showing their transparency. Trust in their consumers and the idea that they are not changing who they are but be who they are and getting people to see that, stresses their aim to be transparent.

One Brand Image

The importance of one brand image and identity is important not only for your company in distinguishing yourself from your competition but also to hold onto your consumers – to not confuse them and to be perceived as a strong, united entity. Consistency in your brand builds trust, whether we are talking about traditional media or new.

Take for example Coca-Cola… they have had the same logo since 1885, that’s 125 years. Everyone knows Coca-Cola and can recognize their logo by the script font, the color, its use, etc. Kameron Hurley discussed a logo survey where segments of the Coca-Cola logo were taken and only the color was changed and most people could not identify it. When they pulled a segment from the actual logo, it was easily identifiable. This shows that the simplest f modifications to your brand can affect the way your audience perceives you.

Pepsi, Coke’s main competition, has changed or modified their logo about 11 times in 125 years while Coke has maintained brand consistency. This may account for the way that Coke has taken over the market and Pepsi has continually struggled to keep up. You don’t want to dilute your brand or confuse your consumers by not maintaining a steady brand identity.  Consumers build a relationship with your brand and your image is a huge part of that relationship.

Your brand image or identity stretches far beyond just traditional media or your logo; today, websites are a vital part of brand image. When people want to search for information about your company, more often than not they will type in “yourorganization.com” or do a Google search that will ultimately bring you back to your site as well. You want to reflect the same message, the same image, and your logo in the website as you would in TV advertisements, magazines, customer service or your product in general.

Also, as I’ve discussed in my previous post, Social Media Strategies, you also want to coordinate your internal teams such as IT, marketing, and corporate communication teams in order to better assist in your company’s strategies to reach your overarching goal. As with everything else, your audience will only see you as one entity and will get confused by different messages coming from different silos within your organization.   

H&R Block is a great example of how an organization should coordinate their brand silos around one specific goal, therefore one message, on entity, on brand identity. Their viral marketing campaign is targeted at people who do taxes themselves- they want to help that specific audience. They utilize an integrated social media approach, working with the entire company, to produce digital tax solutions in order to establish their singular brand image. In the video below Amy Worley from H&R Block discusses their leap into their social media strategy and the importance of one brand image.

As I discussed in an earlier post, Who’s testing the limits of social media?, Ford promoted its 2009 Euro-spec Fiesta through the social media influences of 100 twenty-somethings. The power was in the hands of the consumers- complete transparency into the functions of the Ford Fiesta- as they blogged, Tweeted, and made videos describing their experiences with the Ford Fiesta. Ford provided free gas to all of the “agents,” the people in charge of creating buzz, and in return they were given tasks each month to then create a “mission video.” Through this first Fiesta Movement, Ford saved millions of dollars by not reaching out to traditional methods of advertising and the exposure and awareness of the new Fiesta topped some models Ford had on the market for 2-3 years.

The first movement generated 6.2 million YouTube views, over 750,000 Flickr views and about 4 million Twitter impressions. Ford has gotten 6,000 reservations for the Fiesta, about half of which are from customers who did not previously own a Ford.

Since the Fiesta Movement worked so well the first time, Ford is attempting a second round to promote the 2011 model. This time around there will not be 100 individuals, but 20 teams of 2 agents and they are also trying to get the movement both on- and off-line. Ford knows that this second movement will not be able to break into as many new opportunities online, so they are trying to expand their awareness into communities. The teams of agents will be holding activities  Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, Detroit, Philadelphia, Boston, Denver, San Diego, Dallas, Houston, Seattle, Orlando, Phoenix, Atlanta and Miami. There will be ways that the agent teams can engage their communities online as well as follow them throughout the program. Their goal for the community-based interaction is that it will reach demographics not on the social media networks and establish new conversations.

Ford allows you to watch videos people have made and even ask drivers questions. Here’s a video of a road trip with the Fiesta, and its drivers, in response to “Mission 1.”

It will be interesting to see how successful the second Fiesta movement will be, in relation to the first, and in the sales of the 2011 model. Will reaching out and interacting with the communities really generate more sales? Is it risky to try another round of a similar movement?

Generally, social media tools give you the power to connect to people, organizations, and companies that you want to follow or support, but it is usually impersonal, not face-to-face and you can create relationships without ever meeting. Some people believe that social media is much too computer based and it takes away from meeting people the “old-fashioned” way.

The Swedish mobile software and design firm, The Astonishing Tribe (TAT), is attempting to bridge this gap with a new facial recognition application available for Android phones that will allow you to take pictures of individuals on your phone and through your app you can search which social networking sites that individual is participating on and gain access to their information.

The new app is called Recognizr. There is a lot of controversy over privacy issues and opposition to this application, but according to TAT, it can only work if both parties have subscribed to the service and you can set specific privacy levels. Privacy concerns also bring up the issue that if you do not want people in social media networks or the Internet to have access to information posted, you should not post it at all.

How does this relate to organizations? Well, Recognizr is available for cell phone manufacturers and cell service providers to buy and distribute to their users; meaning this can generate better user experiences for their customers. You can also, when meeting people in person, take a picture of them and directly to connect to them on their networks. So whether you make a new friend or you are at a business meeting with a guest speaker, you can instantly begin your social media relationship.

Popsci explains how it works with augmented identity, but the video below seems to be the best visual demonstration.

Facebook is also using a similar application using facial recognition where it will search your friends and your networks for pictures with you in them and will tag them for you. It will also tag pictures of your friends and find “unknowns” in your network. This application is called Photo Finder; it follows the privacy settings already set to your Facebook page and also only allows people to see the auto-tagged pictures if they are using the application as well.

Do this mean that, if not now, that our future employers can search our name and see all of the pictures that have been “untagged” if our privacy settings are not as tight as they should be?

You could have a very successful business, but being unaware of what not to do could end up tarnishing your reputation or destroying your company all together.

Along with Burger King, there were other instances of failure by companies attempting to use social media innovatively. Skittles for example changed their website homepage to their Twitter feed. It was a constant update of other people opinions but it was passive and not engaging – most importantly, they forgot about their audience and the need to reach out to them to establish the relationship, not the other way around.

This already breaks most of the guidelines I’ve shared before…. They led with a tool. There was no push to create a sense of community with added value in their social media tactics,  or to show interest not only in what your audience says but respond to them – generate a lasting connection deeper than brand recognition. They didn’t show you are listening, or build trust. Another element Skittle’s tactic is missing is transparency; it’s not a look into the company as a whole or into the life of the CEO – there’s no face, no value to the Twitter feed, when they aren’t interacting as well.

What you need to avoid when using social media to build relationships with stakeholders… Even if you aren’t going to implement a social media strategy, you want to listen to what your audience is saying; they are going to talk about you no matter what, avoiding it would only be a missed opportunity. Secondly, if you are going to respond to your audiences’ comments and interact, don’t be fake- you need to be a real person, with real intentions of establishing a relationship. However, you don’t want to be too “real” as to overstep the boundaries of the already established guidelines of these online communities – be an informed user. You also want to avoid thinking of this relationship as a short-term goal or a means to a sale. This means that you should not be thinking in terms of selling your product, but instead, understanding your audience so they make the decision to invest, buy, or follow your brand. Also, your company needs to approach social media together as one; avoid different teams using different media and sending different messages. Lastly, do not forget that you are trying to accomplish a goal with your social media presence; therefore you must have a way to measure your progress.

But it is most important to remember- you’re biggest mistake is fearing the use of social media. Yes, it does take time, experience, and extra responsibility and yes, it does put the power in the hands of your audience.  The risks do not outweigh the benefits. The value of transparency and more intimate relationships is greater than be afraid to allow your employees too much access to the internet during work hours. The negative criticisms are important feedback to work with in terms of bettering your company. A law suit is little to be afraid of if everyone has the right training on social media etiquette and as long as your guidelines for social media interaction reflect those already in place in your organization, the power to have a voice won’t be abused.

Skittles has since changed their website, full of YouTube videos, links to their Facebook and Twitter, eye-catching pictures and invitation to interact. This is a more successful way to engage your customers – plus, it’s an experience where you can almost “Taste the Rainbow!”

As we all know by now, social media opens up new doors for businesses large and small; but who is pushing the limits and creating their own opportunities and becoming a “Big Brand” in the new world of social media?

Blendtec’s “Will it Blend?” campaign promotes its blender and similar products on YouTube as a way to market in low cost manner. Tom Dickinson, the CEO, attempts to blend objects such as an iPhone, 50 marbles, an air soft gun with bee bees, all of which end up as dust. These videos are short, silly portrayals of how this blender will work with anything you throw into it. Blendtec’s YouTube videos, also Facebook and Twitter pages,  were successful in setting their products apart from others like it in a creative and innovative way using social media that resulted in positive feedback and increased business.

Burger King is another company that has been testing the waters of social media, and marketing in general for that matter. I’m sure you all have seen the string of “Whopper Virgin” commercials on TV and perhaps even visited the website; well, following this campaign they began a Facebook application where you could sacrifice 10 friends by removing them from your friends list, to win a free whopper. The application quickly gained over 20,000 users who sacrificed over 200,000 friends. However, because of privacy issues, Facebook had to take away the application. Burger King did use a different concept than social network users are used to though, because instead of inviting friends to the app or gaining new friends, which is what these networking sites are intended for, they had you delete friends to promote the legendary Whopper.

Another great example of testing social media is Ford when promoting their new Fiesta. They gave 100 people, in their twenties, each models of the car in hopes that they would share their experiences with it over a six month period. None of their volunteers had any experience with advertising and this tactic was especially more risky than those of Blendtec and Burger King, because they were not sending the messages, their customers were. This I think is the true nature of social media, allowing the audience to have control of the messages. Ford could have received a great amount of backlash and a huge tarnish on their reputation, but in this economy and struggling times, they sought to start from the bottom, let the people do the talking for them and hope for the best. It was complete transparency into their flaws and into the true “Ford experience.”