Are you caught up on Mad Men?
In this week’s episode, the agency (Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce) deals with the fallout of losing their largest account. New clients are hesitant to hire them, because word about town is that the agency’s future is cloudy at best. Peggy’s advice, which Don Draper takes to heart, is simple: “If you don’t like what’s being said, change the conversation.”
There couldn’t be a better motto for social media marketing.
Brands of all sizes are realizing more and more that social media is the conversation, but with super powers: while in-person conversations typically begin and end at the water cooler, online conversations don’t. A negative take on your brand can spin wildly out of control on Facebook or (especially) Twitter, with thousands of people joining in the conversation. Positive messages can circulate too, but the negative ones typically have more steam.
That leaves brands with three options for how to get social media on their side, requiring increasing levels of buy-in: they can monitor the conversation, they can engage in the conversation, or they can change the conversation, Don Draper-style.
Monitoring the Conversation
Monitoring the social media conversation is a good start, and while it doesn’t do anything to change public perceptions of your brand, it may provide the compelling data you need to get your CEO on board with a social media strategy.
There are a few tools you can use to quickly get going, and they’re easy to use:
- Google Alerts – If you manage a brand and aren’t using Google Alerts, start now. It emails you with regular (or as-it-happens) updates when you get mentioned online. It works well for tracking bigger things like blog posts; less so for lively Twitter discussion.
- TweetDeck - One of a number of Twitter clients that pops up notifications for search terms (like the name of your brand). TweetDeck is especially useful if you’re handling several Twitter accounts at once.
- TweetBeep – For if you can’t handle keeping a Twitter client open. It’s basically Google Alerts for Twitter, keeping you posted by email on what’s being said in tweets.
- Kurrently – Searches Twitter and Facebook in real-time, and you can grab an RSS feed of its results.
- Collecta - Attempts to combine all of the above, searching the web, Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, YouTube, and others, offering RSS feeds for your search terms.
If your brand is big enough or interesting enough that people are talking about it, then you need to be monitoring the conversation. Once you do, you’ll realize that your social media efforts need to go a step further.
Engaging in the Conversation
There are a few terrific examples of brands engaging in the conversation and winning big because of it. Often Twitter becomes a vehicle for world-class customer service, and we’ve seen if from Southwest Airlines, Dell, and, of course, Comcast.
Clicking on the Comcast link in the paragraph above takes you to an article from way back in 2008, as Comcast has been on the forefront of Twitter conversation about its brand from the beginning. They’re generally credited with pioneering the “customer service on Twitter” model, in which company reps monitor Comcast-related tweets and then respond to people that are having trouble with their cable service.
But even better than just reacting to customers’ conversation is creating an environment where your customers know they can come to you online. If discussion flows freely between your company and your customers, and not just in times of crisis, then you’ll be poised to dramatically strengthen relationships and foster new brand advocates. Which drives the bottom line.
Changing the Conversation
The brands with the strongest commitment to social media, however, are also the ones reaping the greatest rewards. Changing the conversation means turning bad vibes into good vibes, or (more commonly) creating a conversation where there wasn’t one before.
Citing the best examples is almost unnecessary. Old Spice, of course, generated no end of conversation with the “Smell Like a Man, Man” character and series of online videos. The commercials would have been a successful TV campaign of their own—but it was social media that really got conversation about Old Spice going.
An even better example is Burger King’s Whopper Sacrifice campaign on Facebook—not because of the details of the campaign itself, but because of how it changed the conversation. It’s Burger King. It’s fast food, it’s served by someone making minimum wage, and the menu features items like “funnel cake sticks”. And yet, Burger King (thanks to the good folks at Crispin Porter + Bogusky) made us forget about greasy hamburgers for a while and got us talking about a brand that wasn’t afraid to push buttons.
In Mad Men, Don Draper’s reaction to losing their big tobacco client was not to wallow in self-pity and board up the office windows. The prevailing conversation was about the agency’s failures, so he changed it. And if twenty-five years of TV watching has taught me what to expect, then we’ll see it pay off handsomely.
The conversation is always going on. If your brand is big enough, you’re already being discussed. And if the message isn’t good, then you know what to do.