Comments and observations on business, marketing and life: by Martin Donohoe

Category: tv advertising

Facebook Forever?

An interesting article on the Fast Company website today – 1.78 Million Facebook Users May Die in 2011. The article highlights how many inactive profiles there are on FB due to death or duplication. This punches a hole in some of the astronomical user figures that get bandied around.

It’s easy to imagine that now that FB is here, it’ll be here for ever, but personally I think it’ll peak and decline over the next 5 – 6 years. Why? A recent quote from an analyst said it best “Facebook will last until someone builds a better mousetrap” (paraphrasing). Remember that Facebook is only a few years old, although with its saturation coverage you could easily feel it has been here forever! The next Facebook is probably out there on the web already, we just don’t know it. I also think that Facebook could easily fall victim to its own success, if everyone is on it, it continues to lose its cachet.

Having said all of that, Facebook is pretty good at what it does and anecdotally, I don’t ever think I’ve seen as many TV ads (at least here in the UK) that push their Facebook presence over their web address – although the wisdom of that decision is probably dependent upon their desired audience.

Facebook continues to make attempts to break out of its core area, but doesn’t seem to be having much success (we’ll replace email – oh really?). The continual blunders around privacy seem to be relentless and it is amazing with all of those resources they still get it wrong (a failure to identify customer needs perhaps).

I’ll be watching Facebook’s continued growth with interest and working out how, as a marketer I can continue to use the opportunities it presents. But, I’ll also be keeping an eye out for the next big thing, because “the only thing constant in life is change” and in a connected world, change is a certainty.

Social Media – Confusing Communities

I seem to use price comparison and insurance brands as frequent examples, I suppose this is because in the UK they are very heavily promoted and have strong on and off-line presence.confused screen grab

The latest tv ad to catch my eye is a dreary effort from (the one with the singing cartoon character), but what catches my eye is the comment at the end of the ad, something along the lines of “ 18 million strong and growing”. This seems to be an attempt to move from being a transactional website to some sort of community. But surely there are a few issues with this:

  • What exactly does 18 million refer to? Is it 18 million site visitors (over what time period) or 18 million quotes given
  • How exactly does this stack up as a community? Getting a quote from a site doesn’t mean I see myself as part of their ‘community’ or that I want a relationship with their business, at the simplest level, I wanted to get some quotes!
  • What social activity exists to support the community? Well, I haven’t checked their site recently, but I’m still getting an email newsletter which whilst technically a form of social marketing, doesn’t really push down the community route

The web and marketing world is littered with the corpses of failed social media enterprises. Although confused might know something about me eg contact details, basic personal information etc. that doesn’t mean I’d want them to leverage that knowledge to include me in their community. The most successful communities grow through word-of-mouth and natural viral growth – not because someone thought “hey we’ve got lots of details of people, let’s call it a community”.

A community grows through common interest and engagement, getting a quote for car insurance is something that I’d probably have in common with you, but doesn’t mean we’re going to best buddies (sorry!). What does confused hope to do with this community concept – challenge Facebook? build market share? add value?

To my mind is living up to its name, promoting an idea ‘our community’ that seems to have little to do with their primary purpose of price comparison. It’ll be interesting to see how this develops in 2011.

For a slightly harsher (but amusing) review of the ad, see this link

What could do better:

  • Pick a brand strategy and give it time to work
  • Explain why you’d want to be a part of their community
  • Make their offer stand out from meerkats, tenors and the rest!
  • Provide genuine value & content on their site – customers will naturally migrate to it

‘Let us know what you think’

It might just be me, but increasing numbers of tv adverts have a strap line that includes something along the lines of ‘let us know what you think’ or ‘join in the debate at’. But for my money, any brand going out and asking consumers is kind of missing the point of social media and user engagement.

Take the current Kingsmill bread campaign for example, it’s positively cringeworthy. Forced examples of ‘Kingsmill Confessions’ are trotted out with an invitation to send in your confessions. I think most people would agree that the confessions to date smack of marketing invention versus true customer stories. If you go and visit the website, the confessions on there are simply boring. But to be fair, making mass-produced bread a buzz product is a particularly tall order! I do however love the same print on the footer of the site:

Whilst Kingsmill welcomes all confessions we would remind confessors that Kingsmill is a family-friendly site and anything that is deemed offensive will be deleted by the moderation team.

That seems to kill off the hope that there’ll be any truly interesting confessions…

In broad terms, the best social media campaigns have had at most, a slight push from a marketing team. If a product or service needs a multi-million campaign to get people to say something about it, then surely that means it isn’t remarkable or worthy of talking about in the consumer’s mind?

Bottom line, too much marketing department generated social media stands out like a beacon to the average consumer. Go and do something genuinely exciting or innovative and you won’t have to ask, cap in hand, ‘let us know what you think’.

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