After reviewing my Twitter followers this evening I was also looking at some of their tweets to see if I really needed to be following them as well.  There were quite a few followers who I had no interest in following back and I will touch on why in a minute since they had committed some of the five deadly sins I am about to list here.

Some of these are pretty obvious, but I think they need to be stated in case someone new to the social media scene comes across this blog and can learn something.  So a “wag of the finger” (courtesy of Stephen Colbert) to these people for exhibiting the worst social media behaviors in the world.

Don’t do this- This will be called the “minutiae award.”

Tweeting/posting about where you went for coffee and then where you picked up a paper and every other small detail about your day-to-day life isn’t very interesting to your followers.  That’s because we all most likely do the same things as you.  Keep the number of tweets about yourself down unless you are reporting on some sort of live event that people could follow along with.  In that case, you may want to add a hashtag to group them all under one name/event.

Don’t do this- Have someone in your company using social media that doesn’t know how to spell/type

I sort of discussed this here in a previous blog post which was something Wells Fargo was guilty of doing.  I’ve seen numerous spelling mistakes by @ask_wellsfargo, not to mention the fact they air their dirty laundry on Twitter by asking people to tell them if they have had problems with their accounts.  Besides the sloppy mistakes, having an intern do your Tweeting/Facebooking just isn’t rewarding for your followers to read.  Having a VP or high level manager participate in social media makes for a much more rewarding experience for them and for their followers.

Don’t do this– Have a little birdie as your profile picture on Twitter

This either means you are a spammer and have been around long enough not to get banned or you don’t really know what you’re doing on Twitter.  It is critical to have something (picture, logo, etc) unique to identify yourself in the social media universe and if you cannot master this technique, you’re already starting off on the wrong foot.

Don’t do this- We’ll call this one “mixing business with pleasure.”

On Facebook if you don’t already have a separate page established and are “friending” people to grow interest in your business, you might not want to be farming and kissing people.  If I’m interested in your music and you send me a friend request, I’ll usually add you.  I don’t, however, want to see your back and forth between your friends or what crops you have grown in Farmville.  I can certainly hide your updates for farming and whatever Facebook applications I don’t want to see, but it’s just not a wise move if you’re trying to get people interested in what you have to offer.  A major red flag in this category is when political discussions occur on Facebook.  In participating in political discussions, you run the risk alienating a portion of your audience who would otherwise be interested in your page, product , etc.

Don’t do this– Tweet links from Mashable, TechCrunch, etc without giving them credit for it.

This is probably my number one pet peeve on Twitter and will get you un-followed very quickly.  A lot of “marketing” people who follow me have ended up to be Mashable clones and it was getting to be quite a pain to see the same articles in duplicate or triplicate so I un-followed them.  Get your own content!!

So that’s the list.  Follow these rules and you’ll avoid being de-friended, un-followed, and also any wags of the finger.

While I was on vacation this past weekend for a wedding in Lexington, Kentucky I was at a couple of pretty amazing places.  One I won’t divulge due to the homeowner’s privacy, but the other was Spindletop Hall.  What came to my mind on the long drive home back to Des Moines was if people are at a great event or at a beautiful place, what is their propensity to use their phones with location-based apps to tell their friends where they are?  I realize this is where Foursquare comes right into play, but in thinking about location based apps potential for long-term success, what is the likelihood that people will use them when at these events?

The use of mobile Twitter and Foursquare apps make it very convenient for people to use their phones to share their locations, but I know when I am at fun, fast paced events like wedding receptions, I’m too busy talking to everyone to think about tweeting about it.  Perhaps it depends on the event.  If I’m at a baseball game or hanging out at Starbucks or Caribou using their wifi and enjoying a coffee, there is plenty of down time to access my phone to share where I am.

Businesses should be thinking about how their customers use Twitter or Foursquare when at their establishments and adjust their social media strategy accordingly.  Target, for example, should probably not count on many of their customers to use Foursquare when they are shopping at their stores. Generally, when people are shopping, they aren’t thinking about telling people when and where they are shopping but about what things they need to buy. However, many companies are beginning social media participation incentives for customers who do check in on location-based apps, so perhaps those would be good entry points.

It’s difficult to pinpoint how successful companies will be when implementing marketing programs around mobile social media apps and there are tremendous challenges in getting high participation rates in these types of programs.  What these apps provide, however, is yet another way to influence customer buying decisions and if companies can find creative ways do so, it enhances their brand even more and adds another way to interact with their customers.

Recently, I was at one of my favorite sports websites and tried to view a video that was a highlight of a recent Minnesota Twins game.  Well, unfortunately for me, the video was taken down by Major League Baseball (MLB) for copyright violation.  I continued to search for other relevant baseball highlights and came up empty.  I couldn’t find any broadcast highlights of the Red Sox 2004 World Series run.  Nothing from the Yankees’ clinching game 6 victory in this past year’s World Series.

What is the point of this “strategy?”  I understand why they may want to keep highlights of a recently played game as copyrighted material in hopes to drive web traffic to the team websites, the MLB Network, or MLB.TV.  One would think the league would want to have as many highlights on YouTube to continue growth of their very well known brand.  Perhaps MLB’s marketers or crack legal team know their target audience doesn’t go to YouTube for their baseball highlights.  If that’s the case, I would dispute that with this research I found by ESPN that shows most sports fans are in the 18-34 age demographic and are male.  Fairly obvious, right? Oh, and at the bottom of the page it mentions that “68% of Avid Sports Fans used the Internet in the past 30 days.”  Oops!

MLB is trying to push their World Series DVD sets on fans of teams that win the Autumn Classic.  I get that and it makes great sense.  However, there has to be a way for fans to have the best of both worlds.  Some free, some paid content.

Perhaps there is a very memorable game in the regular season that someone wishes to see over and over again.  An example of this would be the recent no hitter by Rockies pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez.  One for me would be last year’s heart-stopping AL Central Division tiebreaker game between my Twins and the Detroit Tigers.  I am hogging 3 hours of space on my DVR right now because I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to get that game on DVD or be able to see it again elsewhere.

At least they have full games from the current season available to stream if you have the MLB.TV subscription.  Why can’t they offer every game to be downloaded for a low price with copy protection?  They also have a classic game section where you can view (for $6.95 a year) some classic games, but there is only a selection of thirty games.  Why not raise the price and include much more?

It would be great if they made partial highlights available on YouTube (and possibly disable embedding to cover themselves on the copyright front) on their own MLB channel there to supplement highlights available at MLB.com.  The supplemental highlights could include more plays, player/manager interviews after the game, and maybe recaps by the team broadcasters.  I think that could be a great way to drive more traffic to MLB.com or affiliated team sites, yet still grow the brand by keeping some sort of presence on YouTube.

In my opinion, FREE drives brand growth on the internet.  The more free material your customers can get, the more likely it is they will be driven to some sort of purchase down the road and become life long customers.  Don’t get me wrong, I think their online strategy is decent in driving revenue, but I believe MLB is not seeing the forest of larger revenue streams through the trees of their paid content and constant pulling down of videos on YouTube .

Recently I did a blog post about the bold strategy of Domino’s Pizza changing their pizza recipe in response to customer feedback and in hopes of increasing sluggish sales.

Apparently, the initial campaign has been a resounding success.  In fourth quarter 2008, Domino’s saw profits of $11 million, or 19 cents a share.  This past quarter they saw their profits increase to $23.6 million, or 41 cents a share.  That is an amazing result especially given the current sluggish state of the economy.

It seems as though the strategy has worked in the short term.  As the AP article I found on the subject states, “The question remains, though, whether Domino’s can keep the momentum going, or whether the novelty of the new recipe will wane.”

I believe if Domino’s can continue their involvement in social media to supplement the campaign, they may be able to see sustained success with this strategy. This could be where they see a large segment of new customers who perhaps may not have tried the new recipe otherwise.  I’m basing this on the supposition that people will see their “friends” in social media spaces talk about the product and based on their friends’ input, a new segment of people will try the pizza.

The problem is, when this campaign first began, Domino’s was using a lot of television advertising to supplement the new website and social media campaign. A lot of people who saw those commercials and were interested in the new recipe most likely tried it once (based on the  profit figures).  However, if the ads don’t continue to remind people about the new recipe and continue to promote the Domino’s brand, they could see an even bigger drop off in sales.

If I were in charge of the campaign, I would start supplemental ads regarding the popularity of the new pizza recipe that would include metrics of their success. Perhaps something like, “X out of X people LOVED the new taste of Domino’s Pizza! Why not try it and see what everyone is talking about?” Then it includes the people who have tried it and reaches out to those who have not as of yet.

Here’s my response to a post at Marketing.FM by Eric Friedman about companies linking to social network sites rather than their own in their advertising campaigns.

“Great article, Eric.  First time commenter, long time reader here.  I think any time you get a potential customer to view ANY targeted media, it’s a win in my book.  In the case of advertising during the olympics, it’s a double win.  The people at Toyota, let’s say, know the demographics of Olympics viewers when they buy ad time from NBC.  Thus, not only are they getting millions of eyeballs on the TV ad, they get extra brand awareness and when people go to youtube to view something else related to what they saw on television.

On the other hand, I agree with you.  The execution of both of these strategies seems a bit bumbled. If companies go to the trouble of producing additional video content for the internet to supplement their ads, it’s MUCH easier to get valuable metrics for their effectiveness if it hits their own domain.  So why send viewers to YouTube?  The only reason I could see Toyota putting an ad on YouTube is to save bandwidth on their own server.  Although usually, it’s a GOOD thing to get millions of hits on your website.  Maybe then YouTube would want to place ads on Toyota’s site!

The Uniball case is a little different.  Having people sign up for a free pen and get their valuable personal information is a smart idea.  Why, however, direct someone to Facebook for this? One possible reason is ease of use.  A LOT  of people spend quite a bit of time on Facebook and are familiar with it.  Perhaps the marketing people at Uniball thought customers wouldn’t take the time to go to their website or may forget the URL.  If they pushed them to go to a Facebook page, it would make the customer do less work since they already spend most of their online time on the social networking site.

I liked Matt Daniels’ comment below mentioning if Uniball has a subpar (he used a different word) website, perhaps using the Facebook functionality is the way to go. However, it appears as though even if the customer goes to the Facebook page, they still have to go to Uniballsuperink.com for the free pen.  I agree with you, Eric.  This can be very confusing to people who want more information on the product or just want a free pen. They should use Facebook to supplement their ad content and have it be just another integral part of their marketing strategy.”

The rumored announcement of an Apple tablet device is making techies and fanboys jittery with excitement.

Since I have an iPhone and a Macbook Pro, I’m not really in the market for such a device but wondered what people (other than first adopters) would find useful about it.

The Kindle concept-

One theory is that the new iTablet (we’ll call it that until tomorrow when the name is released) would be used similarly to Amazon’s Kindle reader. I can see how that would be a useful device and it could possibly take a big chunk of market share away from Amazon.

The “big iPhone” concept-

Another theory is the new device will be used as a big iPhone (maybe a big iPod Touch since no one would use it as a phone) and be compatible with all of the apps the iPhone uses.  This one I don’t get.  If it’s a tablet “computer” the apps aren’t really necessary.  I’m assuming it will have Safari installed and I could go to say, Pandora.com instead of running a separate app for it.  Then again, the iTablet version of Safari would actually have to work with flash, so in that case perhaps apps would be still useful.

The “business use” concept-

Bringing a laptop to a meeting can be cumbersome.  Using the iTablet for presentations or demonstrations could be very helpful.  Clinics and hospitals use tablet pc’s for patient check-in.  Pharmaceutical Reps use tablets to outline information for Doctors and to have them sign something that says they saw the rep that particular day.  By entering the health care industry vertical, it creates a huge opportunity for Apple to produce new revenue streams and to compete with Microsoft in the same arena.

Overall, I think a tablet device is/would be a great idea for Apple to release at this time (compared to the Newton days) since the number of uses for such a device has skyrocketed due to the millions of apps out there.  Having Kindle as a well-known competitor device for customers to compare it to will also help.   We’ll see tomorrow what Steve Jobs’ vision is for the device.  I’m hoping for something Earth shattering that will change computing forever.  Or maybe we’ll just get a souped-up, much larger iPod Touch.  We’ll know in just a few short hours!

-Chris

Recently Domino’s Pizza announced they were changing the recipe for their pizza.

In the above-linked USA Today article, consultant Howard Gordon mentions “I don’t know of any (restaurant) company that has attempted this.” In any industry, changing a winning formula seems like business “suicide.”  Gordon later makes a powerful statement; “Once you’ve built a brand, that’s your brand,” says Gordon. “To change it means that everything you’ve stood for isn’t right.”

This youtube video is a short documentary that was edited into a commercial I recently saw on TV.  It tells the story of how Domino’s received feedback from customers about their pizza (via Twitter users, mostly) and took those criticisms and used them as motivation to make a better pizza.  Dominos has set up an exclusive website for the campaign where customers can view the documentary as well as a Twitter feed featuring tweets about the new pizza.  Obviously they haven’t filtered or changed the tweets because some of them are pretty critical of the pizza.  One such tweet says “Dominos new pizza crust recipe is like eating really buttery, garlicy bread…fail. Bad breath factor, over the top!”  Yikes.  Again, this is all part of the campaign, so I suppose you have to take some bad with the good feedback.

So why make such a drastic change?

Many companies try to improve the quality of their product or even advertise they have a “new and improved” product.  However, publicly admitting in one of your advertisements that people didn’t like your product is either sheer madness or pure genius.  Perhaps this means Domino’s is the first mature company that will drastically change how others do business.  There are numerous companies in the mature stage of the product/company lifecycle.  Maybe when growth stagnates, you throw a “hail mary” and go for it all? Due to the unprecedented nature of Domino’s Pizza’s strategy, there isn’t really much to compare it to.  Again, maybe since no one has thought to do this before, they are on to something here.

Think of the costs associated with doing something like this.  I’m sure there were plenty of focus groups (some were featured in the documentary), new product development, marketing research, advertising, etc.  This was not just an ordinary marketing campaign.  I can only guess that either the execs at Domino’s thought the amount of publicity a “stunt” like this would create would exceed the value put in to the change or they were truly desperate to make significant change to turn around the company.  What other reason would there be for alienating your best customers that loved your pizza and have kept you in business for fifty years?  I would think they’d have to gain _many_ new customers and retain a lot of their long-time ones to make this venture a success.

Photo courtesy of just2me.com

Photo courtesy of just2me.com

I have had a love/hate relationship with my iPhone.  Most of the time it is the as billed “Jesus phone” and other times it is well, NOT the “Jesus phone.” On the days I am frustrated with the device/service, it makes me doubt the machine that is Apple.  A past mantra/marketing campaign of theirs claimed- “It just works.”  Well Steve in this case, it doesn’t just work.  Not the iPhone….well I should say, not AT&T.

Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE the device.  It has the easiest mobile operating system to use, best browser that can view entire webpages on the screen, seemingly billions of apps in their app store and the 32gb version can hold multiple hours of songs/videos/contacts, etc.  However, the simplest tasks like making a call or opening one of the apps can be a nightmare after one of their OS upgrades (see this example and this one).

After having a dropped call for the umpteenth time, I wondered if AT&T’s poor service would affect Apple’s brand image.

On one hand, the first answer is an obvious “yes.” If a consumer’s first experience with the Apple brand is with the iPhone and they have a negative experience, the chances of them buying another Apple product are slim.  This is especially critical as the price point for the iPhone is a lot lower than an iMac or Macbook, which have much higher profit margins.  The risk here is the Apple and Mac brands becoming stale because of these negative experiences with the phone and consumers may end up not viewing Apple as a symbol of quality, but as just another computer brand.

On the other hand, the strength of Apple’s pre-existing brand equity coupled with its constant marketing blitz (I’ve seen at least 3-4 commercials since I’ve started this entry) for the iPhone have overcome any hit they have taken from AT&T’s lack of reliability.  Also, Apple/Mac users are incredibly loyal and it would take a gross misstep by the company for them to go to another product rather than sticking with their favorite computers and iPods.

There have been rumors of the iPhone being available on the Verizon network in the future.  I think this could only help the Apple brand if there were competition between cellular service providers for the iPhone.  It could only help improve service reliability, increase loyalty to the iPhone and Apple, and increase revenues for all companies involved.

Yes, really!

I was a bit perplexed as to why Bank of America, JP Morgan Chase, and Wells Fargo would make the decision to lower overdraft fees, especially considering service fees are the lifeblood of financial services companies’ bottom lines.  Then I realized the marketing impact of these decisions.  These companies can take advantage of the fact that they were the initial leaders in making this drastic change to their respective overdraft policies. Whoever can effectively communicate this fact first could have a huge advantage in attracting new customers and positioning themselves as the bank that “cares” about its customers.  I’m sure advertising, direct mail, and branch promotions are soon to follow this news.

The other question that comes to mind is- where is the additional revenue going to come from for these banks?  Obviously reducing fees takes away from the bottom line and these institutions may gain market share by attracting new customers, but the additional revenue from the new business wouldn’t be enough.  Since these banks are the few large banks remaining after the recent credit crisis, perhaps they have more resources available for acquiring smaller banks and attaining additional business that way.

Regardless, this is a major move in the financial services industry. Perhaps impending legislation was the motive behind the policy changes.  Or, perhaps the banks’ “dirty secret” is out and they need to make the move to save face.  In this case, it appears as a public relations move to increase goodwill.  It will definitely be interesting to see how the changes affect the industry going forward. We’ll see in the future, when these banks announce earnings and if shareholders agree with the decision or decide to sell.

For most of my career after college, I have worked in the Financial Services industry;  primarily for banks and mortgage companies. I’ve had the experience of working for Wells Fargo during that time so I am familiar with their culture.

With social media being so popular, there are a glut of companies that are participating in it and Wells Fargo is no exception.  Since Twitter is the current “next great thing”, what company wouldn’t want to increase brand awareness and put their message out to millions of new potential customers?

I think, however, they’re going about it the wrong way.  Their Ask_WellsFargo Twitter account (the only one they appear to have other than a placeholder account under WellsFargo) acts as a customer service web portal for their customers to ask questions and get responses from whichever Wells Fargo employee is “manning” the account at the time.

Here’s a sample of what Wells is doing on Twitter now-

Wells Fargo on Twitter

Wells Fargo on Twitter

While I think this is an effective customer service strategy, I think using this venue makes for a poor brand/marketing strategy.  People interested in finding out more information about the different business units of Wells Fargo will come away with nothing from their tweets.  Where can someone find details about the merger with Wachovia?  I’m sure if I sent an @reply at them I’d get some sort of response, but the space could be used so much better.

Wells Fargo does a good job sharing this type of information on their blog, but I think Twitter could be a useful tool to get quick bits of information about their products out to the “Twitterverse” and Wells is passing up the opportunity.

Just think of the opportunities that banks could take advantage of with Twitter.  Followers could get early notification of a bonus rate if they open a savings account.  Or Card Services could offer a low introductory rate on credit cards through a tweet.  Home Mortgage could communicate changes in interest rates.  There are many, many possibilities.

What are other banks doing in this arena?  Not much really.  Citibank has one post just saying hello.  Bank of America has the same strategy as Wells.  This is obviously a topic that can be further researched and the financial services industry as a whole has a ways to go before they are a significant presence on Twitter.

One would think with all of the regulations in the banking industry, banks would be more careful about dealing with customer service issues online.  Ask_WellsFargo always tells people not to share confidential information when posting, but sooner or later someone will include their account number or other sensitive information and might blame the bank.  The other drawback to this strategy is Wells Fargo is making a lot of problems their customers are having with their bank public.  Yes, they also communicate when the problems are fixed, but it seems risky to have a public forum where all can see what goes wrong with your brand.

In essence, I think this is a weak marketing strategy and Wells Fargo should consider other ways to effectively use the great marketing tool that is Twitter.