Social media is still the hottest of marketing topics at the moment (although there are signs a backlash may have begun and Facebook growth in the US seems to have stagnated), and the early-birds were out in force this morning to catch some of the social media worms being dished out at the Marketing Association's Jericho Brainy Breakfast. First up was the director of Facebook Australia and New Zealand Matt Hehman, who, after sorting out a few powerpoint issues (why does it always happen at tech-related events?), ran through the evolution of the platform to show how the basic online identities of 10 years ago (maybe a Yahoo account, using MSN chat, and paying a few bills) have well and truly 'Gone Social'.
On Facebook, without events, photos (or the ability to tag them), likes and other applications, he says there wasn't much sharing or engagement going on in the formative days. But with five years of development and new applications, that's all changed completely. It's now become extremely social, it's given people the power to share and it's also an extension of users' lives—and, as a result, a very powerful marketing channel.
"Social, online, offline, they're all the same now. And they augment each other," he says.
But it's not just Facebook. A lot of the tools implemented by Facebook are being put to good use elsewhere and the internet as a whole is proving to be very social as well, with more examples of community creation and personalised experiences popping up everywhere. He points to the CNN website, which has created its own network and, with what is basically a Facebook-style newsfeed, allows users to see what's proving popular to friends, which is a step up from seeing what's proving popular to anonymous visitors they have no connection with.
If something like CNN is going social, what does 'the ecosystem of sharing' mean for brands? For Hehman, the map of connections that shows what people are interested in is the key. Facebook statistics show 75 percent of the New Zealand population are active Facebook users and in his five years with the company he says he's never seen such a high penetration rate. So there are plenty of opportunities here. And to get started, he says you need to establish a presence, advertise, start creating deeper relationships (with interesting content) and take that trust from consumers to find out more about them.
But it doesn't end with that loop, he says. It's also about word of mouth. Friends influence friends and if five of them happen to like your brand, those endorsements are significant. Hehman pointed to research that showed how advertising on Facebook increases effectiveness, with a 68 percent lift in recall, double the message awareness and a quadrupling in terms of purchase intent.
It should be common knowledge by now, but he reiterated the fact that commercial messages don't work very well on social media. It may seem counter-intuitive when you're using it as a marketing tool, but he says you have to dangle the engagement carrot and start conversations to keep people interested. For example, instead of simply offering its fans a special deal on vampire movies, Best Buy in the US asked fans to list their favourites, created a top 50 from these suggestions and then offered the specials. And Vitamin Water, along with many other brands, including Bluebird, have also used their networks as a crowd-sourcing tool by asking consumers to come up with the next flavour.
As a case study of advertising effectiveness, he pointed to Holden's One Tank Challenge campaign, which was created by Ogilvy and Facebook. After a one-day homepage buyout, fan numbers went from 500 to 8000 and the engagement increased with it. And it would seem no amount of money would be able to buy the kind of brand loyalty that was displayed on the page by a user by the name of Chano Mitchell, who apparently named three of the kids after Holden models, Calais, Caprice and Monaro.
Claire Wolfensohn, online editor of Rugby World Cup 2011, was up next to show a few promo videos, rope in some volunteers and detail the ways social media has been used to drive ticket sales, engage a global audience and drive traffic back to the main www.rugbyworldcup.com site.
Before she came on board, she says social media had barely been mentioned. There was no presence in previous World Cups, and no database or assets available from the last tournament in France, so New Zealand had a tough task ahead. But, from a standing start, by tapping into existing networks, using partnerships and advertising, the RWC 2011 Facebook page, which was launched in September, has now grown to 458,000 fans (New Zealand users are third behind the UK and France).
While the IRB was worried about moderation and comments, she says the social media strategy was a business case and was intended to leave a long-term legacy, something that will be able to be handed over to the English organisers for 2015 and to World Cups after that (this is why there is no time specific iteration on the URL).
Some of the aims of the social media strategy were altruistic, like promoting the festival around the event and finding volunteers, but a large part of it was hyping the event to a very broad international audience, turning fans and interested parties into ticket purchasers and tempting Kiwi expats and international travellers back to New Zealand.
Like Hehman, she says the success of the Facebook page is in large part because of the engaging content. And while the numbers for the RWC are obviously quite a lot larger than the pages of most of the listeners in the room, she says some of the tactics are still relevant whether it's 400 or 400,000. The bi-weekly polls and discussion boards have been extremely popular, Clemenger's World's Biggest Scrum application reeled in 4300 punters (or 17,600 cumulative) and, as the first phase was about drawing attention to the ticket application process, something that hasn't been too common in New Zealand, she says Facebook and Twitter have also been excellent customer service tools to answer questions about the process.
The next phases are about increasing buzz, enlisting volunteers and selling individual tickets, and as the tournament begins, she says it will be about adding value with a more behind the scenes look.
Of course, the blessing (and occasionally the curse) of online and social media is measurement. Interestingly, 35 percent of RWC's Facebook fans are female (check out this interesting survey around female social media addiction) and 78 percent of its YouTube channel users are over 25 (which is good for ticket sales). She says the Twitter account hasn't proved to be very popular, however, and the Flickr page launched in April, with 24,000 page views so far.
Like many social media proponents, Wolfensohn admits a lot of it was trial and error. But she finished up her presentation by offering something of a social media checklist from her experiences thus far: understand your audience; don't be overtly commercial; listen, respond and facilitate discussion; be authentic and don't spin; don't moderate (unless, in this case, it's offensive language or is offensive to one person); and invest time and dollars. It may be free to get involved, but social media done well isn't free.
And while we're on the topic of social media, it had to happen, really: Facebook is nigh-on ubiquitous, and the story behind its inception is currently getting the David Fincher treatment. Fincher, the man behind The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and Se7en, has decided to chronicle the story of how Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg betrayed friends to get his empire off the ground in a drama that, quite surprisingly, isn't called Revenge of the Nerds: 8. So check out the trailer for The Social Network, "A Tale of Sex, Money, Genius and Betrayal".