Be Part Of The Conversation

Posted: February 28, 2010 in Social Media, Websites
Tags: , , , ,

Our next two Introduction to Online Communities classes will focus on social media marketing. Obviously, this is my area of expertise and interest, since I’ve been advertising, positioning and marketing television network and station brands for many years. When developing and executing marketing strategies in the social media arena, marketing executives must understand the differences in promoting their companies’ messages online rather than offline.

In social media, you need to join the conversation that is taking place about your product. According to “The Essential Guide To Social Media” by Brian Solis, “if you’re not part of the conversation, then you’re leaving it to others to answer questions and provide information, whether it’s accurate or incorrect.”

To be a part of the conversation, you have to understand how social media works. The best way I can describe it comes from an example used in Clay Shirky’s book “Here Comes Everybody.” He describes what happened when a woman named Ivanna accidentally left her Sidekick cell phone in a cab in New York City. She offered a reward for her phone via email that her friend, Evan, sent to her phone. After receiving no response, she bought a new phone and downloaded the information from her old phone stored at her cell phone company.  After transferring the information, she discovered that her original phone had ended up in the hands of a girl in Queens. The girl, who was later identified as Sasha, was using the phone to take pictures and email them to her friends. When Ivanna emailed Sasha and asked her to return the phone, Sasha sent threatening responses and refused to return the phone.

So, Ivanna’s friend, Evan, created a web page called StolenSidekick and posted Sasha’s photos and details of what had happened and began telling his friends about the site. Evan’s friends did some detective work and found photos of Sasha and her boyfriend on MySpace. The NYPD responded by detailing how to properly file a police report about the phone. Sasha’s brother emailed Evan asking him to stop harassing his sister. Then Digg, a collaborative news website, picked up the story and posted it on the site. In the days that followed, millions of people came to this web page to participate in the saga. Evan began receiving ten emails a minute, asking about the phone and offering help, encouragement or volunteering to help. He continued to post a running commentary on StolenSidekick about what was happening and created a bulletin board where people could communicate with each other about the attempts to recover the phone. The NYPD refused to treat the case as a theft; they classified it as a lost item. By this time, millions of readers were watching online and dozens of mainstream media outlets covered the story. After much pressure, the NYPD agreed to treat the case as stolen property and arrested Sasha, a 16-year-old girl from Corona, New York. They recovered the stolen Sidekick and returned it to the original owner. Since Ivanna got her phone back, she and Evan decided not to press charges, and Sasha was released.

Based on this example, you can get a sense of how social media can work to your advantage. With the help of users coming to the StolenSidekick site and providing information, help and pressure to the NYPD, Ivanna was able to get her phone back. It also reinforces several marketing tactics to remember when executing social media campaigns:

  • If you have a story/product/service that people are interested in and feel strongly about, they will get involved and participate in the conversation.
  • When you release a story/campaign on the Internet, target the people who will best spread the word.
  • Keep updating the story/campaign as soon as information becomes available.
  • Let the flow of the conversation go where the participating users take it.

Over the next couple of weeks, I will share the results of our marketing classes and the information our speakers gave to our class.

In the meantime, check out this cool website:

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