Brands are turning their attention to Instagram in 2015,  as Facebook’s news feed algorithm pushes them to look for other places where organic reach is still an option. The creative opportunity  is still limited, with no write API or even links on image captions and not many campaigns examples besides the catalogue stunt or the usual UGC hashtag contest.

Screenshot 2015-03-16 22.38.33

Ted Baker, the clothing retail company,  explored a new creative path using photos as a participatory canvas.  Every day for the following 2 weeks on their Instagram account they’ll post a new image of Ted’s SS15 range and challenge fans to screenshot the photos and use Instagram filters to reveal what’s hidden within. A clever use of the platform, further explored by regraming or commenting with #Pinch_Me for the chance to win a prize.

Agency: Poke London

This week i commented at work the fact that some blogs rival in terms of online audience with same major newspapers, with marketers needing to review their traditional media planning. On a happy coincidence, today the Wall Street Journal writes why many marketers are lagging behind consumers in terms of social media.

Jump on the Social Media Bandwagon Illustration by Matt Hamm under a CC License

Some highlights:

Don’t just talk at consumers — work with them throughout the marketing process. The conversations consumers have with each other, result in “some of the most interesting insights,” including gift ideas for specific occasions, such as a college graduation, and the prices consumers are willing to pay for different gifts.

Give consumers a reason to participate. Other companies provide more-direct incentives: cash rewards or products, some of which are available only to members of the online community. Still others offer consumers peer recognition by awarding points each time they post comments, answer questions or contribute to a wiki entry

Listen to — and join — the conversation outside your site. monitor relevant online conversations among consumers and, when appropriate, look for opportunities to inject themselves into a conversation or initiate a potential collaboration.

Resist the temptation to sell, sell, sell. When consumers are invited to participate in online communities, they expect marketers to listen and to consider their ideas. They don’t want to feel like they’re simply a captive audience for advertising, and if they do they’re likely to abandon the community.

Don’t control, let it go. “You have to let the members drive. When community members feel controlled, told how to respond and how to act, the community shuts down.”

Like it or not, the old way of doing (push) marketing is on its final days. Or has i heard yesterday on the Campus Party panel about Advertising and social media, your homepage is now Google.

One quick post, sharing a few today’s things.

Have a great Tuesday.

Brand Hijacking happens when consumers appropriate the brand for themselves and add meaning to it. Most of the times, we get to know only the benign form, when customers act as evangelists. This behavior is something to be encouraged by companies, or as David Armano puts it, brands should act as facilitators, opening communication channels and providing tools and materials (if you’re really hip, wrap it around a Creative Commons license) to consumers.

Brands as facilitators: Illustration by David Armano

The brand positioning envisioned by the company isn’t always how the consumers perceives it: remember the blockbuster Snakes on a Plane or a more classical brand like Dr. Martens, initially a gardening shoe for senior women, until teenagers hijacked the brand with ideological purposes.

Things can get even dirtier, with the next-generation cybersquatting practices, fueled by search engine marketing or plain digital identity squatting on a new malign form of brand hijacking, with Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and all the social media universe making things even more complicated. No matter how well-intentioned Alex Wipperfurth was with his book Brand Hijack: Marketing Without Marketing, there will always be people using the (social media) FORCE for the wrong purposes.

On top of these misuses, one big issue remains: most companies are completely out of touch with brand hijacking in social media, with no Online Reputation Management strategies whatsoever.

Mad Men on Twitter

One of the recent episodes of brand hijacking involved AMC Series “Mad Men”, a TV Show that revolves around the advertising world in the 60’s, and Twitter users that were impersonating some of the series characters on the microblogging service.

Mad Men main cast: Photo by MACTV

Don Draper, Betty Draper, Joan Holloway, Sal Romano, Bobbie Barret, Jimmy Barret, Roger Sterling, Pete Campbell, Trudy Campbell, Peggy Olson, Bertram Cooper, Helen Bishop,Paul Linsey, Duck Philips, Bud Melman and even David Ogilvy were all playing their Twitter role, extending the series beyond the TV set, with great respect to the tone of the show (I even suspected at first they were really hired by AMC).

It turns out AMC wasn’t involved at all and when they find about it, a take-down was issued to Twitter with most of the accounts suspended. It can’t really get more clueless than this about social media, when a legion of fans (Don Draper has almost 2000 followers) is evangelizing the show for free and a company silents their voices like this.

With all the Twitter uprising and bad press afterwards, AMC came to their senses and reinstated the accounts (although there was no disclosure of future intentions). At wearesterlingcooper.com, the Twitter Fans Blog, it was summed up pretty well:

Fan fiction. Brand hijacking. Copyright misuse. Sheer devotion. Call it what you will, but we call it the blurred line between content creators and content consumers, and it’s not going away. We’re your biggest fans, your die-hard proponents, and when your show gets canceled we’ll be among the first to pass around the petition. Talk to us. Befriend us. Engage us. But please, don’t treat us like criminals. This site exists to catalogue the conversation around AMC’s Mad Men and its fan base across the social web. But it’s just the beginning. ‘We are Sterling Cooper’ is a rallying cry to brands and fans alike to come together and create together.

This sad episode (not of Mad Men, which I’m also a fan), highlighted the dangers and opportunities that brands are facing in social media. On the one hand, brands should listen and participate, being igniters of positive hijacking. On the other hand, it is becoming evident that the same amount of attention that was being put on domain squatting, must be taken in regards to social media identities.

It could happen to your brand

The Mad Men example is mostly about companies being clueless and getting punk’ed by social media. Most of the times it’s a case of not being able to understand these communities. At Twitter for instance, there are plenty of brand hijacking examples, with big names like iPhone, Vivendi, Motorola, Nokia, Intel or WindowsXP not being run by the company. Just imagine the amount of harm to a brand an individual with wrong intentions or resentment could do to your brand.

With this, i’m not defending that a company should go out and start issuing take down notices in every social media service there is. Instead, you should check what you could protect today and start providing these hardcore fans a safe harbor to continue evangelizing your brand, They’re your best friends, your customers, don’t turn them into enemies.

If things really go wrong, you could always go the judicial route or contact the service regarding the issue, but that’s something you should be really be sure, or you could turn into another RIAA.

These concerns not only apply to company brands, but also to individuals. Celebrities, politicians, writers, musicians, everyone that has a digital footprint should care about their social media brand. Just imagine if someone registered your name on Facebook and started using your name. Wait. Perhaps it’s already happening. You’d better check it out.

MySpace and Facebook have plenty of digital copycats, fans with the “me-first” mentality, creating unofficial profiles that are so credible that everyone adds as a friend. Again, most of the times, it’s positive brand hijacking, but what if?

What if someone uses your aliases and start spreading rumors? What if someone takes your Twitter username and then tries to sell them? What if someone starts astroturfing and overlinking on your behalf?

Always use protection

Flickr photo by Corey Ann under a Creative Commons License

So now that i’ve warned you about the problem, what’s a company to do?

  • Register your brand/product name early. How early? As soon as a social media service is generating consistent buzz about your brand. That means that you should have registered yesterday on MySpace, Facebook and Twitter, while monitoring promising services like Friendfeed or Disqus.
  • Ask your agency what to do. I’m sure there is someone smart enough to give you the right answers.
  • Define procedures for brand hijacking as one of your social media best practices. A simple social media policy will do.
  • Get your voice. Is it a push model, or do you actually engage with the users? Delegated or internal ? Formal or Informal conversational tone? Does your company have a a Digital Curator ?
  • Provide aggregation mechanisms. It’s hard to keep pace with all the services. If you don’t have internal resources, services like Friendfeed or SocialThing are a great choice.
  • Track your brand buzz, with free services like Trackur.com, Backtype.com, Google Alerts and Technorati or more professional ones like BrandsEye, BuzzLogic or StartPR.
  • Have a consistent alias/nickname in different services. This is also a great marketing tool, making it easy for fans to guess your channel on YouTube or even getting a few more SERP hits.

All these measures have a preventive character, shielding your brand from being used in harmful ways by users. It mostly relates to domain squatting, that has brought so many troubles to brands, forcing them to take legal actions.

The implications for online advertising are clear: if you’re to launch a new campaign / product / service, be sure to register the most significant aliases in the main social media services. It’s obvious you can’t register all variations, but at least assure the most obvious ones. Think about it as if you were optimizing for search engines. Better yet, think about it as Social Media Marketing.

Interactive Advertising Bureau released the whitepaper “User-Generated Content and Social Media Advertising Overview” (PDF, 3.4 MB), a hands-on guide to social media, focusing on terminology, practices and standarts.

Social Media Interesting Snippet by lynetter

The document intends to clear some of the fears that brands and agencies might have on using this dynamic medium, framing the whole UGC movement and reminding brands that user reviews are just like personal recommendation, one of the most effective forms of advertising.

Social media advertising Source: eMarketeer

Blogs, wikis, UGC and Ad Networks are described, with several examples how to integrate advertising with social media. The myth that Social Networks is kids stuff was also debunked, by showing that “more than half of MySpace users were over 35 years old” and “LinkedIn, reports that its average user is 39 years-old and has an annual income of $139,000”.

With all the buzz surrounding social media, it’s easy for brands to jump into the bandwagon, and try to push their messages instead of engaging into conversations with their audience. Marketing author and blogger Seth Godin brilliantly states it on his latest book “Meatball Sundae”, reminding companies that just because they put money into new media that doesn’t necessarily translate into effective customers. Be ready to fail, experiment, optimize and most important, be ready to listen.

The document is a valuable first time reading for professionals that want to get acquainted with social media. For a 17 page paper, it manages to get a good overview that you can enrich with several web resources , such as Paul Isackson‘s recent presentation, or from Fallon planer Aki Spicer:

This entry was crossposted at Interact Congress Blog.

Or as Wired puts it, Pitchfork.tv Takes a Stab at Music Videos.

Pitchfork.tv

For long have i’ve been a regular reader of Pitchfork, along with last.fm, Hype machine,MetaCritic and ubber-cool Stereogum, that nurtured my musical tastes, while bypassing traditional music media moguls like MTV or NME. Even in Portugal i’m a regular at remixtures, Palco Principal or Bodyspace, great web projects that help me keep up to date with Portugal’s music scene.

Pitchfork and other web based projects are taking a real dent in TV music channels, with loyal fans and delivering breaking news. Pitchfork has even achieved a successful spin-off, with their Chicago Pitchfork Music Festival.

Take for instance Stereogum, who has just released a tribute disk to download, honoring Post, the 10 year old record by Bjork, something possible thanks to the loyalty of both fans and artists to the music weblog. Not to mention other major online players like MySpace, that has just closed the circle with a deal to sell DRM-free music, further establishing the site as a social music destiny.

Even if Pitchfork got a bit too pretentious on their Wired interview, tomorrow we get the chance to review the video quality and the whole interactive experience, but if they keep faithful to their overall excellence, i bet this one will be one more nail in the coffin in traditional music business.

Radiohead for Pitchfork.tv Images Credits: Pitchfork

A website that gets a band like Radiohead to premiere their video service, premieres exclusive demo tracks or shapes an album’s success with their review is surely a menace to MTV or VH1, companies that are increasingly more distant from music fans with their programming choices influenced by major record labels, and miss the huge long tail of music that MySpace, Pitchfork and thousands of music blogs have now filled.

Or quoting The Buggles:

In my mind and in my car, we can’t rewind we’ve gone too far.

MTV, take care.