Thursday, September 17, 2009

Buying Facebook Friends – uSocial and Social Media ROI

(Photo courtesy of CloudAve.com)

Social media has never been about the number of followers you have. It’s about the relationship and interaction you have with your followers. However, According to AdAge, Australian based uSocial.net is trying to convince you otherwise.

USocial is already famous for selling votes on such popular social bookmarking websites as Digg.com and StumbleUpon.com. They also sell Twitter followers ($87 for 1000, $147 for 2500, all the way up to $3479 for 100,000).

Adage reports that uSocial is now selling Facebook friends…yes, you can buy “friendship” now.

What I find most interesting, is that uSocial attempts to put a value around each follower. According to uSocial:

Traditional ROI

(Net Profit / Total Investment) x 100

BNET.com gives the example: If net profit is $30 and the total invested is $250, the Return on Investment is:

30 / 250 = 0.12 × 100 = 12%

Social Media ROI

(Net Profit directly related to social media / Total Investment in Social Media) x 100 = Social Media ROI

OR

(Net Profit directly related to social media) / (# of followers) = Net Profit per Follower

Social Media ROI and USocial

Where uSocial goes wrong, is that they are confusing subjective or potential ROI with actualized ROI. Olivier Blanchard of The BrandBuilder eloquently explains: “If I’m going to invest money in, I want to get money out. Currency is not variable.” The ‘R’ in ROI is based off of a monetary value. If a company is going to invest money into their social media marketing strategy (their ‘I”), then they need to see a monetary return (the R). The return cannot be based off of potential or subjective numbers. It doesn’t matter how many followers you have, how many fans you have, or how many sales you think will directly correlate to your social media marketing efforts. The only thing that matters is your actualized return – money you have already gotten back on your investment. A financial investment demands a financial return. (For a great vid on ROI check out The BrandBuilder's video here).

Let’s take a closer look at that social media ROI equation. Let’s say that you purchase 1000 “friends” for $1000 from USocial. These “friends” aren’t actually doing anything. They aren’t passing along your message. They aren’t interacting with your brand. They are just a number, therefore you will never see an actualized return from them. Given that $1000 investment in “friends” from uSocial and knowing that you will never see an actualized return from them, the ROI equation looks like this:

$0 / ($1000) x 100 = $0 Social Media ROI

$0 / 1000 friends = $0/friend (not $1/month like USocial boasts)

Until buying followers or friends from uSocial actually realizes a monetary return, it is completely worthless. When buying from uSocial, all you are getting is a number, not an actual customer or relationship.

What are your thoughts around buying followers and friends through uSocial and its implication on your ROI?

--Now Let Me Clear My Throat—

Josh Groth

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

The 5 Worst Times to use the iPhone’s Shazam App


I absolutely love my iPhone (minus not having mms). I also love discovering new music. Enter Shazam - the prodigal love child that came about when someone far better at programming than myself also discovered that they had those same interests.

Now Shazam is not new. It is no longer featured in Apple’s iPhone commercials. It’s buzz has all but completely worn off because anyone with an iPhone already has it. But by God is its sex appeal still there. It’s the Jennifer Aniston of iPhone apps - it keeps getting sexier with age.
With each software update, it keeps getting better and better.

It’s because of it’s raw sexiness that I find myself compelled to write this article. If the darn app didn’t get so my action from everyone, we wouldn’t have this problem. The problem is that this app is so amazing, that it is constantly being used, and often, during highly inappropriate times and places.

So I have highlighted what I consider to be the 5 most inappropriate times and places that I have actually seen people using the Shazam app. And please, feel free to leave a comment detailing any of your sightings of inappropriate usage of Shazam.


The bathroom at Red Robin


I honestly couldn’t make this up. After recently grabbing a burger at Red Robin (aka The Dirty Bird) with some friends, I decided to hit the bathroom on our way out. As I walk in, some guy is just standing next to the sinks with his iphone out, arm extended slightly towards the ceiling speakers, trying to have his phone recognize Crazy Town’s Butterfly. It was just awkward. And what’s the etiquette on something like that? It’s tough not to stare, he’s just hanging out in the bathroom. Do you tell him the name of the song? No, probably not. You don’t want to talk to someone like that.

During the toasting of the bride and groom


I was at a wedding a little while back, being reminded yet again of my relationship status (darn weddings). Time comes around for the toasts for the bride and the groom. The DJ turned the music down, but not all the way off - guess it added to the ambiance. Anyways, as one of the groomsmen is giving his toast, some guy at the table right next to me whips out his iPhone, opens up Shazam, and tried to casually extend his arm out a little bit so that his phone would be a little closer to the speaker. Sure not too many people probably noticed, but I found this hugely disrespectful not only to the person giving the toast, but also to the bride and groom.


Packed elevator

We’ve all been there; in the painfully slow elevator packed elbow-to-elbow like you’re up at a bar on Dollar Beer night trying to get another beer (or two) before last call. In the midst of this already awkward social situation where everyone stares blankly at the back of the head of the person in front of them, some woman starts fumbling through her over-sized purse for her iPhone. After successfully finding her phone, she had to find a way to maneuver her arm above her head, bumping the people around her, to get her phone closer to the speaker.


First off, it’s elevator music. You don’t want it anyway. Secondly, there was no reason to extend her arm, the only sound in that elevator was the music.


So there we stood for the remainder of our slow descent, in complete, awkward silence, with this random woman in the dead center holding her phone to the ceiling. Really?


Doing 70 on the freeway


Nothing like riding shotgun to someone that is in no way, shape, or form paying attention to the road. I was riding with this girl once, and while flying down the highway into downtown, her “new favorite song” came on the radio and she needed to Shazam it right then and there. So she grabs her phone out of her purse, and starts thumbing through it to find the app. Then selects the app, and if you have experience with it, you know that it takes a little bit to load. So there was probably a good 10 seconds where there was next to zero attention paid to the road. Not cool.


I’m sorry, you may love the song, but don’t endanger the people around you (and me) because you need to Shazam it while on the freeway.


While talking with someone at a bar


A little while back, I ran into a buddy a the bar who was in from out of town. As I began responding to one of his questions, he reaches down and starts thumbing through his iPhone, finds Shazam, and opens it up to tag the song that was on. He then extends his hand up and out so it right near the side of my head (since I was closer to the bar’s speakers) and then continued to “listen to my response” as the program goes about tagging the song. Talk about an awkward 20 or so seconds. It was one thing when I knew the song was more important to him than what I had to say, but then to stand there with his hand right next to my head while the song tagged...just weird.

So what are some of your awkward/offensive/inappropriate experiences with Shazam?


--Now let me clear my throat--

Josh Groth

Monday, August 31, 2009

CNN: An Example in Trying Too Hard to Reach Gen Y


I have seen a lot of good and a lot of bad when it comes to big name companies trying to connect with Gen Y and become more ‘relevant’ to them. Companies have made these changes in a variety of different ways, with the two prominent methods being: rebranding efforts and/or a social media presence.

CNN is a little bit different. They decided to make themselves more relevant to Gen Y by creating new segments. Not a bad idea - in theory. Content that is pertinent to Gen Y should attract Gen Y viewers...right?

The problem does not pertain to the content, but in the branding of the segment. They decided to name the segment after what they perceived to be trendy Gen Y slang. They then have their Gen X and Baby Boomer news anchors painfully using this slang in the segments. The whole thing just comes off unbelievably forced.

The segments are seemingly satirically named: Just Sayin’, Are you kidding me?, and What The...?

The result (besides losing entirely too much credibility in the process) is that CNN gets put on blast by perhaps the most influential and popular news anchor in the eyes of Gen Y, Jon Stewart of The Daily Show.



Stewart has some excellent jabs at CNN’s “Slangtastic new strategy,” asserting that “they report the news like I talked...when I was a 12 year-old girl.” While some claim that all press is good press, I can only imagine that CNN lost even more credibility in the eyes of Gen Y after Stewart was done with them.

What should CNN have done differently? How about speak to and engage Gen Y intelligently! It should be natural; no need to force it. We may be younger as a generation than their news anchors, but that doesn’t mean we’re unintelligent. There are ways to cover news pieces that are relevant to Gen Y without demeaning us in the process. Just Sayin’ CNN...

--Now let me clear my throat--
Josh Groth

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

5 Reasons Why Gen Y is the Minority on Twitter


Before going any further, I think that it is imperative to clarify that teens are indeed on Twitter - they’re just a minority (a clarification I attribute to my friend Joey Mucha ( @mucheazy ).

Last week, Mashable published an article that seemed to get everyone’s underwear in a bunch - Stats Confirm it: Teens Don’t Tweet. They cited a recent Nielsen report that shows that only 16 percent of Twitter users are under 25. Later that same day, one of my favorite editors over at Mashable, Ben Parr ( @benparr ) came out with a very interesting piece titled Why Teens Don’t Tweet. This took a closer look at the numbers and tried to add reason to them. If you haven’t read his post, you should. It’s very well written. Below I’ve put some of my thoughts around Gen Y and twitter. I’d be happy to hear your thoughts on the subject as well!

1. Perceived Value vs. Actual Value (the status update)

Twitter is a social network, therefore it must be like all social networks. Wrong. I’ve heard this a lot from my non-tweeting Gen Y peers. Just because Facebook and Twitter both have a place where you can update your status, it doesn’t mean that they are used in the same ways or even for the same reasons. I have seen a decent amount of my peers get on Twitter expecting it to be like Facebook, only to not really “get it” and close their accounts.

2. Snowball

Like any other hit new thing, at some point it’ll reach a tipping point and go viral. There will always be the first movers, but the masses begin their adoption when the they see the majority of the peers following suit. While other demographics have snowballed with Twitter use, the under 25 segment hasn’t. But who ever said that every demographic adopts things at the same pace? It could simply mean that there haven’t been enough movers in that segment to instigate the viral affect yet...

3. Push vs. Pull

Twitter is best utilized as a means for accessing news/articles in real time (pulling) and pushing content to others, not for finding what all of your friends are currently up to (especially if most of your friends aren’t on Twitter). If you’re following several hundred to several thousand people, trying to keep tabs on all of your friends updates will prove difficult as their tweets will get lost among the tweets of all the other news agencies, celebs, and randoms that you’re following as well - that is, unless you’re utilizing a client like TweetDeck.

4. The Friend Zone

If teens are mainly using social media to connect with their friends, then Twitter is not the most efficient means of doing so, Facebook is. If all of your close friends are already communicating in one area, why move them all over to another social media site unless it has some amazing value-add (might I remind that Facebook is launching real-time search functionality as well...)?

5. The LinkedIn Syndrome

My observation is that Twitter is a lot like LinkedIn: it is great for people trying to build a professional network, or substantiate themselves as subject matter experts on something. Which is why both struggle to attract teens. Why do teens need to build a professional network? Their network consists of their friends and little more. So what is the value-add for a teen to join?

What are your thoughts on the subject?

--Now Let Me Clear My Throat--

Josh Groth

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

5 Easy Steps for Gen Y to Go Green


I’m all for green. I love the color (I’m a UO Duck...what can I say) and I love the environment. What I don’t love, are how most of the suggestions I hear about being environmentally conscious from the media, aren’t relevant to me and a good portion of my fellow Gen Yers. What I mean, is that a lot of the focus of the media is solely around driving an eco-friendly car. For someone who is unemployed and has student loans to pay off, dropping some serious coin for a green ride is something that isn’t feasible at this time. Moreover, the tips on “going green” that I receive in the mail from my local utility company seem to relate solely to home owners. I, like most of the younger half of Gen Y, live in an apartment. I don’t need to buy new energy efficient appliances, re-caulk my windows, or re-insulate my walls.

While I don’t have the money for a new eco-friendly Prius or for a LEED certified new house, I still want to make a difference. Below are five suggestions for how Gen Y can positively impact their environment and simultaneously, their wallets without exerting too much effort.

Use Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs (CFLs)

An Energy Star qualified CFL can save you $30 over its life time! This means that this little guy will pay for itself in about 6 months. It uses about 75% less energy and lasts 10x longer than a regular bulb (just remember to turn the lights off when you’re not using them too). If that isn’t convincing, check out this stat from the Energy Star website:

“If every American home replaced just one light bulb with an Energy Star qualified bulb, we would save enough energy to light more than 3 million homes for a year, more than $600M in annual energy costs, and prevent greenhouse gases equivalent to emissions of more than 800K cars.”

Use appliances during off-peak hours

Re-Nest.com explains: "Peak" energy hours are the time of day during which the most electricity is used – typically daytime. During peak energy hours additional power plants, "peak-hour plants", are needed. If energy usage is spread out more evenly throughout the day, peak-hour plants will not need to be used.

So simply run your energy-sucking appliances like your dishwasher and washer/dryer between the hours of 9PM and 7AM. Moreover, many utilities companies will offer reduced energy rates during these hours.

Wash clothes in cold water

Approximately 90% of the energy used to wash clothes is used to heat the water. So grab some of that new Tide Coldwater detergent and go to town.

If you don't use it, you lose it

Even if you aren’t using your electronics, if they’re plugged in, they’re still sucking power. So instead of plugging your electronics into the wall, plug them into a power strip. This way, when your not using them, you can shut them all off at once. This also goes for things like your toaster and blender. Only plug those bad boys in when you’re using them, then unplug them when you’re done.

Use public transportation

What I find interesting, is that a lot of “green tips” put the C02 emission savings in relation to the comparable amount of cars you’re taking off the road. So why not just take your car off the road in the first place...

Yes, I recognize that this is not possible for everyone. But if it is, do it. It’s hugely eco-friendly and saves major cash.When I started using my city’s public transportation, I was saving around $200/mth in gas and parking expenses. That’s 200 items on the Dollar Menu or 200 rounds of beer on Dollar Beer Night for your 200 closest friends. Either that, or it’s a good chuck towards rent.

If you want some more tips, check out these sweet sites:
http://planetgreen.discovery.com
http://treehugger.com
http://energystar.gov

--Now Let Me Clear My Throat--
Josh Groth

Monday, July 27, 2009

Social Media Marketing Case Study: Express


I’ve decided that I do a lot of critiquing of social media strategies, rebranding efforts, Gen Y marketing tactics, and general business strategy. While I enjoy these mini case studies, I’ve decided that it’d be a nice change to spotlight companies/brands that are doing an excellent job in their social media and Gen Y marketing efforts.


Today’s spotlight, my long-time favorite clothing brand - Express.

I’ve been a loyal Express customer since it was originally named Structure (8-10ish yrs or so). I was originally drawn to the brand for its bold colors and tailored fit clothing - it use to be a hassle finding clothes that fit someone with an athletic build. I’ve remained a loyal customer not just because of the styles, but the customer service and incredible sales that have.

As someone with a marketing background, it’s been fun watching the digital marketing efforts of the brand explode like Vegas on Fight Night. After reflecting on Express’ digital and social media marketing strategy, I’ve decided that their success is due to three key characteristics: Brains, Brawn, and Balance.

Brains:


A good marketing strategy is only as good as the person at the helm. In Express’ case, it’s their CMO Lisa Gavales (@ExpressLisaG). What I’ve enjoyed about her approach to social media, is that she’s incorporating a nice blend of push/pull marketing via Twitter. With her 7500ish followers, she alerts followers of upcoming sales, as well as quickly responds to individual comments/questions (an essential and often overlooked aspect of social media).

Example: When I was recently shopping on Express.com, I was getting frustrated with my inability to sort shirts and pants by size. I kept clicking on shirts I was interested in, only to find that they were sold out in my size. I tweeted @ExpressLisaG saying that it was hindering my shopping experience, and I’d be more inclined to purchase items from from their website if I could easily view everything that was available in my size. I promptly got a reply, and was informed that IT would get working on a fix. Awesome.



Brawn:

Many times, I see companies take a stab at social media marketing and open a Twitter or Facebook account and call it good. While it’s a good first step, social media is bigger than just Facebook and Twitter and it requires constant interaction with the consumer via these communication tools.

What Express has done well, is establish themselves in several social media mediums. They have a Facebook fan page with approx 50,000 fans, a Twitter account with 7500 followers, and a Bebo and YouTube channel to boot. Moreover, these accounts are all continually updated and they are interacting with their core consumers on a regular basis.


Balance:


Every marketing campaign needs balance. You can’t focus only on social media, or only on direct marketing. To stay relevant with your consumers, you need to interact with them and create impressions across several marketing channels. By experiencing the brand’s message over several marketing channels, the likelihood of being able recall the brand and its messages is greatly increased. The marketing tactics are even more effective when all the communication channels compliment each other instead of being attempting to stand alone.


Over the past year Express has stepped up their opt-in email marketing efforts. The emails now come more frequently, are aesthetically pleasing to view, and most importantly, they direct the consumer to each of their four social media webpages.


Their direct marketing mailers contain additional sales coupons, as well as direct the consumer to their social media webpages. They also feature verbiage explaining a 15% savings off your first purchase when you signup for email alerts.


Finally, the social media strategy not only provides their consumers with info, but interacts with their consumers. Their Facebook and Bebo pages provides the information, as well as a blurb about the 15% discount for signing up for email alerts. Their Twitter account interacts with their customers and their YouTube channel provides videos with fashion/styling advice.


Each marketing channel supports the others seamlessly. This impeccably balanced approach to their marketing campaign is perhaps the most impressive and effective facet of their strategy.


Four for you Glen CoCo! You go Glen CoCo! (yes, I realize I just quoted Mean Girls, but it seemed appropriate given Express’ utter dominance in the social media marketing field.)


--Now Let Me Clear My Throat--

Josh Groth

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Starbucks to Sell Beer and Wine...?



It’s been quite the year for big-ticket rebranding efforts. Kentucky Fried Chicken has been transitioning over to Kentucky Grilled Chicken in an effort to ditch the negative health connotation linked with deep fried food. Pizza Hut has begun its transformation to The Hut - in an attempt to connect more with Gen Y. Starbucks has now started down the yellow-brick road of rebranding in an attempt to gain the upper hand in the Coffee Wars.

Two days ago USA Today broke the story that Starbucks is not only experimenting with a new name, but also several new additions to their menu - beer and wine. Opening next week in Seattle, the birthplace of the Starbucks brand, is the pilot store called “15th Ave. Coffee and Tea inspired by Starbucks” (seems a little long winded to me, but what ev).

15th Ave. Coffee and Tea will feature all of the same menu options as any other Starbucks, however it will have a liquor license. It will offer a half-dozen kinds of beers and wines — most with connections to the Northwest, and priced between $4-$7.

Starbucks has been attacked from all sides like Kobe on game night. However, unlike the Black Mamba, Starbucks isn’t coming home with a ring. During the recession, Starbucks has endured store closures, layoffs, and same-store sales declines. They’ve also been hit with a full-court press by McDonald’s, as their competitor infused their McCafe with a $100M marketing budget.

Starbucks’ solution: increase foot traffic during the evening hours, where store sales are at their lowest. It’s a viable strategy, but are beer and wine the answer?

In order to address Starbucks’ proposed solution, I think it would behoove them to take a closer look at the problem at hand.

The Problem(s):
  • Starbucks has the highest price point among its competitors (McDonald’s and Dunkin’ Donuts).
  • Demand for coffee peaks in the afternoon then tampers off into the evening.
  • Coffee can be considered a luxury good in a recession (easily replaced by brewing at home).
Solution(s):

Bite the bullet and compromise on price. While it may have an immediate negative result on net profit, they could start making up some of the ground they’ve lost to McCafe and Dunkin’ with consumers who are price conscious. Their competitor's biggest selling point (in relation to Starbucks) is that their product is less expensive. If you take that away from them, what do they have?

Give recession weary consumers a reason to come to Starbucks instead of brewing their coffee at home (i.e. FREE WI-FI). When I was at school, there was a small locally-owned coffee shop right next door to the campus Starbucks called Espresso Roma. It always got the same, if not more, traffic than the Starbucks. Why? It was a better place to get work done at because it offered free Wi-Fi. This seems like a no-brainer, which makes it even more impressive that Starbucks is seemingly the only company left that actually charges customers for Wi-Fi.

If they’re still hell-bent on increasing traffic in the evenings via alcohol, why not sell alcohol that at least has something to do with their pre-existing brand image? Rather than beer and wine (yes I recognize that these are common in European coffeehouses), why not sell drinks like Spanish/Irish coffees and peppermint schnapps infused mochas around Christmas? Unlike beer and wine, this would not be a complete 180 from the brand image and would actually complement their current product offerings quite nicely. After all, Starbucks already produces their own coffee flavored liqueurs.

What are your thoughts? Would you go to a Starbucks for a late night beer with your friends? What alcoholic drinks (if any) would you consider purchasing from a Starbucks?

--Now Let Me Clear My Throat--

Josh Groth