RENEGADE THINKING from the CEO of Renegade, the social media & marketing agency that helps clients make more out of less by transforming communications into "Marketing as Service."

Six Questions to Start the New Year

01/14/10

1. Does your target Digg your ads?

If zapping tv spots wasn’t bad enough, now Digg is allowing their readers to essentially vote ads “off the island” while promoting the ones they like to star status. For the undug, Digg is the highly popular tech-focused news site where the stories are chosen by the users—the more Diggs a story gets, the higher it ranks on the site. And now that ads can be Digged or Buried, marketers will get real time feedback on the relative appeal of their ads to this highly influential target. If you’re targeting techies, this could be the cheapest copy test you ever tried, as well as the most eye opening.

2. Is your marketing worth retweeting?

While the joys of tweeting may still escape you personally, the phenomenal reach of Twitter is undeniable. In addition to the 20 million or so global users, tweets now appear as status updates on Facebook, LinkedIn, Plaxo and other social networks, extending Twitter’s influence to just about everyone marketers might want to reach. This isn’t kid stuff either. Professionals between 35–49 are the biggest tweeters of them all. So, if you create marketing worth tweeting about, the world will find out about it faster than you can say, “Wow that’s tweet.”

3. Do interns handle your social media?

This is not a trick question. We’ve been asked this a lot in the last month and it is a reflection of a naive belief that it is okay to put a brand’s social media campaign in the hands of novices. One senior marketer even told us that his company uses interns for all of their social media and then shrugs off the lost intellectual capital when the interns move on. As social media advances from the experimental phase to the front lines of customer relationship management, building and maintaining expertise is essential to optimizing results and avoiding PR nightmares. After all, would you ever put an intern on the phone with the press or your top customers?

4. How many customer “love letters” do you get a week?

It is a simple fact—beloved brands do better. Becoming beloved requires achieving customer satisfaction on the basics (product quality) and somehow exceeding expectations via service. Zappos calls this delivering “wow” and does this wherever they can. The Apple Store does this with its amazingly knowledgeable squad of orange-shirted concierges. Others use Marketing as Service to foster brand love, as HSBC does with the BankCab, whose riders send at least one love letter every week. So ask yourself, what could your marketing be doing (versus saying) to generate this kind of passion?

5. Do you have an app yet?

2009 was the year of the app rush for marketers. Everyone from Blockbuster to ZipCar, Betty Crocker to Starbucks, and Fandango to The Food Network cooked up mobile apps for their prospects and customers. In fact, well over a hundred brands joined the fun, some with pragmatic extensions of their service offering (like FedEx mobile) and others with engaging entertainment to enhance their brand perceptions (like Scion’s AV Radio). Given the low development costs of mobile apps and the millions of smart phone users, there is still time to get app happy. And while you’re at it, check out the newly launched CALL THE SHOTS iPhone app that Renegade developed for HARLEM, the new ice cold shot drink imported from Holland. It’s fun, it’s free and it’ll answer the question—how lucky are you really?

6. Did you know Renegade moved?

Back in September we said goodbye to Chelsea Market, our home for 10 years and moved to our new digs in the heart of Greenwich Village, just south of Bowlmor Lanes and north of Patsy’s Pizza. It seems that a few of you might not have our new address so here it is: 41 E 11th Street, 3F, NY, NY 10003-4602. Our phone numbers haven’t changed and we look forward to seeing you soon.

Happy New Year!

Why Brands Should Twitter

06/30/09

The other night at a cocktail party a good friend asked “so Drew, give me three good reasons why brands should Twitter?” I offered five off the top of my head; deliver news, manage crises, enhance customer service, build loyalty and drive web traffic. I didn’t have time to explain to him the substance behind these reasons which of course is very Twitter-like. You tease in Twitter, you consummate via blogs. So indulge me while I finish the conversation on why brands should Twitter.

1. Deliver news

Presumably, if someone bothers to follow a brand, first and foremost that individual wants to have the inside track on news about brand related activities. Depending on your category, the news could be related to product development, distribution changes, customer successes, promotions, stock price or what have you. This is the very essence of PR, you either have news or you create it. Twitter is a great channel to deliver that news as @DellOutlet with 760,000 followers demonstrates daily.

2. Manage Crises

You never know when a wacky employee might stick a piece of cheese up his nose, drop it on a pizza and then serve the sizzling video up on YouTube. While this particular example presented a challenge for Domino’s, every mass brand is vulnerable and needs to have a crises management plan in place. These days, Twitter should be part of that plan as it provides one of the fastest ways to mount a counter-attack to your core audience. Domino’s set up the Twitter account, @dpzinfo, after the fact but was still able to use it as part of its effort to successfully defuse the crisis.

3. Enhance Customer Service

Ever since Bob Garfield set up his Comcast Must Die blog, at least one company has come to see customer service via social media as a “must have” versus “nice to have” component of their on-going marketing activities. Comcast, which went from laggard to leader in this area, created a digital customer service director, Frank Eliason, who as the voice of @ComcastCares now has over 24,000 followers. JetBlue, another brand that faced a PR crises after an extraordinary service gaff, has become a huge voice on Twitter, engaging over 780,000 loyalists with a steady stream of helpful twavel tweets.

4. Build Loyalty

While cynics might say “get a life,” a lot of people enjoy engaging with their favorite brands on Twitter. In fact, one study found that 97% of Twitterers think brands should Twitter and 80% feel comfortably recommending a brand based on its presence on Twitter. Twitter can give a real voice to a brand and provide a level of engagement that goes well beyond the initial purchase. @WholeFoods cooks up healthy tips for its ravenous followers (907,000+) faster than an Emeril “bam!”

5. Drive web traffic

Twitter need not be an end in and of itself. In fact, it is a great way to start a conversation with your customers and prospects, a conversation that can be continued elsewhere. If the tweet is tantalizing enough, the consumer will thirst for more and follow you just about anywhere you suggest. @Marvel directs its 28,000+ fans to a variety of other Marvel sites including its official home on Flickr pages, “free Monday” comics posts and online polls on Marvel News. I have also since this work on a microlevel as my Twitter posts dramatically increase my blog traffic.

Keep in mind that the costs of keeping up a Twitter account are quite small compared to brand advertising. Of course, the reach is too unless you can achieve the kind of followings that Zappos and JetBlue enjoy. And that begs the question “how brands should Twitter” which I’ll just have to leave for another day or cocktail party, whichever comes first.

Beers that Twitter

06/13/09

Woke up this morning to discover that Corona Summerbration was now following me on Twitter. Since I don’t recall tweeting about beer or Corona or summer, I can’t figure out what I did to deserve this honor. Sure I love an icy cold one as much as the next guy, but I’m hardly in Corona’s prime demo which incidentally is the slowest to embrace Twitter. Perhaps Corona is hoping I’m an “influencer” and simply by blogging about the brand here I’ve rewarded their faith in me. Regardless, this made curious about other beer brands that Twitter so I put together the following round up:

Beers that Twitter:

  • @EpicBeer: this chatty New Zealand brewery has over 2200 followers and provides a steady stream of information-rich updates from the brewery (over 2200 tweets to-date)
  • @GooseIsland: with over 1200 followers, this Chicago microbrewery pushes out offers on a regular basis to its fans
  • @EdisonBeer: a Boston brewery with 1150+ fans that it mainly ignores tweeting only 11 times in the last 6 months
  • @CrispinCider: a Minnesota beer alternative with 1100+ followers that it updates frequently with news about events and product development
  • @Michelob: trying to remake itself into a craft beer, Michelob is the only national brand with over 1000 followers to whom it pushes rapid fire reminder tweets to buy, buy, buy
  • @BreckBrew supports Breckenridge Brewery, a Colorado maker of craft ale with about 680 followers that are treated to tweets by a real person with whom you’d actually want to share a beer!
  • @Corona_Beer has 586 followers that it hasn’t updated once
  • @heinekenBeers has about 350 followers and appears just to aggregate other tweets that mention Heineken or Heiny.
  • @heineken_beer calls itself a “global forum for beer” and provides a steady diet of updates from Heineken related activities around the globe to its 250 or so followers.
  • @budweiser: the king of beers snubs its 214 followers with nary an update. Whassup with this?
  • @summerbration: Corona’s promotional site has attracted nearly 200 followers in under a month as it offers a daily tip on how to celebrate the summer with Corona of course!

It probably shouldn’t be a surprise that the craft beers tend to lead the way having the most loyal and engaged fan base. These seem to be manned by real people who like talking about beer and the craft of beer making. The big brands either don’t bother to have a voice or it’s so forced like Michelob’s that it is actually off-putting. Given that Twitter hasn’t taken off among 21-29 year old males yet, these bigger brands aren’t necessarily missing out…yet. Also, many of these brands like Bud and Coors have done an admirable job building up and engaging their fan bases on other social media like Facebook and MySpace.

Before I wrap up, I wanted to raise the issue of brands following people. Personally, I’m still a little startled when a brand and not a person elects to follow me on Twitter. Some of the beer brands listed above have been aggressive in this area. For example, Epic follows 2109, Edison follows 1997 and Michelob follows 1097. This activity has driven up their follower numbers but in doing so also diminishes the power of their fan base. More impressive are the brands like Goose Island and Breckenridge Brewery who only follow 5 and 53 respectively yet have hundreds of followers.

Bottom line: Twitter is an opportunity for brands to engage with people as if they were people. To do this well requires the brands to behave like real friends not aggressive pitch men. If a brand elects to follow someone, it should have a good reason, a basis for introduction and not drop in out of nowhere like an uninvited guest. Just like people who tweet, brands should avoid becoming a Twitcher or Twitter Whore by maintaining a healthy following to followers ratio. Cheers.

UPDATE 6/15: @coors_light is not run by the folks at Coors so I took it off the list. See comment from the company below. Also, Molson is taking a multi-tweet approach with the following major brand tweeters:

  • @MolsonFerg: Molson’s VP of Public Affairs has 2100+ follower.
  • @toniahammer: Community relations, PR and social media girl for Molson has 1700+ followers.
  • @MolsonMoffat: Manager of Brand & Marketing PR at Molson and member of Molson’s social media team has 800+ followers.

UPDATE 7/13: Got some leads on microbrewers that tweet – and boy, do they ever!

  • @magichat: 8,301 followers
  • @StoneBrewingCo: 6,401 followers
  • @FlyingDog: 7,529 followers
  • @lakefront: 1,052 followers
  • @HornyGoatBrewCo: 827 followers
  • @RogueAles: 2,751 followers
  • @Tyranena: 188 followers
  • @newbelgium: 6,720 followers

For Twitter Newbies

03/6/09

A number of my friends have been asking for help as they get started on Twitter. Having written a bunch of emails to them, I figured I consolidate my advice onto one page. For you veterans in Tweetland, never mind. If you are still wondering why to Twitter, read Chris Brogan’s guide for newbies.

1. Where to start

  • Register on Twitter.com and provide a complete profile since this will make it easier for people to decide if they want to follow you.
  • I recommend you use your full name since this is not about cuteness or anonymity but rather connecting with people you might actually want to meet or at least have a conversation with at some point.
  • The next thing I’d recommend is that you download TweetDeck and use this to tool as home base for all your twittering instead of Twitter.com. TweetDeck makes it easy to track the folks you follow, have direct conversations and to “retweet” which I’ll explain more about later.
  • When you start visiting other Twitter home pages, you will notice many of have interesting backgrounds or more information. Zugara has created an easy tool to customize your background if you are so inclined.

2. Finding twitterers to follow

  • The great thing about Twitter is that you can follow people from all walks of life and it is completely up to you the mix of people you choose to follow.
  • To get started, pick a personal passion and a professional passion and look for lists of Twitterers in those areas. You can search for names or topics on Twitter Search.
  • Send an email to your peers/friends and ask them if they Twitter. If they do, then go to their Twitter home pages and see who they follow (look for the tiny head shots on the lower right). Then click on some of these head shots and look at those people’s Twitter home page to see if their Tweets interest you. If they do, hit the follow button on the upper left.
  • Then look at who these people follow. Ultimately, you start to find the superstars of Twitter who have thousands of followers but only follow a select few. Here’s a list of the Twitter elite according to Twitter Grader. Also, Paul Dunay has compiled lists of C Level Twitterers that is worth reviewing.
  • Word of caution–be selective initially about who you follow. It takes a lot of time to follow a lot of people and it may overwhelm you to try to follow too many at first.  One quick means of evaluating a potential tweeter is the ratio of followers to following–beware of the ones who follow thousands but only have a few followers.

3. Read, retweet, share links then share thoughts

  • My recommendation is that you spend you first couple of days just reading Tweets to get the hang of it. If you are following people that say interesting things and post interesting links, you will find it endlessly fascinating.
  • Then start retweeting or RT. This is the equivalent to forwarding an email and this is very easy on TweetDeck. Just hit the retweet button and then post. Retweeting is a way of paying respect to the author and sharing goodness at the same time..
  • I spend much of my time on Twitter reading the articles that others share via links. Because tweets are so short, a whole industry (like TinyURL.com which allows you to create aliases for your shortened URLs) has popped up to reduce the length of these links. Tweetdeck has a built in tool for shortening URLs but sometimes I find it easier to use Twurl which sits right on my Firefox browser. You can download Twurl from TweetBurner which has a bunch of other useful tools.
  • Now start tweeting away. My suggestion is that you only tweet about what you’d want to read about. Keep the “I’m eating bagels for breakfast” tweets to a minimum. Honestly, no one really cares unless you’re Barack Obama or Britney Spears (for more celebs who Twitter click here.)
  • Once you build a following, you will find all sorts of ways to make Twitter work for you (see my blog post for a few suggestions).

4. Playing catch up

  • Twitip.com, Mashable and Twitfacts have tons of useful information about Twitter and will get you connected with all the latest uses, add-ons, variations and extensions.
  • Both Blackberry and iPhone have Twitter applications that make mobile tracking and tweeting a breeze.
  • Among the essentials add-ons is Twitpic for photo sharing.
  • If you are so inclined, you can update your Facebook, Plaxo status and your WordPress blog with your Twitter posts. I have found this to be useful since it simply extends the reach of my tweets and keeps those other pages fresher.
  • Once you get the hang of it and start to attract followers, I have found it useful to create an auto response to welcome followers. Some consider this bad form but for busy people it is far better than doing nothing. Tweetburner makes setting up an auto response fairly easy.
  • Since you will quickly notice a number of Twitter words like hashtag, tweme, tweetup, and twirt that may not make sense to you, you’ll find this twictionary worth bookmarking.

That should get you started. Have fun tweeps.

How Twitter is Killing this Blog

01/26/09

When I first started playing with Twitter a few months ago, it seemed like the biggest waste of time since the invention of Chia pets. I simply couldn’t understand why anyone would want to track the inane utterances of the geeky-inclined or could find the time to share their own “every little moment” with a flock of clearly under-worked followers. Boy was I wrong.

Like so many things in life, appreciation for something only arrives after diving in head first. Critics of Twitter are simply modern-day Windys who are “always window shopping but never stopping to buy.” And sure enough, after about a month of sitting on the sidelines, I jumped into the game and have been fascinated, entertained and enlightened by practically every spare minute I have given over to Twitter.

The only downside I can find is that relentless Twittering has just about killed this blog (which may or may not be such a bad thing!) While I might post 2-5 times a day on Twitter in a matter of seconds, posts here require significant time for research, writing and editing. But more importantly, I find myself reading a lot more and writing a lot less. Each good Twitter post one reads (and yes there is a lot of worthless tripe to sift through even if you are as ruthless as I am about who you follow) is like opening a door to a new room of knowledge. That new room requires careful study and inevitably opens up yet another train of thought worth pursuing. Further evidence that Jim Collins’ mentor was right when he said “it is more important to be interested than interesting.”

Just in the last few weeks, consider these outcomes as a result of tweeting:

  • Recruiting–I found two qualified candidates for a client by tweeting about a Social Media Director job opening. This effort was aided by the fact that my tweets are also automatically posted as updates on my Facebook, LinkedIn and Plaxo pages.
  • Preparing–Discovering that a prospective client was also a Twitterer, it was very easy to get up to speed on the key category influencers based on the folks the client followed. Time will tell if that insight will help close the sale but it sure won’t hurt.
  • Connecting–Finishing a good book on Social Media, I started to follow the author via Twitter. From there I was able to open a dialog with the author, which is almost unimaginable via blogging.
  • Breaking news–Moments after the US Air flight hit the Hudson, tweets directed me to live video feeds as well as the best news coverage and photos. While following this story as it broke wasn’t necessarily that important, it did open my eyes to the likelihood that there will be stories of extraordinary personal relevance that I’ll learn about and be able to act upon faster because of Twitter.

So yes, suddenly I find myself proselytizing about Twitter and practically ignoring this blog. Of course, I take some comfort in the fact that this blog always has fresh content as a result of adding a Twitter box to upper right corner! And in another post sometime soon (don’t hold your breath), I will be to explain how Twitter is yet another way marketers can deliver Marketing as Service to customers, prospects and influencers.

Copyright © 2009 - Drew Neisser