Tag Archives: social networks

Preserve Us From The Uncool

Twitter, the once esoteric microblogging utility has “crossed the chasm.” It is now popular, if not yet mainstream.


In case you missed it, last Friday, 17 April 2009, was “Twitter Day” on Oprah. And Oprah has shown she can move markets, if not mountains. Not only is she on Twitter, but at least for Twitter Day was tweeting live on her show. Oprah herself has in a few days gone from a standing start to over 300 thousand followers. If you want the current stats on the followers, visit her Twitter page and see the block in the upper right corner.

Actor Ashton Kutcher became the first to amass a million followers on Twitter. This was not spontaneous. Rather it was the result of well orchestrated marketing campaign, including — you guessed it — Twitter.

Many radio and TV shows accept or even solicit listener input via Twitter, while businesses and organizations are actively playing with it.

During the presidential campaign of 2008, one Twitter account dominated all others. As you may have guessed this was Barack Obama’s. His campaign understood and applied social media better than any competing candidate. He currently has about 887 thousand followers.

In these depressed times, meteoric success like Twitters cheers me up – all the more so, because it was so improbable. Who’d a thunk it? Initially the experience of most Twitter users, and I include myself, was not love at first Tweet. Gradually, we found ways of making this lightweight utility pretty darn useful. Each of us did this in different ways with different constituencies.

All is, however, not well in the Twittersphere. It is very likely that increased traffic will strain Twitter’s servers. There will be more temporary interruptions in service just as we had come to depend on Twitter.

Among certain quarters, the objections are more profound and profoundly less rational. That is, by becoming popular, Twitter will loose the cachet it had by being esoteric, counterintuitive, or to many just plain weird. As in one of Yogi’s bon mot “it’s so crowded nobody goes there.”

  • PR maven and Twitter user Steve Rubel posits the decline of Twitter because the geeks, who were its first patrons, will desert it for the next cool thing.
  • Technology analyst Jeremiah Owyang, expects a backlash as Twitter approaches mainstream.
  • While PC Magazine columnist Lance Ulanoff laments that “Oprah and Ashton will destroy Twitter.

I don’t think so. Email may be uncool, but it’s not going away anytime soon. Most of those who joined Twitter only because of Oprah may drop out, unless she starts Tweeting messages relevant to them. Those who find it useful will stay, no matter how they first got there.

Driving Into A Ditch

Hertz car rental joins Alamo, Enterprise, and National in raising rental by about 10%. Hmmm, we are in a recession, both business and consumer travel are decreasing. The cost of new vehicles of the type bought by rental companies are also falling as Detroit tries to unload its products.

Let’s not accuse the (in this case) car rental industry of being overly alert. According to today’s Wall St. Journal (10/29/08, p D5) other companies are “…going to wait and see what competitors do and then consider raising rates…”

This could be an opportune time to increase share and loyalty by keeping prices level. Speak to your customers concerns about the economy. Social networking programs would be particularly cost effective here. If your competition wishes to drive into a ditch in tandem, for example, by increasing prices at the wrong time – so much the better.

And The Real Winner Is…

This November Fourth, the most expensive product launch in history will end.

The campaign has been interesting to practitioners of non-traditional media of all political persuasions. Blogs, webinars, Tweets, ‘zines, established social networks such as Facebook, as well as special purpose online communities have enabled even obscure aspirants to become contenders. For example, new media enhanced and extended the candidacy of Ron Paul. With them, he could mount a boot-strap campaign becoming better known and then raising more funds in an increasing cycle.

There has been a marked difference in effort and effectiveness of employing new media among the candidates. Obama’s campaign has been far more active and effective than McCain’s. This has propelled Obama’s advantage in fund raising and via social-networking increased his online coverage versus that of McCain.

Obama has raised over $600 million and McCain more than $ 350 million[1]. What can you do with such a marketing budget? New media are so effective and efficient, that it would be really hard to spend it in that way. Thus the campaigns are buying huge amounts of airtime. This leads to the ironic result that the real winners of 2008 are old media.

[1] There are a number of other active candidates, such as Ralph Nader. According to Federal Elections Commission data, total amount raised by all other candidates is less than 0.5% of what McCain and Obama have raised.

The Texting of a President 2008

The title draws from that of a book about political marketing – The Selling of a President 1968. That books author, Joe McGinnis, was upset not just with Richard Nixon (about who you can make your own judgments), but with the notion of candidates as products. Products to be marketed at that.

The candidate as product is no longer novel or controversial. Yet despite the record expenditures and length of this presidential campaign, little interesting marketing has appeared in the 2008 campaign. Enter the pregnant text message.

The Obama Campaign’s tactic of heightening interest in the vice presidential candidate by informing voters of the choice directly by text message is intriguing. It bypassed the established news media and attempts to make a connection directly with voters. The audience who signed up for this message – excluding the small percentage of media types, Republicans, and students of politics – is a potential nucleus of committed fans and product evangelists. They became a bit more involved with the product by being first, though I doubt many were at their phones at 3:00 am when the message came.

Text messaging can be a problematic medium. Spam messages are even more inconvenient on a phone than a computer. They also add injury to insult, because recipients without an unlimited message plan have to pay for the offending messages. The text message section of Obama’s website is a very good example of permission marketing. In a single page, it shows how to sign up for different levels of content from the one time to the occasional to the frequent, an assortment of free ringtones, and a simple one step procedure to unsubscribe.

The Obama text message also emphasizes a difference with John McCain, who notoriously uncomfortable with email. McCainSpace, McCain’s own social networking site is, to my eyes, less usable and engaging. McCain himself seems ill at ease in the welcome video on the home page. In my tests, the site was surprisingly sluggish.

At a dime a message, this campaign may have something for us marketers.