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Are you prepared for stormy seas as well as calm ones?

As social media platforms and participation become ubiquitous amongst all demographics it’s more important than ever to understand how to navigate both the calm weather and the storms that will inevitably occur. Social media is an extension of life and as such all the same variables come into play. If a customer loses their temper at your call centre rep they will certainly do so in the more public forum of Twitter or your Facebook wall.

It isn’t just about the huge crisis, it’s about day-to-day interactions where customers are upset with something about the company. How you handle the everyday interactions makes the difference between having a sustainable social presence outside of a “push” campaign mentality. It also allows your campaigns to resonate more as your customers don’t see them as your only use of the medium that they are primarily using to connect with their friends, family, and colleagues.

How do you handle the negatives? Be prepared in advance!

First, before you dive right in know that your company isn’t perfect. This is a tough one for most companies, but it’s true. No one is perfect so accept it and move forward with a plan.

Here are some initial steps you can take to get off on the right foot in social media channels:

  • Gather a list of known issues from your customer service department and any other customer facing departments (retail managers, etc). Identify how you are working to fix those issues.
  • Check your analytics – are there specific patterns you can discern? Content paths, keywords, time spent on specific pages?
  • Talk to your marketing team – what offers have resonated in the past and which have fallen flat? Talk to your PR department – what kinds of feedback do they get from journalists and investors? Have there been any big crises in the recent past?
  • Conduct a social listening audit across all of your business units and find out what your customers are actually talking about (your brand and your competitors).
  • Talk to your product development team – what’s coming down the pipe in the next 6 months and how will that impact your customer base (be honest about this; will it be received well without any need for spin)?

Now put them all together to determine what your hot button issues are likely to be and craft a plan to ensure your front line social media team can address them properly and transparently. Make no mistake, it isn’t a script, but an outline of who your company really is: a human-centric business.

Taking these steps and ensuring your employees are all operating from the same playbook will set your team, and your brand up to be prepared for any storms that arise (which they inevitably will as they do in the physical world) and hopefully allow you to mitigate them before they can manifest into an actual crisis.

Finally, keep in mind that it doesn’t stop here: the learning, discussions, info gathering etc. MUST continue. Change happens; be prepared to roll with it.

Happy sailing!

[photo credit: FnJBnN]

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The Canadian Digital Living Room research

Do you have kids? Are you a 5-screen household? If so, you aren’t alone. That’s the number of screens (TV, mobile, tablet) that the majority of Canadian families with kids have according to MediaCom research. It’s a far cry from the lone TV in the living room most Boomers & Gen-Xers grew up with.

I recently attended a conference that presented a ton of great stats from Microsoft Advertising and Rogers Connect based on research they conducted in November – December 2011 of Canadian parents with kids under 18.

For anyone in marketing or advertising that is looking to market to the next generation of families, multi-screen programs are an absolute must. Gone are the days of focusing on one device or medium. Your content and campaigns must be adaptable to various mediums.

Some key stats that were revealed include:

Canadian adults consume 190 hours of media per month

Which devices are they consuming it on?

-       99% TV

-       53% laptop

-       48% Gaming system

-       30% mobile device

-       6% tablets

88% of families use their TV simultaneously with another device so the opportunities for seamless-content and advertising is abundant to create emotional connections through multiple devices and cater to the screen they are looking at.

As well there is a slight difference between how parents with younger children (Digital Natives: 0-10yrs) vs. parents with older children (Digital Adopters: 11-18yrs) view the role of tech in their family dynamics. Digital Adopters tend to become educated about tech by their children; they are influenced on purchase decisions, are educated about new technology and are using it more frequently to communicate with their children, even when they are in the same house together. The Digital Adopter families spend their time together in the living room primarily consuming media that breaks down as follows (82% TV shows; 81% movies; 37% playing video games; 10% using social networks). Integrating campaigns around these various activities makes perfect sense and can serve as a media multiplier with multiple touch points to reach the audience with functional and emotional content.

While the research didn’t focus on the specific types of content or brands that resonated with the various groups, it is valuable to get a baseline understanding of the growth and spread of platforms that is now becoming part of the fabric of how families interact in their daily lives. I can see this playing out with my own family and how, as my children grow they start to use things such as my tablet while we watch TV and I’m on my smartphone. This will only continue to grow and advertisers and content creators should pay attention.

Thanks to Microsoft Canada & High Road Communications for the media pass; it was a highly informative day for someone who lives and works in the digital space.

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Setting the stage for Old Spice to own the Internet

[Cross-posted from Teehan+Lax]

A lot of ink has already been written about why Old Spice owned the Internet last week, and I don’t want to rehash the various aspects that RWW has covered, and Dave Stubbs has mentioned, among others, but what I feel is missing from the conversation is how it all started. My friend Leigh Himel deconstructed what the brief could have looked like, and I think it’s worth expanding on to describe how the campaign set the foundation for success.

It all started with the insight and a deep understanding of the market and the consumer.

The objective, as Leigh rightly points out, was to re-position and re-invigorate the brand.  To do this the team needed to understand the competitive landscape, the perspective consumers had of the brand, and the territory they had to play in. The market was saturated with female unfriendly AXE advertising, and as women are the primary consumers for male scent gifts, turning that into an advantage would have been mandatory for Old Spice.

With that as the starting point the Old Spice team (with a receptive client) decided to do the obvious: appeal to women without alienating men.

Old Spice cast the perfect actor for the new positioning. A former NFL player, a nice guy, and someone who wasn’t so perfect that men would feel threatened. Genius casting. Based on, I imagine, a perfect casting brief.

The next step was to create a seriously funny commercial that turned all the cliche’s of advertising and film on their heads. “Look at your man, now back at me”. “It’s now diamonds”. “I’m on a horse”. They made a commercial that was frankly better than 90% of the TV shows it appeared alongside. I first heard of it because my partner was watching TV and told me I had to see it. So what did I do? I went to YouTube and there it was. Word of mouth at it’s finest, but it would have been dead in the water if the team hadn’t thought to seed it online first.

They let that roll and roll it did. Everyone who saw the commercial started sharing it, and a character was born.

Now what to do with the follow up? The character was a success both online and offline and while they could continue to let it ride as a TV spot, the proof was there that they could take advantage of how much the spot resonated with the folks online.

The plan was to create a new TV spot, let that simmer for a bit and then pounce. The social media marketers did their homework and decided what the right outlets were to start spreading the character. The fact they took on 4Chan and won speaks volumes about how integrated and on the ball they were. While everyone talks about how they took over Twitter in a day, they really started seeding the campaign before that. They laid the groundwork. And it paid off. Big time.

It came on my radar with @jakrose tweeting that he’d received a video reply early Tuesday morning. “Fry it up and eat it down JakRose. Fry it up and eat it down.” The network effect took over and for the next two days it was all I cared about that was happening online. The social team did a brilliant job monitoring responses and working with the creatives to write compelling copy. They didn’t just target celebrities and “influencers” but responded to comments, Diggs, tweets and blog posts that they felt fit with the character as a whole. They were obviously fully immersed in the language and cadence of the social web because their video responses contained references only a geek would love (or get). They respected all the unwritten rules of the culture and tailored their responses to match the brand, and the mediums they were using.

They embraced the mash-ups and promoted them. They let the community roll with it. They poked fun at themselves (Old Spice responding to @isiahmustafa) And they set a time limit. Any longer than 2 days and it would have become tired. Any shorter and it would have been disappointing. The mash-ups continue to roll in, with the most recent being Mel Gibson calling the Old Spice Guy.

It was brilliance that came from the initial insights and work they did a couple of years ago. And deep understanding of how the social web works.

The challenge will be what they do next and if it moves the needle at the top of the purchase funnel (awareness & consideration). But I have faith, and am looking forward to every moment of it!

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Developing Digital/ Social Personas to start your Social Strategy

[Cross-posted from Teehan+Lax]

As the social space matures and companies recognize that they can no longer afford to ignore the “fad” that is social media, a common theme we keep hearing is: who and where are people who want to communicate with us, and whom we should be listening to and focusing our content development on?

As part of the process we’ve developed for formulating a solid and sustainable social strategy for brands, we typically start with developing a Digital/ Social Persona to help guide the engagement and communications strategy. While Personas are common in advertising and UX circles, they are relatively unique within social media as most practitioners will just tell you to “start listening”. While this is absolutely key to understanding and getting involved, it doesn’t provide a roadmap for long-term planning and engagement.

A persona doesn’t replace interacting directly with your customers, however it does give brands an understanding of how their customers are using digital media in all its forms, how they are interacting and engaging with complementary brands, the types of content that resonate with them, and a sense of where the brand “fits” (or could fit) within their online life. It also clearly demonstrates where it falls down, or neglects an important aspect.

In our experience, having this information, backed by thorough data and research, immediately illustrates where traditional communications fall short and why they should invest in 1-to-1 interaction and content development to remain relevant. It also begins to start the process of thinking about what true integration and touchpoints mean on a larger level.

We have a system we use to develop these personas with both qualitative and quantitative research, and with each iteration or new project find new ways to get to know the “persona” of the composite individual we’re modeling. I have a firm belief that with the amount of data we are collectively collecting in the digital realm helping companies make sense of it all and truly understand who their customers and prospects are will become both easier and more difficult. :)

For my social media friends out there – what types of practices do you use to help your clients get to know their customer?

[photo credit: Rodrigo Rodrigo Rodrigo Rodrigo Rodrigo Rodrigo via Flickr]

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Experience Is Everything: Joining Teehan+Lax as Partner- Strategic Consulting

It’s a been a wonderful road watching technology, marketing and social communications evolve on the web over the last 15 years, and it’s been fantastic & exciting being in the thick of it and running my own consultancy for the last 4 years. The last 24 months in particular have been a great journey as social networking tools have come of age rapidly. Seeing companies take the first steps in marketing and DWC (direct-with-consumer)/ social communications in this new hyper-connected reality has been a thrill to watch and participate in. Communications is changing, but at the same time the need for sound strategies, counsel and ideas remains as important as ever to navigate the waters and integrate properly. Social communications is not just outreach and PR; it is part of a larger digital experience with many touchpoints and needs based on standard business objectives.

I have of course focused on the strategy-side of the equation, and in analyzing changes in communications in the digital space. Another part of the digital coming-of-age is having brands move forward in usability and interaction in the online arena to take static, brochure-ware sites to robust, intuitive, user-centric places that continue to evolve and deliver results. Delivering rich creative experiences and personalized programs has started come into its own as clients are willing to invest more of their budget in new media as the value continues to be shown, and not being present becomes a competitive disadvantage. It’s been wonderful to see happen.

I truly believe that Experience touches *everything*: Interfaces, Interaction, Collaboration, Connection, Technology, Relationships, Creative, Information, Service, Engagement, Accessibility, Community…

Currently social media is on the cusp of becoming standard in anything digital, and incorporating digital and social communications with user experience design and solid, engaging creative/ content from the ground up is something I am truly excited about.

One of the best Experience Design agencies out there is Toronto-based Teehan+Lax, with a stellar and incredibly talented team of Associates and amazingly smart Partners (and I don’t just say so myself ;)): Geoff Teehan, Jon Lax, Jeremy Bell & my old partner-in-crime from my MacLaren McCann Interactive days on GM Canada, Dave Stubbs.

In my view, a combination of strategic planning, digital marketing, social communications and user-experience/ interaction design results in a truly robust, meaningful experience that is people-centric and grounded in *business reality*, including insights and analysis that will continue to drive innovation. It’s a natural extension of the way digital and social is moving: doing what’s best for business *and* the public, and doing it as a cohesive unit from ground zero.

Joining Teehan+Lax as Partner – Strategic Consulting makes perfect sense to me. Building this Group to aid clients in strategic business planning, including tapping into social media and mobile marketing & applications, is an exciting challenge, and my vision is to enable Teehan+Lax to provide sound business intelligence and planning capabilities, as a stand-alone offering, or fully integrated with their best-in-class user experience platform and program capabilities to drive business and communications results for clients.

I’m looking forward to the experience and the journey.

[the official press release will go out tomorrow & I'll update this post with the link... but we decided we'd let the social sphere get the scoop first :)]

—-

Some housekeeping:

- Wildfire SM will not be accepting new clients or projects, although I am happy to discuss new relationships with Teehan+Lax. Any existing relationships will be bound by the same terms as initially agreed to in the contract. If you have any questions give me a shout, I’m happy to talk.

- As of today the www.wildfirestrategy.com domain will re-direct to this blog. The blog will still remain (3i) innovate. integrate. ignite. Because that’s my philosophy towards marketing and it applies fully in this new context.

- This blog will change look and feel over the next couple of months, but everything feed related etc. will remain the same.

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