Considerate or Creepy?

FoursquareThat’s the question I posed to my Facebook friends earlier this year when I was wrapping up a consulting project.  I wanted to give the person who referred me to an opportunity, a small token of my appreciation.  At the time, Foursquare had not yet split its check-in activity into a separate app called Swarm.  Since I was connected to this individual on Foursquare (and she checked in on Foursquare frequently), I was familiar with the restaurant and entertainment venues she likes.

At first I was a little concerned that using this information could be construed as creepy.  But, she was posting to Foursquare and syncing her check-ins to Facebook (where we’re also connected).  Rather than guessing at where she might like a gift certificate to, I could give her a gift I knew she’d enjoy, by using her social media activity she’s chosen to share publicly.

But before I purchased my gift, I posted my question to my Facebook friends.  In an unscientific poll, it was a near unanimous opinion that using the shared social check-in information was considerate.

This is just one example of how social check-ins can be valuable.  Businesses can learn about customers who frequent their location.  Customers can often receive incentives for checking in (free items, discounts, Wi-Fi access).  It can also be used as a search engine tool to discover new businesses in an area or see what’s trending in your area.

Social check-ins can also be used in the job search process.  Job seekers may be able to learn information about the hiring manager (and visa-versa).  But, be careful with the information you choose to publicly share and the check-in knowledge you choose to use.  Not everyone will view the “considerate vs. creepy” question the same way!

What are your thoughts on social check-ins?  Do you participate?  Do you find value in them?

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Natural Disasters and Marketing

Companies need to tread lightly when it comes to marketing around a natural disaster.  With Superstorm Sandy, 100+ people died worldwide and damage estimates are at $20 Billion and growing.  That doesn’t make for a great marketing opportunity in most instances, but it can, if done correctly.

American Apparel caused a Twitter firestorm when they offered a Hurricane Sandy Sale.  As if that wasn’t tasteless enough, their headline read “In case you’re bored during the storm.”  Seriously.  The company was slammed on social media with outrage and rightly so, in my humble opinion.

Closer to (my) home, and with much less publicity, a local winery committed a similar marketing faux pas.  Glenora Wine Cellars offered customers a Hurricane Sandy Sale.

While not as egregious, I still thought it was in very poor taste (especially the picture).  I made my opinion known on their Facebook page, commenting on their post about the promotion.  Within hours, their post (along with my comment) was removed.  Their website still offered the promotion, and I called them out on Twitter for it.

Within hours, their web page promotion was removed too.  What couldn’t be removed were the emails the winery sent out to their list.

So what’s a “good” way to market around a natural disaster?  How about showing some compassion?  How about figuring out how to help the victims through a donation of time, talent, product or service?  Duracell brought charging stations to Lower Manhattan so that those without power could charge their cell phones.  They’re helping victims of Hurricane Sandy and garnering positive publicity and public relations in the process.

It’s such a simple concept when you compare the positive example to the negative ones, isn’t it?  Yet so many companies get it wrong.  One would hope that marketers would learn from these mistakes.  Sadly, history will likely repeat itself and some company will damage their image and reputation by running a tasteless promotion during the next natural disaster.  Hopefully, they have a public relations department or company at their disposal.  Even better would be to employ some common sense.

Want to help the victims?  Below are links to various organizations assisting in the relief efforts (list not to be considered an endorsement):

Red Cross

Salvation Army

New York Blood Center

Feeding America

AmeriCares

World Vision

Save The Children

Before you donate in a time of crisis, make sure you do your homework on the charitable organization.  Here are some tips by Charity Navigator.

A Social Media Storm

Many watched the progress of Hurricane Sandy and reports of the devastation it caused.  Nicknamed “The Perfect Storm” and “Frakenstorm,” the images of destruction were shocking.  I hope you and your family survived the event safely and with minimal damage.  I’m very thankful that my family did, including those directly in the path.

This isn’t the first major storm where social media played an important role in reporting the news.  However, I did find it interesting that so many media outlets encouraged viewers/readers to engage them via social media to get current news.  Rather than wait for the next news cycle, which could be hours away, people were encouraged to follow on Twitter, friend on Facebook, pin to Pinterest, download weather apps, etc., etc.  It makes me wonder how many new followers/friends/app users these media outlets gained as a result of this natural disaster.

While social media is a great resource for current news as it unfolds, you do need to be cautious of what’s posted in terms of accuracy.  I had several friends share pictures to social media that were allegedly taken during the storm.  Virtually all turned out to be a hoax – either doctored using Photoshop or taken from a disaster movie.

With smart phones becoming the dominant type of cell phone and tablets increasing in usage, people could stay connected with friends, family and media – even if their home lost power.  In America, we’ve come a long way from candles and transistor radios.  Several friends who lost power could still post messages to Facebook letting friends and family know their situation.

Having grown up in New Jersey, I have several friends and family in that area who were significantly impacted.  My thoughts and prayers are with them and I hope their recovery is quick and smooth.

How did you use social media during Hurricane Sandy?

Misconceptions Everywhere

I recently visited a close friend who had relocated from the Rochester, NY area to the Cleveland, OH area.  It was my first trip to Cleveland and my friend was happy to play tour guide with the big venues being the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and Progressive Field.  I have to admit that prior to this trip, I pictured Cleveland to be the run-down, rust-belt, dirty, “mistake on the lake,” river-on-fire city that I recall hearing about decades ago.  I couldn’t have been more wrong as I found Cleveland to be a fun, clean, friendly and vibrant city.

While in Cleveland, the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle ran a topical blog post.  The blogger had relocated to Rochester and had some misperceptions about Rochester (as well as Cleveland).  The timing of her blog post couldn’t have been more perfect and my relocated friend found a lot of truth in her post.

I grew up in a small town in northeastern New Jersey.  Unless you’re from that part of the country, your perception is likely tied to one or more of these television shows:  The Sopranos, Jersey Shore,  The Real Housewives of New Jersey, Cake Boss and/or Jerseylicious.  Or, perhaps you’ve driven the NJ Turnpike and you think that the entire state consists of swampland, rest stops named after famous people and smelly refineries.  I can assure you the vast majority of the state is much nicer than that.  Trust me.

So that got me thinking about marketers in the tourism industry.  Besides touting the many positives of a given area, how much of their efforts are spent countering misconceptions?  I recently chatted with my friend Carol White Llewellyn, who is a travel and tourism promotion entrepreneur for the Finger Lakes region of NY.

According to Carol, the Rochester area has two big misconceptions.  “The first is that Rochester and this region does not get many tourists. In 2010, in spite of a still-down economy, Rochester alone got $1.3 billion in tourism revenue (http://www.actrochester.org/Indicator/Default.aspx?id=1&indicator=11).  Tourism is huge here, especially because of the growth of the wine and food/restaurant locavore movements. Various communities have also been listed in the “Top 10″ as must-see’s by a variety of travel press.  The other misconception among locals is that there is nothing to do here. In fact, about the only thing we’re missing that’s found elsewhere in the country is deserts and tornadoes.”

Carol goes on to say, “In truth, I don’t spend a lot of time correcting misconceptions. I just keep blogging and talking about all the wonders of the region.  I think sometimes, like most communities, we simply don’t recognize/appreciate/take advantage of the amazing wonders we have in our own back yard!”

As with most things in life, you need to take what you hear/see/read with a grain of salt.  Take the time to do some investigating.  If you don’t, you might incorrectly believe the misconceptions that are everywhere.

Bacon!

Perhaps I’m overly critical, having spent nearly 20 years analyzing the effectiveness of nearly 200,000 advertisements.  As a result, I find most ads to be quite ineffective, actually.  When something catches my critical eye as being the exception to (my) rule, I can’t wait to share it.

Oscar Mayer recently launched an ad campaign that I thought is pretty clever.  And if I had to guess, I expect it will be successful too.  It’s called “Bacon Barter” and it’s about a man travelling across the U.S. (12 cities) with 3,000 pounds of bacon who will trade that bacon for everything he needs, including food, gas, lodging and entertainment.  Here’s why I think it will work . . .

1)  Most Americans love bacon!  Bacon is delicious…enough said.  🙂

2)  The campaign will capitalize on regional/local promotions as the barterer travels across the country.  Even though the campaign is national, it will incorporate valuable local/regional publicity as it progresses.

3)  It incorporates humor.  Traditionally, humor works (just watch the Super Bowl, although Super Bowl spots have gone down-hill in recent years in my opinion).

4)  It incorporates social media.  As of September 12th, @baconbarter already has over 1,800 followers on Twitter.  Want to barter?  You can tweet your barter offer using the hashtag #baconbarter!  The Oscar Mayer page on Facebook already has 734,000+ likes (granted, not all due to this campaign).  They’re using Instagram too.

5)  The campaign feeds on (pardon the pun) Americans’ sense of travel and adventure.

6)  Americans love a good deal, so you can follow all of the barter deals he makes on their website and/or social media accounts.

But, Oscar Mayer better closely monitor the social media aspect of this campaign. Quite a few companies have had their seemingly clever campaign backfire in the social media world.  One recent example is McDonald’s, who asked fans to tweet about their favorite fond memories of Happy Meals using the hashtag #McDStories. Instead, Twitter was flooded with McDonald’s horror stories using that same hashtag.  If they’re not careful, I can see this account getting barter offers for all sorts of illegal products/services and that hashtag could quickly slide down-hill.

All of this writing is making me hungry!  Bacon, anyone?