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Conference Notes: Facebook- Spark a Conversation with Charlene Li

September 24th, 2008 · 1 Comment

This post is an experiment.  Below are my unedited notes from the conference I attended today at the New York Times building.  It was moderated by Charlene Li and had an excellent panel discussing Social Media and it’s impact on various businesses.  So in the spirit of an experiment please let me know what you think, is this a good format?  Do you find it useful?  Should I do it again?


Facebook- Spark a Conversation

Moderated by Charlene Li, Co-author, Groundswell, and Thought Leader, Altimeter Group
Paula Drumm, VP Digital Marketing, H&R Block
Walt Freese, Chief Euphoria Officer, Ben & Jerry’s
Elias Plishner, SVP, Worldwide Digital Marketing Strategy, Columbia TriStar Marketing Group

CL Q: how do you spark a conversation.

Elias; in movies take prod from 0 to max awareness in 6 weeks and then on to 0 in a few months.

Calendar year 600-700 films. Look for uber fans on Facebook, etc. They look for people with mentions of films in profiles. Why, they are going to see the film anyway? Because they are thought leaders.

Walt: Ben & Jerry’s, built on non-traditional marketing. Facebook is a natural extension to the brand allows them to converse with the fan base.

CL: What did you do in detail?

Walt: B&J decided to give free ice cream to everyone one day a year. They used Facebook to allow people to give free cones to friends on Facebook. 500K free cones were given away as part of the promotion for the free ice cream day.

Elias: Gifting is a big idea in movies. They gave away a smoking pineapple which was popular with women (don’t know why). It seems that gifting on Facebook is a more female activity that gets a female audience

Paula: how do you get people talking about taxes? A portion of the audience gets a sense of accomplishment when hey get their taxes done. It’s a way to build trust in the H&R Block brand. They get people talking about the success of doing their taxes on their own. They tested lots of ideas to build trust, 2nd life island, Facebook fan groups etc. They used gifts on Facebook too, money bag for friends. 250K people gave that gift on tax day.

Paula: on Twitter, use it as an outreach mechanism. They decided that it’s a better way to engage with people not to do outreach- one who got it. HR Block in my cross-hairs, in a Comcast cares way to find problems and fix them as a brand. They changed opinions of a blogger from a critic to a proponent. 

CL: to spark the conversation you need to listen first this way you can learn how to get into the conversation.

CL: How does advertising help to spark the conversation?

Ben & Jerry’s doesn’t use advertising. They are counterculture so they don’t like to do traditional mktg. They use, PR(others talking about them), event marketing, and no advertising. They do a lot more social marketing, social networking. They use Facebook, and twitter, scoopshots, event and guerrilla marketing and other forms that engage the consumer. They are glad to see the demise of normal talking at the consumer.

H&R advertising to push people to Facebook pages and MySpace profile, and YouTube. They are seeking to have consumers build trust. They created Truman Green a YouTube character created as a quirky person to engage with. Advertising was used to promote Truman Green, not H&R Block. They found this advertising to be much more effective than traditional advertising.

B&J Social marketing is to create lifetime customers not to get a transaction. If you want transactions use a coupon not social media.

H&R Social is successful in driving transactions. Customer interaction does lead to transactions which can then be used to prove ROI of the effort. H&R has proven this.

Elias: ads need to be telling a story. For second Grudge movie they found a real college student- but the whole thing was a publicity stunt. The story was that the student was given a tour of the movie set etc. And then the second day the student was missing. This part of the effort was the stunt.

CL: How do you measure this type of social engagement? They use standard audience survey techniques with response cards in theaters etc. they use comments and fan pages and page views. But they are not very reliable.

Elias : have big arguments on whether to leave comments on for social sites. They usually do leave them on. H&R leaves comments on as well. They are moderated for decency and language but are left intact despite the fact that some are critical of the company.

B&J loves the comments and interaction. They believe that the truth will come out and be exposed by the audience if the company isn’t transparent.

H&R what’s the ROI of ignoring social media? The cost of actually interacting on SM is very low as a % of the total marketing budget. The ROI is very high because you need to be involved now so you aren’t playing catch up later on. H&R is convinced that SM is going to be the major part of the advertising media mix in coming years.

Elias: has a new head of Social Media.

B&J customers who give negative feedback are doing a favor because if you can respond and turn the situation around you will have a more avid fan and promoter for the company than if you had before. But you must respond.

Audience Q: How do you get vertical apps like Facebook and twitter to bleed over to the website? They use widgets. They develop a hub idea so their community of interested fans can use a single site as the base for information which is then spread across the various sites.

Elias: We use apps and widgets but did not have such great success. They are moving to not recreating the wheel, so they use existing successful apps in the space. They found success lately with Flixster etc.

B&J used Social media to create a peace mosaic and tried to pull people to the B&J site. This was a mistake. They should have had the customers stay within the community. H&R agrees with B&J and Elias on this point. You aren’t trying to move them to your place, you are trying to meet them in their place.

Biggest surprise per H&R. They had a perception that few of their core community would be in places like 2nd life. They found a bunch of “tax professionals” in 2nd life. They have an H&R block island in 2nd life. And they have employed these fans in their social media niches to support the brand.

Q: what about success on line and failure in the real world. Elias: there are plenty of campaigns where more people are visiting the web site than are seeing the film, Snakes on a plane.

Q: How is Facebook an extension to TV or is it in addition to TV advertising? H&R online doesn’t replace TV it’s just another avenue. Elias: online is complimentary to offline. There is much crossover between media. Like can you use outdoor for mobile phones to access online.

CL: did you take money from other budgets? B&J no. H&R every year is diff. They use testing funds to explorer new connections with consumers. Elias: Yes online budget is going up and others are not expanding. So yes it taking funds from other media.


My take-away from the event? The question from the audience; “how do get this traffic from the social media sites to your web page?”

The answer the panel gave which is correct.. You don’t.  The idea of social interaction is that you meet them in their place not yours.  We’ve still got a long way to go to train marketers in how social media works.

Please let me know if you think I should continue this type of blogging in the comments below.

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Tags: Reasonable Social Networking

1 response so far ↓

  • 1 Alan Underkofler - Follow Up Success // Sep 24, 2008 at 11:27 am

    Chris, thank you for posting your notes from this event. A lot of great material here on how businesses both big and small can leverage social media platforms like facebook to reach their customers. Looking forward to seeing future posts on what you learned from this event.

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