Real-world Action with Social Media

Our clients are asking more from social media than ever before. No longer is it enough to place a link to Facebook on your site, or to provide an RSS feed. The challenge, particularly for those clients who need to connect with their users in the real world (and which clients don't?) is: how do we use our online social networks in the offline world?

It's a really important question. One of our clients has found that their online networks are a great place to engage with users, and now they want to move their networks from connectivity toward knocking on doors, organizing events, contacting their members of parliament.

How you succeed depends on a number of factors. Some questions to think about are: who is your target audience? what do you want them to do? what do they feel comfortable doing? and what might they do if given the chance?

I will share one finding here: properly designed online functionality and features can motivate offline behaviour. Notice in the picture below how MyBarackObama.com invites, prods and provides options for different kinds of people who want to be engaged in real-world activity (in this case, supporting Obama's run for president). Notice the "Neighbor to Neighbor" section with direct calls-to-action, and the wide spectrum of ways to support the cause in the "Making a difference". Each of us may wish to make a difference, but we may be better suited for certain activities over others. The user interface acknowledges this.

Visit mybarackobama.com to learn more. You'll need a US zip code to sign up to explore.

Anarchistic Graphic Designers from Berlin

Seeing as how I spend a solid 60-75% of my life in Photoshop, I loved seeing these images. Some deviant graphic designers in Berlin decided to overlay giant stickers of Photoshop panels onto Britney Spears, Leona Lewis and Christina Aguilera posters in the subway.
Full article at
Brand Infection.


Using Social Media to Engage (and Keep) Customers

Or, free advice for Ford Motor Company

I am quite fond of my Ford Focus station wagon. It's (relatively) fuel efficient, big enough to put the snowboards and/or the dog in the back, and isn't bad looking. But it's a 2000 model year with pretty high mileage, and there is a problem with the fuel pump that makes the engine shudder around 2000 rpm. Ford could address this problem with an intelligent and diligent use of social media and help turn its fortunes around.

I visited a number of message boards and forums to find out what I could about the shuddering engine and there I learned the fuel pump was probably at issue. Message boards for Ford cars are pretty ferocious places. It felt like one out of two comments on the fuel pump ended with the contributor stating he (almost always men) would never buy another Ford, or that he planned on suing the company.

Now, this is a problem for Ford. But if Ford was to look at the issue differently by engaging with these angry users, they could turn the perception of the company around. Hostile posters could be turned first into advocates, and second into customers for new Fords.

Here is how Ford could do it:
1. Meet these angry users head-on at the message boards with an offer and an acknowledgement that they have had problems with fuel pumps. Maybe the offer could be a reduced price for a new pump, or a free tune-up if they bring the issue to a Ford dealer.
2. Monitor responses: do the users appreciate the offer? If so, provide a way for them to help get the news out to other motorists. Do they dislike the offer? Sweeten it by listening to what posters are saying.
3. Consider these motorists as possible new customers: help them get their old Ford fixed up so they can move to a newer car. Let them know about changes in the more recent versions of the Focus (I believe they are more fuel efficient, offer better handling, come with good financing options, and from what I've read they have great fuel pumps).

The great thing about this approach is Ford could do it all for the cost of some smart young web folks surfing, monitoring, listening and responding to what is actually happening on the ground. They could get customers into their service centres, and then on to showroom floors.

Now then, if Ford likes my advice, they are more than welcome to put me behind the wheel of a new Focus.