In this week’s Bytes, Fast Web discuss how Siri, the iPhone 4S app, is causing a stirr and why the British public are cynical to brands on Facebook. But first, we discuss The Feed and the debate surrounding viral marketing.
I Can Haz Viral Marketing Capability?
A viral is a marketer’s dream – where the general public does the sharing and the leg work and you watch your product/brand gain notoriety at break neck speed and with exponential reach. But, as The Feed asked, “is it really the holy grail?” The debate focused around several questions:
· Is it contrived to construct a viral strategy when most virals happen naturally?
· Is the time invested in creating a viral seeding strategy worth it?
· Will all viral concepts go viral, and how do we know if it will or not?
· Is there a secret formula?
· Is it suitable for all businesses?
The Feed’s panel consisted of a variety of individuals well versed in the viral world – Graeme Anthony, the man behind the viral CVIV; Geth Vaughan from the agency We Are Young, behind the viral app Learn Something New Every Day; Mike Wiggins, Head Of Noise at Neighbourhood; and chaired by Byron Evans of video production company Wallop Video.
Outlining their individual experiences and viral successes, the main questions that arose again and again were is there is a reliable equation for creating a successful viral? Or better yet, what is the definition of ‘viral’? Or, is our obsession with Lolcats and Rick Astley’s dulcet tones just a natural social phenomenon of our time?
Opinion in the ranks was divided, with some arguing that viral marketing can be orchestrated to a certain extent, whereas others held that there is no such thing as ‘viral marketing’; rather it is opportunistic branding of a natural phenomenon. Semantics aside, it was established that there are some consistent features that virals share – they are videos that connect on an emotional level and/or evoke a reaction from the viewer; whether it is Oxo’s Shepherd’s pie or a baby panda sneezing. This informative infographic by PushOn rams home the main points about how things go viral.
The number of agencies and brands capitalizing on these kinds of emotional connections can be seen in the rash of viral advertising that exists today (although earlier ad campaigns from pre-internet days that gained notoriety through word of mouth, such as the Nescafe Gold Blend story, could still be defined as ‘viral’). Dipping into well-known case studies along the way, such as Sony’s seagull viral, Hi-Tec’s liquid mountaineering and T-Mobile’s flashmob dance, it is apparent that they all have common features: novel content, excellent execution, and an appropriate platform.
Most of the successful virals with global recognition are videos. It is a simple, effective and accessible medium that crosses language, age and cultural barriers, and the huge increase in the use of video online means that it is the best model for distribution when supported by social media sharing functionality. However, an appropriate channel is useless without the brilliant content at the heart of the viral. Everyone agreed that content is key; that’s what natural and orchestrated virals have in common – a brilliant and simple concept at its core. If you’re going to attempt to create a viral, pour love and devotion into it and don’t mess it up.
What are your thoughts? Can you orchestrate a viral?
Is Google in Sirious Trouble?
The iPhone 4S talking assistant app, Siri, has been making waves since its release back in October 2011. Although voice recognition technology is nothing new, Siri’s intuitive usability and confident functionality has seen it gain significant attention in the last few weeks. Bought by Apple back in 2010, Siri uses voice commands to carry out many different tasks and actions, like send texts, email, search, set reminders, get directions or just ask a question, and all topped off with a heavy dollop of wit as well. Siri’s use of natural language compared to rigid commands is what sets it apart from other voice recognition technology seen in other smart phones, such as Google’s Android Voice Actions. Highlighting its popularity is the fact that Siri is being used ten times as much as Apple had first anticipated.
Although Siri does have its limitations in terms of scope and accuracy in these early days, it is only its first incarnation on the iPhone, and it could still alter the way in which people search for information. The simplicity of Siri’s use of natural language and the fact that it can display a single accurate result has already led to the app being viewed as ‘game changing’ in the search world. Gary Morgenthaler, an early investor in Siri, declared that the simplicity of Siri and its responses pose a real threat to Google: “A million blue links from Google is worth far less than one correct answer from Siri”. The technology is still only in its infancy, but speculation has once again started to circulate that Siri may be the entry point for Apple to get into search engine marketing. Considering the continued proliferation of smart phones and the huge increase in mobile e-commerce and marketing, such a strategy from Apple could pose a real threat to Google, should users start to rely on Siri as their search engine of choice.
Branded Social Media Campaigns: Love or Hate?
NMA recently reported the results of a study, which claim that two thirds of the British public prefer not to engage with brands through social media channels. In an international survey conducted by the WPP-owned research group TNS, over 72,000 consumers were surveyed in 60 countries, with the UK standing out as the most cynical when it comes to engaging with brands through channels like Facebook and Twitter.
Increasingly, brands and businesses are becoming guilty of setting up Facebook pages and blogs in the wake of social media hype with little consideration of their strategy and intentions, leading to negative ramifications and “mountains of digital waste”. The chief development officer at TNS, Matthew Froggatt, summarizes that brands “are failing to understand that these spaces belong to the consumer and their presence needs to be proportionate and justified”.
The use of special deals, promotions and well integrated apps can enhance the user experience of the social media platform whilst fostering the relationship between the brand and the consumer. The most successful social media campaigns (and there’s a nice 2011 hall of fame here and a few tragically unsuccessful examples here) are often the ones that have identified how best to meaningfully connect with different types of social consumers.
Many successful campaigns can thrive off of offers and freebies – 61% of users in TNS’s study said that they had engaged with a brand online when offered a promotion or special offer – but careful consideration needs to be taken in deciding how to continue to motivate users to gain effective ROI, as bribing users to gain followers is a short-term method that may do little to turn users into consumers in the long-term. Furthermore, the over-saturation of social media channels by brands can turn consumers off, not just of the brands themselves but of the social media platforms in general, driving consumers away.
So, where do you draw the line with brand/user engagement? Do many people want to engage with toilet paper brands on Facebook? There are reports that HSBC is seeking to create its own social media platform to engage with customers, and it will be interesting to see how many users engage with a bespoke social media platform based on banking, particularly in the current economic climate. So, as brands continue to flock to Facebook, and keeping in mind the apparent hesitation of the British public, it will be interesting to see how UK consumers interact with Google Plus branded pages, which have now been rolled out internationally.