Pivotcon Profiles the Power of the Social Consumer

(Version 3.0 of The Conversation Prism infographic first created
by Brian Solis and JESS3 in 2008 to map the social media universe
by “features and capabilities.”)

When Pivotcon kicked off in October, 2010, Douglas Rushkoff christened it the“TED of Marketing.” Programmed and hosted this year by new media guru Brian Solis, Pivotcon brought together  635 brand managers for an intense, intimate two-day focus on how advertising interacts with the “Social Consumer.”  Publishers could learn a lot from these marketers.

Who is the Social Consumer? Several speakers focused on “millennials,” also known as Generation Y, those who came of age around the turn of the century (i.e., born after 1977-78). Britta Schell of MTV offered four key insights into them. Millennials, she noted, are:

  1. Curated for me: every day they act as their own digital publicists, monitoring, curating, and sharing online content
  2. Publicly intimate: 93% say they post things only their friends will understand
  3. Like-a-holics: 79% expect feedback online; 58% feel more confident when others respond
  4. Observers of four rules of “digiquette”: 1) Learn the rules 2) Pace yourself 3) Avoid controversy 4) Guard your future

Jack Krawczyk from StumbleUpon echoed Schell’s findings. When Facebook introduced the “like” button in April, 2010, Krawczyk claimed, “a new era began. Suddenly a new link distribution system was born.” Within an hour of launch one billion “likes” were registered. “We now have a two- billion-clicks-a-month industry.” Why do people click “like”? “People share things because they want people to like things they’re sharing,” Krawczyk observed, “and they want people to think more of them because of what they share.”  As Facebook’s Matt Trainer noted: after American Eagle added “like” buttons to its site, sales increased 57%. Open Table saw 200% growth after adding “like” buttons. (You can read about other Facebook marketing successes at http://facebook-studio.com/)

Radha Subramanyam of Nielsen shared some results from the recent State of the Media: Social Media Q3 2011 report issued by Nielsen and NM Incite: 40% of social media users access SM content from their mobile phones; social networking is the third most popular app on smartphones, after game-playing and checking the weather (and ahead of navigating, listening to music, and reading news).  Tumblr is the new emerging player in social media, tripling its growth in the past year, especially among ages 18-34.

(Nielsen graphics:
Source: State of the Media: The Social Media Report Q3 2011
by Nielsen and nmincite)

Michael Saylor of MicroStrategy contended that Facebook’s open API is “the single most important development in the history of the Internet . . . Facebook is collecting the most massive database of information in one social graph. Now all advertisers can share an app rather than developing their own.  The Facebook social graph is the database to rule them all.” When this social graph is combined with mobile applications, we can expect transactions to be much smoother. “Imagine that instead of wishing someone happy birthday on her Facebook page, you can say ‘Happy Birthday, your morning coffee is free on me today.’ Isn’t that more meaningful?”  Users have more power than they know. “Location and friend data are empowering. That’s something a user can do that Amazon and WalMart can’t.” Saylor urged publishers to “create a mobile app that delights. The money will follow.”

“A great app grants a wish,” according to Oren Michels of Mashery. It enables you to check into your airline flight without standing in line or helps you find an available nearby hotel room at your price. But one app developed for all platforms “will suck equally everywhere,” warned Michels. “Android has a back button, the iPhone’s IOS does not. Apps need to be customized for each device.”

The most compelling presentations detailed changes in strategy due to a better understanding of the Social Consumer. Kristine Welker of Hearst Digital planned three goals for her websites: grow traffic, get communities talking about the brands, and have users consume content. But when she turned over control of the Real Beauty website to Michael Jaindl and Buddy Media a number of discoveries ensued: Jaindl found that reducing the number of publisher’s posts actually allowed community activity to increase: users posted more when they were consuming less (enabling the publisher to get more engagement with less effort). The optimal post length?  just 80 characters. Best time to post? Thursday and Friday.

Paul Dunay of Networked Insights told of the strategy change he made with a major video game manufacturer in marketing the new release of their bestselling auto racing video game. They spent $30 million advertising the previous version, but sales dropped as soon as the ads stopped, and then picked up again. For the new release Dunay first focused on “earned” (word of mouth, social media) and “owned” (company website, email) media—to build credibility and loyalty. The gaming company then juiced the marketing with paid ads after the product got traction. The result? They got greater “awareness and trajectory” but were able to spend 40% less than they had on the previous version!

Can web-based advertising compete with TV? Network Insights proved it could. When an exclusive $42 million deal with a competitor locked one of NI’s clients out of advertising on the NCAA basketball tournament, NI used search data analysis and social media to devise a sequenced media campaign around “upsets”—the most enjoyed and talked about aspect of the NCAAs. When Morehead State beat Louisville, for example, NI’s client developed “upset” content and, through uploads and paid placements, seeded it on YouTube and on sports sites where fans found and shared it. The result: for $2.25 million, this campaign generated more than a billion impressions, more than TV ads would have—and at a fraction of the cost.

Several case studies revealed how companies now leverage the influence of bloggers. For the release of Rise of the Planet of the Apes last summer, Pete Caban of Mekanism described how they corralled “The Rise 50” – the 50 most influential movie bloggers–combined they reached 350 million viewers, Twentieth Century Fox flew them to Hollywood for a two-day “summit,” a visit to the set, advance tickets, and an ape IQ test. Mekanism also created six videos about apes, “some real, some fake.” The campaign took off when the fourth video, of an ape with an AK-47, went viral. It’s now been viewed more than 16 million times. The Rise exceeded expectations by 59%.

Similarly, Paul Dunay described how as part of the release of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter Universal held a special invite-only midnight screening for just seven bloggers  who together had 350 million readers. Services are now springing up to help find these “influentials” across industries. Shani Higgins of Technorati (which tracks and ranks more than 15,000 book blogs) noted that Technorati frequently selects bloggers by rankings for special promotions—last summer they gave Sony HD cameras to the most influential tech bloggers at SXSW—Sony then used their stories of using the cameras in its ads. Zuberance is an award-winning new startup that specializes in identifying influentials and turning fans and followers into “brand advocates.”

Jeff Jarvis, outspoken blogger on BuzzMachine and author of the new book Public Parts made the case that “companies with open relationships with their customers will win” and offered several examples:

The decision by Random House, Simon & Schuster, and Hachette to share sales data with authors can be seen as part of this trend. What being open as an author means to the future of books – making them “digital, clickable, correctable, linkable” is a question Jarvis is currently addressing on an ongoing basis on his blog.

Publishing Trends thanks content developer and marketing consultant Rich Kelley (@rpmkel) for his reporting on Pivotcon.

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