Paul M. Banas on Consumer Insights, Marketing Research, and the Digital Media Landscape
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Category — Social Media

Twitter As The New Focus Group

The past week has seen a tipping point for Twitter, with the cultural touchstone being Oprah starting her twitter career @oprah on Friday, and by Monday morning having over 400,000 followers.

Twitter itself has seen tremendous adoption growth in the past couple of months, most driven by the cult of celebrity that has grown up around people such as Ashton Kutcher and Shaquille O’Neal.


And according to this ComScore post by Sarah Radwanick, this growth is occurring across a wide swath of US demographics:


What this broad demographic representation means is that Twitter may now be set to become the new holy grail for researchers looking for insights into what a wide range consumers are thinking and talking about.

The first application is monitoring the Twitter conversation around brands and ideas, which can be done very cheaply and efficiently.

The next level will be to approach Twitter as a focus group.  Tropicana found this out the hard way, with consumer feedback on Twitter coming fast and furious in the wake of its recent package change.

As Peter Shankman points out in this New York Times article on the Tropicana package change:

“Twitter is the ultimate focus group,” Mr. Shankman said. “I can post something and in a minute get feedback from 700 people around the world, giving me their real opinions.”

However, in the case of marketers like Tropicana, the trick will be to harness the insight power of Twitter before the product, package, or advertising makes it way into broader distribution.

April 21, 2009   No Comments

Monitoring Brands Across Social Media And Twitter

“One of these days, your boss will wander into your office and say “I assume you’re keeping track of which brands in our category are using Twitter””.

This is a very real world situation that marketers and marketing researchers will soon find themselves in, according to this post from Tom Cunniff at the iCPG blog.

This applies to social media in general as well.  For broader monitoring, I wanted to build on a social media monitoring approach that I’ve blogged about before and that recently Chris Brogan did a good job outlining as well.

But rather than using Google Blog Search, I’d suggest using the new RSS feed functionality that Google Alerts rolled out a couple of months ago, in order to aggregate the significant amount of online content that exists outside of formal blogs.

1.)  Develop Key Words To Track

This could be a brand name (“Energizer”) or a specific topic “homemade barbecue sauces”.  Start by typing the word or phrase in quotes in Google to see how relevant results are with the phrase.

If your brand name is also a word with multiples meanings such as “Tide”, you may need to add something like the word detergent to keep from capturing conversations on surfing or beach combing.

You can also track:

  • A URL for a Website
  • A person’s name or online nickname

2.)  Getting the search feeds:

Once you have the keywords, it’s simply a matter of setting up a search feed with different social media monitoring tools.  For the three listed below, that means adding your keywords to their search box and then clicking on the RSS subscription button to get the auto-link:

  • Google Alerts – for online news, videos, images, and other sources
  • Technorati – for monitoring blog postings
  • Twitter Search – for brand chatter on the Twitter micro-blogging platform

3.)  Aggregating Feeds In Google Reader

By collecting these feeds into one folder on Google Reader, you can monitor all your brand related mentions from social media in one convenient place.

Another good aggregation tool would be Friendfeed, especially for those who are trying to distribute their monitored content to a far flung group.

That way you can send your boss the link, and he’ll never even get to ask if you’re on top of social media and your brand.

March 31, 2009   No Comments

Social Media Impact On Consumer Behavior

While brands are beginning to reach out to consumers in social media in significant ways, the question remains on whether or not consumers will be receptive to their outreach.

According to a study entitled “The Impact of Social Media on Purchasing Behavior” done by OTX Research on behalf  DEI Worldwide, the answer is yes.

The study confirms that consumers currently use social media as a top resource for information on brands, companies, or products:


What it also concludes is that social media outreach by brands and companies, especially if this outreach is done by a personal online representative, can be much more influential on consumer behavior than ads or other promotional devices.

In fact, 2/3rds of consumers are likely to pass the information they receive from these representatives on to others and over half are likely to take action on this information.

Attitudes towards information they receive from online brand representatives

  • Likely to pass this information on to others – 67%
  • Likely to share their opinions – 63%
  • Value information more than ads – 62%
  • Likely to take action – 57%

Currently, most companies are viewing social media as something to manage or handle damage control, like many of the top brands involved with Twitter.

However, by using social media as a proactive outreach to share valued information, the impact of social media on consumer behavior can be significantly stronger.

December 31, 2008   2 Comments

Motrin Wins Social Media Marketing Campaign Of The Year

On Saturday, Motrin posted the ad below:

YouTube Preview Image

What followed was a viral social media response that most marketers can only dream about.

In just 48 hours they had:

Additionally, they had the undivided attention of many of the leading pundits in the digital marketing blogosphere, including Seth Godin, Jeremiah Owyang, Brand Flakes, Adfreak, ReadWriteWeb, Hard Knox Life, David Armano, Frank Martin, The Consumerist, Adrants, Mashable, Viral Blog, Peter Kim, Adverganza, Brand Experience, Rogue Agency, and many more.

Now to the fine print:

This social media marketing campaign was all a big, unintended mistake.  And as you may guess, the overwhelming response was negative.

Motrin is now backpedaling, pulling the ad from their site, posting apologies all over the place, and they and their agencies are probably in an all points scramble mode.

Which is all too bad, because, if you just looked at the response numbers, Motrin had a lock on social media marketer of the year with this one.

November 17, 2008   1 Comment

Top 10 Examples Of Brands Levering Twitter

What if you asked a question about a brand and the brand answered back?

On Twitter these days, that’s exactly what is happening.  Twitter has evolved from a a microblogging tool that allowed first adopters to share exactly what was going on in their lives in 140 character or less, into an increasingly mainstream conversation tool that companies and brands are just beginning to use to connect to consumers.

Some brands have made mistakes along the way, while others have had their brands hijacked by others (e.g. “Janet” of Exxon Mobil).

But the brands listed below have all used Twitter to engage their consumers directly, in ways that traditional brand communication tools could never have been able to do as effectively or efficiently:

1.) Comcastcomcastcares

Comcast has made a significant dent in its negative perception of poor customer service with a Twitter presence that is really turning heads.  For starters they use a real person, with a real photo instead of a logo. Check out this NY Times article for a more about Comcast’s presence on Twitter.

2.) Zappos - zappos

Here is a great post from AdFreak about how Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh becomes a “one-man-customer- service machine” on Twitter.

3.) Southwest Airlines - southwestair

As usual, Southwest Airlines takes one of the most maligned industries out there and puts a smiling (and branded) face on it.

4.) Dell Computers - Dell on Twitter

Dell lists out all Dell related Twitter accounts, ranging from those talking about the latest deals and promotions, to international Dell news, and Dell focused bloggers.

5.) Oracle - Oracle Tweeters

A complete list by Oracle of all their employees with external blogs and Twitter accounts.

6.) Whole Foods - wholefoods

A great mix of answering consumer questions, posting news of interest, and sharing links to favorite recipes.

7.) British Prime Minister’s Office - downingstreet

Not necessarily a brand or company, but I like the official government presence on Twitter.  I found this Tweet interesting: “Cabinet reshuffle is taking place today. We will have details of confirmed movements and appointments on the website later…”

8.) Forrester Research - forrester

One of the top digital marketing research agencies, Forrester Research, levers Twitter as both a way to monitor chatter about its brand, as well as a way to keep a pulse on the broader digital conversation.

9.) method - methodtweet

This green consumer goods manufacturer Tweets on everything from environmental factoids, to the latest update on their corporate dodgeball team.

10.) HR Block - HRBlock

I would imagine this Twitter account will really heat up as we get closer to the April 15th tax deadline next year.

Twitter is still in an early phase from a broad reach adoption curve standpoint.  However, mainstream brands are staking out effective presences and levering Twitter’s ability to foster meaningful interactions with a wide range of people.

If there are other brands who you think are doing a good job on Twitter, please feel free to comment or just send me a Tweet @ paulbanas.

October 10, 2008   No Comments

Examples Of Social Media Marketing In Action

Former Forrester Research analyst Peter Kim has created a true labor of love with a list of 200+ examples of how companies and brands are levering social media marketing.

He captured a couple of my favorites that I’ve written about in the past, including Nike+, Carnival Cruise Lines, and Dove Evolution.

What is clear is that many brands and companies are trying innovative ways to tap into social media as a way to engage their consumers.

From his list I found this link to Blendtec’s YouTube channel, which as of this writing has had over 2 million channel views and over 100,000 subscribers.

Here is the latest iteration of “Will It Blend?”, featuring Nike:

YouTube Preview Image

September 7, 2008   No Comments

Social Media Marketing Measurement Done Right

Lately, everyone associated with marketing or advertising is talking about creating “communities” and having “conversations” with their consumers through Social Media Marketing.

What is missing are good examples of how Social Media is being used effectively and, most importantly, how are they measuring that effectiveness to calculate ROI.

I’ve tracked down a couple of recent examples that I feel do a good job in both levering Social Media and tracking results from their efforts.

This case study of Sea World San Antonio (hat tip to Alex Nesbitt at Digital Podcast) shows how working with communities of roller coaster enthusiasts through YouTube videos and Flickr images the marketers at Sea World were able to create significant pre-launch buzz for a new water ride, Journey to Atlantis.

The best part of this example, as demonstrated in this video case study done by Shel Israel at, is how they were able to provide concrete measurement of results from the campaign through multiple sources, including use of custom surveys and online site statistics.

Through their research, they were able to clearly separate those visitors who came through their Social Media efforts, versus the rest of the people who visited the park on a daily basis.

Carnival Cruise Lines has had a track record of success in Social Media Marketing for some time now. Tameka Kee of Online Media daily shows how they built on that success through an online partnership with (a community built around scrapbooking) that allows guests from their cruises to share snapshots and video clips with friends and family in a branded environment.

As Carlos Garcia, CEO and co-founder of Scrapblog says of the initiative:

“A Carnival cruiser comes back and has pics and video that are essentially already branded. When they share it with friends and family, they’re sharing the brand. Allowing them to create a scrapbook online increases the number of people that can interact with the brand exponentially.”

Additionally, like the Sea World Example, Carnival also was able to get a better understanding of their initiative through concrete performance metrics by tracking the number of scrapblogs created by their guests, visit stats to the created scrapblogs, and registered conversions at due to scrapblog visits.

Creating effective Social Media Marketing campaigns is good first step for brands. Measuring that effectiveness on the back end is the critical next step that all brands should be taking as well.

July 1, 2008   4 Comments

The Seven Faces Of Social Media

A tremendous amount of content is being generated nowadays that refers to Social Media as if it were some large and homogeneous form of communication and interaction.

The problem with this type of thinking is that when content providers or marketers start to develop Social Media strategies, they quickly realize that generalized “Social Media” thinking leads to one size fits all ideas and a lack of focus.

In actuality, Social Media comes in many distinct forms, which I think of as different faces of the same general concept. Understanding the nuance behind each of these faces is critical to understanding Social Media as a whole.

Social Knowledge networks such as Yahoo! Answers allows users to ask questions about a wide range of topics and then allow other users to answer them. As I have written about before, they are also one of the fastest growing forms of Social Media.

Social Bookmarking sites, such as are mostly about saving and tagging web pages for future reference. They become social by allowing others to read your profile and access other pages that you have tagged and saved.

Social Content, as seen in sites such as YouTube, Flickr, and most forms of blogging, is the most pure form of Social Media. In fact if we didn’t use Social Media as a catch all term for all the above types, it would be a good way to describe this group, which focuses on the submission and discussion of user generated content such as videos, music, photos, and the written word.

Social Networking is a form of Social Media that enables people to connect with other people. While there is a user generated content aspect to social networking, it is less about the content and more about collections and connections of friends, and keeping up with what they are thinking and doing. This is where sites such as Facebook and MySpace reside.

Social News sites such as Mixx, Stumbleupon, and Digg facilitate the sharing of news and different forms of social content by allowing members to share, comment and vote on what they like or don’t like. These sites are heavily involved in the viral aspect of Social Media.

Social Gaming is a form of online gaming that moves beyond the personal experience and adds a layer of social interaction. Two of the most well known examples are World of Warcraft and Second Life. While WoW has built upon a PC game by taking it online and adding a huge world centered on collaboration and social interaction, Second Life makes a game of social interactions by the simple fact of allowing people to fully act out self-created avatars and allowing them to interact with other avatars in a virtual world.

Social Collaboration has many different aspects, but I see it primarily being less a form of media and more a form of crowdsourcing. It can range anywhere from wikis to prediction markets to something like Wikipedia.

I’m sure there are some distinct faces of Social Media I may have missed, or that I’ve grouped together into one of the above. Are there any others out there that people could suggest?

June 2, 2008   No Comments

Buzz Marketing And The Future of YouTube

Of all social media outlets, the one that may get most of the buzz this year from a marketing potential standpoint is one that’s been around for a bit already, YouTube.

As the viewership of YouTube becomes more mainstream, its potential for buzz marketing is becoming more viable as well. Unlike something like Facebook and their Beacon program, the buzz marketing potential for YouTube seems more organic and less intrusive, since in many ways it falls along the lines of traditional television advertising.

As this article by Tameka Kee at Online Media Daily outlines, Google is piloting some very interesting tools, including the placement of in-video ads through use of their buzz targeting algorithmn:

“YouTube buzz targeting works on an algorithm that looks at a number of viewer activities, including how many times a video is chosen as a favorite, how favorably it’s rated, and how quickly it picks up views, to determine which clips are about to ‘go viral.’”

One of the pilot participants was Lionsgate, which utilized buzz targeting for its April 18th launch of the movie, “The Forbidden Kingdom”. Danielle DePalma, Lionsgate’s director of digital media feels the potential of buzz targeting with YouTube will be strong:

“With so many videos going viral on YouTube at any given time, buzz targeting allowed us to reach a very large, diverse audience….It) was an amazing opportunity for us to capitalize on the most popular videos on the site.”

In addition to their in-video advertising, Lionsgate went beyond the obligatory movie trailers and included an interactive video mixer tool, which allows viewers to create their own clips with sound and video transitions from provided footage from the movie.

It’s these type of viewer engagement tools that makes Google CEO Eric Schmidt bullish on the increased marketing potential for YouTube for 2008.

“We believe the best (YouTube) products are coming out this year,” Schmidt said, in an interview with CNBC’s Maria Bartiromo. “And they’re new products…much more participative, much more creative…much more interesting in and of themselves.”

If 2007 was the year that the marketing potential of Facebook flashed on and off with Beacon, 2008 may be the year that YouTube gets it right with buzz targeting and other tools.

May 22, 2008   No Comments

A Better Way To Measure Social Media Marketing?

While Social Media Marketing has seen explosive growth, the tools and metrics necessary to measure the effectiveness of this new medium haven’t seen quite as much innovation.

In fact, the tools I’ve seen discussed are a lot of the same tools that marketers in Search have had success with.

Unfortunately, these tools generally lack the ability to capture the viral nature of programs and campaigns in Social Media.

The chart below is from a study by the Society for New Communications, entitled “New Media, New Influencers, and Implications for the Public Relations Profession” which asked a couple hundred industry professionals a series of questions about Social Media.

This is in response to a question about what Social Media metrics they found most important:

What struck me is that things like search rankings and visitor tracking are the only tools that are seen as being very effective. And I don’t think it is because they truly reflect the nuances of Social Media, it’s just that they are what people are used to measuring when it comes to digital media.

Jeremiah Owyang pointed out a potential measure on his blog that may be more appropriate, something he calls Velocity.

“Velocity, when applied to Social Media, is the measurement of how fast an idea, embed, widget, or other like media spreads over web properties. Benchmarked over time, acceleration and deceleration indicate relevancy.”

He also gives the following example of Velocity in use:

  • Week One: A widget was installed on 5,000 Facebook profiles within 7 days, resulting in a weekly velocity of 714.
  • Week Two: A widget was installed on 15,000 Facebook profiles within 7 days, resulting in a weekly velocity of 2142.
  • You can then look at this over time and benchmark, and then look for accelerations and decelerations, in this case, week two accelerated from week one by 300%.

While the measure itself is very interesting, the challenge for most market researchers trying to work with this new measure will be capturing all the data necessary for analysis in an automated way.

However, at least it is a step towards measuring the concept of relevancy with a measure that is itself relevant.

April 14, 2008   10 Comments