Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Keep On Talking in the Free World

Increasingly, you and your brand are being discussed every minute of every day in cyberspace.

My My, Hey Hey.

Wouldn't you like to know what people have to say?

And how it impacts everything you're doing to get your business noticed?

Lately, you have begun to realize how your best marketing efforts could be completely blindsided by a single incident uploaded, downloaded and unloaded on the masses. Even worse, is when these exchanges eventually wind up in mainstream media.

One of the best examples of why you want to pay attention to how social media levels the playing field between a single customer and a corporate giant is when Vincent Ferrari jousted with mighty AOL. Ferrari recorded his conversation with the customer service rep, posted it to his blog and the rest, as they say, is history.

Millions of marketing dollars invested by AOL were essentially flushed down the toilet by this single incident that generated hundreds of thousands of YouTube hits and blog posts. The company was forced to apologize and wound up firing the customer service rep.

But that hasn't stopped the on-line conversations about AOL from continuing:

"Companies generally enforce an attitude of 'you will keep this customer or else' so he was screwed either way. I feel slightly sorry for the guy"

"I freaking HATE AOL. I got rid of them last year, and they gave us a hard time, and over charged us and didn't want to give it back. and they were rude to us over the phone, I should have recorded it.now we are with Yahoo, and we are happy"

"Fuckers took it out on the employee like it was him and not their policies. They trained him to be a jackass"

This is not the type of brand flavour AOL - or any other company - wants served on-line or off.

According to Radian6 CEO Marcel LeBrun of Fredericton NB:

"Your brand is now the sum of conversations about it. Instead of marketers sitting in an office and saying OK, here is what our brand is going to mean so let's buy some ads and push it out there, they now need to be part of the conversation".

LeBrun and his Radian6 renegades are going where few software firms have ventured, rocking the on-line world with technology that helps clients monitor what's being said about them. More than 100 PR and Marketing agencies have jumped on the Radian6 tour bus along with companies such as Moosehead Breweries and Bell Aliant to discover what people are talking about.

LeBrun's New Brunswick-based firm has soared from having only a handful of paying customers and a few crazy horse employees working out of a one-room office in November of 2007. Today, Radian6 employs 36 people in two offices, with more than 130 customers, including the Interpublic Group of Companies, one of the world's largest marketing, advertising and public relations conglomerates. PR agencies were a natural fit since they were feeling the pain of having to monitor what was being said about their clients on sites such as Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. The Radian6 software does the job in one neat, tidy package, giving users a chance to see things (like a Vincent Ferrari) unfold in the free world before it goes viral.

LeBrun is also a dedicated blogger with his "Media Philosopher" page http://www.mediaphilosopher.com/, keeps up with his growing legion of fans on Twitter, and as such has emerged as a figure who not only "gets" what the Digital Economy is all about but has some idea of where it is heading. As far as the "based in New Brunswick" strategy is concerned, LeBrun and Radian 6 walk their own talk. In a recent Globe & Mail on-line discussion, LeBrun explained, "I have built previous companies from New Brunswick as have the other executives in Radian6 many of whom have worked in global companies like Microsoft and Alcatel as well as tech start-ups. We need to have a global presence, regardless of where our home base is. For any Canadian company, the US market is several times larger and you just need to make sure you are present in that market and can serve the client's needs well. The really cool thing about working in social media is that geography becomes much less of an issue now that you can participate in customer conversations online instantly, globally".

As social media platforms expand so will the implications for your business and by extension your brand. Could it be that your brand - seemingly overnight -has become less about geography and more about "community" in the way communities are now being defined? And how your brand is being portrayed in community "conversations"?

Hey Hey. My My.

Social media will never die.

Are you ready to see more to this picture than meets the eye?

"You affect the world by what you browse" TIM BERNERS-LEE

Originally posted October 8, 2008


Anonymous said...

Nice post Gair. You hit the nail on the head with your examples and why it is important!

Marcel LeBrun said...

Hi Gair,

Thanks for the shout out in your post and highlighting the need for a brand to listen & engage with their customers in social media.

...and just a quick update re: the stats in the Globe article. We've been fortunate to see this market and our customer base grow several fold since the early days when this article was first published. A lot has changed in the past year thanks to more & more examples like the AOL one you posted but also the positive stories of brands doing it right and enjoying success as a result (ex: Dell, UPS, Comcast, AMD, Embarq, etc.). We have a bunch of case studies on our blog highlighting some of these company's strategies & successes... & more to come.

Thanks for writing about this topic, Gair, and highlighting our company - always appreciated.


Gair Maxwell said...

Thanks a bunch for the comments guys and hope to break bread with you both whenever our paths cross somewhere in New Brunswick or beyond. I can't help but admire the work you are both doing in your own unique way in putting our province on the map in cyberspace - where no map exists.

Stay in touch,