Category: Digital Strategy

Random Acts of Subversion, continued

On Flagged For Follow-Up, Ian Sohn posted some thoughts about brands sponsoring not random acts of kindness, but acts of subversion. These acts are not malicious in nature, but small, fun and disruptive in some way. For instance, photo-bombing someone. (See above picture.)

I’m all for subversive behavior. It takes a little bit of effort and ultimately feels pretty darn good. But can brands really own it?

In some cases, yes, but I think subversion must be defined. Photo bombing is one example, but finding a clever way to hack an archaic system is another. Take, for instance, Nate Silver’s method of ‘hacking’ his local salad bar. This will ultimately help people get more bang for their buck. Mint could own this; so could Lifehacker.

Photobombing? That’s easy: a social media-savvy company that makes primarily point-and-shoot cameras (e.g. Kodak) could own that.

Southwest Airlines is deliciously subversive in its feigned disbelief of – and action against – high baggage and transfer fees. In its commercials, handlers are seen “flagging” these injustices:

Southwest could create some sort of “flag kit” in which people are encouraged to “flag” everyday injustices, even minor ones.

Brands that enable this type of subversive behavior, however, must do two things:

1. Have a clear stance for or against something. A personality, even. Southwest isn’t short on personality. PETA, of course, has mastered the naked protest. Nike stands for performance athletics; one idea, for instance, is to sponsor flash mob-type workout activities, or office basketball. Maybe even a spontaneous mid-day runs through office building.

2. Document these subversive activities to create a sense of community. Let these subversive acts live on in infamy! Two quick ways of doing this are through Pinterest collections or Tumblr blogs. Either way, voila – instant community!

What do you think? Which brands are well-positioned to sponsor subversive activities? What could they do? Please leave your thoughts as comments below!

Pegmo: Why I love it

Chicago is home to a few startup giants (e.g. Groupon, 37signals), and fast growers (Tap.Me) One up-and-comer is Pegmo, is a simple social media-based loyalty program for brands that may not have one; co-founder Wes Donohoe refers to as “a big game that isn’t built.”

There are a few reasons I like Pegmo:

Pegmo rewards consumer behavior that already exists. When I created and led the KmartGamer project over at Sears Holdings, our end goal was to find a way to reward gamers for being gamers. Once a user signs up for Pegmo, they start earning rewards for things they already do: follow a brand or retailer on Twitter or Facebook or check into a store on Foursquare.

Pegmo unifies brand-related social engagement on one platform. Users may follow brands and retailers on Twitter and Facebook, and check in frequently on Foursquare, but no other platform (that I’ve seen) makes it this easy for businesses to form a multi-layer relationship (unless there’s a savvy marketer driving the channel and content strategy, that is).

For brands and retailers, Pegmo generates not just numbers, but actions. If users don’t already follow the brands or retailers that are listed on the site, Pegmo prompts them to do so for additional points, or “Pegs.” In addition, Pegmo prompts users to share their thoughts about the brands themselves. For instance, a restaurant could ask users to share their thoughts on the dishes or drinks they like at the restaurant, whether it’s directly to the brand, or posted on their Facebook wall. As a result — and depending on the feedback itself — Pegmo has the potential to be an interesting research tool.

Pegmo can always evolve through new tasks. As businesses evolve, their goals and products do as well. (For instance, restaurants always change their menus, and retailers expand or offer new products.) This gives Pegmo a seemingly endless way to evolve, which is very different from, say, Foursquare, which relies on one basic action — the check-in — as the basis of its value prop.

Have you signed up for Pegmo yet? If so, what do you think of it? Please leave your thoughts as comments below!

3 Ways Google Buzz Could Affect Your Brand

Google recently announced the launch of Google Buzz, a service that allows users to post status updates, photos, videos and other content in the hopes of creating a hub of digital conversation.

Sound familiar?

Google Buzz is direct competition to social networks and microblogs such as Facebook and Twitter. Why is this? At launch, Google Buzz had 150 million users in its network, stemming from the fact that Google Buzz is built directly into Gmail.

For those of you not yet familiar with Google Buzz, here’s a demo video:

Here are three potential implications of Google Buzz for brands and marketers:

  • Google Buzz discussions will appear in Google Search results. Just as the search giant started to display real-time search results on its pages, Google will find a way to promote Buzz conversations, links and other content on its pages. Whether this content is displayed on the front page of its search results, or if it’ll be promoted on one of its less-trafficked search portals, remains to be seen. (Of course, Google Buzz has privacy settings that allow users to limit who sees their posts.)

    Look for more and more dynamic, real-time brand conversations to appear in your Google Search results, and not just the forums and occasional tweets you may be used to seeing now. Right now, brand conversations have the potential to be found through social media monitoring tools and the occasional search result. Since Google Buzz is built directly into Gmail, look for these conversations — both negative and positive — to be much easier to find.

  • Brands may have better access to consumer e-mail boxes, and vice versa. Facebook fan page? Check. Twitter account? Check.

    Google account? Not yet.

    If Google Buzz catches on, there may be a trend towards even more consumers linking up their social media profiles to their Google accounts. (Lifestreaming is a hot social media concept these days). Once this happens, the more their actual e-mail accounts — as opposed to a Facebook inbox or Twitter DMs — will be an integral part of their social media presence.

    No longer will customers only have access to people’s Facebook and Twitter profiles; the more consumers use Google Buzz, the more access to e-mail addresses companies will have. If a consumer expresses a product complaint through Google Buzz, their e-mail address should be easier to find.

    There’s one side effect to this: You may have a well-established Facebook page and Twitter presence, but there’s a chance brands will start building out strong Google Buzz profiles as well.

  • SEO will continue to flood real-time conversations. While the benefits of promoting content — in the hopes of driving traffic and searchability — on Google Wave was unclear, many brands continue looking for additional ways to crack real-time conversations in a way to boost their search engine rankings.

    Many of the tried-and-true methods of linkbaiting and promoting brand content on social bookmarking sites such as Digg, Reddit, Mixx and StumbleUpon [client] will continue to drive SEO, but as Google Buzz matures, look for SEOers to start funneling this content through real-time conversations there.

Daniel B. Honigman
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NOTE: This post was originally published on the Weber Shandwick Social Studies Blog.