Pete Spande at Continuous Beta says:
Media hasn’t become social. It always was. I talked about the latest Dukes of Hazzard episode with anyone who would listen in 1980. My mother sent me newspaper clippings all the through my college career (for example – don’t use Bean0, it is made with penicillin! [I’m alergic.]) The difference now is that media is social with SCALE.
The other big difference, Pete, is that social media — word of mouth, to use the old term — is now measurable. I used to get a lot of gaff at ClickZ for writing about word-of-mouth marketing, because, uh… what’s digital or interactive about that?
My argument was always that the advent of digital media, and user-generated media, meant that you can now see and measure what people are saying about your brand. You can analyze positive versus negative; you can take that feedback and improve your products. And you can participate in the conversation and affect what people are saying about you. Pretty damned cool.
I’m a little bit jaded, and, most of the time that I look at social media efforts, it’s as a professional. I think, “how engaging is this call to action?” “How well have they managed to encourage user participation?”
But this week, I got hit right at one of my passion points, and was dragged into participation myself. The campaign is called Bake2Share, and it’s for King Arthur Flour, one of the more premium flour brands that’s based in Vermont. This is a brand that caters to serious bakers, but also offers easy-to-use mixes, including a line especially for baking with kids. And it’s making a significant commitment to e-commerce. Internet Retailer named kingarthurflour.com one of its Hot 100 retail Web sites for 2009, and the company just won top honors from the DMA and Multichannel Marketer as best online food retailer.
It’s also a brand that is sharp about social media. They have a blog, whose RSS feed I subscribe to, and, of course, a very active Twitter account. I’m a big fan of King Arthur, and, though I don’t order from them all that much, I open their e-mail newsletter pretty consistently. Tuesday, I opened an e-mail from them that contained some pretty compelling language:
It’s part of our mission to inspire community-building through baking. When we bake and share, we forge honest, caring connections that help create and sustain a vibrant community. We believe that baking and giving go hand in hand. We want to encourage you to bake and share with family and friends, neighbors, and your community. To get you started, we’ll send you a 2-lb. bag of King Arthur Flour – absolutely free. We simply ask that you bake it forward. We’d love to hear your bake2share stories, and invite you to poste them at kingarthurflour.com/bake2share…
And then, at the bottom of the e-mail, there were links to Twitter, Facebook, delicious and StumbleUpon, with the directive “Share this email”.
Nicely done. It practically oozes with brand values — giving, sharing, community — and even the call-to-action is about sharing and community-building. Not to mention that the free bag of flour — free shipping included — was a pretty pleasant little gift.
When I signed up, there wasn’t yet much on the site. But now — the day I received my free bag — it’s been updated to say they gave away 5,218 bags, all in fewer than 24 hours. They list 106 participating bakers and 4,189 recipients of baked goods. No stories have yet been posted, which is a little disappointing, but also understandable. Another thing they did right: they made submitting a story very very easy. There are fields for what you baked and who you shared it with — stories and photos are optional. This will help them gather plenty of input — both from casual participants (like I probably will be) — and from those who go all-out and document their experience both in text and images.
I’m impressed, King Arthur Flour. I already was pretty fond of your brand, but this has tipped me over into passionate brand advocate territory. Now, off to bake those blueberry muffins.
UPDATE: I’ve finally baked my cupcakes and have been trying to submit my story, only to discover a major social media FAIL in this campaign. Every time I hit submit (and I’ve been doing it over and over again), I get a Network Error message: “The server at ecomm2.bos.kingarthurflour.com is taking too long to respond.” Not good, but a good lesson for others to take note of.
There’s an interesting piece today in Inside Higher Education that discusses Columbia Journalism School and its mandate to educate journalists to handle the tumultuous shifts happening in media today (both consumption patterns and business models). Among the changes proposed by Bill Grueskin, the former deputy managing editor for news at The Wall Street Journal and the school’s new dean of academic affairs, is a course on the business of journalism:
Though he acknowledged that the course would bridge the longstanding gap between the business and editorial sides of the journalism world, he did not think this would present an ethical problem for students. If anything, he said, it might help them in a market where some journalists have had to become entrepreneurs to find an audience for their work online.
“Most journalism schools have a historical aversion to teaching the business of journalism,” Grueskin said. “It, however, is incumbent upon us to show our students the [changing business] model. We’re not blurring the lines between business and editorial. The truth is, business considerations have always enabled or disabled journalism — more the latter than the former as of late. We’re not trying to graduate people to work in ad departments but those who can talk to those in the ad department.”
At FM, especialy in the author services department, this is a topic we deal with every day, and it’s fascinating to see my alma mater deem it worthy of study. I wholeheartedly agree.
P.S. I would love to be an adjunct professor for such a course.
Two FM authors — Asha from Parent Hacks and Mindy from The Mommy Blog — weigh in on how to talk to kids about the economy — on CNN. I think they both did a great job, and I’m impressed with the quality of the Skype video. It’s great to see such talented bloggers cross over to bring their brands to video so successfully, as they did here and as they’re doing at The Momversation.
I suspect more than a few folks are scratching their heads about the whole #motrinmoms scandal du weekend. As my friend @fuzheado said, the divergence in reaction might make a good Mars/Venus case study. He didn’t get what all the fuss was about, but his wife honed right in on the problem.
Not surprisingly, I’m with the wife. Like the super-vocal moms who took such offense, I immediately “got” the problem with the ad — its tone. As a mom with a 5-month-old, I “wear” my baby all the time. But it’s not because it’s “in fashion,” because it’s “supposedly” is a good bonding experience or because I want to look like “an official mom”, as the Motrin ad implies. It’s because it works. The kid doesn’t cry and I can do whatever needs doing. And of course it’s a bonding experience, because any time you meet your child’s needs that’s the case.
And, yes, sometimes my back hurts. Others out there are admitting this, too, even though the conventional wisdom is that babywearing doesn’t hurt if you’re doing it right. So, I don’t think J&J is far off in targeting moms who wear their babies. They’re just going about it wrong. (And let’s not dismiss this as a Twitter crisis. For everyone that’s tweeting about this, there are many others that are hearing about it, or just seeing the ads themselves and having the same reaction. Twitter is just surfacing the word-of-mouth that would have been happening anyway. )
But all is not lost for the brand. Right now, everyone’s saying they will boycott Motrin. This bodes ill for their product for adults and may also impact their product for kids, given they’ve now offended the target that controls the purse-strings.
The silver lining is that Motrin has gotten everyone’s attention. They need to grab this opportunity, while they’re in the online spotlight, to connect in a positive way. They need to apologize and retool their condescending message about babywearing. To make sure it gets seen, an ad spend on mommy blogs is in order. Motrin have shown that they’re not the experts on babywearing, but they can certainly get involved with and sponsor conversations on the topic — a topic that inspires an amazing amount of passion. Whaddaya say, J&J?
Sarah Evans on Mashable has a prescription for Motrin, as well.