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Monday, January 31, 2011

Social Media Impact; Automotive Brands

Automotive Brand Values Yield Clues to Social Media Influence on Car Buyers

Not all target audiences are created equal

Automotive Consumers planning to make vehicle purchases are active on a variety of digital channels as they make their way through the car buying purchase funnel. The media usage habits and preferences of intended audiences must inform car company and dealership marketers' decisions about where to target them, and whether social media efforts make sense for their dealership or vehicle brand.

The US automotive industry provides an example of brand-to-brand differences. As part of the industry's continued push into online marketing, vehicle manufacturers and dealers are evaluating a gamut of digital options and attempting to select tactics that will most influence potential buyers. Social media is often part of this consideration set. But while social media has successfully driven several recent high-profile auto campaigns, research indicates that it may be more effective for certain brands over others.

An October study of more than 65,000 US consumers by The Media Audit found that Audi, Infiniti and Saab owners were the most likely to have recently used popular social networks, while owners of Buick, Cadillac and Lincoln/Mercury were less frequent participants.

US Social Media Users*, by Brand of Car Owned, Oct 2010 (% of respondents)

Research into the influence of various media on large-ticket purchases by S. Radoff Associates found that overall, 21% of vehicle purchasers reported being influenced by some form of social media. The study also revealed differences in the influence of online ratings and reviews by brand owned. Ford owners were more likely to be influenced by online reviews and earned media than Chevy or Toyota owners, while Chevy owners put more stock in paid media than those who bought the other brands. For their part, Toyota purchasers were more influenced by coupons and discounts than those who bought Fords or Chevys.

Information Sources Used to Make Select Auto Purchase Decisions According to US Internet Users, by Brand, June 2010 (% of respondents)

Ford Motor Co. appears to be keenly aware of such differences in the use of participatory media by owners of its different brands. Though the company has been aggressively spending on digital and social media to promote Ford brand vehicles such as the Fiesta, Jim Farley, the company's group VP of global marketing, recently said it is pursuing an "experiential" marketing focus for the Lincoln nameplate. This includes giving Lincoln's upscale consumers the ability to touch and drive the cars at selected venues.

"It's pretty clear that Lincoln is going to require a pretty different strategy in marketing," Farley told Automotive News. "Social media has allowed us to break a lot of myths. But luxury customers need to know more than something they read on Facebook."

Other brand marketers must keep in mind their target audience and avoid splashy marketing campaigns that are cutting-edge but fail to speak to their core customers. Social media makes sense for many marketers, but the brand values of others may require a different approach.

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Friday, January 28, 2011

Checking-in to the State of Foursquare

Checking-in to the State of Foursquare

Last year at SXSW, Foursquare founder Dennis Crowley joined Frank Eliason (previously @comcastcares), Altimeter Group's Jeremiah Owyang and me on stage to discuss the shifting landscape of social engagement. While I focused on the sociology of engagement and the impact it is having on culture and society, I also sought to balance the conversation by demonstrating the impact of digital actions and interaction between people and businesses.

Whether intentional or not, Crowley and team unlocked the elusive gates that separated the last mile of engagement between local businesses and their customers and prospective patrons. The rising generation of social consumers embraced geo-location services to share physical experiences, connect with their social graph in the real world and also earn rewards for their check-ins, which is rapidly becoming a powerful form of peer-to-peer endorsements and recommendations. Crowley, quite literally gamed the system that was once solely controlled by giants such as the Yellow Pages,  Google and Yelp. The Foursquare team bridged the gap between people and places both online and offline.

Later in the year, we caught up again for a cover story I wrote for Entrepreneur magazine.

We discussed how Foursquare redefined the role of the patron and the relationship between businesses and customers.

"The network started to take on a life of its own," Crowley said in the interview for Entrepreneur. "Foursquare gave everyday people, venues and local merchants a voice. It opened the doors for businesses to see a whole new way of seeing their customer."

In the Game of Foursquare, What's the Score?

Foursquare's rapid rise from New York startup to media darling is quite remarkable. If you judge the service by its badge, or shall we say badges, you might miss the bigger picture. The essence of Foursquare is powered by its community. In this mobile Utopia, people earn positions of prominence by exploring and improving the experiences of other explorers. It's a form of social hierarchy that's alluring and rewarding. For a more recent example, it's not unlike the fledgling blog darling Quora.  The ties that bind its users are woven through social ties and recognition that's earned through participation and contribution.

Foursquare continues to evolve and the team recently released an infographic that visualized collective achievements and user behavior. To make it easier to consume and also appreciate its progress, let's review some key milestones.

In 2010, Foursquare experienced 3,400-percent growth over 2009, reaching 6,000,000 users to date.

This year, Foursquare received over 380 million check-ins.

The largest swarm to date is the Rally to Restore Sanity, which saw over 35,000 check-ins on October 30th, 2010.

A Day in the Life

The team also revealed a "day in the life" of the typical Foursquare user.

Most people check-in to eateries, gaining momentum at 8 a.m. every day and thinning out just after midnight.

Check-ins to work or the office also follow a similar pattern. Work days typically seem to see the greatest volume of check-ins between 7 – 8 a.m. continuing to midnight.

Retail therapy is in session all day, racking up check-ins around 10 a.m. and winding down shortly before 10 p.m.

A few hotels have done well in the luring of check-ins.

The top hotels, in order, include:

1. Ace Hotel, New York
2. Wynn Hotel & Casino, Las Vegas
3. The St. Regis, San Francisco

Foursquare users are an eclectic bunch.

The top 3 art galleries visited in 2010 are:

1. MOMA – Museum of Modern Art, New York
2. Smithsonian National Museum of American History, Washington DC
3. Gallery of Modern Art, South Brisbane, Australia

Where did people check-in to hear live music in 2010?

The Top 3 music venues:

1. Terminal 5, New York
2. Hollywood Bowl, Los Angeles
3. Mercury Lounge, New York

With all of this checking-in, users work up an appetite and a need to quench their thirst.

The top 3 establishments for food and drink are:

1. Union Square Greenmarket, New York
2. Whole Foods, Austin, TX
3. Pike Place, Seattle

In 2010, brands also realized the opportunity to link terrestrial experiences with real world activity.

The top brands in 2010 included:

MTV – 118,370 followers
Bravo – 114,202
History Channel – 101,352
ZAGAT – 97,883
VH1 – 76,494

As Foursquare continues to attract users and check-ins around the world, consumers gain an upper hand in balance of power between patronage and magnetism. It's a balance that venues will need to examine in order to expand their reach beyond traditional customers and even online customers. The future of relevance lies in romancing and rewarding the social consumer.

UPDATE: Per a special request by Dennis, I've included one last stat…

Wendy's, the popular fast food chain, received 224 check-ins in 2010 by individuals with the name Wendy. And, one persevering Wendy's patron in Madison, MS earned the mayorship, to become the only Wendy who is a mayor of Wendy's.

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Ralph Paglia
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Wednesday, January 26, 2011

On Delta Missed Connections Are Routine Occurrences!

Delta Interrupted Travel Due To Mechanical Failure

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Dealer Sponsored Communities Are a Winner for Women

Dealer Sponsored Online Communities are a Social Media Marketing Winner for Women

Women are known for their high levels of social media activity and propensity to use online word-of-mouth to learn and share info about products and services. But targeting them on open, female-oriented car dealer sponsored communities could be more valuable than reaching out on mainstream social networking sites. Full Article

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Ford Creates Talking Intelligent Vehicles

Ford is aggressively accelerating its commitment to wirelessly connected intelligent vehicles – known as vehicle-to-vehicle communications – becoming the first automaker to build prototype vehicles for demonstrations across the U.S., doubling its intelligent vehicle investment in 2011 and dedicating even more scientists to developing this technology.

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Sunday, January 23, 2011

Facebook Takes Google Turf

Facebook Books $1.86B in Advertising; Muscles In on Google Turf

New Estimate From eMarketer Shows Majority of Social Network's Ad Revenue Comes From Small Businesses

NEW YORK ( -- It turns out Facebook is a lot like Google after all.

As the social network steams past 650 million global users, its business is looking more like Google's in that the majority of its ad sales now come from small- and medium-size companies that make use of its self-serve ad system, a model that turned Google into a $200 billion behemoth during the past decade.

According to an estimate from eMarketer, Facebook took in $1.86 billion in worldwide advertising revenue for 2010, a 151% increase over the company's estimated 2009 advertising revenue of $740 million worldwide. Not surprisingly, the majority of that, $1.21 billion, was earned inside the U.S.

But what is surprising is the majority of revenue, 60% or $1.12 billion, was earned from smaller companies in 2010, those more likely to be using self-serve tools rather than work through a media agency. That's greater than the $740 million coming from major marketers like Coke, P&G or

"Those advertisers are really juicing Facebook's growth," said Debra Williamson, principal analyst at eMarketer. "They buy advertising in bulk. They've done it for years on Google, and now they're taking that expertise to Facebook."

The estimate adds weight to the leaked revenue figures that came out of the company's recent funding round with Goldman Sachs, which could put as much as $2 billion into Facebook's coffers without an IPO. Reuters reported that based on Goldman's offering plan, the company had made $1.2 billion in the first nine months of the year, suggesting that an annual run-rate of $2 billion is a little high.

In last year's estimate, Ms. Williamson said Facebook's self-serve business hovered around 50%, but that that share has now increased to three-fifths of its ad dollars, showing that its growth has come in the vein of Google.

That doesn't mean that Facebook is taking any significant market share from the search titan; indeed, Google makes more than $2 billion in advertising revenue in a given month. But Ms. Williamson believes there's an emerging duopoly in the self-serve online-ad realm. The social network now accounts for almost 5% of total online-ad spending, and its share may increase to as much as 8% in 2011.

The Palo Alto, Calif.-based social network has been less interested in trying to explicitly meet marketers' demands and is more focused on building out products that are better suited to its 650 million registered users. As a result of Facebook's hands-off approach, an economy around third-party services has emerged.

Startups such as Buddy Media and Context Optional have built a business helping both agencies and brand executives better manage their presences on Facebook by licensing their software to brand managers to more efficiently manage what sometimes amounts to thousands of Facebook pages. A major brand such as McDonald's may have a Facebook page for every franchise, which can be difficult to manage with just Facebook's native features.

Nonetheless, both Google and Facebook still maintain large direct-sales teams that broker ad buys with major marketers, such as Coke or P&G's raft of products. Thus far, Facebook has brought in its fair share of brand dollars, with AT&T and accounting for the two biggest advertisers on social networks, according to ComScore's third-quarter analysis, which looks at how many ad impressions advertisers bought on Facebook and MySpace, though Facebook accounts for almost all of the ad buys.

Interestingly, Google itself was the fifth-biggest advertiser for the same period, as it was looking to market its Chrome web browser. Curiously, the third-biggest advertiser was a completely unknown brand called that bought 1.75 billion ad impressions in the third quarter.

But despite how marketers are flocking to Facebook, Ms. Williamson pointed out that the social network still sits on a trove of valuable information, and said, "Facebook is the biggest storehouse of consumer data on the internet."

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