Category word of mouth advertising

Oreo Knows the Only Winning Move Is Not to Play the Game

After being challenged to a game of tic-tac-toe by Kit Kat, Oreo wisely declined in a way that would make fictional characters Dr. Stephen Falken and David Lightman proud.

As I explained in a recent post, movies often contain lessons mixed in with the car chases and beautiful people living extraordinary lives.

If you grew up in the 1980’s, you probably remember that in the 1983 movie “WarGames,” David Lightman, a young computer hacker played by Matthew Broderick, unwittingly accessed WOPR, a United States military supercomputer that was designed by Dr. Stephen Falken to predict possible outcomes of nuclear war. In the process, Lightman unknowingly almost starts World War III.

At the climax of the movie, Dr. Falken and Lightman try to teach WOPR that nobody wins in a war. The first lesson begins with multiple games of tic-tac-toe before moving on to war simulations.

In the end, the computer ends the war simulations and writes, “A strange game. The only winning move is not to play.”

Well said. Lesson learned. (Click here to watch that scene on YouTube.)

Competing for Laura Ellen’s Love

If you follow social media marketing news at all, you know that Oreo earned praise for the tweet they sent out after the power went out at the Superdome during this year’s Super Bowl. They also had success with this real-time marketing strategy during the airing of the 85th Academy Awards.

Other brands are taking note and are trying to replicate Oreo’s success.

Therefore, it is not surprising that when Laura Ellen, a Twitter user from Manchester, UK, tweeted that she was following both Kit Kat and Oreo on Twitter, Kit Kat jumped at the chance to challenge Oreo to a friendly game of tic-tac-toe in an effort to fight for Ms. Ellen’s affections.

As a post on points out, this scored huge points with Ms. Ellen. And, judging from the number of retweets and favorites, with the clever use of Kit Kats for Xs and (potentially) Oreos for Os, Kit Kat also scored points with the general public.

How About a Nice Game of Chess?

When faced with the option of playing Kit Kat in a public game of tic-tac-toe, Oreo decided to decline with style and grace. In my opinion, that was a brilliant move.

As Lauren Indvik points out in the article on, there are possible negative consequences of being the loser in a game that could get old real fast.

Furthermore, as the folks at ADVERVE point out, just because brands are rivals doesn’t mean they can’t have a little fun at the same time. As they ask, “Is it so unreasonable to think that there are Kit Kat lovers in the Oreo camp, or vice-versa?”

By declining to play the game by complimenting the taste of Kit Kats, Oreo found a way to create a win-win situation. Kit Kat gets a compliment, and Oreo gets some free advertising from Kit Kat, not to mention all the free publicity it received by the media covering the ad campaign.

As an added bonus, I would be willing to bet that this ad campaign made many people think of the movie WarGames. Knowing that this is a movie that is beloved by tech geeks around the world, this was a perfect move for Oreo to make in a social media ad campaign. Was it intended? Only the digital agencies involved could tell you that for sure.

Final Thoughts

With some things in life, nobody ever wins. In those cases, the best solution is not to play the game.

In the 1980’s movie WarGames, we learned that nobody wins in a nuclear war.

The same could often be said in head-to-head competition in the marketplace.

In the case of the Kit Kat tic-tac-toe challenge, Oreo proved wise enough to demonstrate that there is room enough for both brands in the marketplace, and that there is no need to show its skill in a game that often ends in a stalemate.

By declining the game in the way that they did, they created a win-win scenario for both brands.

Photo credit: Torben Bjørn Hansen on Flickr.

Chad Thiele

Marketing analyst and strategist, content curator, applied sociologist, proud UW-Madison alumnus, and an Auburn-trained mobile marketer. My goal is to help businesses identify trends that will help them achieve their marketing objectives and business goals. I'm currently looking for my next career challenge. Please feel free to contact me anytime at:

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Good or Bad, Customer Feedback Is a Gift

Some products or services fail because they fix a problem that too few people need fixed.

Others fail even though there is a demand for a product or service to fix a problem, it’s just that the company didn’t create the right product or service to fix it.

I think from the title of the post, you can see where I am going with this.

But, before I get into it further, let’s get a short history lesson from 3M.

The History of Scotch Brand Tape

According to the book, “Symbols of America: A Lavish Celebration of America’s Best Loved Trademarks and the Products They Symbolize, Their History, Folklore, and Enduring Mystique,” (affiliate link) by Hal Morgan, “Pure serendipity led the Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Company, more commonly known as 3M, to the name Scotch Brand for its tapes. In 1925 the fad for two-toned automobiles created a demand for masking tape coated with a thin strip of adhesive on each edge. When the tape failed to stick properly, a disgruntled auto-body painter told his 3M salesman to take the tape back to his “Scotch” bosses and tell them to put the adhesive all over the surface of the tape. The slur stuck, the company took the painter’s advice, and 3M has been marketing tapes under that name with the familiar tartan trim ever since.”

Just to verify the validity of the story, I double-checked with Wikipedia.

While some of the details are slightly different, the key element of the story remains. That is, a customer was not happy with the product and let the company know about it instead of just changing suppliers without an explanation.

By taking the time to let 3M know how the product was not meeting his needs and offering a solution, the customer gave 3M the information needed to improve the product.

And, by actually listening to the needs of the customer, 3M not only made a product that satisfied the needs of one customer, it helped meet the needs of many of its customer and, in the process, launched one of the most successful brands of tape in history.

Customer Complaints Are Gifts

If the example that I just gave hasn’t convinced you of the value of listening to the feedback that customers give you, I don’t know what will.

But, for those of you who do need some additional convincing, I’d suggest reading a recent blog post by Adam Toporek on, titled “What Are Customers Complaints? They’re Gifts.”

In the post, Toporek outlines some of the concepts that are introduced in a book by Janelle Barlow and Claus Moller, titled, “A Complaint Is a Gift: Recovering Customer Loyalty When Things Go Wrong.” (affiliate link)

The blog post suggests that businesses need to change the way that they think about customer complaints. Instead of thinking of them as an annoyance or an indication of failure, businesses need to think of customer complaints as a way to identify customers’ needs that have not yet been met and as opportunities to turn dissatisfied customers into satisfied ones, and possibly create brand advocates in the process.

As Toporek points out, “The most important point about complaints is that they are an opportunity. Complaints are gifts because they are not silence. Silent attrition, when customers leave but never say a word to the company, is a huge issue in many businesses. According to Andrea J. Ayers of Convergys, companies, as an average across industries, lose 12% to silent attrition. In the credit card industry, the number is 43%!”

Customer complaints are gifts, indeed!

Customer Feedback on the Internet

As the 3M example shows, customers have been giving companies advice about how to make a better product for many years. In fact, they may have been doing so since the beginning of time for all I know.

However, in the past, it was very easy for the message to get lost before the right person at the company received it.

Just think about what would have happened if the customer who had complained about 3M’s tape told a person who did not care enough to relay the message to a person who could do something about it. If that had happened, 3M would have left a lot of money on the table and might not have become the company it is today.

Luckily, it is now much easier for the customer to get his or her suggestion into the hands of the right person by posting a complaint on the Internet. Or, to state it a different way, it is now easier for the decision makers in a company to get access to the suggestion.

Also, keep in mind, not all feedback is bad. If a company is doing a great job of meeting the needs of its customers, there is a chance that they will let others know about that, too.

Positive feedback in the form of reviews on review sites is one of the best types of advertising that a company can get. This is even more important given the fact that review sites tend to rank well on search engine results pages.

This is another reason to pay attention to the feedback that your company receives, good or bad.

Final Thoughts

No matter how much a company likes its own product or service, customers will only buy it if it fills a need better than the competition’s product or service.

Therefore, the feedback that a business receives from its customers might be more valuable than one might think.

When the feedback is good it acts as an advertisement for the company.

On the other hand, customer feedback can also tell a company that they have not yet met their customers’ needs.

This gives them the opportunity to make changes to the product or service that might benefit many of their customers, and in the process, increase sales.

It is for this reason I can confidently say that, whether good or bad, customer feedback is definitely a gift.

Photo credit: globochem3x1minus1 on Flickr.

Chad Thiele

Marketing analyst and strategist, content curator, applied sociologist, proud UW-Madison alumnus, and an Auburn-trained mobile marketer. My goal is to help businesses identify trends that will help them achieve their marketing objectives and business goals. I'm currently looking for my next career challenge. Please feel free to contact me anytime at:

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They Only Cost a Tweet! #tweetshop

The Kellogg Company Introduces Special K Crisps to the UK

In his book, “Why We Buy: The Science of Shopping—Updated and Revised for the Internet, the Global Consumer, and Beyond,” (affiliate link) Paco Underhill points out that, “Close to 90 percent of all new grocery products fail, but it isn’t because people didn’t like them—it’s because people never tried them. In my opinion, a new product introduction that doesn’t include a well-funded, fully supported (with marketing) effort to give shoppers samples is not a serious attempt.”

Therefore, it’s not surprising that when introducing its new Special K Cracker Crisps to the UK at the end of last month, the Kellogg Company created a unique marketing campaign that not only gave customers a chance to try the product, but they also incorporated social media into the effort in a way that guaranteed that customers would spread the word about how awesome Special K Cracker Crisps are to their friends online.

Kellogg’s Tweet Shop

The idea was simple: They created a trendy pop-up shop in London’s Soho district that invited customers to get packages of Special K Cracker Crisps in exchange for a tweet that included the hashtag #tweetshop.

As an Ad Age article points out, this is not the first time that a brand has offered free products in exchange for a post on a social networking site. However, the article points out that it might be the first example of real-life interaction using a pay-with-a-tweet-concept.

In the Ad Age article, Dan Glover, creative director of Mischief PR, the agency behind the campaign, is quoted as saying, “We believe that physical and social are one and the same. When we had the idea it felt very simple, and we did a lot of checking to be sure it was a world first. We jumped on that and made it happen – it was eight weeks from idea to execution.”

Not only was this a creative way to get customers to sample a new product, but it also created a lot of buzz in the media, as well.

And, the pay-with-a-tweet concept ensured that people would be spreading the word online.

As Sarah Case, brand manager for Special K, explains, “The value of positive endorsements on social-media sites is beyond compare, so we’re excited to be the first company to literally use social currency instead of financial currency to launch this new product in our bespoke Special K shop.”

Word of Mouth—What Customers Were Tweeting

On Friday, September 28th, I searched for the hashtag #tweetshop. (This, by the way, was the last day that pop-up store was in operation.)

As would be expected, many of the tweets included photos that were posted on other social networking sites.

Some of the tweets included the hashtag #spons.

According to theEword, a search marketing agency located in Manchester, England, “Within the Kellogg’s pop up store, people are given a menu of Tweets to try out, all including #tweetshop #spons. While #tweetshop allows Kellogg’s to monitor the success of its social media campaign, the #spons hashtag ensures that it adheres to regulations put in place by the Advertising Standards Agency, which requires sponsored tweets to be clearly indicated.”

Here are some of examples of the tweets. (Thanks to the Twitter Blackbird Pie WordPress plugin, you can actually click on the links in the tweets to see the photos that customers tweeted.)

So cool! I'm at the first tweet shop in the world! #tweetshop #london
Pamela Chehade
Kellogg's #TweetShop #popupshop on Meard Street. Actually pretty good crisps. (@ the tweet shop) [pic]:
Steven Ray
I've just had new Special K crisps and they're delicious! #tweetshop #spons
Andrew Joseph Taylor
Just having cracker crisps in the special K tweet shop! It is rather good! #tweetshop
Simon Hepher

Increasing Brand Engagement

The official UK Press Office for the Kellogg Company (@KelloggsUK) also asked Twitterers who were not at the Tweet Shop to tweet using the hashtag #tweetshop for a chance to win some free Special K Cracker Crisps.

By engaging the audience in this way, the Kellogg Company helped increase the awareness of the new product and hopefully got some additional people to purchase them.

Who wants to win3 new flavours of Special K Cracker Crisps? Please tweet #tweetshop with a message why you should win!
Kellogg's UK


As Paco Underhill pointed out in his book, getting people to try a new product is of the utmost importance.

Getting consumers to sample a product and creating a buzz at the same time is a big win.

That’s exactly what the Kellogg Company did when they introduced their Special K Cracker Crisps to the UK in September.

By using a trendy pop-up store in London’s Soho district, the Kellogg Company found a way to get the product into consumers’ hands and, at the same time, get them excited about it.

From the consumers’ perspective, they got some tasty snacks—and it only cost them a tweet.

Chad Thiele

Marketing analyst and strategist, content curator, applied sociologist, proud UW-Madison alumnus, and an Auburn-trained mobile marketer. My goal is to help businesses identify trends that will help them achieve their marketing objectives and business goals. I'm currently looking for my next career challenge. Please feel free to contact me anytime at:

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Lessons Learned From the Telephone Game

Some of the most important lessons that we learn in life are taught to us early on.

For example, I’m sure that most of you can remember playing the game Chinese whispers, or as it is commonly called in the United States, the “Telephone” game.

In the game, a message is given to the first person in a line of people and then they are instructed to pass the message on by whispering it in the ear of the next person in line. The message goes from person to person until it reaches the end of the line, and that person announces the message to the group. In most cases, the message that is announced to the group is significantly different from the message that was originally given to the first person in the line.

While the game is amusing, it also teaches us an important lesson that people often forget.

The lesson, as you probably have already figured out, is that information that you receive via word of mouth is not always accurate. In fact, if you don’t receive information directly from the source, there is a good chance that at least part of the message is incorrect.

Telephone Game 2.0

The Telephone game illustrates how quickly a message can be altered even when passed from person to person in a relatively short line.

In the real world word, the Telephone game often goes by a different name: Gossip.

As people relay a message from one person to another, the message often gets distorted, sometimes so much so that the intent of the original message is completely lost. What is left is an inaccurate statement that could actually do harm to the reputation of the person or business that is being talked about.

The tools that are available to people today (e.g., cell phones, text messages, social networking sites, email, etc.) only complicate the issue. These tools make it even easier for a rumor to spread at an alarming rate, particularly if the person who is being talked about is a celebrity.

Personal Responsibility

Deep down, we all know that the information that we hear about via word of mouth, whether it be online or offline, often contains misinformation. And, yet, people still choose to share it. In fact, for some people, gossiping is their primary form of entertainment.

What we all need to remember is that what we say can have a negative impact on the person who we are talking about.

Business Implications

People aren’t the only victims of gossip. In fact, businesses are often the subject of conversations on the Internet. If the rumors take a turn for the worse, it can have a very negative impact on the business’s reputation.

For that reason, businesses need to monitor what people are saying about their products or services online. This will allow them to highlight the positive things and address and correct the potentially damaging negative information that is being spread online.

If you are looking for specific examples of how businesses have handled these types of situations, you might want to take the time to watch Paula Berg’s (@paulaberg) presentation in the HubSpot Inbound Marketing Certification Program. In her presentation, Ms. Berg gives examples of how Southwest Airlines used the Internet to their advantage when potentially damaging rumors about the company started to spread, both online and offline.

Final Thoughts

It’s important to remember the lessons that we learned from the Telephone game early on in life.

For example, the Telephone game reminds us just how quickly a message can be changed into something completely different when it is passed between even a few people.

It is therefore important to remember that the things that we learn about via the rumor mill can, and often do, include incorrect information.

On a personal level, we need to be mindful of what information we spread, given the fact that what we say can have a negative impact on the individual or business that we are talking about.

From a business standpoint, it is necessary for businesses to monitor what is being said about their products and services online, if for no other reason than to correct the misinformation that is being spread.

As I have mentioned in other posts, words have power. In some cases, what is being said about a business can have a negative effect on the business’s reputation and ultimately, its bottom line.

Photo credit: Hans_van_Rijnberk on Flickr.

Chad Thiele

Marketing analyst and strategist, content curator, applied sociologist, proud UW-Madison alumnus, and an Auburn-trained mobile marketer. My goal is to help businesses identify trends that will help them achieve their marketing objectives and business goals. I'm currently looking for my next career challenge. Please feel free to contact me anytime at:

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Social Networking Sites Should Not Replace Your Website or Blog

On Friday, picplz announced that on July 3, 2012, it will shut down permanently.

This is not surprising, given the fact that Instagram recently released an Android version of the Instagram app. Prior to the release of Instagram’s Android app, picplz was one of the best alternatives available to people with Android phones.

What is more noteworthy is that all the photos picplz users have posted on the service will be deleted.

This is a good reminder that many of the services that we use could do the same thing, and all the time and effort that we spent posting photos and other content and building human connections could be for naught.

Home Bases, Passports, and Outposts

Chris Brogan, Darren Rowse, and others have been blogging about the concept of home bases, passports, and outposts for years.

One of the key points from their posts that I want to focus on is the fact that while social networking sites (passports and outposts) are great for connecting to your customers and prospects, they should not replace your blog or website (home base).

To build on that further, if your blog or website is being used for your business, you should spend the money and find a web hosting service for your blog or website. After all, while Tumblr or even might be around for a long time, they could choose to shut down at any time. If that happened, all the posts and relationships that you spent time and effort creating would be gone… forever.

Futhermore, while social networking sites should be a part of your online marketing strategy, you shouldn’t put all your eggs in one basket. If you only post on one social networking site, you are completely at the mercy of that site. For a business, that is not really a good position to be in.

Final Thoughts

Even with all the free social networking sites that are available, you should still invest in a self-hosted blog or website. This will give you complete control over the design, layout and content that you make available to your customers and prospects. And, the site will never go away, unless you want it to.

Don’t get me wrong, you definitely should be using social networking sites to connect to your customers and prospects. The point is, social networking sites (yep, that even includes Facebook) should not replace you website or blog. They should be used in addition to your blog or website. And, whenever possible, you should be using these social networking sites to drive customers and prospects to your blog or website.

Finally, if you have the resources, you should be connecting to customers and prospects on more than one social networking site for two reasons. First, people are fickle (i.e., they might choose to start using another social networking site more frequently.) And second, because social networking sites are run by third parties, there is always the possibility that they could decide to shut the site down.

When a social networking site does choose to shut down, all the content and connections that you spent precious time and effort creating will be lost, unless you find a way to bring your customers and prospects to your website or blog, where you are in control of what they see and how they connect to your business.

With that said, I have to go download a few photos…

Photo credit: odysseygate on Flickr.

Chad Thiele

Marketing analyst and strategist, content curator, applied sociologist, proud UW-Madison alumnus, and an Auburn-trained mobile marketer. My goal is to help businesses identify trends that will help them achieve their marketing objectives and business goals. I'm currently looking for my next career challenge. Please feel free to contact me anytime at:

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Don’t Worry, They’re Just Words: Part II

In my last post, I pointed out that the words that we choose to use can influence the way that people interpret what we are trying to say.

At times, the ideas that we are trying to convey to others might not be properly communicated because the intended recipients don’t understand the meanings of the words that we use. (In some cases, the words that we use might actually have different meanings among people with different cultural backgrounds.)

In other words, what we are trying to say might get lost in translation even if the people who we are trying to reach speak the same language.

Furthermore, even when the ideas that we are trying to communicate to others are properly received, there might be a more succinct or influential way of wording what we are trying to say.

A Real-World Example of the Power of Words

Not long after I posted the blog post, the point that I was making was illustrated perfectly in an article that was published by the Huffington Post.

However, in this case, it wasn’t an incorrect choice of words that caused the problem; it was the omission of the word “acquisition” that created the confusion.

According to a tweet by Peter Shankman, when the Huffington Post first published their article, it said, “Facebook has said it expects the Instagram to close sometime this year.” (Or, something similar to that—I didn’t see the actual post before the change was made. I am relying on Mr. Shankman as a trusted source.)

This led him to post this tweet with a link to the article:

However, the mistake was spotted and the article was updated. Fortunately, Mr. Shankman found out about it and tweeted this:

However, Mr. Shankman’s original tweet was still out there and not everyone saw his tweet about the typo. Therefore, misinformation continued to spread on Twitter the next day.

For example, his tweet was retweeted by Britton Edwards, and it looks like that is how Emily Binder found out about it. This led her to tweet:

This is how I found out about the post and the typo.

Now, as you can see, the omission of the word “acquision” changed the meaning of the sentence in the article and rumors of Instagram closing started to spread on Twitter. In fact, they continued to spread even after the article was fixed and Mr. Shankman tweeted about the correction.

I’m guessing that a lot of people had the same reaction that Mr. Shankman and Ms. Binder did. Just think about how many other people tweeted this.

Final Thoughts

The example that I gave in this post illustrates the fact that one word can make a huge difference in how people interpret what you are trying to say. (It also illustrates how rumors can easily be started by an innocent mistake.)

Therefore, it makes sense to not only pay attention to what you say, but also how you say it.

This is true when you are writing traditional advertisements and when you are writing blog posts as part of your content marketing efforts.

If you are interested in reading about this further, I’d check out Peter Shankman’s blog in the next few days, as it sounds like he might have a thing or two to say about it. (I will update this post with a link if he does write a post about this in the near future.)

Furthermore, you also might want to check out Emily Binder’s lastest post. She doesn’t address the typo, but she does give her opinion about Instagram and the Facebook Camera app.

Chad Thiele

Marketing analyst and strategist, content curator, applied sociologist, proud UW-Madison alumnus, and an Auburn-trained mobile marketer. My goal is to help businesses identify trends that will help them achieve their marketing objectives and business goals. I'm currently looking for my next career challenge. Please feel free to contact me anytime at:

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Some Things to Consider When Choosing Where to Post Content

Many businesses have dedicated a lot of resources to try to figure out why content gets shared on the Internet.

While many factors play a role in influencing what gets shared and what doesn’t, most experts agree that posting great content is essential. After all, why would people share something if it isn’t interesting in the first place?

Once you have great content, getting it in front of the right people (key influencers) is also important. Getting these key influencers to share your content is going to go a long way in increasing the reach of your message.

The question then is: Where should you post your content?

Choosing the Right Social Networking Sites

The best advice that I can give you about where you should post content is to post it where your customers and potential customers hang out.

That sounds easy enough… All you have to do is conduct a survey to find out what social networking sites your customers and prospects currently use, examine what social networking sites are currently driving traffic to your website, and/or look at the demographics of the users of each social networking site.

Say that you find out that most of your customers and prospects are on Facebook and Twitter, but don’t use Google+, Pinterest, Tumblr, or any other social networking site. That means that you can focus on these two social networking sites and call it a day, right?

Not exactly.

You see, if you use this logic, you are forgetting the role that key influencers play in social media.

Let’s say that a lot the key influencers in your particular field use Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and Pinterest.

Given all the potential noise that’s out there on Facebook and Twitter, it might be easier to get your message in front of key influencers if you post on Google+ or Pinterest. If the content is good enough, the key influencers will hopefully post it on the other social networking sites that they use. In this case, if they share it on Facebook and Twitter, it would put your content right in front of your customers and prospects, with the added benefit that it is being shared by people that your customers and prospects know and respect. That’s priceless.

The Role of Traditional Media

To complicate the matter even further, traditional media can also play a role in spreading your message.

As Tom Webster points out in a blog post, titled “Why Twitter Is Bigger Than You Think,” when you post something on Twitter, it has the potential to be talked about in the traditional media. In fact, according to research conducted jointly by Arbitron and Edison Research, 44% of all Americans age 12 or older report that they see tweets in other media (e.g., radio, television, newspapers, or other websites) “almost every day.”

Now, before you go running to your coworkers to tell them that your business should be posting on Twitter in order to help get your content shared in other media, you need to keep in mind that the research is only saying that it is possible that your content will be mentioned by traditional media outlets if it is posted on Twitter. However, is it likely? Probably not.

You will need to post some really remarkable content for it to be shared by the traditional media outlets. But, it could happen.

Also, keep in mind, the study only looked at Twitter. (At least, that’s the only site that was mentioned in the blog post.) The same thing could happen if you post on any social networking site. And, as mentioned, if it is good enough, your content will probably find its way to Twitter even if you don’t post it there. (If it is content posted on your blog or website, having social sharing buttons helps make this easier.)

Final Thoughts

There are a lot of things to consider when deciding where you should be posting your content.

Before you write off a social networking site because you don’t think that many of your customers and prospects use the site, you need to consider where it will be easiest to get the attention of key influencers in your field. In some cases, this might not be the same social networking site that most of your customers and prospects use. With this in mind, it might make sense to maintain a presence on this social networking site, anyway.

Furthermore, by posting your content on various social networking sites, it makes it possible for your message to be spread in other media, as well.

In the end, though, you still need to post content that people find interesting. Otherwise, why would they share it?

Photo credit: Rosaura Ochoa on Flickr.

Chad Thiele

Marketing analyst and strategist, content curator, applied sociologist, proud UW-Madison alumnus, and an Auburn-trained mobile marketer. My goal is to help businesses identify trends that will help them achieve their marketing objectives and business goals. I'm currently looking for my next career challenge. Please feel free to contact me anytime at:

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Some Thoughts About the Science of Social Media Sharing (Please Retweet)

One of the first things that a business should do when it decides to add social media into its marketing mix is try to find out what has worked for other businesses.

Inevitably, this means turning to the experts for advice.

However, businesses should keep in mind that social media marketing is still a fairly new thing for everyone, so the information that the experts are basing their advice on is still somewhat limited.

Also, keep in mind that results may vary. What works for a celebrity or a major brand isn’t necessarily going to work for a small “mom-and-pop” business down the street.

This is something that the experts sometimes forget. They analyze the data based on all social shares or even use anecdotal evidence from their own experience. However, they forget to take into account that the person or business sharing the information is going to have an impact on whether or not people read what is being posted. In fact, who is posting the content is going to have an impact on whether or not people see the post in the first place.

Correlation Does Not Imply Causation

In my opinion, one of the biggest mistakes that the experts make when giving out advice about what works in social media is that they forget that correlation does not imply causation. That is, if there is a positive or negative correlation between a specific variable and a specific action, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the action is caused by the variable that is being examined. In fact, they both could be a result of another variable that the expert has completely overlooked.

As an example, let’s look at Dan Zarrella’s “The Science of ReTweets 2009” report. I know that it’s a few years old, but people are still sharing it, so I think that it is fair to use as an example.

Let me start by saying that I think that Dan Zarrella is a very smart guy. In fact, I learned a thing or two by listening to his presentation in the HubSpot Inbound Marketing Training Program. However, I think that some of the information in “The Science of ReTweets 2009” report is misleading.

For example, he concludes that links that are shortened by, and are more retweetable than those shortened by other URL shorteners. However, I’d argue that the number of people using these URL shorteners as well as the types of people or businesses that use them are influencing the results. In fact, the content that is being linked to is also a factor.

In the report, he also gives a list of the most retweetable words and phrases. This analysis really makes me want to pull my hair out. With the exception of the phrase “please retweet,” I don’t think that just including these words alone is going to induce people to retweet your posts unless you are posting good content in the first place. In fact, I’d guess that the words listed are used very frequently in posts that aren’t retweeted. Furthermore, even using the phrase, “please retweet” doesn’t guarantee that people will retweet your posts and I’d speculate that the impact of this phrase probably decreases even further if you use it too frequently.

On the other hand, the analysis based on the time of the day that tweets are posted makes sense to me, because it seems to indicate when people are on Twitter. Your posts can’t be retweeted if they aren’t seen in the first place, right?

Final Thoughts

Businesses that are using social media to market their products or services should conduct research to see what has worked for other businesses in the past.

Given the nature of social media, social media sharing is going play a big role in increasing the reach of your posts. However, there are a lot of factors that influence whether or not your posts get shared.

While it is interesting analyze the trends on various social media platforms, the data doesn’t always produce valid, actionable recommendations. In other words, just because there is a correlation between two or more variables, doesn’t imply causation.

With that said, there is a lot of good advice out there, but not all of it is going to work for you or your business.

It is often suggested that you offer helpful advice or try to solve problems when people talk about your business or a competitor’s business online. This can help win new customers and turn critics into evangelists. And, when you do, you could potentially increase the number of people who are willing to share your posts with other people in their social graph.

Furthermore, as I pointed out in my last post, posting great content and interacting with the people who have connected to your business is a key to success in social media marketing.

However, keep in mind, it might take some time to figure out what types of content your customers and potential customers find valuable. Trial and error sometimes works the best. This process should include testing different posts and the calls to action and linking to different types of content to find out what your customers and prospects are interested in.

On a side note, if you are interesting in learning more about what causes ideas to spread, in general, you might want to read Malcolm Gladwell’s book, titled “The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference.” (affiliate link) Although it was written before social media became popular, many of the concepts in the book can be useful to businesspeople who are looking to use social media as a way to let customers and prospects know about their products or services.

Finally, if you are looking for additional advice about social sharing on Twitter, specifically, there’s a post on the HubSpot blog, titled “11 Guaranteed Ways to Get Others to Retweet Your Content,” that offers some good advice.

Photo credit: stuartpilbrow on Flickr.

Chad Thiele

Marketing analyst and strategist, content curator, applied sociologist, proud UW-Madison alumnus, and an Auburn-trained mobile marketer. My goal is to help businesses identify trends that will help them achieve their marketing objectives and business goals. I'm currently looking for my next career challenge. Please feel free to contact me anytime at:

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How Businesses Can Get More Followers or “Likes” on Social Networking Sites*

Do you want to know what the secret is to quickly gaining a lot of followers or “likes” on social networking sites?

Well, here it is: Create a brand that is loved by people all over the world or become famous in some other area of your life.

I say that somewhat tongue in cheek, but the reality is that this statement is actually pretty accurate.

If you look at the top 100 accounts on Twitter, you find that most of them are owned by celebrities. Furthermore, most of the top 100 Facebook pages are owned by major brands, celebrities and a few movies and television shows.

Ways for Small Businesses to Gain Followers and “Likes”

Although major brands and celebrities top the lists of accounts with the most “likes” on Facebook and followers on Twitter, that doesn’t mean that small businesses or businesses that are still trying to make a name for themselves should write off social media as a way to acquire new customers or retain existing ones. In fact, social media is perfect for small businesses. It just takes more time and effort.

Most experts suggest that businesses should post great content and interact with fans and followers to increase the number of followers and “likes” that the business has on social networking sites. For additional suggestions, you might want to check out this article that was posted on the HubSpot blog, titled “8 Guaranteed Ways to Increase Social Media Reach.”

More “Likes” or Followers Isn’t Necessarily Better

Having a lot of followers or “likes” on social networking sites doesn’t always translate into increased sales.

For example, say you own a business in Honolulu, Hawaii, and have a lot of “likes” on your Facebook page from people who visited your establishment when they were on vacation, but not a lot of locals connected to your business on Facebook. If you have a product that can be mailed to customers when they get back to the mainland, having the out-of-town customers connected to your business on Facebook or any other social networking site could be a good thing. However, if your product or service can only be enjoyed when your customers are in town (e.g., if you own a bar, surfboard rental shop, etc.) then these connections will only lead to increased sales if these customers visit Hawaii on a regular basis or recommend your business to people in their network who might be planning to visit your city in the near future.

In this scenario, if you use your Facebook page to push out messages to your customers and potential customers, it’s not going to do a lot of good for your business, unless you can build connections to locals who might be able to use your services more often.

Furthermore, as JD Rucker points out in a post on, titled “Why Local Businesses Should Stop Focusing On Their Facebook Page,” just because a lot of people “like” your Facebook page or follow you on any other social networking site, doesn’t guarantee that these people will see your posts. And, if they do, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they will be motivated to use your products or services.

What you are really going to want to do to get the most out of your social media marketing efforts is to get your customers and potential customers talking about your business online. In the post, Rucker offers some suggestions about how you might get these conversations started.

Final thoughts

Although it’s clearly easier for a well-known brand or celebrity to get users to connect to them on Facebook, Twitter, or any other social networking site, social media can still be a valuable marketing tool for small businesses. It just takes more work.

There are steps that businesses can take to increase the number of users who “like” or follow their business on any of the many social networking sites out there.

Posting great content and interacting with the people who have connected to the business on these social networking sites should be a part of the business’s social media marketing strategy.

However, the real magic happens when a business can get its customers talking about and recommending the business to their friends, family and other people in their social graph.

* Note: There is an asterisk in the title of this post, because after reading this you should now realize that getting more “likes” or followers shouldn’t be your only goal. In fact, the most important goal should be to do things that make your customers happy and then encourage them to share their love of your business with their friends and family online.

Photo credit: warrenski on Flickr.

Chad Thiele

Marketing analyst and strategist, content curator, applied sociologist, proud UW-Madison alumnus, and an Auburn-trained mobile marketer. My goal is to help businesses identify trends that will help them achieve their marketing objectives and business goals. I'm currently looking for my next career challenge. Please feel free to contact me anytime at:

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#Twitter for Small Business: A Couple of Things to Consider

Last month, American Express launched a new program that allows American Express Cardmembers to save money by posting messages on Twitter.

According to a press release on the American Express website, “Cardmembers can tweet their way to savings by syncing an eligible American Express® Card with Twitter at To take advantage of the exclusive offers available from a variety of the nation’s largest merchants, Cardmembers tweet the special offer hashtags to load offers directly to their synced Cards. When the Cardmember uses that same Card to make a qualified purchase in-store or online with a participating merchant, an automatic statement credit is issued within days.”

This is an innovative way for businesses to use Twitter to connect with customers and prospects.

I’m sure that American Express and other companies will find a way to let small businesses get in on the action. But, for now, it appears that American Express has only partnered with national and international brands.

That doesn’t mean that small businesses should completely ignore Twitter as a viable way to connect with consumers. Twitter is a great marketing tool for small businesses, particularly those in large metropolitan areas where there is a higher concentration of Twitter users.

Ways to Gain Followers (and Retweets)

For many businesses, it takes some work to gain followers. This includes posting great content that their customers and potential customers would want to read and engaging with them online, as well as using other media to help drive them to their Twitter page. It doesn’t hurt to have a great product or service, either.

Businesses have also used some interesting tactics to encourage people to follow them on Twitter.

In fact, just last week I noticed at least one business that took advantage of the huge Mega Millions jackpot that had people talking, both online and offline.

On Friday, Gamma Labs, a company that makes nutritional supplements that are targeted to athletes, bodybuilders, extreme sports enthusiasts, and gamers, posted a tweet that said, “Want to win $540,000,000? If we win #MegaMillions we’ll split the $$ with whoever RT this pic, AND follows @GammaLabs –

To make sure that they were being fair, the photo that they posted was of the actual lottery tickets that they were using.

I’m not sure how many people actually followed the company and retweeted the post as a result of this particular message. (Note: They tweeted it several times during the day.)

What I can tell you is that each time that they tweeted the message, it was retweeted by 50+ Twitter users.

Furthermore, as of today, Gamma Labs has 26,233 followers, up from 2,422 on March 12, 2012. (Source: What they have been doing in the last few weeks has worked. And, this particular tweet definitely didn’t hurt.

Twitter for Customer Service

Some consumers expect that businesses will have a presence on Twitter. More importantly, they expect that the business will respond to them in a timely manner. (You might want to think of Twitter as an alternative to the telephone.)

If the business doesn’t have someone monitoring Twitter, it could potentially be losing out on revenue.

As Todd Schnick pointed out in a blog post last year, this is particularly important for restaurants.

In his post, he gives an example of how he used Twitter to ask a question about take-out options at Verde Taqueria, a neighborhood restaurant in the Atlanta metropolitan area.

To his delight, and to their credit, Verde responded quickly.

If you run a restaurant, you might want to read Todd Schnick’s post, as he gives some other useful suggestions that you might want to keep in mind.

Final Thoughts

Large companies are taking the lead and finding creative ways to use Twitter to interact with consumers online.

But, you don’t have work for a Fortune 500 company to use Twitter to help grow your business.

In fact, small businesses that have a lot of customers and prospects who use the service can definitely benefit by establishing a presence on this social networking site.

Small businesses that are looking to use Twitter should start by engaging customers and prospects, posting interesting content, and using other creative marketing tactics to get users to follow them and retweet their tweets.

It is also important for small businesses to have someone on staff monitoring Twitter so that they can answer any questions that customers and potential customers might ask via this social networking site. If their questions go unanswered, the business’s customers and potential customers might end up taking their business elsewhere.

These are just a couple of things that small businesses should consider when deciding whether or not to use Twitter in their social media marketing efforts. However, there are many others. But, that’s another post.

Photo credit: Todd Barnard on Flickr.

Chad Thiele

Marketing analyst and strategist, content curator, applied sociologist, proud UW-Madison alumnus, and an Auburn-trained mobile marketer. My goal is to help businesses identify trends that will help them achieve their marketing objectives and business goals. I'm currently looking for my next career challenge. Please feel free to contact me anytime at:

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