A few words of caution.
If your world is anything like mine, you've been in several meetings lately where someone says something like, "Let's do something on YouTube," or "Let's do something on MySpace."
Everyone seems to be getting on the social media bandwagon. Working in an agency, I have a lot of clients who want to put their commercials on YouTube or create a MySpace profile. In many cases, little thought has been given to what will happen when people actually begin to interact with the brand in that setting. Sure, setting these things up is quick and easy. But it's not so easy to succeed. Social media is a conversation between a brand and its customers. Sometimes, the customer shouts back.
That's because YouTube and MySpace are communities not just platforms. Advertisers' brands become part of the conversation when we put them out there, and often even when we don't. Chances are your brand is already being discussed -- loved, hated, defaced, or spoofed -- within these environments. The first thing you should do, then, is dig into how your brand will exist in these spaces.
Then, you should spend a good amount of time really learning about how other brands use these community sites. Learn from their failures and successes. You should be prepared for negative reaction and parody. After all, you're visiting a community built by your customers.
If you're going to put your video on YouTube, be prepared for your efforts not getting the reception you'd like. Take, for example, the recent promotion from Burger King and Diddy. I'm sure the idea of associating the "king of music and fashion" with the "king of burgers" seemed like a good idea in theory. At the very least, people at the agency got to hang out with Diddy. But this effort spawned a flood of parodies, like this one from Straight To Video TV, that I'm sure aren't what Burger King or its agency was hoping for. Even the comments on the branded channel aren't very flattering toward Diddy or Burger King.
Then there are the profiles brands are building on MySpace, which I discussed in an earlier column. MySpace is a great way to connect brands with customers, as it seems every brand out there is discovering. Some brands are doing a better job than others. I'm not here to tell you exactly how to succeed, but I am telling you to do your homework before putting your clients' brands out there.
As I've mentioned before, questionable content might be only a click away on community sites. The Air Force recently took down its MySpace profile due to this concern.
"It gave us a great opportunity for people to vote for the commercial," said Col. Brian Madtes, chief of the Air Force Recruiting Service's strategic communication division, in the "Air Force Times." "The danger with MySpace is we got to the point where we weren't real comfortable with the potential for inappropriate content to be posted [on the page of] a friend of a friend. We didn't want to be associated with that... and tarnish our reputation."
Obviously, the Air Force and its agency didn't visit a lot of MySpace profiles before building their own. At least they didn't understand what could happen. Interestingly, the profile for the Marines is still active but not receiving any comments.
Spend time learning from your reps at YouTube and MySpace. They can show you all kinds of examples. Don't be afraid to ask them how others have failed. It will only benefit your brand to learn from those examples.
I think these sites are great places for brands to engage customers. I'm not suggesting you shy away from them. I am suggesting you not enter into that conversation unprepared.
If you have stories of success or failure on YouTube or MySpace, I'd love to hear about them.
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