“The difference between an audience and a community is which direction the chairs are pointing.” – Chris Brogan
A few weeks ago, I attended the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA)’s annual Digital Impact Conference in NYC – a jam-packed two days of best practice examples in digital marketing, PR, social media and, the new buzzword, social relations.
One of the most interesting keynoters was Adam Sohn, senior director of public and influencer relations for Microsoft. As many know, Microsoft launched a little search engine called Bing not too long ago that is now competing head-to-head against Google.
With a self-depreciating sense of humor understood by those also living in the social media trenches, he shared these truisms about our Brave New World:
So Much for Planning.
The old influencer model is dead: People who are not paid to be journalists are having a profound effect on the technology industry (and every other industry, for that matter.) As an example, before launching the Bing search engine, Microsoft scheduled 200 online and face-to-face sessions with ONLY 20 technology influencers. One of these influencers, TechCrunch.com’s Mike Arrington, regularly keeps tab on Bing’s progress in his posts.
You Don’t Know Anything.
As part of the Bing launch, Microsoft recruited kids in grade school to record a “Bing Jingle” that would be posted on YouTube. Before the recording, Microsoft sent Bing T-shirts to the kids. The kids recorded the jingle. The video went up on YouTube. The tech influencers ripped into Microsoft for taking advantage of kids.
Sometimes You Don’t Know if You’ve Won.
Microsoft set up a “Bing-A-Thon” event on Hulu.com and invited people to make up poems, lyrics and songs about the new search engine. Microsoft’s Bing marketers hadn’t yet established ways of measuring the true effect of the contest up front and were left flat-footed when asked about results. However, per Sohn, when you’re a young brand, you can afford to experiment and make some errors at the beginning.
When You’re a Hoser, Admit It.
Microsoft’s marketing staff tweet their ideas daily and monitor each other’s tweets. A Microsoft intern posted this tweet on February 14: “Find your perfect VD gift at Victoria’s Secret [followed by a link to the site]. A senior staffer saw the tweet and quickly posted this comment: “The perils of 140 characters….VD = Valentine’s Day.” Bottom line? Come clean. Admit your mistakes. Laugh at yourself. Then move on.
Make Friends in Tech Places.
Bing’s rollover feature starts up a video clip as soon as you mouse over it. TechCrunch.com’s MJ Siegler found this worked incredibly well for previewing porn clips and blogged about it. Microsoft responded, not by defending itself, but by posting safety tips on its Bing Community blog on how to keep your kids safe from viewing inappropriate videos. Siegler followed his original post with a new one on the community’s tips.
Two years ago, Microsoft SVP Mitch Matthews got a fax from 99-year-old physician and Los Angeles resident Dr. Richard Bing saying he would like to do something with Microsoft since the company ‘used his name for their search engine.’ Turns out that the German-born Dr. Bing — widely recognized as one of the fathers of pediatric cardiology — was not only for real, but his story also offered Microsoft a unique chance to thank him for his accomplishments with a birthday party featuring the LA. Philharmonic, followed by a video documentary on his life produced by Creative Artists Agency (CAA). It was a win-win for all involved: Dr. Bing, CAA, LA’s arts scene, science and medicine, and Microsoft.
Ads Are Content.
Microsoft has become a master in crafting brand-integrated campaigns that the tech and marketing trades also covet. Recent TV spots such as “Los Links” (mimicking a Spanish telenovela) and “The Shining” help the company demonstrate Bing’s value and add depth to its personality.
Just Give Up and Embrace the Chaos.
The Social Graph and the Location Graph are merging. Search will not only find a marketing page or blog post, but it will also reach apps, social feeds and connected information. We are living in what Sohn calls a “realtime firehose” that merges peoples’ use of Twitter, Foursquare and Facebook, integrates services such as TaxiMagic, True Knowledge, Open Table and Booking Bug, incorporates multimedia devices such as Flicker, qik and Yfrog, and is all delivered to us on our smartphones.
Are YOU adapting?